Dragon’s Crown Pro Original Soundtrack
Dragon’s Crown Pro Original Soundtrack
February 27, 2020
Buy at CDJapan
Dragon’s Crown Pro Original Soundtrack is a re-recording of Dragon’s Crown Original Soundtrack, used in the PS4 remaster of Dragon’s Crown and featuring a full orchestra, whereas the original mostly used orchestral libraries. As before, the score is entirely composed by Hitoshi Sakamoto. This release omits the bonus piano solo arrangements of the original soundtrack, but includes a new bonus track. Although the soundtrack was at first only included in the collector’s editions of the game, it has now been made more widely available on both physical and digital formats. The score itself has not drastically changed, so it still lacks the stronger motivic coherence of Sakimoto’s earlier scores, but it remains an effective atmospheric world of exotic sounds paired with Sakimoto’s rich harmonies and textures, now realized by a proper orchestra.
For those who already familiar with the original soundtrack, some the most noticeable improvements here can be heard in the strings. Among these are “A Moment of Rest” and “Encounters” which now feel much more dynamic and textured, or “Lost Woods – Route B” and “Full of Sorrow” which are both more convincing emotionally. Some also benefit from the choir, such as the haunting “Castle of the Dead: Catacombs Route B” which not only has real voices now but even proper words rather than just ‘ah’s and the like, though not all tracks take full advantage of this. Other light tracks like “City Street” also improve, sounding much crisper while bringing out individual parts. Some tracks even change up their leading solo instruments, which can give the tracks a different tone. The higher octave of the new “Lost Woods” soloist brings more tension to the track, as does the rougher plucking of the harp. The orchestra does not do away with the few original uses of actual synthesizer either, as in “Ancient Temple Ruins – Route B”, and it still works. Battle tracks and the more aggressive area themes often sound better too, even if their changes aren’t drastic, as with “Mage’s Tower – Route B”, and the relentless “Decisive Battle of Roaring Flames”. There are only a few small missteps in arrangements, such as with the extra strings on “Dragon’s Haven Inn” that muddle things a bit. But overall it is a nice improvement on the original, not drastic enough to alienate but also not making any revelations. Other changes for the release include new artwork, a new sequencing of tracks that places most of the climactic ones on the third disc, and a new track, “Dragon’s Crown Percussion Mix”, in place of the bonus piano arrangements from the original album. This new track is basically just the title track reduced to percussion, so it isn’t very interesting or essential.
For those who did not pick up the original soundtrack, there is a lot to discover here. The soundtrack mostly consists of stage tracks, often very dynamic with shifting atmospheres and intensities within each track. “Old Capital” is one of the stronger area themes, with clear Middle Eastern influences and great driving percussion; its more orchestral “Route B” version really shines now, making clear Sakimoto’s complex harmonic structure and lush textures, whereas the original was a bit flat. Varying the atmosphere, Sakimoto brings eeriness to tracks like the “Lost Woods”, lovely ethereal sections for the two “Ancient Temple Ruins”, and great percussion foundations to heavier area themes like “Bilbaron Subterranean Fortress”. The strength of these tracks lies in the diverse ways in which Sakimoto’s presents each track’s core idea, combined with the considerable complexity of detail and harmony found in each arrangement. It’s also very neat to see how he varies the ideas on the B version of each track, as for example the driving strings of “Wallace’s Underground Labyrinth” become synths in Route B, while “Ghost Ship Cove” quiets down and becomes even sensual in Route B. The city’s area themes are bit more mixed, being straightforward for their static locations. Tracks like “Castle” and “Adventurer’s Guild” are a tad faceless and generic, though these are balanced by the charming “City Street”, the seductive “Morgan’s Magic Item Shop”, the meditative “Canaan Temple”, and the wonderfully delicate “World Map”. But even the lesser tracks here fare better than they did on the original soundtrack, thanks to better instrumentation or instrument balancing that give the tracks more depth.
There are plenty of battle tracks on the album as well, often very heavy on percussion. They are certainly very intense and effective, but the lack of strong melodies means that some don’t stand out so well, especially now that they are mostly grouped together on the third disc. Standouts among these include the urgent “Unavoidable Clash”, “The Beginning of the Trial” with a great chord progression at its peak, and “The Threat of Swarms” which sounds like classic Sakimoto yet still fits in well enough here. “Decisive Battle of Roaring Flames” is one of the few to really utilize the exotic sounds found elsewhere on the soundtrack, and while “Variant Eyes” may not be as thunderous as the original, it is still is an excellent track with great rhythmic character and a fearsome buildup. Then there is the climactic “Looking for the Ancient Crown”, which makes great and occasionally surprising use of the score’s main motifs. It’s a very impressive track, striking an excellent balance between melody and chromaticism, retaining a distinct character where lesser composers would simply devolve into a bland cacophony.
As for the remaining miscellaneous tracks, these balance out the soundtrack by offering lighter or emotional moments. The opener “Dragon’s Crown” excellently establishes the overall sound of the album and its key motifs, and a few others show up in “Title Theme” as well. “Encounters” is a great instrumental version of the “World Map” theme, particularly now with expressive strings that add grace notes and portamenti. The downbeat “Full of Sorrow” is fittingly sombre without being cloying, while “A Moment of Rest” is short but simply spellbinding with a magnetic lead solo and a good range of supporting textures throughout. “Mystery and Sadness” leans more into the fantasy theme with a more laidback and wistful atmosphere, while the airy “Returning Home” has an improvised lead over a more relaxing soundscape. “The Labyrinth Hideout”, despite being a bit too repetitive, is also intriguing with everything happening subtly in the background. An album highlight is “Memories to be Told”, a beautiful guitar track that is harsher than its original, but this only serves to emphasize its emotion. It’s played a bit more freely than the original was as well. Capping these off is the closing “Ending Theme”, which features a lovely transformation of “Full of Sorrow”, a recap of “World Map”, and a rousing rendition of the title track to finish.
Dragon’s Crown Pro Original Soundtrack is a great update to a solid sountrack, which mostly improves on the originals. Sakimoto’s score is strong as ever, with dynamic stage themes, diverse instrumentation, and great orchestration that is now realized by the real orchestra. Even if not all of the individual tracks are memorable in themselves, the score as a whole is a great mix of Sakimoto’s styles with Middle Eastern instruments and rhythms. Since the original was already so well crafted, the change isn’t drastic here; some of the tracks aren’t that noticeably improved upon unless they are heard side by side, though there are a handful of tracks, mostly the quieter tracks, that benefit greatly from having real strings or solo instruments. If you can only have one version, the Pro soundtrack easily is the way to go, but those who already have the original might perhaps be able to get away with just picking up their favourite tracks from the digital version of the Pro album.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on May 17, 2020 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on May 17, 2020.