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“Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite” Review

Koichi Sugiyama takes the old skool classic to the orchestra
Koichi Sugiyama
Koichi Sugiyama

Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite is an arranged CD, that’s half orchestrated and half original sound. Many songs are arranged one way and then the other and the CD opens with the orchestrated half first. Koichi Sugiyama is the composer for the series and made all the arrangements himself to be performed by London Philharmonic. Sounds like greatness in the making? Read on…

The opening track, “Overture March” is big and full of brass instruments for some big military style music. The technical skill on the string arrangements here are superb while the main tune steals the show.

“Chateau Ladutorm” is a regal yet playful tune that has you bouncing along with the strings when they play out the most memorable parts of the song while “People” reminds me of a ballroom dance in period dramas! Once again, the string playing impeccable, with some very complex parts played. This songs best bit is when the Pizzicato strings are played, as it sounds like mice are running around!

“Unknown World” is a somewhat more downbeat song that is actually fairly uneventful apart from a nice chorus tune, which only is only played a little before “Fight” brings back the drama and introduces us to some out of tune trumpets! It actually works well having said that, and the urgency of the track is kept by the fact it’s fairly short. “Dungeon” is a more quieter but still edgy piece, that prefers to haunt rather than attack. This is a much more abstract and situational piece of music than most other songs and it works very well indeed. “King Dragon” uses deep brass and big cymbals to create distress and it works fairly well, but the track gets a lot better then it gets going! It’s very dark indeed and is one of the best songs on the album. “Finale” is a nice song that uses sleigh bells as percussion! The song has a nice melody but it doesn’t stick in your mind much as at all. The finale ending is good, but seems tacked on as an afterthought.

After the orchestrated section, we are treated to a near 14 minute “Dragon Quest Original Sound Medley”! It takes all the 8 songs played in the album so far, and repeats them all together as a mini OSV in the album. It is defiantly a highlight, as amazingly, the tracks sound an awful lot more tuneful in the original format! The sad shame is, it also includes many sound effects, which is played throughout which ruins the track from being an outright stunning track.

After that we join track 10 with the synthesized versions of the songs. “Opening Theme” sounds much fuller with synth trumpets than the original and is more successful. “Chateau Ladutorm” is played excellently with a harpsichord and organ and is my favourite track on the album by a long way. It has a definite tune, and sounds darker than the devil! Fantastic! “People” is a very happy song indeed and the synth flutes and keyboards make the song, which was wasted on an orchestra and “Unknown World” is improved 100% over its orchestrated version. It sounds very creepy and mysterious indeed. The ethereal sounds give it a new dimension. It’s a shame the song is very short.

“Fight” doesn’t sound quite as menacing as its orchestrated twin, but still gets the job done, while “Dungeon” sounds a little too abstract and confused to make a fantastic song, but the various instrumentations give it a unique feel that after a few listens, really grow on you. “King Dragon” sounds menacing but for an end boss, the tune itself isn’t very inspiring. “Finale” rounds of the album well, giving the song more hook than before and a drum loop too. The ending seems a little more planned too.

Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite is a tail of two halves. People will buy it thinking the orchestrated songs will be fantastic. With little exception, they are disappointing, lacking in hooks and ill prepared. Although the playing standard is high, the transposing to an orchestra was where it fell apart. The saving graces are the synthesized tracks. Each one is a huge step forward from the poor orchestrated ones and deserves the credit for this album. If only they’d have made it a complete synthesised album, it would a classic.

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