Number 16: Dragon Quest VIII - Symphonic Version
Dragon Quest is a title that often reminds me of the days of SNES and Genesis rivalry. Not because of it's game style (it's a JRPG) or it's graphics, but because of it's release pattern. Dragon Quest has to be one of the last major series still suffering from import lag in the US. In other words, VIII was the first to come to US shores under the original title. Not because its not a seller in Japan, quite the opposite in fact. The Dragon Quest series is so popular in Japan that a national law prevents the release of new copies on any days but the weekends. This is because the series has such a draw that the last few releases of Dragon Quest that were not on a weekend actually shut down the nations economy as millions skipped work.
For whatever reason however, the US didn't quite grasp the series, and so after a few lackluster releases of the early NES games, the series languished with misnamed games until the series finally got enough breathing room to stand on its feet with Dragon Quest VIII. When porting the title to the US however, a very large change was made. In Japan, the music for the series had always been kept synthetic as a stylistic choice. When the series ported to the US with VIII however, the music was redone by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, as the developers feared the synthetic soundtrack wouldn't resonate with American gamers who weren't familiar with the prior games. The result was, well, hear for yourself.
Dragon Quest VIII went on to be a huge success with audiences, sparking a revival of the series in the US. But one area that it was both well received and praised for was it's soundtrack. Although there is a charm to be had by the synthetic version, the Symphonic soundtrack of Dragon quest VIII is an absolute delight to listen to. It's also different then most game compositions. In fact, it's more similar to yesterday's Civilization then it is to a fellow RPG title like Final Fantasy. Dragon Quest has a very smooth, classical sound, like something you would hear in a concert hall alongside great classical composers such as Bach or Tchaikovsky.
Dragon Quest VIII also plays true to it's own style. Even the battle music is somewhat sedate in composition, eschewing a reliance on heavy and aggressive beats for music that is more emotionally evocative through subtle means. This emotional connection resonates through the entire soundtrack, giving it a very gripping connection to the listener. Dragon Quest VIII's soundtrack just doesn't emotionally involve you in it's sound, it actively wants you to be involved in it, and the resulting sound is one that you can't help but be drawn into no matter what the setting.
Dragon's Quest VIII scores quite high in both it's Emotional Involvement and it's Enjoyment, as well as it's Stand-Alone Quality and Game Representation. In fact, it's lowest score was for Composition, solely for the common reuse of melodic themes, some of which you hear a little too often. Given that most game soundtracks struggle to receive what Dragon Quest VIII did for Composition, I'd say that's a fair indicator of its quality.
Dragon Quest VIII - Symphonic Edition
Stand Alone Quality: 4.25
Emotional Reaction: 4.25
Game Representation: 4.5
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Dragon Quest VIII is not only a great example of the variety of music available to listeners from gaming soundtracks, but a stellar example of what a quality soundtrack can be when it wants to be. With an impressive classical sound , Dragon Quest VIII takes position 16.
Number 16--Dragon Quest VIII by Koichi Sugiyama