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The Legend of Heroes III J.D.K. Special :: Review by Charles

Album Title Catalog No.
The Legend of Heroes III J.D.K. Special Vol. 1 KICA-1197
The Legend of Heroes III J.D.K. Special Vol. 2 KICA-1198


The soundtrack for The Legend of Heroes III: The White Witch has been released in three major versions: Music from The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch features two discs of music from the original PC-8801 game; The Legend of Heroes III J.D.K. Special is a two volume release featuring remastered compositions from PC-8801 game; and The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch Original Soundtrack is a two volume release for the modern PC remake. These releases are substantially differentiated in the quality of their synth, but most of their themes and arrangements stay the same. The J.D.K. Special is probably the most superfluous of the three releases, since it doesn't come directly from the game, comes middle-of-the-road in terms of quality, and is inconveniently presented in two volumes. However, there are some themes where the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. offer particularly enchanting arrangements.


The opening interpretation of "The White Witch Gerud" immediately demonstrates the enigma of the J.D.K. Special. On the one hand, it follows the original quite closely in terms of development, with preserved melodies and harmonies. However, everything has been resynthed to attain an enhanced synth quality, yet the resynthing isn't entirely straightforward. The resultant timbre is very different from the original and more comparable to a soft instrumental rock ballad than a modest organic opening theme. There are beefy keyboard lines, punctuated bass guitar motifs, and an ethereal synthy gloss throughout. The result isn't quite a fully-fleshed arrangement, but it's certainly a reimagining of the original. As the soundtrack progresses, it's clearly that this type of synth is common throughout the album and just has a more profound on some tracks than others. For example, the central "Love Shining Inside" sounds considerably different in instrument from the original, but still sounds like a sentimental instrumental ballad deep down. The resynthing doesn't lose the personal feeling of the original, even if the humbleness is no longer there.

Perhaps more representative of the general tone of the first disc is "Another Heroes' Story". As with many of Falcom's tracks, this one is upbeat, synthy, and 80s-flavoured. The sound team certainly enhance this sound with the retro synth pads and pumping accompaniment in the enhanced version. While much of the laidback cheerful material on this album works, there's also a lot of uninspired stuff that I found less stomachable. Tracks such as "One Happy Day" sound more like bubbly elevator music than the more personal material most would expect in an RPG soundtrack. It sounds composed and arranged according to a formula and not really with much imagination. There are some twists to this formula, such as the more energetic synthpop theme "Captain Thomas' Feelings" or the more catchy guitar duet "Spirit in Our Eyes", but they still sound more like menu music. Even "Feels So Good" is slightly more tolerable in the J.D.K. Special. As with the original score, there are also too many shorter filler-style tracks on top of the longer boring tracks and the first volume particularly suffers in this regard.

Fortunately, the second volume of the J.D.K. Special features some interesting deviations from the bubbly style. It is generally more diverse, packing in everything from classically-oriented dances like "Waltz" to Morricone-influenced character depictions like "A Man Travelling Alone" to minimal fantasy-styled sketches like "Memories of Gagharv". Many of these interpretations are very similar to the originals, just with considerably enhanced yet still imperfect synth. Perhaps overwhelmingly, though, this disc is also darker with everything from dark ambient depictions (e.g. "Ordos Cathedral", "The Way of Heaven"), to tense action-packed tracks (e.g. "Lude Castle", "Badot"), to bittersweet quasi-orchestrations (e.g. "Queen Isabelle", "With Admiration"). I particularly love the hybridised take on "Queen Isabelle" or how the sound team really inject energy into "Lude Castle". These are all a refreshing break from the soulless gaiety of the first volume and it's clear that, if one has to choose the second volume is the one to go for.

As with other Falcom soundtracks, there is some of the sound team's trademark action arrangements scattered through the discs. The first really striking entries are "The Great Battle of Bolt", a commanding march track that fits well with the tone of the game, and "A Powerful Foe", a generic rock 'n roll anthem that many old-school rockers will enjoy. Naturally, there are a fair number of rock compositions on the second disc too and pieces such as "Dark Beasts Appear" are particularly blistering in their remastered versions; they lack quite the same grit as the remake's score, but still are superior to the original versions and closed to the sound team's intentions. The second volume is naturally rounded off by a few sentimental ending themes, including the slow and balladic "Durzel's Letter", the relieving yet subdued march "Little Heroes", and the nostalgic orgel-influenced "The White Witch of Tiraswheel". Though hardly departures from their originals, these themes certainly reaffirm what a personal and innocent journey The Legend of Heroes III is and seem to resolve the J.D.K. Special emotionally and thematically.


Overall, The Legend of Heroes III J.D.K. Special is a decent production. For those who don't enjoy old-school synth, it presents the original compositions from the PC-8801 game in new synth that is likely to be more stomachable for the normal consumer. In general, this enhances the compositions, though some changes are likely to be controversial such as the rocked-up opening theme. However, the synth is still quite only moderate quality and there is barely enough arranging for it to be considered an arranged album. For those looking for an enhanced version of the game's version, it may be better to look at the The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch Original Soundtrack for the PC remake. The J.D.K. Special is a decent listen, but somewhere down the line became redundant for all but the most dedicated collectors.

Overall Score: 6/10