The GameCube's Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was the first title in the series to employ the benefits of three-dimensional graphics and high fidelity audio offered by recent home consoles. Prior to this point, the series had stuck to the Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance rather than making the transition to the Nintendo 64 like Nintendo's other flagship series did. Led by veteran Yuka Tsujiyoko, a team of five composers ended up working on the title and crafted perhaps the most vibrant and colourful Fire Emblem score to date. Ironically, neither this score nor its Wii successor were released on CD unlike all the other main scores in the series. Nonetheless, the the Fire Emblem Path of Radiance Premium Soundtrack was a first print bonus for ordering the Japanese version of the game and features five themes from the game.
Though Yuka Tsujiyoko's contribution to the Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was slight for the first time in the series, she nonetheless contributed a spectacular arrangement of the series' main theme. The daring chord choices and decisive instrument writing makes it more reminiscent of an Americana overture than a traditional game theme. Though the presentation of the main melody on gliding strings can sometimes feel contrived, the bold accompaniment and lavish decorations ensure this is negligible. During its playtime, a stunning dramatic arch is achieved. Most notably, following a deep interlude, there is a glorious recapitulation of the main melody at the 3:20 mark that is far more interesting than any other version of the melody. This arrangement is a difficult one to top.
Moving to the background music, "His Father's Son" is a light-hearted way to begin Ike's journey. Rather reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the majority of the theme is characterised by all sorts of whimsical woodwind and strings interplay. Its lyrical melodies and feathery tones are bound to endear listeners and gamers alike. Nonetheless, the militaristic characteristics of the series are kept on by the rolling snare drums and the dabs of brass. "Ike's Resolution" seems to blend the grandiose characteristics of the main theme with the light-hearted tones of the preceding piece. Yoshito Hirano has crafted a truly marvellous composition featuring striking solos from superbly synthesised woodwinds and even a deep introspective interlude. Easily one of the most musically impressive Fire Emblem compositions.
The remaining two compositins don't add much new musically to the score, but give a hint of how well the soundtrack functions in the game. The bright brassy tones of "Move Out!" are just right for motivating players into battle. While it doesn't take quite as many twists and turns as "Ike's Resolution", it still manages to incorporate many intricacies in its playtime. "Quiet Days" ends the album on a tranquil and contemplative note. The flute and oboe writing is exquisite here and surely the product of its composers' classical training. Within the game, it provides a beautiful relief from all the action and drama. Once again, this composition is just right.
The Fire Emblem Path of Radiance Premium Soundtrack is a very pleasing reflection of the game's soundtrack. It's quite rare to find a traditional orchestral soundtrack that is both intricately composed and flawless in context. Fortunately, Yuka Tsujiyoko and co. achieved this through their meticulous efforts on the soundtrack. However, it's tragic that a true soundtrack release for Path of Radiance was never offered, since the soundtrack transcended the mediocrity of other Fire Emblem soundtracks towards becoming one of the finest orchestral game scores ever. As it stands, the Fire Emblem Path of Radiance Premium Soundtrack is a delightful 16 minute listening experience and all five compositions are well worth revisiting. However, it's also a bittersweet reflection on Nintendo's punative policy on soundtrack releases in recent years.