Shiren the Wanderer Soundtrack (SNES), Koichi Sugiyama, 1995
It’s a bit surprising that it took publisher Enix a full seven years to create spin-off games for its monstrously successful Dragon Quest franchise. Enix’ first attempt to widen the Dragon Quest universe was 1993’s Torneko no Daibouken: Fushigi no Dungeon for the SNES. The game was successful enough to kickstart its own franchise: Mystery Dungeon. The next entry in this burgeoning series was Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer, again released on the SNES. One of the system’s few roguelikes – replete with randomly generated levels and a punishing difficulty level – Shiren the Wanderer in turn sold sufficient copies to create yet another franchise of its own. Looking to put their own creative stamp on the Mystery Dungeon series, developer Chunsoft differentiated the game from its Dragon Quest brethren by setting it in a fantasy version of feudal Japan.
For the game’s soundtrack, Chunsoft sought the services of a known quantity: Koichi Sugiyama, who had provided the music for all of Chunsoft’s previous Dragon Quest games and by this stage was one of game music’s most famed composers. While the Dragon Quest titles allowed Sugiyama to indulge in his fondness for Western classical music, their pseudo-medieval/fantasy settings didn’t give him much of an opportunity to draw upon Japanese musical influences (apart from Dragon Quest III’s “Jurong”). For Sugiyama, the Shiren the Wanderer soundtrack was a chance to remedy this situation, ensuring that his music matched the game’s visually distinct character.