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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Song of the Week! 1 June 2013

Let's start this month of June with a double pick that can both be considered as a single song! Can you figure what it is (or 'what they are')?

 Overture IX (序曲IX) Dragon Quest IX
Allx3 (74)x4 (122)x4 (167)x3 (203)
 Taiko 12 to 14, Taiko Wii 2

The Dragon Quest franchise is surely no stranger to Taiko no Tatsujin, with several arcade-exclusive tunes in the Taiko 7-8 generation and even tracks from its spinoff games. Among the DQ songs, the main theme song of Dragon Quest is the most iconic one, and it has been featured in Taiko no Tatsujin thrice, once as Overture VIII and twice more as Overture IX and Overture X, the latter two being almost identical.

Almost every RPG fan is familiar with the Dragon Quest formula since the first Famicom/NES titles: a new hero is made and is thrown into a fantasy land with several other fighters, getting through dungeons, random monster encounters, turn-based combat, stats, towns and save points, and all the recurring tropes of the JRPG genre which Dragon Quest itself pioneered. Among the big names involved in Dragon Quest are Akira Toriyama (鳥山明) - father of several popular manga series (such as Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball) and character designer for DQ- and Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやまこういち), who composed a great part of the music used for the series. The games were developed by Enix, which merged with Squaresoft in 2002 and now go by the combined name Square-Enix.

The Overture IX featured today is one of Sugiyama's creations, for the first portable entry in the main numbered saga, called Doragon Kuesuto IX: Hoshizora no Mamoribito (ドラゴンクエストIX 星空の守り人). The game is known overseas by the title of Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, released for Nintendo DS in July 2009 in Japan and roughly a year later in the rest of the world. Unlike the previous eight, this one was developed to have a higher appeal to American/European audiences with multiplayer features and online play, together with an overall increase in difficulty level, making it one of the hardest chapters in the series.

Dragon Quest's main theme song was never known for being hard on Taiko no Tatsujin, and Overture IX is no different, being even slower and easier than Overture VIII before it and features simple 1/16 clusters instead of 1/12m and manages to create a powerful sound accompanying the tune's solemn sonority. Part of Overture IX's 1/16 patterns are also the same as its previous incarnation, however the long, epic large drumroll at the end is replaced with a slightly underwhelming balloon note which you'll be able to finish long before the last, drawn-out trumpet note ends.

Much like the other Dragon Quest songs, this one also features a whole set of special dancers with some of the common enemies in the game: the bat-like creatures called Dracky, the colorful Slimes and a giant, bouncing King Slime when the Spirit Gauge is completely filled.

 Overture (序曲) Dragon Quest X
Taiko 0.5 to M, Taiko Wii 5x3 (43)x4 (68)x3 (89)x5 (131)
 Taiko 0.5 to M, Taiko Wii 5

 Overture X (序曲X) Dragon Quest X
Taiko Wii Ux3 (54)x4 (81)x3 (111)x5 (158)
 Taiko Wii U 1

In August 2012, three years after Dragon Quest IX's release, a tenth installment to the main series was published for the Nintendo Wii (ported to Wii U almost a year later) called Doragon Kuesuto X: Mezameshi Itsutsu no Shuzoku Onrain (ドラゴンクエストX 目覚めし五つの種族 オンライン, lit. Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online). It's the franchise's first step in the MMORPG genre, where different quests and gameplay styles are supplied depending on the Tribe chosen by players at the beginning of the game (Ogre, Elf, Dwarf, Puklipo, or Weddie).

As the title may suggest, the new main feature of this game is the online connection required in order to fully-experience it; after a brief offline story portion with the player's new hero, the rest of the game fully relies on an Internet connection, not something usually seen on a Nintendo console. Quests and missions can only be played online, and the save states are stored on a cloud drive rather than on the Wii console's memory and a subscription fee is required in order to play the game (in Japan at least; the rest of the world may not be so keen on monthly subs). The game can be played for free for two hours per day, however.

The Overture theme for this latest main DQ game is actually identical to the previous track for Nintendo DS; in Taiko no Tatsujin, with how easy the main theme generally is, the chart is also nothing noteworthy, the only real difference being the renewed special dancers to advertise the new game. Pattern-wise, it's exactly the same as Overture IX (with a slightly longer balloon note) but shorter, and ironically it's a 5* Oni, 2 stars higher than Overture IX. The same thing happened to Before After Medley on Wii 5, which was upped to 9* Oni despite being shorter than the original chart on Taiko 13.

The dancers in this song is the first set to have scripted elements in them instead of being solely based on the Tamashii Gauge. They're different bewteen the arcade and console; the arcade features Slimes, Ghosts and Dracky, while the Chogouka-Ban version has Slimes and Teeny Sanguini, one of the new DQ X monsters. The scripted part comes right at the end; the five races of Dragon Quest X with the game's logo appear in time to the music in front of the enemies, no matter the level of the Tamashii Gauge.

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