Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box: Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box Disc 1 & 2
March 31, 2006
Buy Used Copy
Breath of Fire was a relatively successful traditional RPG for the Super Nintendo, developed by Capcom and released by Square in the West during 1993. Undaunted by the technical limitations of the Super Nintendo, the four person sound team of Breath of Fire, led by Yasuaki Fujita, aspired to create a bold and dramatic orchestral soundtrack for the game. Though they succeeded, no stand-alone release was made available, as was quite common for Capcom soundtracks at the time. Thankfully, the two disc soundtrack for the game nevertheless eventually headlined the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box released in 2006. Was the 13 year wait worthwhile?
The defining compositions of Breath of Fire are Yasuaki Fujita’s neo-Baroque compositions. He creates an instantly striking sound at the start of the game with “Blood Relation”. The bittersweet gothic here string melody is harmonised beautifully by the sweeping harpsichord arpeggios and, while limited in channels and samples, the music still sounds surprisingly sophisticated. It’s quite of the score for Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, in fact, yet with a more cinematic leaning. “The Dragon Warrior” subsequently provides a delightful twist on the typical hero theme of an RPG, combining adventurous wind melodies and brass calls with an urgent, relentless bass line. “White Dragon”, one of the darkest tracks on the soundtrack, also impresses with its brooding string-focused orchestration and gorgeous counterpoint between piano and harpsichord.
Another definitive composition on the Breath of Fire soundtrack is Mari Yamaguchi’s “Starting the Journey”. Like any good overworld theme, this track undergoes quite a multifaceted development, from its motivating introduction, through an uncertain interlude up towards the relieving climax. Each phrase is delightful in its crisp focus, yet exuberant orchestration, ensuring a bold, immersive sound is created even on the SPC chip. Town themes such as “Day and Night”, “Music City”, and, courtesy of Yoko Shimomura, “Trade City” have a mellow and comforting quality, while still maintaining aspects of the period orchestration featured elsewhere. There is a diverse dungeon themes here too, ranging from the downbeat and ethereal “Deep Forest”, to the Arabian-influenced “Sand Palace”, to the mysterious and slow-building “Skyscraper”. Though they adhere strongly to game music convention, they are still quite well done.
Compared with other RPGs, the battle themes on Breath of Fire are merely average. Among the more notable ones, the normal theme “Beginning of Battle” is a little reminiscent of Mega Man music with its bouncy slapped bass and slightly jagged melody; while the eventual development section is excellent, the primary section is a little too unfocused and plain to be of most interest. The boss theme “A Brave General” restores the modernist orchestral leanings of the score to portray a brutal and uncertain encounter, yet lacks the individuality and elaboration of Yamaguchi’s headlining compositions. At least the climax of the score is impressive. Following two deliciously dark villain’s theme, “The Final Level” provides some of the best moments of gothic orchestration on the score, before the final boss theme “Black Dragon” plunges listeners into chaos with an ambitious and mostly accomplished horror orchestration.
Though quite a dense and serious score for the most part, there are plenty of light-hearted moments throughout the score. Tracks such as “Flying”, “Profit”, and “A Drunk’s Life” from Fujita provide an interest contrast in mood with their light jazz flavour. “Song and Dance” meanwhile is quite liberating at the centre of the score with its catchy melodies and samba flavour. The closing tracks, “Dawn”, “Return”, and “Great Achievement”, are nothing special, but are again fulfilling in their in-game context and musically impressive outside it. The latter, in particular, provides a rare orchestration on the score that is not tinged by evil and tragedy. Overall, a fine and fitting conclusion.
While Breath of Fire‘s soundtrack accompanied quite a typical game, it was actually rather remarkable for the time. This is principally because the composers, particularly the wonderful Yasuaki Fujita and Mari Yamaguchi, decided to also push musical and technical boundaries while creating tracks that fitted the scenes. Though it didn’t receive a release originally, it is beautifully presented in the first two discs of the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box. Most of the subsequent soundtracks for the series are equally as interesting and experimental, albeit wildly different from the original. Those who enjoy RPG music with a slightly unorthodox edge should seriously consider purchasing the box set, despite its admittedly high pricetag.
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Posted on August 29, 2010 by Chris Greening. Last modified on May 26, 2014.