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Dragon Quest on Piano Vol. 1 :: Review by Calvin

Dragon Quest on Piano Vol. 1 Album Title: Dragon Quest on Piano Vol. 1
Record Label: Apollon
Catalog No.: APCG-4004
Release Date: August 10, 1990
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Dragon Quest on Piano albums are probably the wittiest releases of the entire Dragon Quest discography. In stark contrast to the sophisticated, expertly arranged, and wonderfully performed Symphonic Suite albums, these albums feature very simplistic arrangements for performance on solo piano. With regards to this specific album, Dragon Quest on Piano Vol. 1, one thing quickly notable is the content of the album. I found it a bit strange that Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest I music was exclusively featured. I could only assume this was because the duration of each part balanced out and allowed Dragon Quest on Piano Vol. 2 to be of similar length. All tracks from both games are covered and, even on this simple album, Sugiyama's music still sounds brilliant, even if underwhelming in terms of the format used. As the accompaniment to Dragon Quest sheet music, which provides simplistic piano arrangement of Dragon Quest music for children, it fits its purpose, but is it a satisfying stand-alone experience?


Apart from two different versions of the "Overture," which I don't really care of, I actually enjoy all the Dragon Quest IV music in this album for the most part. My favorite tracks would probably be "Town" and "Casino Rag". The latter is one the best simplistic jazz arrangement for the theme you can find in any Dragon Quest album and the Town music is a simplistic arrangement that emphasises the beauty of the track in an enjoyable way. "Battle for the Glory ~ Deathfight" is great as well; it's hard to believe this theme is actually simpler than it sounds!

The tracks from Dragon Quest I are good as well. My favourite track is the Baroque castle theme arrangement "Chateau Ladutorm," the cheerful town music "People," and the epic field music "Unknown World". The pleasant arrangement of "Dungeon" reminds me a bit to Ravel's Jeux d'eau when I listened for it for the first time while the last track, "Dragon King," is suitably imposing and opens with heavy bass keys that might remind one a little of Liszt's Mephisto Waltz.

Some themes on the disc are clearly just not intended for piano, especially Sugiyama's battle music, which I hardly ever find enjoyable. He always composes battle music in strange way, as if dissonance is their main component, and "Fight" exemplifies this. The original Nintendo version is terrible, and in this album version, I had to confront my phobia of listening to unpianistic atonal music. Very few will find these themes pleasant...


I can't say this album is entirely bad, but it's just too simplistic in terms of arrangement. While the sound of piano is bright, sharp, and clear, it's a raw transcription of Dragon Quest music from the Nintendo version, without any real arrangement involved. I could understand why it's happened, though. Dragon Quest was popular game for kids during the glory time of Nintendo period — if you play the Dragon Quest Nintendo games in the original Japanese version, you probably notice that they use only hiragana and katakana in the whole games, because kids probably haven't been able to read much kanji yet. Despite the attention towards Sugiyama's breakthrough of making a Symphonic Suite from 8-bit RPG music, the market was intended primarily for children, who wished to play simplistic sheet music and listen to performances of it.

Despite all this, if you love Dragon Quest music and don't mind listening to 45:39 of its piano transcription without any arrangement involved, I suggest you to give this CD a chance. Video game music piano lovers probably don't care this album too much because of its lack of seriousness in terms of arrangement, which is scarce in this album. If you're looking for piano album with complex arrangement, this CD is not for you. I suggest you to listen Trickwaters' fan arrangement for Dragon Quest IV themes instead; the seven movement piano suite could be a euphoria for people who desperately looking for virtuosic arrangement of Dragon Quest music.

Overall Score: 6/10