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Genso Suikoden II Original Game Soundtrack Vol. 1 :: Review by Mac_Tear

Genso Suikoden II Original Game Soundtrack Vol. 1 Album Title: Genso Suikoden II Original Game Soundtrack Vol. 1
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-7935/6
Release Date: December 23, 1998
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Three years after the great success of the first game, Konami continued the story the of the 108 Stars of Destiny with Suikoden II, one of the most beloved installments from the series and the best Suikoden title so far, in my opinion and many others. Miki Higashino returned as the main composer this time; she left Tappy Iwase and the others behind, though a few reprises remind us of their compositions. If you played the game, you'll get a feeling of nostalgia and reminiscence of the scenery and gameplay with each single track, which is a good sign. Sadly Higashino left Konami 2002 and never composed again for the series, which is a big shame, because together with its ethnic and empathetic music, the Suikoden games reached a high status in the hearts of the gamers and critics. But luckily some of her contributions reached traditional statues and were arranged in later followed games, as well as on several arranged albums, so some of her compositions have become immortalised.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Opening

The soundtrack starts with an grand and powerful track. It is fully orchestrated and performed gorgeously by the famous Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus (Ah! My Goddess, Wolf's Rain, Helsing), including the tender vocals of Yumiko Takahashi. The song is divided in four sections. It begins with "Prologue", where dramatic string ensemble, choir, and haunting vocals from Takahashi introduce us into the world of war. The feeling is indescribably beautiful. It reminds me a lot of Howard Shore's epic "The Lord of the Rings" scores.

At 0:29 the "Battle" starts, where the orchestration reaches it climax of dramatic sections with brass, strings, percussion, and fantastic choir phrases. You really can imagine a large battlefield with two armies in a struggle of life and death. The third section titled "Pathos" begins at the one minute mark, where the feeling is very sad and melancholy. Strings, harp, and mournful female vocals help to create this atmosphere of loss. Finally, at 1:30 the "Theme of Genso Suikoden II" starts to play in its most heroic and grandiose version. Snare drums and horns begin to introduce us into an military march, after a few seconds the strings set in to perform the main melody, which is developed later with more bombastic orchestration until its phenomenal conclusion.

Well, what can I say more? This piece is simply breathtaking, awesome, and epic and could easily fit into some Hollywood blockbusters. Also this is the same high limit like other game openers like Final Fantasy VIII's "Liberi Fatali" or Grandia's "Theme of Grandia". A big cheer for Ms. Higashino and the Philharmonics, who created an unchallenged masterpiece in the series! (10/10)

2) Name Entry

The catchy bell motif "Beginning Theme" from the first Suikoden is rearranged here the first time in an extended and more emphatic manner. It features some newly composed parts with additional instrumentation. This arrangement is highly inspired and shines as the best until now, later returning in Suikoden IV and Suikoden V. The overall military feeling fits the game's scenery very well. Overall, a nice beginning of the story. (9/10)

3) Enemy Attack

As the title suggests this is a hurry theme, but it is played only once during the game at the very beginning. Surprisingly it's not bad like most such themes. It features a feeling of danger and crisis, combined with an ethnic flair, which fits the scene well. The catchy arpeggios as well as the string line can get repetitive after a while, but the arrangement does all it can to capture an effective tense situation. For non-players this may be a typical filler track, but if you played the game, you will get a nice nostalgic feeling. And as I said, it's only played once during the whole game, so it gets a bonus point for being so meticulously composed. (8/10)

4) Suspicion

The military and foreboding theme, one of the most used tracks during the game, is also a nice addition to the overall soundtrack. It features some parts from "The Chase", which can be heard later on the soundtrack. This may be also one of the tracks which work well in the context of the game, but on a stand-alone basis it's not very interesting and gets repetitive after a while. (7/10)

5) The Will

"The Will" introduces us into the battle music of Suikoden II and is used as the normal battle theme. Starting with a whirl of strings and some percussion, it soon transforms into an climactic and highly memorable fighting tune. Miki Higashino experiments with different styles here, such as the electronic beat together with timpani and pompous orchestration. The instrumentation is fantastic, from the powerful brass to the dramatically string and flute parts, and even the mood changes from heroic and tense to more lush and climatic. It's quite similar to Suikoden's "Confrontation with Monsters", but more effective and fun to listen to. An excellent composition and one of the best battle themes in the series for sure. (9/10)

6) Results

Suikoden's "Victory Theme" also makes a comeback here. The percussion sounds more clear and militaristic, while the catchy and lighthearted flute, string, and horn combo sounds identical to the original. Similar to Final Fantasy's "Victory Fanfare", this is also a trademark in the Suikoden musical universe. (7/10)

7) Reminiscence

"Reminiscence" is one of the major themes from this score and one of the most beautiful additions as well. With her Liner Notes "It should be played with the earnest emotion of a Chopin nocturne and with a nostalgic feel in the melody", she hit the nail right on the head. The piano melody is simple, but extremely catchy and memorable. The light strings in the background and the emotional and ethnic vocals of Yumiko Takahashi adding their parts as well, making this track to an little masterpiece. There are several arrangements of this later on this soundtrack, but this is the original one and at the same time the most emotional one. (10/10)

8) Those Who Work Must Eat

It's the background music for the Mercenary Fort and features another catchy melody. The feeling is kind of medieval with flute, bass guitar, percussion, and kazoo. Not as strong as later tracks, but it serves it job as background music quite well. (8/10)

9) The First Job

"The First Job" is the first and four incarnations of the previous theme. It's an interesting idea, arranging a melody to fit the scenes it's used. This is nearly identical as the predecessor, only with a slower tempo and more focuse of the developement of the main melody. (7/10)

10) The Next Job

A more upbeat version of the "Those Who Work Must Eat", the melodies are playing quickly while the percussion is fast-paced as well. Nothing too spectacular, but a nice idea. (6/10)

11) Are You Gonna Eat That Carrot?

I like that title. The track itself has a humorous character too. Very slow and clumsy sounding. As you can hear it's another version of "Those Who Work Must Eat". (7/10)

12) Escape

"Edcape" features only the percussion line of the previous tracks, which may add a sneaky atmosphere, but it's a rather unenjoyable and skippable track. (5/10)

13) A Peaceful Mountain Village

The theme for Ryube Village is kind of minimalistic like the place itself. A peaceful flute plays the melody while bright piano chords and some bird chirping accompany it. It's great that a simple melody can be so pleasant and peaceful like this one, but it's nothing too special. (7/10)

14) The Great Street Performers

Finally, this is the first arrangement of the "Theme of Genso Suikoden II", we heard in "Opening". The track itself used to accompany a nice event with some gypsies performing their show. The percussion is kind of tribal-like, while the melody is played by violin and strings to create the needed ethnic atmosphere. The strong bass line is also an interesting addition. A very entertaining arrangement that works well during the context of the game. (8/10)

15) Adventurous Journey

The world map theme for the first half of the story is another pleasant one. It features the typical military instrumentation together with a fine development. The adventurous and pleasant strings / brass together with the marching percussion create a nice unobtrusive atmosphere. (8/10)

16) Labyrinth, Penpe 2

"Penpe", the dungeon theme from Suikoden, also makes a return here. Like "Name Entry", it's a more extended and developed arrangement. It's gloomy, almost scary, character works pretty fine inside the game's context. Like the original, this is also one of those ambient themes, but the sinister string ensembles together with the weird percussion and sound effects gives an atmospheric feeling. (8/10)

17) A Worthy Foe Appears

"A Worthy Foe Appears" is the boss battle theme for this game. The theme is based on "The Will", but you'll notice that something is different here. This is not a normal enemy we're fighting. It's a clever idea to use the normal battle theme and transform it into a more foreboding and tense tune. But sadly, it hasn't the impact and melodic power from "The Will". The theme focuses more to create a tense and climactic atmosphere with heavy use of percussion and brass chords. (7/10)

18) Homesickness

Ah... finally back home. The theme for Kayaro Village is another pleasant addition. The melody is again very simple, but catchy and well developed. The piano and flute lines almost dance through the piece, while the percussion and strings in the background help to move the track forward. In the B section, the tempo gets a little slower and the flute is plays a solo part until the piece starts from the beginning. Very Nostalgic. (9/10)

19) Beautiful Morning

This is a perfect example of well-suited music in a game. The track is very happy, lighthearted, straightforward, and accompanies a few scenes with Nanami. It may be also her theme, because it fits her personality quite well. The flute really provides an catchy and memorable melody for her cheerful character, while the brass adds a bit of power to the piece to reflects Nanami's energy. It reminds me a bit of "Penelo's Theme" from Final Fantasy XII though. Well composed. (9/10)

20) March of the King

We're back in the military section with this exciting theme. The marching percussion really gives the feeling of something's serious is going to happen. The strings at 0:30 play a part from "The Chase", while the pompous brass adds a feeling of tense and power. It's one of those tracks which is simply textured, but works wonders during the game. (8/10)

21) Rescue

Suikoden's main theme "Into a World of Illusions" makes an exciting appearance here. I really enjoy the introduction with the wild use of percussion, which is pretty straightforward, while the strings and brass play the melody full of emotion, heroism, and triumph. I sometimes think of "Locke" from Final Fantasy VI while listening to this one. Again, a sweet flashback feeling and very entertaining. (9/10)

22) Reminiscence ~ Ensemble Version

This is a string based version of the "Reminiscence". The overall feeling is more sad — it's full of grief and nearly tear-jerking. It works pretty well in the game, but I like the original version a little more. Not bad, but a bit too simple this time. (8/10)

23) Children Playing in the Fields

The theme for Toto Town, sadly played only a short time in the game, is one of the more interesting town themes here. The first section starts almost like a folk dance with percussion and medieval flute and sax melodies. It really gives the listener a feeling of excitement and joy. The B section is more slow and serene with just flute and violin rather than percussion. If you want to get the real renaissance feeling, listen to the beautifully arranged version on Genso Suikoden Celtic Collection 1. (9/10)

24) Massacre

One of several tracks from this score where just sound effects appear rather than music in order to accompany some FMV scenes during the game. It's a nice idea, but unnecessary in my opinion. That's why I won't rate these tracks. A village is burned, people run away, and there is plenty of braying. (N/A)

25) Tension

"Tension" is a arrangement of Suikoden's "Theme of Tension ~ Impact Version" and features also a incarnation of Luca Blight's Theme from this score. It is far more dramatic and emphatic than the original version, not only because of the pumping percussion, but also the strong brass chords that gives you the feeling of tension and evil. It can get a bit repetitive though. (7/10)

26) War

The first war theme of Suikoden II. It features some strong and heroic brass notes with adrenaline pumping percussion and some sinister strings. The only weak point is that it's with under one minute rather short to developement it's strenght, but it works very well in game. Though it does not feature the catchiness and memorability from the war themes of Suikoden, it's an interesting addition. There exist two more themes, but they're sadly absent in this score. The second is a track called "Battlefield without Light", which can be found in the "Suikogaiden Vol.1" soundtrack, the third one, similar to this, is totally absent. (8/10)

27) Collapse

See "Massacre". A building is collapsing within flames and people run away. (N/A)

28) Their Star

The "Touching Theme", also known as the blind seeress Leknaat's character theme, is arranged from Suikoden in a more epic and mature way. But I really must say that I prefer the original version a little more, because of the elegant and mystic instrumentation. This one sounds a bit more harsh and dramatic, which can be the different sound quality (the first games had better), but the extremely haunting and emotional melody stays. Highly recommended. (10/10)

29) Days Past

"Reminiscence" in an acoustic arrangement. Some pleasant guitar and woodwinds play warm and relaxing sounding melodies. It's nice to see how one melody can be transformed into several emotions, from sad over the calm. A nice way to end the first disc. (8/10)

Disc Two

1) Amid the Silence

A great start for the second disc. Even if the piece is again simply structured, the pleasant melody in the arrangement is simply amazing. From the dulcimer to the flute it really gives the listener is feeling of beauty and calmness. In the second section a male vocalist chants some ethnic vocals, which adds a very neat effect to the whole track. True, it's one of those tracks which can be a bit repetitive after a while because of its simplicity, but it works beautiful during the game. (8/10)

2) Let's Climb That Hill

While I'm a sucker for medieval music, this is the type of piece I really like in some way. The percussion formed by bongos and tambourine creates a steady rhythm while the flute whistles the main melody later accompanied by renaissance instrumentations. It's definately catchy and fits well for the business town of Muse. (9/10)

3) Silent Room

In this track Higashino really offers a simple arrangement with clavichord and harpsichord. The melody itself is again simple and arbitrates an renaissance feeling, but compared to other BGM tracks this is rather uninteresting. (7/10)

4) Narcy's Theme Again

The next two themes are classics in the series, because every game contains an arrangement of those tracks. The first one is originally composed by Setsu Taniguchi from the first Suikoden. The accordion together with the piano gives a French-like atmosphere, while the dissonant flute harmonies add a feeling of clumsiness and humor to the track. I think this is one of the best versions, although it's identical with the original only with a slightly improved sound quality. Suikoden IV's "Reinbach Theme", for example, is a more refreshing arrangement of this effective track. (9/10)

5) Moonlit Night

Also one of the trademarks of the Suikoden series, this emotional theme is based on the "Theme of a Moonlit Night" from Suikoden, later also arranged in Suikoden V. With this track many players recall memories of the games, which is a fantastic sign, because the use in game is unforgettable. Soft strings and harp lead into the main melody, which is provided by an charming harmonica. Later a flute takes on the melody and the percussion gets more emphatic, almost like a ballad or lullaby. Compared to the original, it's again improved and extended, but features the same warm and beautiful aura. Listen to it and it will never leave your head or heart. (10/10)

6) Reconnaissance Mission

"Reconnaissance Mission" is a slower variation of "March of the King" with a few absent melody lines. The military percussion is the same, including a few stops within, to create a feeling of suspense and danger. Later on strings and flutes are added to give it a touch of anxiety. Well suited for the game's context, but rather uninteresting outside. (7/10)

7) The Confederation Forever

I truly must say that this is one of the worst tracks I've heard thus far. The piece features a Scottish feeling like an national anthem accompanied by strong military percussion. It may work in the game, but the instrumentation is so annoying after a while and the wild percussion doesn't help either. Luckily it is only played once during the game. I prefer the arranged version on the Genso Suikoden II Music Collection ~Orrizonte~ much more than this version. (6/10)

8) If You Listen Carefully

The music for different small towns like Coronet is very pleasant and atmospheric. From soft woodwinds over to gentle string passages, this piece really gives the listener a feeling of relaxation, tenderness, and a bit of melancholy. At the one minute mark, when the strings sets in and the piece gains a more positive and hopeful atmosphere. Very neat. (8/10)

9) Ah, Beautiful Dancer

Some tribal percussion leads into this crazy little piece. The music for the port of Kuskus contains an very oriental atmosphere, but the harsh melodies can be annoying after a while. This applies to the soundtrack more than in the game itself. An interesting composition in style and arrangement, but the development lacks and again I prefer the arranged version. (7/10)

10) Nahala Yam Koong

Similar to the previous track, this is another very oriental and ethnic track, but has a better developement. Used for the ancient city of South Window, it fits the scenery well. The bass and dulcimer line, the percussion with hand claps, and the harsh melodies harmonize well with each other. You feel like if you were on a Turkish bazaar or something! And that track name, whatever it means, fits in this weird piece. I also recommend the arranged version on the Genso Suikoden Asian Collection. (8/10)

11) Passacaglia with Chorus

Even it's only a small piece of 0:27 seconds used for an FMV, this is astounding effective. It features an performance of church organ and choir humming some wicked notes from "Passacaglia", a track from Suikoden, which was in fact Neclord's castle theme. Short, but effective. (9/10)

12) The Fugue "Praise to be My Master"

For everyone who tought "Passacaglia" was a great theme, please take a look at this piece. The gothic organ melodies could easily fit into a Castlevania scenery. I'm pretty suprised how good Miki Higashino can handle this difficult instrument so extremely well. It features a few notes from the previous theme, but nearly all sections are newly composed. The arrangement is astounding and even Bach or Brahms would be applauding for this work. It begins with a solo organ, shortly after that a second joins to accompany the wicked melody. Before the one minute mark we can hear a part from "Passacaglia" again. At 1:35, the developement reaches an higher tone until it gets more deeper until the very end. The best thing about this piece is that it doesn't loop. So you never get tired of the melody and can feel the enormous power it has. Amazing job, simply amazing! (10/10)

13) Her Sigh

The theme for Radat Town is in similar style as "If You Listen Carefully", but more deep and melancholy. It begins with some sweeping strings and a sorrowful woodwind accompanied by some light bongos. At 0:35 the music gets more beautiful with the developement of woodwind, harp, and strings. This part is so warm yet sad at the same time. You can imagine a woman with tears in her eyes staring out of the sea waiting for her love coming home from war... *sigh* (9/10)

14) Dandy Richmond

This is the ultimate sneaky theme for our beloved Detective Dandy Richmond. It's gorgously arranged by Atsushi Sato. The instrumentation sounds clear with percussion, bass, saxophone, and organ samples. Not one of the greatest melodies around here, but the developement is very enjoyable. (9/10)

15) Relaxation 1

A bittersweet but lovely arrangement of "Theme of Genso Suikoden II". The melody is performed by a gentle harp and woodwind combo, which sounds very pleasant and heart warming. It fits some scenes in the game very well and helps to bring up the emotions. (8/10)

16) Tactics

This music is another good example how effective music can be within the game. If you ever have a meeting with your people about war strategies, this theme is played. It's actually a very militaristic version of Suikoden's "Into a World of Illusions". The instrumentation is typical with marching percussion, brass, strings, and woodwinds. (8/10)

17) Time to Relax

This is the first version of the headquarter theme in this story. It's a simple melody played by acoustic guitars and later an violin, but something is magical about this piece. It's so harmonious, fresh, and full of peace. I like it a lot. It gives you a feeling of building something important and the feeling of a home base. (8/10)

18) An Old Story

Beginning with some eerie string motifs, some harp arpeggios, and a flute, soon the sound of an electric piano arrives, which actually plays the "Reminiscence" theme for the final time in this volume. The whole thing is accompanied by the sound of a vinyl, which is a nice idea of illustrating a flashback of ancient times. I truly must say that this is one of the best and most inspired arrangements of the theme and is on the same level as the original. A very nice conclusion of the disc and first volume. (10/10)


All in all this set is a very good collection of memorable themes from the beginning of the game. The dramatic "Opening", the beautiful "Reminiscence", or the classic "Their Star", "Narcy's Theme Again" and "Moonlit Night" are provided here with delicious arrangements full of nostalgia and memorability. Miki Higashino makes a glorious return after her efforts in the first Suikoden and fans won't be dissapointed with her work here. Roll on Vol. 2!

Overall Score: 9/10