Breath of Fire III Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
In 1997, Capcom's female duo Akari Kaida and Yoshino Aoki turned around the convention of RPG soundtracks by creating a light jazz-based soundtrack for Breath of Fire III. Given the time it was created, the soundtrack often features simple arrangements and dubious synth. However, the compositions within tend to be both stylistically inspired and melodically memorable. The results received mixed reviews among gamers, but have continued to be treasured by many soundtrack listeners. Unfortunately, until recently, all consumers had was a woefully incomplete single disc release of the soundtrack featuring omissions of many major setting, battle, and subsidiary themes. Eventually Capcom resolved that with an expensive box set, but the first soundtrack release still has some potential value. Let's take a closer look why...
The game's world map theme "Without a Care" was quite daring at the time of its release. The track presents a fairly memorable melody on xylophone above some funky jazz stylings. The resultant track is a refreshing departure from RPG norm yet somehow fits the worldview of Breath of Fire III quite well, at least until the second overworld theme not present here took over. The subsequent "Half Done is Not Done" serves as the first dungeon theme in the title. Again, its light jazz stylings are absolutely adorable and the interplay between the playful xylophones and chalumeau clarinets is especially effective. Other delightful tunes include "Country Living", "The Weather...", and, of course, "The Game Continues," all of which have irresistible hooks and mesmerising stylings. I also just have to mention Aoki's "My Favorite Trick", an eccentric depiction of a mad scientist.
The battle themes maintain stylistic continuity with the various setting themes, but have a more energetic feel to them. "Do Your Best" features more bouncy melodies and funk licks, but punctuates it with rhythm guitar chords and answering keyboard phrases. The resultant track somehow manages to simultaneously be easygoing yet motivating at the same time, which is perfect given the context. "DONDEN" meanwhile ups the intensity somewhat and is reminiscent of the epic rock-orchestral battle themes found on more conventional fighting soundtracks. "Fighting Man" also undergoes an interesting development from the dark introduction to the upbeat core. While they're far from fan favorites, this track and "Escape" unexpectedly receives a bonus arrangement at the end of the soundtrack too. Though they're decent, it's pity the awesome yet absent last battle theme couldn't have been used in its place.
There is nevertheless a fair amount of diversity elsewhere on the soundtrack. "Eden" is an imitation of commercial smooth jazz with its laidback pacing and blend of acoustic and synthesised elements. Yet while it could have been disgusting, it's actually very pleasant and atmospheric, especially with the acoustic guitar performances and scenic bird tweets. "Island" enters another area in the jazz world with its Latin-inspired rhythms and saxophone melodies. Yet despite the exotic setting, there are still some slightly sinister vibes featured here. The final dungeon theme "Castle in the Sky" is another track that has a slightly more downbeat and ambient feel, but is nowhere near dull or aseptic. In fact, this is several tracks modelled off the Chrono Trigger soundtrack, namely "Black Omen"; while some such tracks on the full release are awkward and blatant, the inspiration is more subtle here and there's a great upbeat twist.
There are several major tracks to round off the soundtrack. "An Offering to the Dragon" is the main rendition of the main theme, initially exposed in the brief and unremarkable "Opening"; the melancholy string melody and deep synthy accompaniment make a much bigger emotional impact here and there is also a fascinating evolution into a more uplifting section towards the end. "Stairs ~Ending~" is a short piano-based track that features increasingly elaborate orchestration. As the track progresses, there is a recapitulation of "An Offering to the Dragon" which is surprisingly touching. More disappointing is the ending vocal theme, "Pure Again", with its derivative J-Pop stylings. The use of the composers themselves as vocalists doesn't quite work here, although they put in good efforts. What's more, the instrumentals are largely quite derivative and repetitive, despite a decent guitar solo.
Overall, the Breath of Fire III soundtrack is an interesting twist on RPG soundtrack conventions. Though it features the usual set of setting, dungeon, and scenario themes, they're all different from the norm with their jazz stylings and upbeat nature. However, the one disc soundtrack release for the game features many notable omissions and obnoxious bonuses. Consumers would be wise to consider whether they want to go for the full box set release instead, despite its filler and pricetag.
Overall Score: 7/10