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Music from Sorcerian :: Review by Chris

Music from Sorcerian Album Title: Music from Sorcerian
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: K30X-7703
Release Date: April 21, 1988
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Back in 1988, Nihon Falcom released a highly successful scenario-based action RPG Sorcerian. Led by Yuzo Koshiro, a team of four at the to-be Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. composed the music for the game and they were quite ambitious despite the technological limitations available to them. Between them, they offer some of the best setting and battle themes featured in any old game, and arguably in game music as a whole. Music from Sorcerian presents these efforts in a somewhat dubious way: by compiling all 58 compositions into one disc without any loops. However, it remains probably the definitive version of the game's music.


The opening theme for Sorcerian offers a very mellow accompaniment to the title screen. An emphasis is placed on nostalgic melody that is synthesized with similar qualities to an electric piano. It's coloured during the development with deep, striking, yet unobtrusive chord changes in the accompaniment. As with many of Yuzo Koshiro's best themes for Falcom, this composition is simple yet individualistic. The castle theme "Let's Meet Here" is equally low-key and old-school, yet it is such a joy to listen to thanks to its unforgettable bouncy melodies. The two town themes are also fascinating deviations from RPG formula. "Pentawa I" initially sounds quite plodding yet is coloured by some ingenious jazz influences, while the more dynamic "Pentawa II" wouldn't sound out-of-place in The Revenge of Shinobi. Both are delightful, though it's a pity that they don't fully loop in the soundtrack release.

The majority of the compositions on the soundtrack are dedicated to specific scenarios. The music for 16 scenarios is featured on Music from Sorcerian and each scenarios features two to six unique compositions. Let's take a closer look at The Lost King's Spectre. For "Dungeon", Koshiro takes the conventional chiptune format of 'simple melody with accompaniment' one step further by offering such a charismatic melodic shape and a contrasting jagged bass line. Yet what is most impressive are the development sections, which have a cantabile quality despite their humble synth. Later in the scenario, listeners are presented with the battle theme "Hydra", a dazzling synth composition blending heroic and haunting moments. To round off the scenario, "Survivor" meanwhile comforts listeners after the battle with uplifting arpeggios and brassy fanfares.

As exemplified by "Dungeon", the setting themes are easily among the most colourful of chiptune music out there. The Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. offer three different forest themes, yet each has its own unique quality: laid-back and pop-influenced for The Lost Talisman; inquisitive and samba-tinged for The Mystery of the Red Jewel; and bittersweet and lavishly decorated for Medusa's Head. Elsewhere on the album, there are moodier and grittier themes like the "Underground Dungeon" themes, as well as a few sugary themes such as the handful of Romancia arrangements. However, easily my favourites on the entire album are "Cave I" and "Cave II". The former has the quality of a really expansive dungeon theme, yet the latter surprisingly doesn't take an even more epic approach: instead it's stripped down into pure and innocent chiptunes to ecstatic effect.

There is a considerable range in the action tracks too. The hostile "Kraken" is impressive for the way it utilises the full dynamic range of the PC-8801 and includes some rather complex percussion patterns. There are also other darker compositions like "Debitel Priest", "Shadow Dragon", and "Medusa", though some really lack in terms of development. Those looking for more typical rock-influenced battle themes should leap straight to the likes of "Bloody River", "Luwan and the Gold Dragon", and "Double Devil". Even with their primitive synth, these have the rhythmical impetus and catchy melodies. The sound team also often attempt to emulate the quality of electric guitar solos. The final battle theme "King Dragon" aspires to the rasping dissonant themes now commonplace in orchestral action scores. Those looking for sentimentality will also enjoy the beautifully crafted couple of ending themes.


Music from Sorcerian is a potentially deceptive release. On first listen, it might not sound remarkable, especially to those who have played the game. After all, it is a compilation of mostly short chiptune compositions that have been emulated in more expansive RPG soundtracks since. There were plenty of catchy game scores at the time of Sorcerian's release and indeed this soundtrack continues that trend. However, Sorcerian also manages to be extremely rich and expressive despite its synth limitations, and indeed pushes the boundaries to be the very best of its time. Music from Sorcerian is troublesome as an album, since it compiles too much into a single disc, but it is a complete and navigable release nonetheless. I'd highly recommend it for fans of chiptune music.

Overall Score: 9/10