Ys III -Wanderers from Ys- X68000 Original Soundtrack
Ys III -Wanderers from Ys- X68000 Original Soundtrack
April 22, 2010
Buy Used Copy
Over 20 years after the release of the critically savaged Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, it’s clear that Nihon Falcom still hasn’t forgotten about its excellent music. Most recently, they released the soundtrack for the X68000 port of the game for those who bought the PSP port of the remake Ys: The Oath in Felghana. For those who don’t know, the X68000 is an ancient personal computer with its own sound format. Much of the soundtrack is a straightforward resynthing of Mieko Ishikawa’s original music from the PC-8801 version of the game. However, Masaaki Kawai also created six new compositions for the game that were previously exclusive to the Perfect Collection. The resultant release is therefore arguably even more definitive than Music from Ys III Wanderers from Ys. Was the 20+ year wait worth it?
The sheer majority of the soundtrack comprises resynthing of the PC-8801 version of the game. The first track is probably the most off-beat lead tracks. “Dancing on the Road” is a just that — a folk dance and it’s not really spectacular at all. Thankfully the following track “A Premonition = Styx =” is a much stronger entry into the mix and really benefits from the greater definition of the X68000 sound chip. It’s a bit slow burning, but as an introduction to the story, it’s a serviceable track. What follows is the only town track in the game, mostly because there is only the one town in this story. “Trading Village of Redmont” is an upbeat track with a solid hummable melody line. Of note is the B section, which comes in at the 0:55 mark, where the track changes direction dramatically, but it’s a short lived change.
Ys III Wanderers from Ys was also the first game which returns to Adol’s theme, “The Boy Who Had Wings”, which first appeared in Music from Ys as an unused track. This time the theme is fleshed out and given a much stronger buildup with a AAB structure that runs without a repeat. It’s a catchy and properly fleshed out theme that makes a re-appearance in Ys V. The X68000 resynthing is perfectly effective and, if anything, makes the composition sound even more accomplished, though note that it doesn’t loop as fully in its presentation here.
Of course the big draw for Ys fans is the dungeon tracks which are traditionally energetic pieces of music. And this game is no exception to that rule. Starting off with “Be Careful”, a heavy rock piece that starts off with a simple bass-led melodic fragment that runs for the first 0:15. It then bursts to life with a much more energetic section that runs until 1:12, where it folds around back to the A section again. This section really demonstrates the additional definition of the X68000’s bass and percussion synth. “Ilberns Ruins” is a favorite of mine, with a catchy melodic line. It is better defined on the X68000 version, though I still happen to prefer the SPC version of this theme. The second half of the ruins is a lava filled underground level, which is portrayed in “A Searing Struggle”. It’s a short theme that just barely gets off the ground before reaching the repeat.
Unfortunately “Snare of Darkness” is a poorly crafted theme and no resynthing can change that. The drum beats are more tolerable here and the additional decoration is nice, but it’s still the same old chaotic track. And though the theme is short, it repeats, so you get to hear the droning lower drums all over again at the 0:50 mark. It’s an instantly forgettable track. Thankfully “Stealing the Will to Fight” is not a bad theme at all. It’s not quite as energetic as previous dungeon themes, but it does convey the image of a long and treacherous journey, which fits well with the stage itself as it takes place while climbing a mountain. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite soar all the way through, as the 0:50-1:13 passage where the track begins its approach to the loop isn’t an ideal ending to the theme. Furthermore, in its X68000 version, it doesn’t properly loop at all due to track time limitations.
While “Varestine Castle” is an excellent power rock theme, it’s “Sealed Time”, the second half of that stage, that steals the show. Varestine tends to get a bit too plodding with its sound, but “Sealed Time” displays the right level of lightness to it. It’s a catchy theme that I’m fairly certain will be stuck in your head for weeks after hearing it. “Pulsing Toward Ruin” and “Tower of Destiny” are both part of the last stage that Adol traverses within. “Pulsing Toward Ruin” is much the same as Varestine Castle and is thankfully handled more sensitively in the X68000 version. “Tower of Destiny”, on the other hand, is not an overly long theme, but displays the appropriate level of dread as you are about to enter the domain of the villain of the game. The theme is handled well, with a good mixture of sound and not nearly as heavy handed.
And of course there are four tracks associated with the bosses of the game. Starting off, we have “Beasts as Black as Night” and “Shock of the Death God”. Both suffer somewhat from their muddy synth, due to the limitations of the soundboard, but are at least more defined than their PC-8801 versions. The other two themes are both associated with the final boss of the game. The boss even gets his own introductory theme, “Behold!!”, and it’s a bold rock theme which gets the heart pumping. And then “The Strongest Foe” is the counterstroke to the introduction. The only unfortunate part of this track is that it sounds rather hollow and lacking of any sort of resonant bass line or any depth whatsoever. Again, it’s a bit better in the X68000, but it’s still far from a transformation.
The twin ending theme structure has been the common thread with previous Ys iterations, and this game is no different. The first theme is usually the more reflective and more dramatic track, and “Departure at Sunrise” is no different. It’s a lovely theme that is undone by some misplaced harmonies that don’t quite mesh with the whole at the 1:20 mark onward. And then to the more upbeat staff roll theme, “Wanderers from Ys”. This time it’s an epic and regal sounding theme rather than a purely upbeat theme. It also conjures up the same feeling of going on a journey that “Stealing the Will to Fight” brought to the table. Although there are a lot of repetitions of the main themes, it’s a mostly original track. Note it has a considerably reduced track time here.
Finally, there are six exclusive tracks that were composed by Masaaki Kaneko especially for the X68000 port of the game back in the day. These tracks will be quite familiar to those who have listened to the Perfect Collection and remake soundtrack of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. However, they have been difficult to find in their original form until now. In addition to offering their X68000 original versions, Nihon Falcom goes one step further by offering retrospective resynthings for the PC-8801, created exclusively for the PC-8801 mode of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. This will be very welcome except for those that resent the slightly shortened track times of the main soundtrack. It’s a pity that these new compositions aren’t fully integrated into the soundtrack and serve more as bonus tracks. Then again, at least this help to ensure they stand out in a defined way.
As for the compositions themselves, they are quite enjoyable. “Introduction!!” is a short but sweet jingle for the loading screen and proves a little more successful than “Dancing on the Road”. “The Theme of Chester”, one of the most famous of the new compositions, features a funky bass line that benefits from the definition of the X68000’s defined sound board. Less impressive is “Chop!!”, which is basically a frenzied pile of synth runs, but it does serve its purpose as a tense boss theme and has been interpreted in several enjoyable arrangements over the years.
Moving on, “Dear My Brother” and “Lovely Elena” are twinned compositions that feature a humble tact and slightly elegaic melody. They work quite well during some dramatic scenes in the game. Finally, “Believe in My Heart” provides the centrepiece of the X68000 soundtrack — a five minute ending theme capturing a sense of calm and elation at the end of the game. Probably the finest feature of this track is the jazz tact of its synth leads, though admittedly the continued limitations of the X68000 prevent it from being fully expressive. It’s not spectacular in its original form, but it’s still satisfying enough. The grittier resynthing for the PC-8801 is undeniably charming too.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys has become the gold standard for what an Ys soundtrack should sound like and what it should aspire to. The X68000 version of the soundtrack is just as impressive as the original, if not more so since plenty was achieved with the still humble sound chip of the day. What’s more, the exclusive compositions in both of their forms are undeniably likeable and effectively round off the in-game soundtrack. It is well worth adding the X68000 soundtrack to the collection if you have any love for chip tunes or Ys music. If the track time issue is not important to you, it’s certainly an excellent alternative and potential supplement to the PC-8801 album Music from Ys III Wanderers from Ys.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andrew Oldenkamp. Last modified on January 17, 2016.