Dragon Force Complete Album
Dragon Force Complete Album
May 30, 2005
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 Complete Album was released nine years after the first soundtrack release in conjunction with Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 18 Dragon Force. It features all the music from the game, including fully looped character and battle music, a wide range of long and short cinematic cues, and a few vocal tracks. Though it offers the comprehensive version of the game’s soundtrack, the listening experience is nevertheless quite a bumpy one.
As with the previous release, the main theme for Dragon Force once again sets the heroic tone for the soundtrack. With its commanding string melodies, intricate wind decoration, and deeper interludes, this orchestral overture 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. The slight improvement in sound quality is not enough to compensate for the lost opportunity. A similar approach is maintained in the relatively cinematic “Legend of Legendra”, which is especially gorgeous during the piano-based section. “World of the Sleeping Dragon” is relatively stripped down, but still feels elegant with its piano and string interplay in triple metre. Scene-setters like these are among the finest exclusives the complete album has to offer.
Once again, a major highlight of the soundtrack are the diverse character themes. This time the themes are dispersed throughout the soundtrack and receive sufficient playtime to loop. 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. While a few are more catchy than representative, such as “Leon’s Theme”, few are truly 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. Towards the end of the soundtrack, it’s fantastic that the hellishly soundscaped villain’s theme finally makes its album appearance too.
There are also a number of battle themes featured across the soundtrack. “Grassland Battle” not only manages 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. However, perhaps the most enjoyable of all is “Battle for the Castle”. With heroic brass and string melodies, light rock beats, and the occasional sinister interlude, the track seems to reflect all those naive yet endearing qualities about the game and its target audience. It’s a great feel good track with a nostalgic element too. Also fascinating are the themes used at the final encounter. 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.
Much of the rest of the content of the soundtrack is dominated by event themes. A few are worth one’s time, such as “Astea’s Voice”, “Friends”, and “Calling”. However, few will be desperate for ditties like “Warning” and “Cheerfulness” or the victory and lose jingles. They have their place in context, but tend to clutter up the stand-alone experience here and are arguably a detriment to the full release. Among the remaining highlights are the two vocal themes. Despite the orchestral tone of the majority of the soundtrack, the opening theme “Courage” 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 ending 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. Never mind.
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. The Dragon Force Complete Album is more comprehensive and available than the Dragon Force Original Soundtrack. While it includes exclusives such as “Madruk’s Theme”, “Battle for the Castle”, and “World of the Sleeping Dragon”, it also includes far more short filler tracks. Those looking for a consistent listening experience may prefer the one disc soundtrack, but completists will favour the two disc complete album.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.