Assumptions are bad things. Evil things, even. One need look no further than televised coverage of the 2000 US Presidential Election for proof of that. They can shatter relationships, they can topple economies, and they can trigger wars. But perhaps worst of all, they can make CDs sound worse than they really are. Case in point: After listening to the superb Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite Best Selection Vol. 1 ~Roto~, I slipped Tenku into my CD player with gleeful anticipation. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Famous last words.
Let's start with the problematic layout of the disc. For starters, nearly half of the tracks on the CD are medleys. While hardly an issue with Roto, the cramming of as many as five themes into each medley does more to undermine the melodies than enhance them. If your CD player doesn't have a search option, you can expect a long wait until these collections get to your particular favorites. Love Torneko's theme from Dragon Quest IV? Tough beans — you'll have to wait over four minutes to hear it on the comrades medley.
The other more obvious problem is that this CD hardly befits the "Best Selection" distinction. In contrast to Roto's stellar mix of gusto and pianissimo, this set is almost one-dimensional in its peacefulness. There are fortunate (and surprising) exceptions to this, but not enough to act as a counterbalance.
But what of the music itself? Does it make the content issues endurable? Well, almost. Dragon Quest IV has some incredibly soothing, albeit wildly uneven, melodies, as well as the best character themes of the series. (Well, they're the only ones available on the Best Selections, but take my word for it, OK? They're good). Unfortunately, all Dragon Quest IV tracks but "Sea Breeze" were crammed together like so many souvenirs in a tourist's suitcase. More's the pity.
Dragon Quest V turns in a much better showing, including some great battle themes(!) and rock-solid compositions. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it is best soundtrack of the series, on evidence of these pieces. Given how hit-and-miss the 'Best' tracks of Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest VI were chosen, there might be better tracks yet.
Yes, you read that right. Dragon Quest VI's tracks may have dodged the medley yoke, but I wouldn't call the producers' selections the 'Best' of the soundtrack by any means. Compared to Roto (or even the preceding Dragon Quest V set), "Ocean Waves" and "Eternal Lullaby" are barely adequate. "Flying Bed", with its jubilant xylophone, fares best, but it's so short by comparison, it's no compensation.
What hurts most about this CD is that with some minor adjustments to track division and more of an upbeat mix for Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest VI, this could have been a perfect companion to Roto and a classic in its own right. As it stands, it still has my endorsement, but solely to Dragon Quest fans, as opposed to anyone who likes classical music.