Genso Suikoden V Original Soundtrack :: Review by Mac_Tear
After over a year of waiting, the latest part of the beloved Suikoden series appeared and reached the hearts of the fans in 2006. It featured many comebacks from the past Suikoden games, more colorful graphics and emotions than Suikoden IV, and, of course, music composed by Norikazu Miura. Miura has also composed and arranged the earlier Suikoden Tactics (aka Rhapsodia) score and contributed a few tracks on Suikoden IV. Suikoden V's music features a wide palette of several styles and themes. The game credits say that four other people were responsible for additional music, namely Yoshihiro Tsukahara (Mario Party 8), Takashi Watanabe (several sound effects), Kuniyuki Takahashi and Chiharu Mukaiyama. Their role can only be spectaculated because the soundtrack details gives no further information, although Miura definitely defined the sound of the release.
Suikoden V's opening theme "Wind of Phantom" is composed by Yuji Toriyama and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It could't have been a better introduction of the soundtrack and game as well. A celtic jig-style fanfare opens the track in a splendid way. Afterwards some elegant strings perform the melody and are later accompanied by woodwinds, horns, and acoustic guitar. When the first minute is over, a grand march begins with some percussion, guitars, and a sitar, which reflects the ethnic atmosphere of the Suikoden universe perfectly.In the second part, surprisingly a electric guitar shows up and performs a small section until the music reaches its phenomenal end. After all it's one of the best and most effective opening themes from the series.
"A Moment of Calm" is the first of several versions of the Main Theme of the game. Norikazu Miura presents a beautiful melody in a calming arrangement using strings and acoustic guitar. The track receives numerous arrangements in the game, ranging from the sorrowful slow-paced "Recollection", to the bouncy waltz "The Thriving Inn", to the ethnic exploration "Running on the River". The melody is even used as the basis of the three headquarter tracks in the game, helping to further integrate the score thematically. The world map theme "Distant Journey" is also an amazing rendition, creating an adventurous feel with soaring strings and marching percussion, while the richly orchestrated "The River and the Sun" is the perfect opener to the second half of the soundtrack. However, perhaps its single most evocative version is "A Sad Wish" at the start of the final disc with its gorgeous soprano voice.
Norikazu Miura also inspires memories of past Suikoden scores with numerous arrangements. The classic Name Entry music returns once again in "Starting the Journey", complete with a fitting ethnic feeling. "Narcy's Theme", of course, also returns in an arrangement rather similar to the original Suikoden. "Underground Passage", the famous dungeon theme from the first two Suikoden games, returns in a light mix version. It's a nice recollection, but the first versions were more elaborate. Other surprise renditions include Suikoden II's "Meeting" for strategy meetings, Suikoden III's "Midwinter Land" as a moody dungeon theme, Suikoden IV's ocean theme in a lush low-key rendition, among a handful of others. Perhaps the most nostalgic renditions, however, are of the melancholic "Touching Theme", tear jerking "Theme of a Moonlit Night", and, of course, the grandiose "Into a World of Illusions". It's great to see Suikoden receive some love.
The town themes actually work better in the game than on a stand-alone basis. This is true for the first of these, "The Scorched Earth and the Weary People", which fits well with the scenery. The instrumentation is pretty low key and there is a depressed and desolate sounding melody. It nevertheless gives gives the listener the perfect image on Lordlake, a scorched town with weary people in it. The town theme of Lunas, "Holy Land" is a very beautiful and peaceful one. Even if it lacks a little on memorability, it makes up for it with its gorgeous acoustic guitar and flute samples. Other highly touching tracks written in a acoustic RPG style include "One Peaceful Moment", "Lordlake's Restoration". Also pleasant is "Town on a River", with its contrasts between its adventurous first section and calming second section, and "Godwind Family Castle", with its brilliant majestic instrumentation.
"A Fated Confrontation" introduces us to the large amount of battle music from Suikoden V. The brass, strings, and percussion are excellent here, full of power, dramatic and morale. It builds up little by little until it reaches it sweeping climax towards the end of the piece. The game's main battle theme, "Battle Start", is also the first of several interpretations we can enjoy later on this soundtrack. The initial version focuses mainly on strong brass and string passages, having a style similar to Suikoden's "Confrontation with Monsters". It works very well in the context of the game, though its arrangements later in the game are more prominent, particularly the symphonic "Dance of Death" and the unexpected rock rendition "Dancing Rhapsody". "A Mighty Enemy" is the main boss theme for this game. It really gives you the atmosphere of battling a worthy foe with its grandiose instrumentation and emphatic percussion. It's certainly a highlight on the soundtrack.
Another trademark of this soundtrack are the ambient tracks. "Tension" is the main tension / hurry theme for the game and it captures the typical crisis atmosphere in an effective way. Beginning with an harsh orchestra hit and pulsing percussion including timpani, snares, and marimba, the piece developes in an energetic way. Ascending and descending strings and flutes are used in the background while some brass is used later in the second half to build up a little climax. There is hardly no memorable melody in "Stolen Heart", just ascending and descending strings together with some synth and percussive effects. It intercedes the feeling of anxiety and tense quite well, but is definitely one of the weaker stand-alone tracks. "Prison" underlays harsh steel guitar chords with depressed strings, giving a very lonely and empty sounding texture fits within the scenery. Other effective but unremarkable atmospheric themes include "Standing Firm", "Unrest", "Imprisonment",
"Time of Confrontation" is this installation's one-on-one duel music. Compared to earlier additions from the series, especially the latest from Suikoden IV, this is a big disappointment. It just features some repetitive brass chords, tremolo strings, and flute flourishes. "Clash" is Suikoden V's warfare theme. The first 42 seconds contains a clever remix of Suikoden II's equivalent and, thereafter, the track becomes more heroic and emphatic with giant brass elements. The track sustains repeated listens with its enjoyable and varied elements. However, the second warfare theme "Final Defense Battle" is considerably more enjoyable on a stand-alone level. "The Sacred Games", "Arena", and "The Stage of Battle" are pompous brass-led pieces with related purposes. They prove considerably more stomachable than most such themes due to their melodic potency and colourful orchestration.
There are some setting themes that deviate from RPG norms. The theme for Haud Village, "The Great Artists", for instance completely captures a bizarre place full of strange buildings and crazed buildings. From weird synth riffs to random steel drums to funny voice snippets, it's hilarious in context. "The People Underground" captures the Dwarf Camp with its reedy instrumentation and tribal percussion. "Village of Restoration" represents a Japanese-styled area with its shakuhachi and koto use, while "Fort Town" is inspired by spaghetti westerns with its whistle melody and rustic guitar. "The Dahaka's Departure" is an exciting theme that fuses Eastern and Western influences to represent the Raftfleet's Admiral. "The Great Artists". Other unique gems include "The Water Capital" with its fluid synth use and "A Power Like the Sun" with its pastiche features.
"Tactician", the theme for the beautiful tactician Lucretia Merces, is not the type of theme most would expect. It's neither militaristic nor dramatic it's just pure beauty and describes her elegant, but also tragic, character very well. really like the chamber arrangement it's not obtrusive, but also not too cautious. The last dungeon theme, "Ruins Locked in Snow and Ice", is an atmospheric one. It features an enchanting organ melody together with some synth and percussive effects. It gives the listener a feeling of determination, coldness, and sacredness. "Invocation" is a cinematic gothic piece that builds up to a great climax with each passing moment. The last battle theme "The Final Conclusion" is a climactic composition full of suspense and crisis moments. But instead of relying on fast percussion and heroic melody frames, Miura chooses to develop a more atmospheric and low-key battle theme with great use of organ and orchestra. It's a bit less effective than Suikoden IV's equivalent, but still a fantastically developed and adrenaline pumping track.
The soundtrack closes with a succession of setting themes. In each track, Miura offers some beautiful orchestration to inspire different emotions and emotions. They range from the sad "Solitary Journey" with its mournful strings and guitar use, the uplifting "To Walk This Path" with its bright and luscious instrumentation, and the lyrical "Finale" with its rich development. "To the End of the Woven Tale of the 108 Stars" is, unexpectedly, a rock ballad that doesn't necessarily fit the stylistic premise of the series. It is nevertheless a nice one with its electric guitar renditions of the main theme and powerful orchestration. "Future of the 108" shows the fate of the game's numerous characters, shifting from the minor notes of the Suikoden V main theme into a glorious march reprising Suikoden IV's equivalent. Finally, "To Peaceful Days" is my personal favorite ending theme of the whole bunch. It features a simply gorgeous melody together with fantastically instrumentation and variation.
Overall, this is another excellent Suikoden soundtrack as expected. After the fourth stinker and the tactical spinoff, this score is a true classic and goes back to series' roots. The music is much more varied and diverse than in the previous scores, packing powerful new themes with classic trademarks. There are great symphonic compositions, low-key ambient tracks, ethnic inspired pieces, and even two rock pieces, which is unusual for a Suikoden soundtrack. But it's a brave step and a welcome decision to bring some new styles to the series. Every track is used excellently during the gameplay, from the different world map themes to the various incarnations of the battle theme to the various themes to accompany cutscenes. Truly, given this huge amount of tracks, it's unavoidable to create some filler and less memorable tracks, but luckily they don't appear that often here. The large creation and variation of the nearly 150 tracks is a nice compensation to this. In conclusion I must say that this is one of my favorite Suikoden soundtracks up to date so go and listen to this fantastic 'comeback' soundtrack!
Overall Score: 9/10