Breath of Fire V -Dragon Quarter- Original Soundtrack
Breath of Fire V -Dragon Quarter- Original Soundtrack
December 21, 2002
Buy Used Album
Following in the abyssal wake of the extraordinarily masterful Final Fantasy Tactics, the richly dark and deep Vagrant Story, the light-hearted Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the grandly majestic Ogre Battle series, and not to mention a slew of earlier titles of pre-orchestral and more progressive-style soundtracks, Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter had a remarkably profound history of music to live up to at the time of its release. Needless to say, the composer did not fail to transcend his epic resumé, and, along with imbuing the soundtrack with his familiar and innately powerful styling, he further expanded his own musical dimensions to render Breath of Fire V as its own unique entity apart from all the others.
The general atmosphere evoked by the soundtrack borrows heavily from two planes specifically of Sakimoto’s past musical endeavors: his immensely spirited orchestral music, and his earlier progressive/electronica work. Throughout the soundtrack these two styles are seen both combined and separate, but never is the mood drawn too far in one direction or the other. This balance is what really gives Breath of Fire V its shining individuality. While the overall soundtrack provides more of a dark and dramatic setting, there are still elements of light-heartedness glancing through.
The first track opens with a mellow choir that introduces the main theme and seamlessly transforms into a flowing sequence of electronic and orchestral passages. The dramatic nature is induced early on and remains as an underlying component thereafter. Pieces like “Ranger HQ” and “Biocorp” diverge from this atmosphere every now and then and pay homage to earlier Super Famicom titles by Sakimoto, namely Hourai Gakuen. Scattered throughout are tracks that have segments heavily reminiscent of Vagrant Story such as “Lift”, “Omen”, and “Old Trade Sector” to name a few, and “Center Ministry Sector” in particular has a brief passage that sounds to have been borrowed directly from “Joshua”. Still, others like “Upper Layer Area” and “Going With A Smile” remind the listener of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance which reverses the direction of the soundtrack briefly, but doesn’t take it to an extreme. Luckily we are still graced with a handful of quasi-epic pieces like “Going Out to See the Sky”, “The Strong Enemy” (which once again references Vagrant Story), and “Ending”.
Sakimoto’s composition still remains well above average on the general video game music scope, and in my eyes (and many others) it remains legendary. While this album may not stand out as a truly epic one in comparison, it still pulses with the richly vibrant musical spirit Sakimoto has instilled into to all his work since the beginning. “Low Sector Borough” is bright and light-hearted at first, and then grows in instrumental complexity until reaching a beautiful brass choir section. “Going Out to See the Sky” is a superb orchestral piece that bursts with energy from the first marcato hit and mercilessly continues on with an energetic and vigorous contour that burns with power. “Origin” returns to the choral setting initially established in the opening track and moves with beautifully flowing vocal textures and harmonies. “A Small Journey” is one of Sakimoto’s most beautiful and innocent pieces to date, featuring a piano and a very mellow background synth pad. Songs like “Harbinger” and “A Moment’s Joy” create an almost militaristic feel with concise brass, strings and percussion, further deepening the overall drama of the soundtrack. Another excellent track is “Power Supply Building” which gradually progresses through a mellow melodic segment backed by background percussive effects, and transforms into a spacious, stirring chord progression that conjures a feeling of nervous elation.
Toward the end of the soundtrack the listener will experience an interesting departure from what had been established musically up to that point. The ending music is especially gorgeous with an elegant reiteration of the main theme. During this piece, while the listener is essentially gliding weightless through a musical heaven, suddenly afterwards that blissful flight is abruptly arrested by a direct collision with a brick wall. “Castle – imitation (Breath of Fire V Dragon Quarter)” is one of those tracks found on an album that no one can quite discern the placement of — a track which derives virtually no justification in which to be included, given the atmosphere that had been set up by the music prior to it. The vocal track of Breath of Fire V is the same kind of sappy ballad one could find in many soundtracks, and it really doesn’t yield the kind of lasting effect similar (more sentimental) vocal tracks might evoke during their corresponding scenes in-game. While Chihiro Onitska is a fairly agreeable vocalist, her music doesn’t particularly strike me as very original. Furthermore, the song sounds like it belongs somewhere else altogether — anywhere as long as it’s far, far away from Breath of Fire V. In no way is it fitting to the musical environment created by Sakimoto, and is a blemish that should be sensibly avoided if you don’t want to be painfully torn from the mentality elicited from his intelligent, thoughtful, deep pieces.
The soundtrack wraps up with some miscellaneous material such as the music heard in the ant colony and the prologue music (what’s it doing at the end?). The very last track, “Escaping the Present”, does work well as the closier, but personally I was expecting some sort of grandiose orchestral piece and was consequently let down. However, in the absence of any such expectations one might better appreciate that last stretch of the album.
Mandated by Procyon Studio and directed by Yasunori Mitsuda himself, the sound programming in Breath of Fire V really stands out in comparison to Sakimoto’s past albums. While certain orchestral samples (for example, the harp, which sounds surprisingly synthetic in contrast to Sakimoto’s other orchestral work) do not quite match the timbre and quality one could expect from Square’s programming, other electronic and especially many percussive samples are flawless in their engineering and capabilities. Other particulars include the powerful yet controlled brass samples, the pure resonance of the piano, and the graceful wind chimes. One might wonder about the aforementioned harp and other instruments such as the flute, which possesses a rather peculiar and not-so-refined tone, but overall the programming here is outstanding.
Breath of Fire V -Dragon Quarter- Original Soundtrack is truly a magnificent album that deserves all the attention attributed to past Sakimoto works. It provides a very innovative and new design for those listeners looking for something fresh and different, while still effectively maintaining Sakimoto’s astoundingly spirited musical phrasing. With the fantastic music of this album (as well as a long history of great music) backing me up, I couldn’t recommend this soundtrack more. Do yourself a favor, and indulge in another masterpiece from Hitoshi Sakimoto.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Joe Schwebke. Last modified on January 23, 2016.