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Music from Ys V :: Review by Andrew

Music from Ys V Album Title: Music from Ys V
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1175/6
Release Date: March 23, 1996
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Ys V: Kefin, The Lost Kingdom of Sand has long been regarded as the weak link in the chain that is Ys. This can be considered a good thing, or a bad thing depending on your taste in music. While the rest of the series focuses upon power rock and just pure bombast to propel the game forward, Ys V is more refined in its presentation. Consisting of orchestral cues as opposed to guitars, it single handedly turned off the hardcore Ys fan-base and didn't draw in any newcomers at exactly the same time.

That being said, this soundtrack does have quite a few flaws in it. Many of the themes are aimless and underdeveloped. The composition also suffers greatly from the same simplistic structures that work well with power rock, but don't fare so well when you've got a synthesized orchestra. In the end solo voice, rhythmic parts, bass, and percussion works better with a four piece rock band.


Everything starts well and in many ways everything ends well, as long as you are only considering the actual epilogue track and not the bonus material. "Lost Kingdom" starts out with lots of promise with a simple buildup of sound. Then the underlying rhythmic pattern starts being played by the harp, with the main theme starting at 0:26. At first the theme is left alone with only the harp and a single percussive sound. The theme then switches up a bit at 1:40, where the B section begins. The same players, just a variation on the theme from the A section which is in many ways stronger than the first section. Ys is known for slower tracks, such as "Feena", but nothing quite this well-developed.

I know that some will shoot me for suggesting this, but many of the themes sound like derivative works composed by Nobuo Uematsu, of Final Fantasy fame, or several other well known Square Enix RPGs. While no theme is directly lifted, the compositional style and overall feel that the soundtrack exudes creates this feeling every time I listen to it. A good case in point is the first town theme "Peace in the Street", which not only sounds derivative, but also far too downbeat and depressing. "Foresta Village" and "Woodside Village" both just feel far too downbeat although the latter does have a faster rhythmic pace; the chords are just so very plodding and depressing. Is the land of Xandria full of depressed people that lament about their plight? I sure hope not.

On the other hand, once you get into the more active tracks, something very magical happens to the soundtrack. In fact, the earliest success story would be "Field of Gale". While the opening thirteen seconds won't win any awards for good introductions, once it gets going something magical happens. You can also see right through to its foundations, as it has all the structures of a power rock track, except with strings and brass. In a similar vein, "Break into Territory" is also equally good for similar but not the same reasons. Rather than being classic Falcom rock with a classical veneer, it actually sounds like a decent symphonic cue with interesting underlying harmonic structures and flow.

What is Ys without evil demons for Adol Christin to slay? This game has three different enemy themes, which has been stock for the series since Music from Ys III. One theme for a lower level boss, which in this case is "Bad Species" which while listenable, doesn't try to defy the standard logic of "Oh it's a bad guy, switch to a minor key and play lots of evil sounding chords". This is a shame because "Turning Death Spiral" is much more interesting.

While the introduction of "Turning Death Spiral" isn't really interesting, once you get into the core theme at 0:17, you start to realize its brilliant trumpet-led melody line. But there is some disappointment, the section from 1:00-1:15 seems like it could easily be developed in a stronger fashion, but just rushes back to the A section as if it was an afterthought. While this isn't a review for Ys V orchestra version, do head over to that soundtrack and listen to what I think is the better version of an already great theme.

"Wicked Pleasure" sounds like a cross between the brilliance of "Turning Death Spiral" and "Bad Species". It's good listening, but it doesn't have a well defined melody and relies too much on chord progressions to sound like a melodic idea. Although at the 1:20 mark some sort of melody appears out of the ashes, it's a shame that it barely lasts 15 seconds and then it's back to the chord progressions as melody. It's better than "Bad species", but isn't nearly as excellent as "Turning Death Spiral".

Meiko Ishikawa's take on the "Theme of Adol" makes an appearance in this game as it did in Music from Ys III. While there was a version of the theme that was composed by Koshiro, I've always enjoyed Ishikawa's theme "The Boy's Got Wings". It's just such an energetic theme and one of the few touches that honors the source material in an otherwise original soundtrack.

As I said earlier, the soundtrack also ends well. "Farewell" stands in contrast to the subdued opening theme "Lost Kingdom". While the first track set a more relaxed tone, the end credits convey the end to an epic adventure with a brassy fanfare. Of note is the section that starts at 0:45; it does sound like derivative of Uematsu again, at least it emulates the better parts of his style and not the worst parts of his style. It's an excellent finish to a sometimes rocky ride of a soundtrack.


And really this soundtrack is a bit of a rocky ride. It's not entirely bad, but it's not entirely good either. If you avoid comparisons to the other games in the series and come with an open mind, you'll find some treasures such as "Field of Gale" and "Break into Territory", but you'll have to suffer through some of the most depressing towns in history. At times brilliant, at times dismally bad, this soundtrack stands as an interesting experiment in the Ys series.

Overall Score: 7/10