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Kero and Shin's Music Review

Welcome to the music review at RPG! Our goal is help people see the soundtracks they listen to in a better light as well as help the RPG music lovers out there know what to get and know what crap they should stay the hell away from before they're stuck listening to something so bad, they'll want to drive ice picks into their ears to relieve the pain.

This time around, we're bringing you all the under-appreaciated review to Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon OST. Enjoy this lovely tribute to the Chocobo, folks.

To view our previous reviews, check out the archives


Back in 1997, Squaresoft had done lots of experimental projects, some, like Final Fantasy 7, were highly successful, others like SaGa Frontier, received a cold reception in North America. But no other early Playstation game was despised as Chocobo No Fushigina Dungeon in Japan. It appears that the game was a total failure. But according to my theory regarding Square games, the music is always one of Square's departments that NEVER dissapoints, no matter how bad a game was. Chocobo's Dungeon is one of the better examples which proves this theory. The composer here is none other than the brilliant german-born japanese Masashi Hamauzu. Hamauzu had started back with Square in 1996, along with another newcomer for Square, Junya Nakano as an assistant to Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda in Front Mission : Gun Hazard, a spin-off of Square's popular strategy-rpg series : Front Mission. Well, a year later, Hamauzu is assigned to write the score to Chocobo No Fushigina Dungeon. He of course succeeds flawlessly. 2 years later Hamauzu will compose for SaGa Frontier 2 and 2 years more, he'll be back with Nobuo Uematsu and Junya Nakano in Final Fantasy X. Anyways.... on with the review !!


Prelude (Orchestrated) : A wonderful opening theme, which holds a few bars of the ever popular Chocobo Theme from the FF Series, I consider it one of the best opening themes in a game, ever. The high variety of the instruments used here gives the listener a fairly good idea of what to expect some this soundtrack.

Beginning of a Trip : A very interesting track, which starts off bouncy and happy but ends off in a epic yet corny way, this is the best way to describe this track.

Chocobo House : Awwww, a nice music box rendition of the Chocobo theme, perfect to put the kiddies to sleep if they're naughty :P

The First Dungeon : How to describe this track, it kinda sounds like a theme from SaGa Frontier II, with the percussions and all, but in the end we get a quiet passage which is simply dreamy before the track starts off again, a good dungeon track, pretty happy but still has a hint of mystery in the air.

A Mystery : Corny sounds here just seems to fit right in as the track progresses, leaves me wondering where this track is used.

In Search of the Rare Item : Woo !! We start off here with a few trumpet samples, then move on to some decent synth, this is highly one of my favorite tracks on the disk, I don't know why, it just sounds good.

Whisper of the Water : A bit of synth and piano is what makes this song so enjoyable, probably another happy dungeon theme, it seems to be the inspiration for SaGa Frontier II.

Chocobo Village : Now here's a cute track, very upbeat and happy, gotta love this theme folks, again, it sounds like something that could fit in SaGa Frontier II.

Fat Chocobo : Ha ha !! I love this track, don't get squished by the Fat Chocobo :P

Store Man : Eh ? Is that a new robot master for the Mega Man games ??? (Sorry, couldn't resist !!! 8D) Humor put aside, this seems perfect "shopping" music, as if the chocobo goes into a store, the seller says "Welcome Chocobo, I've got lots of goodies for ya, take your time, friend !! ^^;

I don't know which way to go : Long title, but you should get the idea that it's used for a maze or something, and obviously it has an adventurous feel to it.... Chocobo : Wark !! (Translation : Where do I go ? Right ? Left ? Up ? Down ?? Screw this, I'm going left !! :P) Sorry, couldn't resist to insert such a gag 8D

Wooden Room : Umm, I'm not too sure to describe this one, it sounds boh happy and mysterious at the same time. Again, sounds like it could fit in SaGa Frontier II.

Scythe Man is coming ! : I'm usually very good at guessing out battle themes, and I'm pretty sure this is the normal one. It starts off with cartoony spooky sound effects, then the piano takes the lead, it's somewhat corny, although fitting, for this kind of game.

Let's go underground : Ok, Hamauzu was sick of using happy and bouncy music so he starts using some eerie ones, it's easy to imagine the Chocobo venturing in some dark caves, another winner in my book.

Challenge : Now it gets interesting, I'm pretty sure this is the boss theme, it sounds pretty epic and fast-paced, fitting for desicive battles.

After the Battle : It's starts off like the previous track, but changes quickly in a wonderful passage, which quiets down eventually, the Chocobo Theme makes an appearance, it sounds somewhat out of place, although, it's still an excellent track.

A Brief Rest : There we go back to happy music, take a break, Chocobo, you've earned it.

Searching for You : And more corny sound effects are inserted here, it's probably another town theme, as it is pretty quiet, short but cute track.

The Unknown Space : Heh, more piano goodness from Hamauzu, sounds what else..... happy !!!! 8P

Unresting Wings : Lots of Music Box samples here, it's fairly bland at best. This could be the game over theme, as it does sound sad.

Atora's Theme : Oh yeah !! A march like song with the Chocobo Theme, at some point there is a xylophone sample, an instrument we don't hear often. Another bouncy theme that can perk you up if you're feeling blue.

Your Subject of Research ? : Umm this one leaves me dreamy, and sounds alot like SaGa Frontier II music, I can't put my finger on it but I like this for some reason or other....

Let's have a Dream : Piano, piano and piano !! I think Hamauzu has overdone it here, but the Chocobo Theme makes a welcome appearance here, wonder WHAT is Chocobo dreaming about ??? O_o

God's Errand : This is one of the few tracks that really left me unimpressed, it's simply too bland for my tastes.

World of Darkness :This track has an extreme-orient sound to it, and sounds pretty foreboding, it's surely one of the final areas in the game, as it slips into the ambient style, very creepy and fitting song.

Iron Warrior : This is certainly the Final dungeon theme, it sounds very foreboding as you're entering the villain's territory, but it has a hopeful passage at the end, still it deserves to be praised.

Where we Reached : Finally.... we're there, we've survived the dungeon, and the ultimate treasure is right in front of us. That's the impression I got while listening to this track, it's a nice break from the ambient themes heard earlier.

Courage : This one makes me imagine the following situation :

Villain : Gya ha ha ha ha !!! This is MY treasure !!! You'll never get it !!!

Chocobo : Wark !! (Translation : Shut up !! I'll kick your ass, biatch !!)

That pretty much sums it :P

Fight Chocobo !! : Yes, the final boss theme, Hamauzu proves how good he is here by composing an awesome theme which is epic, fast-paced and heroic. What else would you want in a final boss theme ???

Finale (Orchestrated) : An ever changing theme, from happy to upbeat to downright corny to darn beatiful. Yep, a winner in ending themes.

For the conclusion, I say this is a wonderful soundtrack, any fan of Square/Chocobo/Hamauzu should get it. There's only one problem, it's pretty rare but fortunately, the reasonable pricetag makes up for its rarity. (I got mine for 10 $ 8D) So go and hunt it down on Ebay, just watch out for bootlegs.

Kero Hazel

Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon suffers the misfortune of being one of Squaresoft's least-liked Playstation games, second perhaps only to SaGa Frontier. CMD was never released in North America, and to me that's a shame. Well... maybe the game isn't any good -- I've never played it. But the soundtrack sure is, and this reviewer doubts that any game featuring cute Chocobos and a great soundtrack could be all that bad. The composer of the game's soundtrack, Masashi Hamauzu, is a man of extremes. His raw compositional skill surpasses that of any other soundtrack composer, in my opinion, and gives even great classical composers like Chopin a run for their money. At the same time, Hamauzu is extremely repetitive, re-using a single theme for nearly every song in a soundtrack. In the CMD OST, he uses -- what else? -- the now-famous Chocobo Theme from the Final Fantasy series. Let's see how well it survives the repetition.

1.1. Prelude (Orchestra Version): A flurry of musical styles is the only way to describe this fun introduction. The Chocobo Theme makes two brief appearances, with quick symphonic passages fleshing out the rest of the track. It really moves too fast for me to give it a proper review, so let me just say that it's a great soundtrack opener (and a great song in general).

1.2. Beginning of a Trip: Another quick and restless track. The background instruments give this one more of an atmospheric feeling, and the piano and chimes break in occasionally with short melody segments. Good harmony, and some interesting polyrhythm too.

1.3. Chocobo's House: This song turns the Chocobo Theme into a waltz-like variant. The melody is altered somewhat to fit in with the whimsical harmony.

1.4. The First Dungeon: Much of this track is almost ambient in nature, but there is an interesting light-hearted harmonic passage in the middle that gives this song extra points for composition. Outside of this passage, the counterpoint of the layered instruments give your ear a lot to listen to.

1.5. A Mystery: What a narrative jewel this is! Moody harmony and carefully-chosen percussion instruments make this song tell a story like no other. I especially love the "ratchet" sound used -- it sounds almost like creepy echoing footsteps. Just try to find anything less than perfect in this song, I dare ya. :P

1.6. In Search of the Rare Item: A single horn sounds off a melody in this track... for about two seconds. Almost immediately, an incredibly complex armada of instruments begins playing all at once. Simple passages combine in very intricate and delightful ways as some instruments cut in and out. For some reason this song reminds me of a factory -- it's very "mechanical".

1.7. Whisper of the Water: I'm not sure what Hamauzu was smoking when he made this one. It's *extremely* unusual, even for him. First it's slow and staccato-like, then the strings kick in and smooth it out. Even the harmony seems to defy reason. It's not bad, but it's a bit too "weird for the sake of being weird".

1.8. Chocobo Village: Just a happy, bouncy, fun song. The instrumentation never gets too complex, and the harmony is very predictable. Still, though, it's an enjoyable piece, especially when the Chocobo Theme makes a visit towards the end.

1.9. Fat Chocobo: Just imagine walking along, minding your own business, when all of a sudden a huge 300-pound Chocobo just drops out of the sky next to you. That's what this short song is like.

1.10. Store Man: This track is somewhat of a dancy electronica piece that features a couple recognizable themes, including the Chocobo Theme. But with the high-pitched spacey instruments and the different rhythm, you might not even notice them. I don't mind the repetition, but there isn't too much to this song to make it stand out from the rest.

1.11. I Don't Know Which Way to Go: It starts out with an interesting mix of instruments and brief melodies, a style which you should be getting used to by now. But this song isn't as simple as the others. The first half of the song (and the looped part at the end) is filled with happy drums and brass -- but all of a sudden (at about 1:10), something truly evil takes over, in the form of piano chords and a very spine-tingling harmony. The dark passage is what makes this song stand out from the others.

1.12. Wooden Room: One of those unusual songs that straddles the fence between surreal and sinister. The instrumentation and quick whimsical passages lull you into a false sense of security, but the creepy harmony is definitely not playing along with this image. You gotta love the composition here, there's variation in both instruments and moods.

1.13. Scythe Man is Coming!: This piece's arrangement of the Chocobo Theme is just fantastic. It's played by a very fast piano, and is accompanied by a handful of other instruments. In spite of the minor key used, this track sounds very humorous. Imagine a cute cartoon Grim Reaper chasing a Chocobo in circles around a room, and you'll get the picture.

1.14. Let's Go Underground: All sorts of cool special effects are present in this song. The main melody instrument has this echo thing going on, and the sharp percussion instruments make a great contrast against the constant background "droning". A nice ambient piece that has enough going on so as not to make you bored.

1.15. Challenge: I take it that this is some sort of battle theme. The fast harmonic instruments keep a quick, intense pace, while the melody has more of a "choose your strategy wisely" sort of feel. I love the way the harmony is "stacked up" like this, it makes it sound more foreboding.

1.16. After the Battle: While this track starts off as a more intense version of the previous song, it finally hits its peak and eases down into a slower symphonic victory theme. When the Chocobo Theme starts, you can almost hear the experience points rolling in! This piece earns major points for its composition -- it's good enough to be an ending theme, IMO.

1.17. A Brief Rest: About this time, you'll probably start to notice another theme that crops up from time to time in this soundtrack. This piece starts out with a happy version of this other theme, and ends with a nice creepy twist.

1.18. Searching for You: Another nice narrative track. The four-chord harmony at the beginning sets a good pace for the song, and the musical story unfolds from there. The melody changes quite a lot -- hence the "narration" I promised.

1.19. The Unknown Space: This song has an interesting Eastern touch to it. I believe it's got a pentatonic harmony, but don't quote me on that. ^^; Maybe not as rich or varied as the other songs in the collection, but a good setting piece all the same.

1.20. Unresting Wings: This track starts out with an odd one-TWO-three-FOUR melodic rhythm performed by a synthesizer and a couple strings. Despite the light-hearted opening, the central part of this song is quite emotional. The violin section is particularly moody and well-timed, but I must commend the whole track for its great instrumentation.

1.21. Atora's Theme: A piece that begins as an arrangement of the Chocobo Theme, but fleshes out into a more elaborate march. Like many of the other tracks, the instruments are "stacked" on top of each other, combining and intertwining in all sorts of cool ways.

1.22. Your Subject of Research?: Recognize any of the common themes in this song? Well you would, if you were listening to the soundtrack instead of reading this. :P It's the melody from track 1.6! It's slow and more dance-y this time around, not too bad but not great either... until at the very end (just before the loop), we hear a beatiful flute melody backed up by a full string orchestra. Very cool and innovative.

1.23. Let's Have a Dream: This track is another Chocobo Theme arrangement, but unlike some of the other versions, this one doesn't just use bits and pieces of it. Hamauzu writes a new alternate "ending" to the Theme, and I think it fits perfectly. Kind of a hyper little song -- the work done on the melody is its best feature.

1.24. God's Errand: This is a moody, semi-ambient piece which seems to say, "let's go explore that thing over there because it's there!" Cute, but it also has a serious side. Celestial strings and electronic instruments make this pieces most "heavenly".

1.25. The World of Darkness: Creepy. This one is a dark, industrial sounding piece. The melody should sound familiar, as it has made appearances in other tracks. A great bit of composition on a perfect blend of moody instruments.

1.26. Iron Warrior: All signs seem to be pointing to the ambient end of the musical spectrum at this point in the soundtrack. Iron Warrior is another example, though it seems a bit too much like filler to me. Think of a slower track 1.22 but without the cool ending.

1.27. Where We Reached: This song is a very minimalistic story-telling piece. The instruments sound very distant and tranquil... too bad they don't really do anything.

1.28. Courage: A bizarre mix of foreboding string harmonies, followed by a quick battle style passage, ending with a march derived from the Chocobo Theme.

1.29. Fight, Chocobo!: This track borrows a bit from the same style as track 1.6, using many many instruments working in complex polyrhythmic patterns to achieve a very sophisticated sound. While it's definitely a battle theme, it still stays true to the compositionally rich nature of the CMD soundtrack. It's kinda like the Dragon Quest battle themes.

1.30. Finale (Orchestra Version): Much like the first track, this last song on the main disc borrows from many different orchestral styles, especially the powerful drum-and-brass style of the late Romantic era (for you classical music buffs). But there are also some parts that sound like excerpts from a piano concerto, and others that are string-heavy. With all the style changes and musical variation, I'd have to say this song has the best composition of the entire soundtrack. It's catchy too, and a hell of an ending theme. ^_^

2.1. Chocobo's Happy Christmas: The Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon OST is not strictly a 1 disc affair. Packaged together with the main disc is a short mini-disc of arranged music (it may or may not be in the actual game). The first track of the mini-disc, as you'd expect, is chock-full of sleigh bells and other fun Christmas-related instruments. Like the other orchestrated tracks, it's a sampler of various musical styles. It ends with a very cool series of chords on a pipe organ.

2.2. C/W: Dreams on Wings: Softer than what you might expect, this final song is a nice tribute to a more conventional musical style. Strings carry the main melody, which is a slowly upward-creeping series of notes. More and more instruments join in as the song progresses, and every so often a piano will jump in and play around with the melody. While lacking some of the creativity of Hamauzu's other pieces, it's still a great finale.

With the exception of a couple "filler" pieces, the Original Soundtrack to Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon is a solid winner, well deserving of your shineys. Too bad it's hard to find nowadays... the price, however, tends to be pretty reasonable on the rare occasions when it's available on ebay (usually around $30). Hamauzu's brand of music usually requires an active listening ear, which is very unfortunate for soundtracks like SaGa Frontier 2, which had one of the most overplayed themes of all time. In CMD, however, it's possible to enjoy this music as simple background mood music. But if you decide to listen in closely, there's all sorts of subtle musical tidbits for you to find -- some pieces can be listened to dozens of times and you'll still catch something new each time you hear them. Part of CMD's success is owed to the famous Chocobo Theme. Not only does Hamauzu use the theme precisely as much as is needed, but it's a pretty flexible theme to begin with. Catchy enough to be recognizable just about anywhere, but complex enough so that the composer can arrange it in many different ways. Couple this with Hamauzu's amazing compositional skill, and you get this wonderful soundtrack. If you ever see it, buy it on the spot! Trust me, it doesn't get its fair share of publicity.