Dragon Force Original Soundtrack
Dragon Force Original Soundtrack
May 25, 1996
Buy Used Copy
Sega’s Dragon Force was by no means original for a strategy game at the time of its release on the Saturn. However, it appealed because it had more finesse and personality than many of its predecessors. The same is true for the music. Tatsuyuki Maeda produced an emotional and fitting accompaniment to the game through crafting a range of synth orchestral compositions and the occasional vocal theme. The Dragon Force Original Soundtrack presents 24 of the tracks from the game on to a disc jam-packed with highlights. While it features most of the highlights from the game, it omits a number of notable compositions and many short cinematic cues. Nevertheless, what is offered captures the essence of the soundtrack and the game.
The main theme for Dragon Force sets the heroic tone for the soundtrack with an orchestral overture. With its commanding string melodies, intricate wind decoration, and deeper interludes, it’s easily comparable to Motoaki Takenouchi’s Shining Force themes. While a competent and expressive orchestration, it’s a shame that a synthetic orchestra interpreted it, as it’d easily rival Shining Force’s best if performed by a human ensemble. Similar approaches are maintained in the relatively cinematic “Legend of Legendra”, which is especially gorgeous during the piano-based section, and its narrative counterpart “Grand Opening”. Despite the orchestral tone of the majority of the soundtrack, the opening theme for the game is more akin to a Lunar favourite with its female vocalist and rock vocalists. It’s certainly a fine complement to the visuals and catchy enough for stand-alone listening.
The body of the soundtrack comprises the diverse character themes. Appropriate for a White Knight, “Wein’s Theme” recounts the orchestral influences of the main theme with its motivating melodies and ornate development. “Gongos’ Theme” similar has a powerful brass melody, but also seems appropriate for a beastman with its pounding bass line and slightly wild twists. In contrast, Reinhardt’s mystical qualities are portrayed with an intimate blend of flute and string passages, while “Teris’ Theme” eventually segues into a heartwarming piano exploration. Other character themes aren’t as representative, but still very enjoyable. Most notably, it’s difficult to resist the blend of trumpet melodies and poppy beats featured on “Leon’s Theme”. However, few of these themes are one-dimensional and some such as “Junon’s Theme” are so complex and elaborate that they overpower the visuals in terms of what they express.
There are also a number of battle themes featured in the latter half of the soundtrack. “Grassland Battle” not only manage to hook gamers in the first few seconds with its punchy rhythms, but keeps them stimulating throughout its sweeping development too. “Snow Land Battle” and “Desert Battle” reflect more hostile environments with their slow tense progressions and ghostly timbres, so fit well in context. Following a homage to “Tubular Bells” in “Tool of the Wicked God”, Tatsuyuki Maeda presents the “Wicked God Madruk” with a suitably haunting and dissonant theme. Moving to the conclusion of the soundtrack, “A New History” achieves the appropriate sense of elation at the end of the game with its ascending progressions and warm orchestration. It leads into the second vocal theme, “The Future”, written in the style of a ballad. While the composition is acceptable, the vocals feel awkward against the instruments, in part due to the excess reverb placed on the voice. The album is rounded off with a sound effects collection.
Dragon Force features one of the better scores from the Saturn era. Tatsuyuki Maeda proves skilled enough with the orchestra to produce a range of emotional and elaborate compositions. While his orchestrations are not as mature as those of Hayato Matsuo on Dragon Force II, they are more entertaining and affecting in and out of context. What’s more, Maeda demonstrates a good attention to detail, whether capturing the heroism of the game with the opening overtures and song, depicting the personalities of the characters, or offering a dynamic and moody accompaniment to battle. Though Dragon Force‘s soundtrack is recommended for fans of quasi-orchestral game music, it’s debatable whether the Dragon Force Original Soundtrack is the one to go for. This one disc release is quite incomplete, omitting a number of noteworthy character and battle themes, as well as a load of superfluous event cues. Those looking for a more comprehensive offering will likely find the Dragon Force Complete Album more appealing.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.