Camelot's flagship Golden Sun series finally received its third installment in 2010, and long-time collaborator Motoi Sakuraba was asked to compose. In a series' first, a short CD of both original and arranged material from the newest title was released, the Golden Sun Dark Dawn Special Soundtrack, included as a bonus with the game's guidebook, published by Shueisha. Do the arrange pieces offer anything unique from their originals, and how do the original tracks themselves fare?
The first of the two arranged pieces, "Golden Sun ~Dark Dawn~ Arrange Version," is Sakuraba at his best. An evolving piece that extends over a six minute timeframe, this track covers all of the composer's common territory, starting with an orchestral overture, and then delving into some nice progressive rock, throwing in some choir and a lengthy section with music box, before closing bombastically. The piece weaves together various melodies from the game into a fascinating, though entirely typical for the composer, milieu.
The second and final arranged track, "Formidable Enemy Arrange Version," takes what is my personal favorite battle theme from the game and creates a rather thrilling progressive rock arrangement. Everything in this track works wonderfully. It's not Sakuraba's best battle theme, but the arrangement features some wonderful complexity, though again, nothing unlike the composer's typical style. It works, however, and serves as a wonderful return of form for Sakuraba.
The collection of original tracks opens quite properly with the main theme of the series, aptly titled "Golden Sun ~Main Theme~." The downgrade to DS synth is obvious, though it still sounds relatively fine. The melody is sound as always, and its arrangement for the third title was done in a rather nostalgic fashion, sure to appeal to those who fondly recall the first two game's main theme.
"New Beginning," an early game dungeon theme, is reminiscent of Sakuraba's 'courageous' type tracks, often heard near the end of their respective titles (see Baten Kaitos' "Brave Way" for a rather exciting, classic example), featuring heavy use on brass and march-like percussive lines. This theme offers nothing new from the typical formula, but is still rather enjoyable.
"The Weyard" is the game's first world map theme, written in a very similar style to that of the first two titles', featuring an epic, overarching melody and, again, a march-like percussive line. The melody isn't terribly catchy, however, though it isn't bad per se. The final track is the game's regular battle theme, "Fight of Sons." The melody isn't as enjoyable as the other battle theme featured, though it serves its purpose rather well. Once again, typical Sakuraba progressive rock.
This small sampling of tracks offers nothing new from Sakuraba's traditional output, which will be a small blessing for fans of the original titles' scores. But Sakuraba has evolved a good deal since then, and this CD feels like a sort of regression. That said, the arranged tracks are very enjoyable, almost reminiscent of the composer's mid-90's arranged albums (like his Shining Force albums). Unfortunately, there are only two of these arranged tracks, and the rest of the album consists of the first four pieces the listener hears in the game, instead of more properly being a 'best of' collection (or, better yet, a full soundtrack release). This is most certainly not a necessary purchase, and newcomers to Sakuraba's style would do far better checking out one of his more accomplished scores. Though for collectors, this might be a nice CD to obtain, if only to finally have a collection of Golden Sun music in physical form.