Ys gets a dose of Konami-style hard rock and fusion.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2009-10-09)
The Ys "super arrange versions", as found within the Perfect Collection albums for the first two Ys, are an eclectic lot. They were also extremely hit or miss. Fortunately Ys III Super Arrange Version is more consistent both in style and quality.
The opening few tracks follow precedent for an Ys super arrange version - that is to say they're so completely different from each other that you wouldn't expect to see them together on the same album. The first two sound like a hybrid of 16-bit Genesis and SNES synth. They contrast the most starkly with surrounding material, but the first track "Dancing on the Road" does have a simple but catchy carnival-like melody going for it. The next couple tracks make the switch to live instrumentation but are full of light horns and fusion guitar that, though perhaps all the rage among '80s game music producers, just sound like elevator music nowadays. "The Boy's Got Wings" at least offers the staple Adol theme and a fun, marching band-like xylophone solo to compensate for its overall cheeky direction, so I usually choose it for my jumping off point and just skip the first three tracks altogether.
Following the meandering hodgepodge of styles at its start, the album takes another stylistic turn in track 5 and finally kicks into high gear. "A Searing Struggle" seems like only a moderate improvement at first, with some steady hard rock riffs accompanying a catchy but perhaps overly bouncy synth melody. But then the solos begin - first on piano and then on guitar - and everything changes. These solos take the confident, forceful hard rock of Konami's Dracula Battle, add a touch of blues, and give just a slight off-key nudge to the lead melody, making for an unpredictable arrangement completely unique to its game music hard rock counterparts. The album's other rocker, "The Strongest Foe", loses the blues bits for full-on hard rock guitars from the outset, followed by two raging guitar solos that turn the intensity up even another notch (well past 11). Both tracks are mastered with a gritty yet very professional sound - again similar to Dracula Battle - making the excellent compositions and arrangements even better.
Between the two standout hard rock tracks the album takes a few more stylistic turns, but still it feels far more cohesive than in its early segments. Traces of another Konami series, Snatcher, can be found in the synth-heavy, eccentric jazz fusion of "Snare of Darkness" and "Beat to Destruction", while "Varestine Castle" merges rock guitars with a prominent lead keyboard melody in the vein of Europe's "The Final Countdown" (though not quite as memorable as that classic).
Closing out the soundtrack are two arrangements for a small orchestral ensemble. Emphasis goes on the word small - "Departure at Sunrise" sounds like something from a middling high school brass band, though the rather simple sound isn't altogether inappropriate for the unassuming melody it accompanies (vaguely reminiscent of The Carpenters' "Yesterday Once More", for what that's worth). The lengthy closing track "Wanderers from Ys" has a bolder sound, but the generic melody and arrangement behind it make for a fruitless effort.
Though the opening synth tracks and the closing orchestral pieces are more a novelty than a meaningful addition, the arrangements in between are substantial enough to make Ys III Super Arrange Version a satisfactory album overall. For fans of the game or of hard rock, it's well worth acquiring for "A Searing Struggle" and "The Strongest Foe" alone, with the diverse selection of remaining arrangements helping round out the experience.