Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s new, daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today’s track is a Ys VIII tune that’s guaranteed to get you in the mood for an epic journey on a mysterious island, which is a thing we used to be able to do in real life.
Japanese developer Nihon Falcom helped pioneer the action role-playing genre with games like 1984’s Dragon Slayer and the long-running Ys series, starting with 1987’s Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished. The studio was also a trailblazer in the realm of video game music. Its early games tapped chiptune musicians like Yuzo Koshiro and Mieko Ishikawa to squeeze some of the most influential RPG music ever out of the 1980s’ modest games machines. Ishikawa went on to found Falcom Sound Team JDK, one of the first dedicated studio composing teams, responsible for all of the developer’s future music.
I’ve played most of Nihon Falcom’s Ys games. It’s one of my favorite action-RPG series, but not every Ys game is a highly polished gem. They can get a little formulaic, always following around red-haired hero Adol Christin as he forms parties of people he’ll likely forget all about by the time the next game rolls around. Hell, they’ve remade Ys IV twice since the original, creating three different games with more or less the same story.
But while I’ve played some sub-par Ys games, I’ve never heard sub-par Ys music. Case in point, here’s the overland music from 2016’s Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (longplay / VGMdb). In the game, Adol and the other passengers of a crashed ship band together to survive on a mysterious deserted island. Adol and friends gear up, take one step outside of the safety of their camp, and hear this:
“Sunshine Coastline” opens with a little weirdness. It’s a wild and untamed place. Adol and his party have no idea what to expect. The hopeful piano kicks in. That’s Adol’s never-say-die spirit. We take a deep breath, steeling our will, and GUITARS! SYNTH! DRUMS! ADVENTURE! There’s doubt and danger as the song progresses, but Adol’s spirited piano is always there to bring us back to the task at hand.
That is how you start an adventure. I want to grab composer Takahiro Unisuga by the hand and run through the forest with swords. I wouldn’t say “Sunshine Coastline” made the game for me, but it drew me much deeper into Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana than I might have gone otherwise.
While we’re at it, here’s the rest of this great latter-day Falcom OST:
Falcom / Falcom Music Channel (YouTube)
Maybe the best thing about Nihon Falcom’s music is the studio is incredibly proud of its music team’s work and goes out of its way to make it available to fans. Search for “Falcom Sound Team JDK” on Spotify and you can listen to outstanding music all day long. Or hit up this amazing fan-run YouTube channel, where music is arranged into playlists by game. Weeks of good listening.
That’s it for today’s Morning Music, the first of many I hope to contribute on a regular basis. I’m excited. How about you folks? Drop by the comments to chat about Ys or whatever else might be on your mind. See you tomorrow!