Blue Dragon Plus Original Soundtrack
Blue Dragon Plus Original Soundtrack
Dog Ear Records
December 8, 2008
Buy at iTunes
After the modest success of the Xbox 360’s Blue Dragon, Mistwalker produced a DS adaptation entitled Blue Dragon Plus. Nobuo Uematsu’s score from the original game was downgraded to meet the DS’ limited technical capacity, though still sounded surprisingly good thanks to the beautiful melodies and meticulous synthesis. He also made a bonus battle theme for the game, entitled “Shadow Fight”. The Blue Dragon Plus Original Soundtrack is a digital release by Dog Ear Records that features all the instrumental tracks from the Xbox 360 score in their high quality versions. However, it replaces the four vocal themes — “My Tears and the Sky”, “BAD BUT BAT”, “Eternity”, and “Happy Birthday” — with the bonus track from the DS score. Though it features only one exclusive, could it be a worthwhile one?
The Blue Dragon Plus Original Soundtrack is identical to the Blue Dragon Original Soundtrack aside the bonus track and omitted vocal themes. As a result, most of this review will recount what I say about the original release. Things get started with a simple treat, the beautiful “Waterside,” a piano solo. It is more complex than “At Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X, yet still remains relatively simple in its delivery. The melody is serene and accompanied well by the arpeggios and delicate harmonies. Though not exactly a novel work, it is a great way to start a game and album, and is a very enjoyable listen.
There are a fair number of active and dangerous pieces on the album, and they are most certainly an improvement upon Uematsu’s typical ‘hurry’ music of past Final Fantasy games. “The Land Shark Is Coming” opens with a wonderful orchestra glissando, then develops into a lively and energetic background piece. “Crisis” plays out similarly to “The Land Shark…” and is just as enjoyable and effective. Uematsu uses an extremely effective rock style for “State of Emergency,” one of the album’s highlights. The track pulses with energy, and never loses that energy as it undergoes developments to hold the listener’s interest. The same can be said for “Dragon Fight”. A rock/synth band instrumentation was a perfect choice for these battle themes, because it maintains the kinetic battles need, while not sacrificing the danger, suspense, and development to maintain an interesting pace. Both of these themes succeed as a step beyond Uematsu’s typical fight themes.
Speaking of battle themes, Uematsu shines once again with “The Seal Is Broken.” While hard to compare with Uematsu’s previous final battle themes, this one can certainly stand among the best of them. It has a wonderful epic feel to it, mostly in part to the utilization of human voices. The choral melodies lay nicely above the rock backing, creating one of the more unique battle themes he has yet created. Throughout its entire duration it remains captivating and energetic, while retaining that essential “this is it!” mood that final battle themes are famous for.
Location themes are generally good, though occasionally a little dull. “Cave” is a mysteriously and brilliantly orchestrated theme that matches its name with its mood. I could definitely see this working wonders in game, because it manages to stand by itself beautifully. “The Ruined Village” also matches its title well. Consisting of some mysterious piano and string parts, it definitely strikes the image of a devastated village in my mind. “Ruin” also easily achieves this feeling. The choral sound helps add a feeling of sanctity to it, and the use of staccato makes it feel very empty and barren. As more instruments add into the mix, it gets more and more interesting without ever losing its mood and feel. However, “The City Lights” and “The Frozen Village” aren’t quite as effective. They are largely boring and uninspired writing, and don’t evoke the titular images in my mind. The instrumentation isn’t nearly as effective as those utilized in other location themes on the album.
“High-Speed Flight” and “Exceed the Land” are both wonderful orchestrations. Live performances would have suited the both of these perfectly. “Flight” is an improvement upon Uematsu’s previous flying themes by having more variety and less cheesy melodies. It also utilizes a full symphonic sound well to illustrate musically a riveting sky flight. “Exceed the Land” pays homage to “F.F.VII Main Theme” in its execution. The orchestral sound, with its sweet melodies and moving accompaniment, make the perfect backing for trekking across the vast world.
Throughout this album, Uematsu utilizes a few different styles to convey and illustrate his musical images. While he has used rock before, it is much more successful and prominent in this soundtrack than most of his previous efforts. “Dragon Fight” and “State of Emergency” prosper with using an upbeat rock style, while “An Ancient Fortress” uses a much more heavy sound. His orchestral works also largely succeed. “Army of the Holy Sword” and “The Land Shark is Coming!” are particularly effective uses of the ensemble. “The Ancients” utilizes a similar ensemble, and effectively switches between the different sections of an orchestra to variate and retain interest in the quirky piece. “A Little Fight” is perhaps the most interesting and unique track on the entire album. A synthy-organ sound is used to create a very different loungy feel, akin to the various simple themes present in “Mario Paint”.
The last two tracks from the Xbox 360 score are two of the most enjoyable. “Blue Dragon Main Theme” is an inspired orchestration, with a plethora of variations. These include a gorgeous trumpet solo, which can never go wrong. This one is quite fun to listen to and doesn’t get boring from start to finish. “Waterside ~for Piano and Orchestra~” is a gorgeous arrangement of the solo piano piece featured at the beginning of the album. It expands on the material, and closes the album nicely. It, perhaps more than any other track, manages to utilize the human emotion of nostalgia to turn the piece into a somber yet hopeful melody that lays nicely on the heart.
The digital release ends with the bonus track created especially for the DS title, entitled “Shadow Fight”. While perhaps not as epic as “The Ancients”, this is still classic Uematsu battle music. It works wonderfully in the special battle scene in the game and has just that desired mix of familiarity and ingenuity. The rocking melodies, groovy bass lines, and dramatic interludes are all here, but in a fresh rather than derivative form. In fact, the whole composition is quite reminiscent of a light 80s rock jam and, when combined with Uematsu’s wit and character, that is no bad thing.
Overall, the Blue Dragon soundtrack is an impressive musical achievement for Uematsu. It is inspired, full of character, and nostalgic while still pioneering ground he’s never trudged before. He manages to stick to his style of simple, heartfelt melodies while attempting new things. The bonus track “Shadow Fight” is a good example of this and, while perhaps nothing special, it will still be quite a treat for fans. However, the absence of the four vocal themes is disappointing on the digital release and gives the physical release a further upperhand. Those who already own the Blue Dragon soundtrack may wish to buy an iTunes Japan voucher and download the bonus track digitally. Everyone else should seriously consider owning the Blue Dragon soundtrack, but preferably in its physical release. It’s a wonderful soundtrack full of entertaining and moving musical moments, though the digital release doesn’t entirely do it justice.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jared Miller. Last modified on January 23, 2016.