Dinosaur / Music from
Music from Dinosaur
June 5, 1991
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Dinosaur was a stand-alone dungeon crawler released by Falcom in 1990 for early computers. Despite the title, there were no actual dinosaurs in the game, just a randomly named final boss. It’s soundtrack mostly reflected the serious mood with a blend of soft spiritual entries, ambient dungeon themes, and hard action tracks. It is quite amazing just how much emotion and mood Mieko Ishikawa and Masaaki Kawai managed to create using just the humble tones and limited channels of FM synth. The result worked spectacularly in the game, but the original version at least wasn’t as appealing on its own. Music from Dinosaur features the music from the original game, as will be reviewed here, though there are two other versions — the lightly remastered Dinosaur Complete FM Oscillator Version and the complete rearranged Dinosaur Resurrection Original Soundtrack. Can the original version possibly compare?
The title theme “The Lost Ones” manages to sound surprisingly badass despite the FM synth. Ishikawa offers a simple yet emotional blend of a rich synth melody against repeated distorted bass notes. After the 1:50 mark, the composer rocks things up and improvises on the melody. The result is quite poignant and ensures this track is well worth repeated listens. “Paean to the Spirits” mostly features ornate wind melodies against repeated bell chimes, but the result is highly effective since it both captures the feelings of the protagonist and a sense of the heavens. Although not quite as elegant, the Baroque-influenced counterpoint in “Temple” is just right for the location, while the slowly building intersynching motifs on “I Love You” are effective for portraying intimacy. Other tracks such as “Divine Revelation”, “A Chance Meeting”, and “A Time of Purity” subtly maintain the religious undertones of the soundtrack thanks to their beautiful FM synth and warm expansive melodies.
Dinosaur‘s setting themes were clearly written to be functional in context rather than particularly enjoyable. “Into the Castle” establishes a sense of pioneering into a dungeon with fast-paced motifs and mysterious synth use, though it’s only much later in the theme that it becomes a particularly enjoyable and colourful listen on a stand-alone basis. “The Tower of Ordeals” immediately presents listeners with a compelling synthscape to represent a serious situation. While clearly effective, it’s only particularly enjoyable during the later introspective sections out of context. “Underground Shrine” and “Dimensional Maze” are pretty frustrating themes too with their disorientating assembly of random repeated one bar figures. An accessible exception is “Exciting Shop”, a plain quirky theme built around a stupid bass line. It’s embarrassingly catchy and hypnotising too.
There are quite a few action themes on the soundtrack that reinforce the serious feel. Themes such as “Front Line” maintain Ishikawa and Kawai’s ornate lyricism, although some might find the crackling synth of the bold bass lines to be overbearing. There are also a few themes with clear rock influences such as “Charge!”, “The Enblem of the Wind”, and “When Grieving Ends, the Fight Begins” that should delight certain Ys fans. Again, the synth is limiting though and the compositions attempt to be more dense than their humble chip can really handle. Matters are even worse with pseudo-epic material like “The Mascle Bomb” and “Dinosaur” with their grandiose textures and fast-paced runs. They both degenerate into a bit of a mess, though it’s not really the composers’ faults even if they arguably were too ambitious. Nonetheless, “The Weaving of Dreams” proves to be a charming ending theme once again exhibiting the soundtrack’s rich melodies and counterpoint.
Music from Dinosaur brought the most out of FM synth to provide an emotional and atmospheric soundtrack to the game. The compositions were all well done — whether the simple yet heavenly themes for the heroes, the dense and dark accompaniment to the dungeons, or the frenetic and jagged battle tracks. Unfortunately, however, the synth tends to be quite obnoxious during the thicker tracks due to loss of definition and bass reverberations. Those who are likely to object to this FM synth effect should really look into the Dinosaur Resurrection Original Soundtrack instead. This features quite captivating arrangements of all the material and even brings the most out of originally dull tracks. The Dinosaur Complete FM Oscillator Version is also largely an improvement, although some of the better tracks in the original release do not come across as well.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.