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Soundtrack Review: Breath of Fire III (PSX)

 

01-22-17 10:56 AM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbpKavuk3Ts

(Note that the hyperlink has every single track of the game, including a few remixes. The original soundtrack had about 1/3 of what you see).

Breath of Fire III was the first of the series from PSX. The storyline for the game was quite impressive and had me surprised more than once. However the game suffered from the early limitations of the PSX, notably for graphics and music. While there are excellent tracks, it is overall not the best composition ever.

That’s because, a little like Final Fantasy VII, the composers weren’t able to take full advantage of the PlayStation sound chip. As a result, many tracks have rather underwhelming arrangements. Cedar Woods sounds a lot like the forest theme in Chrono Trigger, and that’s not a compliment. The constant “guitar” arrangement gets annoying while the overly synthesized arrangements of the track make it completely forgettable. It doesn’t even have the touch of mystery CT was able to create.

Missing (when Ryu realizes he lost his friends) is also a definite miss. While the overall arrangements do sound sad, they are so heavily synthesized that they are almost laughable. Such a theme would at least require sad wind/ string instruments, as was the case in Breath of Fire II.

The City Liked by the Wind (Windia) has absolutely ZERO evocation that it’s a windy city, unlike BOF 2. Instead it’s a cheap jazz track that sounds boring. The Desert of Death, despite having howling winds in the background, doesn’t feel much like you are crossing a long, unforgiving land where not walking the right way means a certain death. Casual (the first overworld theme) is nowhere as epic as even the overworld tracks in Breath of Fire I. Instead, it sounds like a light walk in the park, without any sense of quest of grandeur.

This “childishness” is also showing in other tracks. Even the Sun’s Happy (fishing theme) seems to focus too much on the name of the track rather than its context. As a result you don’t really feel like you’re fishing; it sounds more like you’re attending a cheap jazz concert. Nina’s theme and Peach Engine (Momo’s theme) also have these cheap jazz arrangements; they also sound too much like each other for my taste. Cruise (when the black ship slowly drifts away to the Lost Shore) is also included in the lot of childishness and cheap jazz (and even “exotic” music), although its lightness is forgivable since nothing happens during your cruising.

The only good such theme would be Crowing in the Night (when the chicken escape from the coop). It is upbeat and translates the chaos created in the courtyard by these out-of-control chicks.

Many theme, although good for the context, were still quite disappointing. Conflict of Dragons (battle against Rei) started with a dramatic introduction with loud “trumpets”, but the rest of the theme is, once again, too heavily synthesized to be taken seriously. It sounds more like a haunted house than the second most difficult fight in the game. It gets worse for Self-Determination (the final battle). Until I made the game’s speedrun I couldn’t even remember what it sounded like; after listening to it I now remember why. Not only is it synthesized beyond interest, but it also doesn’t even sound as epic as many NES final boss track with the background “piano”. Eden has nice bird chirping in the background and is slow to reflect the easy life in this garden, but the cheapness of the “string” arrangements spoil the track completely.

And there are themes that, despite having good arrangements, feel completely out of place. Castle in the Sky (the last part of the final dungeon) has absolutely no dramatic feel to it. I know it takes place in a “library-like” environment without a fight, but it doesn’t sound like you are about to meet God(dess). I love the track in itself, but not as a final dungeon.

Fortunately, considering how good the game was, the soundtrack wasn’t a total loss. The second overworld theme (To a Distant Place), a variation of the first one, sounds MUCH more epic, especially when you reach the deserted, lifeless Lost Shore. That distant place REALLY sounds far away with its sad wind arrangements in the first part that get violins in the second part.

Questionable Century (first part of the last dungeon) is heavily synthesized to its advantage; the environment you walk into is from another century with all the steel and machinery. It also has a very dramatic tone the previous two games weren’t able to reproduce – and also complexity; it loops after 90 seconds.

Donden (the “major boss” battle theme when fighting a Dragon War-related boss) is one VERY epic theme despite simple arrangements consisting of a few piano notes, drums, a tambourine and dramatic violin arrangements in the last few seconds of the loop.

There are also themes that are context-appropriate. Dungeon/ mountain themes like Walking the Road, Heavy Echo, Technology and Dangerous Feeling are all mysterious and dark as dungeons should be. They greatly profit from being synthesizes; it enhances the darkness of the ambiance, especially where there are machines around. Speaking of which, Ogre Road sounded so good on Steel Beach; the beat is very slow and almost sad, which was perfect for this place full of junk everywhere.

The Champions (inside the Coliseum), while it doesn’t sound as triumphant as the BOF II version, still felt like you are in an arena. There is an arrangement that comes often that I can’t describe but that gives the touch I am talking about. I somehow prefer the variation with the female voice saying, “check it” (?).

Finally, kudos to the bonus track Neverending Game, Kotomonashi Real Jazz Style. It’s probably “semi-orchestrated” – the piano sounds a little too swift to be real – but it was a welcomed addition to hear realistic-ish instruments. Kudos also to Light (Ygddrasil’s Theme). It’s one of my top relaxation tracks of all time with its voice/ organ arrangements that sound very magical and the bells that almost make you feel like you are dreaming.

In short, Breath of Fire III is not a stellar soundtrack. There are some very good tracks that are context-appropriate, but most of them will sound very cheap or out of context. You should go for Breath of Fire II or IV instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbpKavuk3Ts

(Note that the hyperlink has every single track of the game, including a few remixes. The original soundtrack had about 1/3 of what you see).

Breath of Fire III was the first of the series from PSX. The storyline for the game was quite impressive and had me surprised more than once. However the game suffered from the early limitations of the PSX, notably for graphics and music. While there are excellent tracks, it is overall not the best composition ever.

That’s because, a little like Final Fantasy VII, the composers weren’t able to take full advantage of the PlayStation sound chip. As a result, many tracks have rather underwhelming arrangements. Cedar Woods sounds a lot like the forest theme in Chrono Trigger, and that’s not a compliment. The constant “guitar” arrangement gets annoying while the overly synthesized arrangements of the track make it completely forgettable. It doesn’t even have the touch of mystery CT was able to create.

Missing (when Ryu realizes he lost his friends) is also a definite miss. While the overall arrangements do sound sad, they are so heavily synthesized that they are almost laughable. Such a theme would at least require sad wind/ string instruments, as was the case in Breath of Fire II.

The City Liked by the Wind (Windia) has absolutely ZERO evocation that it’s a windy city, unlike BOF 2. Instead it’s a cheap jazz track that sounds boring. The Desert of Death, despite having howling winds in the background, doesn’t feel much like you are crossing a long, unforgiving land where not walking the right way means a certain death. Casual (the first overworld theme) is nowhere as epic as even the overworld tracks in Breath of Fire I. Instead, it sounds like a light walk in the park, without any sense of quest of grandeur.

This “childishness” is also showing in other tracks. Even the Sun’s Happy (fishing theme) seems to focus too much on the name of the track rather than its context. As a result you don’t really feel like you’re fishing; it sounds more like you’re attending a cheap jazz concert. Nina’s theme and Peach Engine (Momo’s theme) also have these cheap jazz arrangements; they also sound too much like each other for my taste. Cruise (when the black ship slowly drifts away to the Lost Shore) is also included in the lot of childishness and cheap jazz (and even “exotic” music), although its lightness is forgivable since nothing happens during your cruising.

The only good such theme would be Crowing in the Night (when the chicken escape from the coop). It is upbeat and translates the chaos created in the courtyard by these out-of-control chicks.

Many theme, although good for the context, were still quite disappointing. Conflict of Dragons (battle against Rei) started with a dramatic introduction with loud “trumpets”, but the rest of the theme is, once again, too heavily synthesized to be taken seriously. It sounds more like a haunted house than the second most difficult fight in the game. It gets worse for Self-Determination (the final battle). Until I made the game’s speedrun I couldn’t even remember what it sounded like; after listening to it I now remember why. Not only is it synthesized beyond interest, but it also doesn’t even sound as epic as many NES final boss track with the background “piano”. Eden has nice bird chirping in the background and is slow to reflect the easy life in this garden, but the cheapness of the “string” arrangements spoil the track completely.

And there are themes that, despite having good arrangements, feel completely out of place. Castle in the Sky (the last part of the final dungeon) has absolutely no dramatic feel to it. I know it takes place in a “library-like” environment without a fight, but it doesn’t sound like you are about to meet God(dess). I love the track in itself, but not as a final dungeon.

Fortunately, considering how good the game was, the soundtrack wasn’t a total loss. The second overworld theme (To a Distant Place), a variation of the first one, sounds MUCH more epic, especially when you reach the deserted, lifeless Lost Shore. That distant place REALLY sounds far away with its sad wind arrangements in the first part that get violins in the second part.

Questionable Century (first part of the last dungeon) is heavily synthesized to its advantage; the environment you walk into is from another century with all the steel and machinery. It also has a very dramatic tone the previous two games weren’t able to reproduce – and also complexity; it loops after 90 seconds.

Donden (the “major boss” battle theme when fighting a Dragon War-related boss) is one VERY epic theme despite simple arrangements consisting of a few piano notes, drums, a tambourine and dramatic violin arrangements in the last few seconds of the loop.

There are also themes that are context-appropriate. Dungeon/ mountain themes like Walking the Road, Heavy Echo, Technology and Dangerous Feeling are all mysterious and dark as dungeons should be. They greatly profit from being synthesizes; it enhances the darkness of the ambiance, especially where there are machines around. Speaking of which, Ogre Road sounded so good on Steel Beach; the beat is very slow and almost sad, which was perfect for this place full of junk everywhere.

The Champions (inside the Coliseum), while it doesn’t sound as triumphant as the BOF II version, still felt like you are in an arena. There is an arrangement that comes often that I can’t describe but that gives the touch I am talking about. I somehow prefer the variation with the female voice saying, “check it” (?).

Finally, kudos to the bonus track Neverending Game, Kotomonashi Real Jazz Style. It’s probably “semi-orchestrated” – the piano sounds a little too swift to be real – but it was a welcomed addition to hear realistic-ish instruments. Kudos also to Light (Ygddrasil’s Theme). It’s one of my top relaxation tracks of all time with its voice/ organ arrangements that sound very magical and the bells that almost make you feel like you are dreaming.

In short, Breath of Fire III is not a stellar soundtrack. There are some very good tracks that are context-appropriate, but most of them will sound very cheap or out of context. You should go for Breath of Fire II or IV instead.

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