Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite

Album Title Catalog No.
Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite (NHK Symphony Orchestra) APCG-9001
Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite (London Philharmonic Orchestra) PCCG-00118
Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite (London Phil. Orchestra Remastered) SVWC-7064
Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite & PlayStation Original Soundtrack SVWC-7112/3
Dragon Quest IV Concert Live in 2002 SVWC-7169/70
Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite (Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra) SVWC-7252


Dragon Quest IV: Guided People was one of the most unique RPGs for its time when it was released for the Nintendo in 1992. It was the last game in the Dragon Quest franchise to be released on the NES and the first game of the Heaven (Tenku) trilogy. The game itself actually has been remade for PlayStation in 2001, but unfortunately, the developer, Heartbeat, terminated all of its game development operations. We may never see the English remade version of this epic game. The PlayStation game music was nonetheless released with a remastered version of the 1990 Symphonic Suite by the NHK Symphony Orchestra under the catalog number SVWC-7112/3 and is discussed in a latter part of this review. Initially, though, I’ll discuss the Symphonic Suite itself.

Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite

I must honestly say, Dragon Quest IV‘s Symphonic Suite is my favorite of all Dragon Quest’s numerous albums. Deserved of being described as a masterpiece and one of the most important work in Koichi Sugiyama’s discography, it has sustained six reprints and has been interpreted by four different orchestras — NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, live by the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra, and, of course, most famously, the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The strength of its melodies are reflected by the heavy inclusion of Dragon Quest IV themes into mixed albums, e.g. Best of selections or the recently released Brass Quintet and String Quartet albums. It also introduced the theme of Torneko (aka Taloon), the big-bellied merchant that has appeared in several spinoffs; those who played Torneko: The Last Hope will note just how many variations of Torneko’s amazing theme are available.

The CD is introduced with the classic “Overture,” which appears at the start of most DQ albums to suitably set the scene; there isn’t anything special here and no significant variations from the interpretation heard of the theme in Dragon Quest III‘s Symphonic Suite. The “Menuet” is where the unique experience begins and is one of the my favourite castle themes from the entire series. Dark, fairly complex, dominated by strings, and written in the style of a Baroque minuet, the arrangement sees emphatic violin passages be contrasted with a mixture of lighter and more beautiful sections, resulting in an amazing array of colour overall. The other setting themes are also strong. The slow-paced and cinematic “Mysterious Dungeon” works beautifully in conjunction with the melancholic “Elegy” that appears in the same track, even if it’s not exactly to my taste. “Frightening Dungeons ~ Cursed Towers” is a strange whimsical duo of themes that distorts melodies and features plenty of chromaticism, though is fitting and charming nonetheless. Most impressively, “The Unknown Castle” radiates with warmth thanks to its subtle instrumentation use and gorgeously shaped violin melodies. It also offers complex interludes featuring mysterious chromatic buildups, sudden bursts of dissonance from brass, and playful sections dominated by cross-rhythms, which builds back into the original section with amazing richness.

The centrepiece of the Symphonic Suite are two large medleys. One, “Comrades,” is an excellent medley of all the Dragon Quest IV character themes and amounts to over 10 minutes in length. Opening with the simplistic “Interlude,” it transitions into the proud yet serene “The Warrior Conquers Alone,” the lyrical and uplifting “March of the Capricious,” and the famous Torneko’s theme before reaching its apex with the rendition of the gliding “Gypsy’s Dance” and its mysterious counterpart “Gypsy’s Journey.” It concludes with a brief reference to “Interlude” that sounds a little out-of-place, but bring the theme back to its starting point like most of Sugiyama’s medleys do. The town themes are also well-arranged into a medley. Opening with the cheerful and dainty “In a Town,” the theme transitions into the highly enjoyable ragtime-influenced “Casino Rag” at around 1:19 (depending on the recording you’re listening to), which is one of my favourite interpretations of the piece, despite my overall preference for the piano rendition. Also included is a grandiose rendition of the Colosseum theme and a recapitulation of the original theme to finish. These medleys both expose the melodies excellently, encompass a wide range of styles and moods, and feature seamlessly crafted transitions. Though fine highlights, some will find it disappointing that the individual themes were not arranged separately, but the medleys do add coherency to the disc.

A few tracks on the album have experimental tendencies, but nonetheless sustain the high quality of the disc. The two travelling themes, “Balloon’s Flight” and “Sea Breeze,” are both quite discordant, appearing on the same track in the NHK print of the album, but separately on the four other prints. “Sea Breeze,” my favourite of the two, plays while riding the boat and is very beautiful. It may, however, initially baffle people because there is an improvised section at 1:42 and the dissonant trombone melody at 2:04 sounds a bit inappropriate on first listen. When the track is listened to as a whole, though, everything comes together well and it’s evident the improvisation was necessary to represent the effect of ocean waves. The penultimate track on the album, “Battle of the Glory,” features the most powerful and melodious battle music of the Dragon Quest series, and are arrangements of various themes from Sugiyama’s 1989’s score to Godzilla vs. Biollante. Invigorating and accessible, the best part comes with the rendition of the boss theme circa 2:56. Though I’ve usually found Sugiyama’s battle themes to be quite weak, this 8 minute medley of battle themes is an exception; while still atonal, it isn’t jarringly dissonant. After all the tension built up here, the album comes to a close with “Ending,” a 5:11 masterpiece that can take your breath away. The music is very majestic and grandiose, and a perfect way to close the music for this saga.

Dragon Quest IV PlayStation Version

Disc Two of the fourth print of the Symphonic Suite, represented by the catalog number SVWC-7112/3, is the soundtrack for the PlayStation adaptation of Dragon Quest IV that was released in 2001 in Japan. I don’t have a lot to talk about the second disc since the tracks are just the same as those of the original NES version except with improved synth. But I must say that the sound driver they choose for Dragon Quest IV is poor and actually the same sound driver as Dragon Quest VII‘s soundtrack. It is greatly inferior to the Dragon Quest VI sound driver, which maximized the potential of SNES music to the limit, though it’s really not a problem since Sugiyama’s music is good on any sound driver.

It’s worth adding that there are a few new arrangements here to represent settings at night. “Nighttime Menuet” is the “Menuet” theme performed on synthesized harpsichord. It’s a nice arrangement, though should have been performed at a faster tempo. “Nighttime In a Town” is also good — a slow arrangement of the spiritful original town music.


As a whole, Dragon Quest IV‘s Symphonic Suite is unmissable. All the arrangements are finely done in a classically-oriented style and many reach epic heights. Though I usually skip “Elegy” and “Balloon’s Flight,” simply because of personal taste, I frequently listen to everything else on the album. I like Dragon Quest IV‘s music the best and it seems that Sugiyama does too. It’s an excellent starting point for those wanting to be introduced to Sugiyama’s music and a must-have for the composer’s fans. All prints have their value, though the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra or initial two London Philharmonic Orchestra prints offer more value for money than SVWC-7112/3 with its potentially missable PlayStation version.

Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite Calvin Sidjaja

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!


Posted on August 1, 2012 by Calvin Sidjaja. Last modified on January 16, 2016.

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