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Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dave

Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter Original Soundtrack Album Title: Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer
Catalog Number: CPCA-1067/8
Release Date: December 18, 2002
Content: 2 CD Set - 48 Tracks
Purchase: Buy at AnimeNation / Buy at Game Music Online


The Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter Original Soundtrack is one of the most recent Sakimoto albums to be released. Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics are the most famed scores that he has worked on, although he has done a number of slightly lesser known works, including the scores for Stella Deus, Radiant Silvergun, Legaia Duel Saga, and the Ogre series. With such fame in the game music world, Sakimoto had a massive reputation to live up to here! If that were not enough, his work here succeeds the work of Yoshino Aoki, Akari Kaida, Taro Iwashiro, and Capcom Sound Team Alph Lyla, who successfully contributed to the scores of the last four Breath of Fire games, and achieved popular acclaim for their efforts.

"I believe the passion for expression takes over any obstacles of limitation." - Hitoshi Sakimoto

Sakimoto certainly challenges himself once more with this score. Adapting to the sound chips of the console is always hard, but he is always up for a challenge. His persistence does him good, especially on this album, where Sakimoto's rarely heard electronic side and his more widely known orchestral side blend in together nicely. In most cases, these ideas are separate from each other. There are occasions, however, when electro-acousticism is evident. In essence, this link is what makes the soundtrack original in comparison to his earlier albums. Sakimoto seems to reach an equilibrium on this album, as it is has a balance between symphonic and electronic elements, but is constantly moving between the two. What we have in the end is a wonderful album, which is also a good reflection on Sakimoto's dark side. Indeed, as Vagrant Story and Stella Deus also showed, expressing his dark side is what Sakimoto does best.


Sakimoto lets one indulge in a few of his darker ambient creations throughout the album. Typically Sakimoto uses mysterious synth vocals, and though this is a slightly hackeneyed technique, it is very effective. "Waste Abandonment Pit," for example, develops over a five minute period. Between the start and the end it transitions from being a mysterious track, to a very evil one, to being mysterious again. This is a work of genius, since every section just fits, and the high-pitched and airy vocals add a profound additional character to the track. "A Small Departure" is one of the best ambient tracks created by Sakimoto. A piano melody plays and an acoustic guitar is later added, while the melody is extremely emotional. It makes it all the more saddening and such brilliant techniques really get one sucked into the music and the game play. Indeed, Sakimoto's tragic side is extremely prominent throughout these darker tracks. "Origin" returns to the choral setting, and though the vocals are synthesised, they sound realistic thanks to Yasunori Mitsuda's sound manipulation and the elegant contrapuntal harmonies interweave with the vocals wonderfully. The overall result is a fantastic track that just keeps developing. "A Sad Memory" brings a lump to one's throat. Luscious violins play a wondrous melody which have a resounding and beautiful quality about them. The suspensions played by the string section subtly give a hint of pain and trhe underlying wind harmonies are just as effective by giving a dark side to every beat.

In conjunction with these darker compositions are tracks that express a sense of terror. "Attack," for example, evokes a sense of coercion, and this is largely thanks to the rather persistent 'cello passages. "Going Out to See the Sky" expresses an urge of immediate action; here, the brass plays a rising sequence which gets louder as it approaches a climax and there is an effective transition sequence using a string ensemble. "An Imminent Crisis" is also similar to these, utilising high-pitched strings and a very dark bass line to maximum effect. Prominent beats and eerie sound effects are evident in "Kokon Hore," a terrifying track placed towards the end of the album. When it finally begins to develop, suspense builds up and one's heart will truly pound! In conjunction with these horrifying tracks are a number of other darker compositions. Beginning with a piano and strings, "Conquering the World" sounds like pure evil. Vocals join in and give a feeling of death, almost as if destruction is happening. This track sends shivers down one's spine.

Sakimoto sometimes seems less able to reflect a lighter side to a composition. However, here we have a much different story. He expresses a wide range of feeling in many light, pride-filled, and ambient tracks. The rather jolly "Low Layer Area" is probably the best example of this. A brass instrument plays a brilliant melody on the top of a frolicsome accompaniment. "Going with a Smile" is also similar and his ideas mainly develop here from the basis of bouncy rhythms, which he integrates flawlessly. Also, along with this, Sakimoto has introduced many tracks with a sense of relief. The best of these is "At Ease." Although it is short-lived, one does get the impression that everything is going to be OK. These ambient themes just clear one's mind of worry, though only temporarily. Also amongst these lighter compositions are tracks of pride, wonder, and justice. "Kind Friends" has an aura of pride about it. It is somewhat twisted at the start, since the strings play a dark accompaniment, but the flute comes in and plays a pretty melody over it. The trumpet provides a great transition from these darker passages to something more grandiose. "Victory Party" would also seem an obvious one here. Once one wins a battle, this is played. Cymbals and the string section open this track rather grandly, simply giving a feeling of triumph. "Seeing Again" is quite a remarkable track, as Sakimoto provides expression through the finest details, giving a story of pride. The melodies are meaningful and saddening, while the piano has a beautiful and expressive melody that just enlightens one's soul.

Aside from the tracks already discussed, there is a huge amount of contrast provided by the militaristic and electronic themes. "Symptom," for example, is a classic war raging theme. With a marching drum beat in the background, one knows instantly what this track is about, and the war melody sung by the trumpets makes it even more prominent. A sense of militarism is also created with several other tracks, notably "A Moment of Joy," where drums and trumpets are used in a similar way to "Symptom." Contrasting with these tracks are themes such as "Ranger Base," which has persistent tuned percussion use in the background. The overlapping synth vocal melodies give a feeling of airiness yet a sharp sense of pain. The metre of the track also reflects the evil style, being somewhat frantic. Perhaps most unusually of all, animal noises play as a percussive line develops for the first minute or so, adding a unique electronic touch. "Industrial Area" also has a wide range of technological use, but is also orchestrated, adding some electro-acousticism to the album. The development of this track is very effective, with chimes and other metallic instruments giving an industrial factory feel in this track. Such tracks are bridging influences between the more conventional compositions and those featuring electronica.

The conclusion to the album is one of the most heartfelt of any Sakimoto's albums. "Castle - Imitation (Breath of Fire V Dragon Quarter)" just can't go without a mention, even though it wasn't composed by Sakimoto. Chihiro Onitsuka composed this beautiful creation and is also the vocalist. Even if one is unfamiliar with Japanese, it is easy to hear that she is repeating a certain word over and over again, which gives the track a unique musical touch and shows the vocalist has feelings of compassion for the subject. The piano plays accompanying chords, an electric bass joins it, and an electric guitar links the sections with a short slide. The feeling that one gets from this track is great and it is perhaps the crowning achievement of the album. The album ends on a track called "Escaping from Now." It gradually builds up to prove to be a rather heart rending track. Each instrument gets its turn: the harp plays a beautiful melody, the use of brass is wonderful, and the string use is unique. It sums up the profound emotions Sakimoto adds throughout the soundtrack. Each of the profound emotions Sakimoto adds to the album is summed up in this track. It begins quite dark and saddening and then goes through a section of pride with dominant brass. Finally, it ends with a feeling of success. What a way to end an album!


This album is definitely different to the rest of Sakimoto's creations. Apart from the occasional filler track and some of the ambient creations not standing up that well on their own, this album is top-notch. This is ensured by the synchronicity of his melodies, the superb chord progressions in his harmonies, and the remarkable use of both electronic and orchestral elements. One should buy it for the fact it is a unusual, original, and creative experience alone; what is more, since it is readily available to buy, there should not be any problems finding it, unlike many other albums by Sakimoto.

Percentage Overall Score: 91%

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