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Ys IV J.D.K. Special :: Review by Charles

Ys IV J.D.K. Special Album Title: Ys IV J.D.K. Special
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1137
Release Date: November 26, 1993
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Over the years, Falcom's J.D.K. Specials have acquired the reputation of being among the most redundant and useless of the company's many album releases. This is since they tend to be resynthings of original scores rather than true arranged albums. However, Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys does not actually have an original score release like the other Ys games so the Ys IV J.D.K. Special is the closest listeners will come to finding one. It's essentially a compilation of the original music from the game with slightly improved synth. Yet there are several catches...


The opener "The Dawn of Ys" certainly stays true to the spirit of the series' music. The opening chords are very mellow and bring back memories of the tone of Ys' "Feena" or Ys III "A Premonition". Yet the majority of the rest of the piece is dedicated to melodic synth rock more reminiscent of Ys II's "To Make the End of Battle". As the composition develops, it is clear that it has more depth than the standard Ys rock out there and is more about atmosphere than melody. Overall, an excellent effort. In series' tradition, the soundtrack also features tender town themes such as "Promarock" and "Bronze District", adventurous setting themes like "Field" and "Valley of Quicksand", and more ambient tracks such as "Celceta" and "Sanctuary". Each of them is wonderfully composed and they also benefit from the synth of the J.D.K. Special.

Out of all the soundtracks in the series, Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys has perhaps the most personality. This is partly since characters from the game receive thematic depictions. For example, Karna is portrayed as a strong female warrior in an absolutely infectious theme, whereas Leena is portrayed to have a more reserved and caring quality. There are also several very intimate themes on the soundtrack, such as "Tenderness" and "On the Other Side of the Recollection", that deepen the storyline and add to that humble personality that has always featured in Ys scores. It's also worth mentioning that the score ends with the theme for the series' main character, "Theme of Adol 1993". This melody is actually taken from Yuzo Koshiro's Unused Tracks from the original Ys and, in this upbeat arrangement, suits the character fully.

The rock element of the series is also strong with Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys. This is initially obvious in "The Syobin" and "A Tearful Young Swordsman", though in my opinion neither quite has the impact of some of the earlier battle themes in the series. "Blazing Sword" and "A Great Ordeal" are far more enjoyable thanks to their amazing sense of rhythm and use of catchy countermelodies. However, it's also pleasing that the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. are prepared to revisit the more dissonant element of the series for more intense battles, such as "Battle #58". The J.D.K. Special gradually builds up into some sort of climax in "The Heat in the Blaze", but doesn't round off fully, since "The Final, Decisive Battle" and "A New Beginning" are strangely absent. And that leads me on to the bad news...

There is a Ys IV J.D.K. Special Vol. 2 that is exclusive to the Falcom Special Box '95. This is extremely frustrating for two reasons. For one, it means those looking for the closest thing to an original score for Ys IV have to buy two albums, one of which also has two other potentially useless discs. In addition, it means that the actual track listings are jumbled between the two albums and they don't come together to tell a coherent story. While many of the important tracks from Ys IV are featured on the first volume, there are numerous highlights on the second volume, including the bubbly pop theme "Fountain of Love '93", the haunting ambient gem "Quickening of the Ancient City", and the aforementioned final battle theme. There are also several unused tracks, such as "Crater", "Temple", "Tower", and "Prison Tower", that prove better than expected.


Overall, Falcom pulled a cheap trick with the Ys IV J.D.K. Special. For the first time in the company's history, the J.D.K. Special is actually of some use and gives a very good official insight into the otherwise unreleased soundtrack. However, it's necessary to buy two expensive releases to hear the full thing and the first volume doesn't suffice on its own. Were a double disc album made, it would have almost been perfect. My opinion? Unless you're a hardcore collector, skip this album and enjoy the excellent original score to Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys through the context of the game or the Perfect Collection arrangements instead.

Overall Score: 7/10