The soundtrack for The Legend of Heroes III: The White Witch has been released in three major versions: Music from The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch features two discs of music from the original PC-8801 game; The Legend of Heroes III J.D.K. Special is a two volume release featuring remastered compositions from PC-8801 game; and The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch Original Soundtrack is a two volume release for the modern PC remake. These releases are substantially differentiated in the quality of their synth, but most of their themes and arrangements stay the same. The first album release has the advantage of being released in a single volume and offers seven bonus arrangements, though the original version of the music is the most limited in depth and intricacy due to its old-fashioned synth. The music is nevertheless worth looking into and is at least above-average for an RPG score. Let's take a closer look...
Right away, the sound team set a mellow tone for the game with "The White Witch Gerud". It's an intrinsically simple piece, featuring little more than an expressive synth melody and a light arpeggiated backing, but it is elegant too, as with many of Falcom's works. It provides a beautiful and mystical depiction of a central character of the game, while gently building up into an open-ended conclusion. Compared to the remade version, however, its expressive powers are limited by its mid-90s synth and some will find this version inferior. Nevertheless, there is something charming about what has been achieved with such minimal elements. Another central theme on the soundtrack is "Love Shining Inside", a sentimental instrumental jazz ballad given renditions at the opening and ending of the soundtrack. It certainly provides an interesting insight into the feelings of the young main character.
Perhaps more representative of the general tone of the first disc is "Another Heroes' Story". As with many of Falcom's tracks, this one is upbeat, synthy, and 80s-flavoured. While a select taste, I still find it a catchy track with plenty of interesting touches. While much of the laidback cheerful material on this album works, there's also a lot of uninspired stuff that I found less stomachable. Tracks such as "Feels So Good" sound more like bubbly elevator music than the more personal material most would expect in an RPG soundtrack. There are some twists to this formula, such as the slightly more energetic synthpop theme "Captain Thomas' Feelings" or the more catchy guitar duet "Spirit in Our Eyes", but they still sound more like menu music. A lot of the album has too many shorter filler-style tracks on top of these longer boring tracks and the first half of the album particularly suffers in this regard.
Fortunately, the second disc of the soundtrack features some interesting deviations from the bubbly style. It is generally more diverse, packing in everything from classically-oriented dances like "Tell Us a Mysterious Story" to Morricone-influenced character depictions like "A Man Travelling Alone" to minimal fantasy-styled sketches like "Memories of Gagharv". Perhaps overwhelmingly, though, this disc is also darker with everything from dark ambient depictions (e.g. "Ordos Cathedral", "The Way of Heaven"), to tense action-packed tracks (e.g. "Lude Castle", "Badot"), to bittersweet orchestrations (e.g. "Queen Isabelle", "With Admiration"). It's quite amazing what the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. manage to acheive with such limited synth. By this point, it's quite clear that The Legend of Heroes III features a fairly diverse and high quality soundtrack for a traditional RPG.
As with other Falcom soundtracks, there is some of the sound team's trademark action compositions scattered through the discs. The first really striking entries are "The Great Battle of Bolt", a commanding march track that fits well with the tone of the game, and "A Powerful Foe", a generic rock 'n roll anthem that many old-school rockers will enjoy. Naturally, there are a fair number of rock compositions on the second disc too and pieces such as "Dark Beasts Appear" are particularly blistering, though they're definitely more enjoyable in the remade soundtrack. The original score is naturally rounded off by a few sentimental ending themes, including the slow and balladic "Durzel's Letter", the relieving yet subdued march "Little Heroes", and the nostalgic orgel-influenced "The White Witch of Tiraswheel". These themes certainly reaffirm what a personal and innocent journey The Legend of Heroes III is and seem to resolve the soundtrack emotionally and thematically.
Fortunately, this two disc release features some excellent bonuses too. Specifically, each disc features some special J.D.K. Band arrangements tagged on at the end and there are seven in total. However, these are not actually full band power arrangements like most would expect from their original albums, but rather synthetic arrangements with some guitar infusions. I think this style really works well with already sentimental compositions like "Love Shining Inside" and "The White Witch Gerud", and these arrangements only reaffirm the memorability of their melodies. I also found the interpretation of "Lost Forest" to be beautiful and fitting, but it's more new age than power rock. "Lude Castle" and "Mountain Path" are more suited for those looking for uptempo pieces, though those wanting another arrangement like "To Make an End of Battle" might still be disappointed.
It's difficult to recommend Music from The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch given there are alternative releases available. Although it has to be purchased inconveniently in two volumes, The Legend of Heroes III The White Witch Original Soundtrack for the remake is actually a much more rich experience from both a musical and emotional perspective. However, the original album is probably the best-presented, since it can already be purchased as a whole and features some decent bonus arrangements. Those who prefer the synthy music of old to the more realistic music of new should definitely stick to the original release. It's solid, but in my opinion at least, has been surpassed in recent years.