From Mario to Zelda, to Final Fantasy and Undertale, there’s no doubt that music plays a huge role in the video games that we all know and love. But what about the music from lesser known video games? What about the jamming tunes and fire tracks that may have gone under the radar of most gamers? Join us, Fair Gamers, as we dig through the crates and uncover some amazing games and music you might have missed… This is Hidden Tracks!
Hidden Tracks Vol. 8: Dragonseeds (PS1)
In the mid-to-late 90s, virtual pets like Tamagotchi or Giga Pets were all the rage. In the world of video games, it was no different - juggernauts like Pokemon or Digimon need no introduction, while lesser known virtual monster/pet games like Monster Rancher had a small but dedicated fanbase. It seemed like everywhere you went during that time, you knew someone who was trying to catch ‘em all or raising some other kind of digital monster. While the virtual monster hype has seemingly died down since the 90s, there are still gamers out there who cherish all kinds of virtual monster games - including the cult-classic Dragonseeds.
Released in 1998 for the original Playstation, Dragonseeds is a monster raising/monster battling simulator that has players assume the role of a Dragon Sage. As a Dragon Sage, you choose from different types of “dragons” - including your classic dragon, a bee, a crab, or even a box (and they’re all dragons… I know, just roll with it) - and raise them to compete in Dragon Battles for fame and glory. Developed and released by Jaleco, Dragonseeds *immediately* draws comparison to other monster-battle games of the time. Having to compete with monster hits like Pokemon and Digimon, Dragonseeds had a tough time standing out. But the game has since gained a cult following, largely due to its weird charm, odd anime-inspired graphics, intriguing post-apocalyptic setting, and - perhaps most of all - the amazing soundtrack.
The Dragonseeds soundtrack was composed by Japanese composer Kenichi Arakawa. Most of Arakawa’s credits include independent Japanese games and anime projects, but not very many majorly published games - his only other major video game credit is The Dark Spire, a late-2000s throwback RPG for the Nintendo DS published by Atlus. But in the retro gaming world, especially the PSX scene, retro fans may recognize his musical contributions in Dragonseeds.
As the game has no voice acting or largely distinct sound effects, the world of Dragonseeds is created and held together through its soundtrack, and this is where Arakawa’s contributions shine - heavily influenced by drum n’ bass, moody 90s electronic, and even world music, the Dragonseeds soundtrack is like a puzzle brought together from pieces that didn’t belong with each other. The overworld map tune, “Warm City,” is a bright and welcoming tune driven by a rhythmic drum pattern and sitar-like instrumentation. Other songs, like the “Junk Shop” tune or the “Decisive” and “Junior Class” battle songs, are 90s electronic inspired tunes heavy on drums, bass, and a healthy dose of public domain sampling.
The music of Dragonseeds paints a world that feels familiar, but alien. It feels welcoming, but also fearful and dangerous. It feels brand new, but oddly nostalgic and remnant of memories long gone. Even if virtual pets or monster battling isn’t your thing, the Dragonseeds soundtrack is a must listen for Playstation fans as a cult-classic soundtrack that, sadly, flew under the radar.
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