Symphonic Suite from Actraiser

Actraiser, Symphonic Suite from. Передняя обложка. Click to zoom.
Actraiser, Symphonic Suite from
Передняя обложка
Composed by Yuzo Koshiro
Arranged by Yuzo Koshiro
Published by Alfa Records
Catalog number ALCA-182
Release type Game Soundtrack - Official Release
Format 1 CD - 10 Tracks
Release date September 21, 1991
Duration 00:30:43
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When doing an arranged album, it helps immensely if the original material is of a good standard, as no amount of arranging can salvage dodgy themes. Thankfully, the score of the rather difficult game ActRaiser was quite good and Yuzo Koshiro has showed how splendid the soundtrack really is in this EP. Many have complained about the length of this arranged album, but it is simply the fact that ActRaiser is mainly a hack'n'slash game, rather than an RPG. This recording features most (if not all) of the main themes of the game, so even if the composer wanted to increase the length of the recording, it wouldn't be possible.


As soon as you press play, you are greeted with the regal tones of the French horn and then plunged into one of the most polished albums in game music history. The extreme competence of the orchestration and the powerful performances are surely what the composer envisaged whilst composing for the limited SNES soundchip. The arrangements sound so natural, fluid and spontaneous, it is hard to imagine that such music would be composed for any other media.

You may have noticed the "intermizzo" tracks. A quick look through a music dictionary will show you that such a word does not exist, but the word "intermezzo" (which is simply the Italian equivalent of "interlude") does. It is likely that it is just a spelling error rather than anything significant. However, the presence of these tracks point to one thing — that the album is meant to be listened to as a whole, much like multi-movement symphonies. And indeed it works as a whole.

With such a wide gamut of moods, this album never becomes monotonous. This is due to the fact that most of the tracks on this disc are medleys. But far from sounding disjointed, the pieces flow into another remarkably well. For example, nobody would think the melancholic, serene "Sky Palace" would be the ideal piece to lead into the demonic, rage-driven "Bloodpool ~ Casandora". Yet somehow, Yuzo Koshiro pulls it off.

Of course, most would skip past the initial seven tracks just to get at that immensely memorable theme — "Birth of the People". Though woefully short, gamers will remember this theme the most, as it supplements the their frustration of trying to get rid of those damn monster nests.


This is a listening experience that few will forget — the excellent arrangements and great performances certainly deserve the praise it receives. Though few will care about such things and would head straight to track 8. Highly recommended.


Music in game




Though ActRaiser's Symphonic Suite is not the first of its kind it is, in my mind, the greatest of the early video game suites released. Though Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy had both received symphonic treatment earlier, neither took a lot of chances in transmitting the material from the game to the concert hall. With the help of Kaoru Wada, Yuzo Koshiro, composer of the original ActRaiser soundtrack, offers a much more adventurous and colourful orchestration than the preceding suites and improves on the already strong ActRaiser soundtrack.


The opening medley is a very suitable start. The "Opening" section, filled with brass at their most bombastic, breathes life into a title screen that was otherwise underwhelming on the Super Nintendo. In addition to the brass, Koshiro writes a great deal of figuration in the strings and trills in the winds allowing the piece to bustle with the power and majesty it was meant to have. The opening section of the medley shrinks suddenly, although fairly smoothly, into the "Sky Palace" melody. With the much more lyrical sky palace, Koshiro commands the woodwinds to center stage. The effect of his harmonies with the timbral effect of the woodwinds creates a very sublime listening throughout the piece. The main weakness of this medley is the "Blood Pool" / "Casandora" segment, and it really is no fault of the orchestration. I did not enjoy these themes on the soundtrack, and although the orchestration is extremely effective in bringing the piece to life, I consider this melody a step below the more effective action themes in the game. The piece also seems to drop off rather suddenly at the conclusion of the movement. Nonetheless, a fine start to the suite

The Super Nintendo rendition of "Filmoa", played in the game's first combat stage, is quite possibly my favourite theme from the entire game and certainly sticks out melodically more than any piece in the entire game besides "Birth of the People". I was at first disappointed by its treatment on the symphonic suite, but have since come to like it quite well. The orchestration does take a little bit of the fire out of the driving original, but the melody is still present and in pristine condition. In addition, Kaoru Wada makes excellent use of tremolos in the strings to try and bring some of the intensity from the original track into this rendition. While this arrangement does not stand out to me like the original, it is still an accomplished rendition and is good listening.

One of the unique things about ActRaiser's Symphonic Suite is its use of intermezzi between movements that help tie the suite together. The intermezzi are based on the "Birth of the People" motif in various instrumentations. They are all fine crafts, though as twenty to thirty seconds of music cannot realistically be compared to pieces averaging four minutes. More impressive is the final rendition of "Birth of the People" and easily the best. The orchestration of one of the game's most recognizable themes gives its most prominent parts to the double reeds whose warm performance radiates the energy of life. Flute accompaniment, along with flourishes from the harp, adds a sparkling quality to the timbre, and the bubbling string accompaniment characterizes the excitement of a budding civilization coming to life. Though much more subdued in its energy, "Offering" is treated with just as much orchestral care and possesses all of the solemn hope for a bright future. My only complaint with the movement is its length. At only three minutes and four seconds I feel so much more could have been done to expand the themes into a larger experience. Still, the effect of the movement is sublime as it is, and my favourite piece from the album.

In my mind, "Pyramid ~ Marana ~ Silence ~ North Wall" is the weakest medley featured in the suite. The orchestration is done very nicely, with some especially effective percussion in "Pyramid" that helps add to the ancient atmosphere. However, for the first time on the album, Wada's transitions are not especially fluid, and the source material is likely the weakest offered. The latter moments of the movement have some really fine and full sounding orchestration which helps make this track a winner, but overall this is the track I find myself revisiting least on the album. More impressive is the medley of the game's three boss battle themes works All three themes are relatively similar, as it could be theorized that all three pieces could be joined into a medley lasting only three minutes and fifteen seconds. Koshiro transits between the three pieces in a way that is not only smooth, but also is dramatically satisfying. All three pieces unite together to create a very satisfying musical arc that few other pieces in the suite possess. The orchestration is again top notch, and brings life to tracks, that while were some of the best sounding in the original game, certainly sound more wonderful here.

If there is any track on this album that could stand up to "Birth of the People ~ Offering" in quality, it would be "Peaceful World ~ Ending". In answer to the loud, clamorous "The Beast Appears..." we are greeted with the fantastic "Peaceful World", an exquisite sampling of Koshiro's harmonic and melodic abilities. The orchestration does nothing especially noteworthy, but suits the mood very well. The transition into "Ending" is the most interesting on the album, and one of the finest. The "Ending" theme is as remarkable as well, if the presence of the first two motives from the 20th Century Fox Fanfare at the piece's opening is ignored, which judging by their only momentary presence and the overall quality of the piece following, is easy to do. The piece builds very effectively to its final conclusion, which actually ends up being somewhat of a disappointment due to how much build up is given to it, and how quickly it disappears. Still, this track is a fine close to a fine album, and one of my favourites on the album.


As one of the earliest game-based symphonic suites to really go above and beyond in orchestral colour, ActRaiser's Symphonic Suite is a fine accomplishment. My main complaint with the album is that it ends up feeling rather short, and considering that many of the pieces seem to end before they are quite ready to, it would have been nice to see some of these themes expanded on a little bit more. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see someone err on the side of too little music than too much, thus rendering the music impossible to sit through. Thus, while Symphonic Suite from ActRaiser remains fairly conservative in the compositional arrangement of these tracks, it is one of the most adventurous in terms of its orchestration, and a compact collection of some of early game music's finest offerings.


Music in game


Richard Walls

Album was composed by Yuzo Koshiro and was released on September 21, 1991. Soundtrack consists of tracks with duration over about 30 minutes. Album was released by Alfa Records.

CD 1

Opening ~ Sky Palace ~ Blood Pool ~ Casandora
Intermezzo I
Intermezzo II
Aitos ~ Temple ~ Descent ~ World Tree
Intermezzo III
Pyramid ~ Marana ~ Silence ~ North Wall
Birth of the People ~ Offering
The Beast Appears ~ Formidable Foe ~ Satan
Peaceful World ~ Ending
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