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8-Bit Mondays: Dragon Quest 4 – “Opening ~ Intermezzo” (Koichi Sugiyama)

March 16, 2010

The “Opening” theme to the Dragon Quest series is another very famous piece of vgm. It is immediately recognizable to listeners, as not only has it appeared in every single Dragon Quest (aka Dragon Warrior) game, but it is also very memorable. In some ways, it also sounds like a sports anthem, but those heroic threes and strong notes etch their way into the memory. Not much else sounded like this on the Famicom/NES at the time, as this was one of the first soundtracks to be composed with a complete orchestra in mind, and so as a result the original Dragon Quest was very groundbreaking.

8-Bit Mondays: Dragon Quest 4 – “Opening ~ Intermezzo” (Koichi Sugiyama)

The final Famicom version of the series, Dragon Quest IV, is today’s 8-Bit Monday. This version of the song comes from Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest IV Guided People (1990), recently released on Slightly Dark (and interesting enough, also available as a two-cassette album). Sadly, there are menu sfx in the “Intermezzo” part of the song – as with the rest of the original version side of the album – which makes for a pretty poor rendition. Thankfully, there is a fantastic orchestral arrangement.

Koichi Sugiyama’s music is also made perfectly for orchestra, hence why the orchestral arrangements of all his music sound so fantastic. From this same album is the inspiring “Overture”, with bold brass for brave adventurers, a tale of glory, and heroes with the blood of kings. There are many fantastic orchestral versions of this theme, so it’s hard to pick the best one, but I will leave the Suite Dragon Quest IV version as a fine example of how they can sound. Dragon Quest was also the first videogame to feature an orchestral arrangement through Suite Dragon Quest, published in 1986 and performed by the Tokyo Strings Ensemble.

Koichi Sugiyama is one of the oldest and most respected composers in the industry (and also controversial).Born in 1931, he is still composing music at age 79, and has done the entire Dragon Quest series (9 games so far) as well as other memorable titles such as Jesus ~ Fearful Bio-Monster and EVO: The Search for Eden. His classically-trained background allowed him to produce music with truly orchestral qualities in a time when game music lacked such talents. Sadly, being raised in a nationalistic era, he is a proponent of right-wing revisionist history and a denier of the Nanking Massacre, among other wartime atrocities. Come to think of it, perhaps some of this is reflected in the style of his music… His Japanese homepage appears to be devoted to music rather than politics.

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