Urusei Yatsura is an unspectacular digital comic that fails to impress with either its story or its graphics early on but steps up just enough in both areas during its second half to end up mediocre rather than worthless.
If you're interested in only the "good stuff," you might be tempted to skip right to the ten-minute medley of Ys I & II tracks. It goes without saying that the material is brilliant, but I won't be surprised if some people end up disappointed with the structure and makeup of the medley. I suppose it was inevitable, given the ridiculous number of incredible tunes the game features, but quite a few great tracks were left out, and I'm not just talking about personal favorites here. Count on it: you'll be shocked that certain pieces weren't included. Something else I found frustrating (and I imagine there are others who will have the same gripe) is that many numbers are cut off just as they're reaching their strides. And the "Last Moment of the Dark" track utilized here is the one with Dark Fact's monologue recorded over the music, which doesn't seem like a terrible thing--except that these words, of course, are spoken by the Japanese Fact, who isn't nearly as awesome or unforgettable as Michael Bell's.
It's kind of strange that I came away from ten minutes of great music with a list of complaints in hand, but that's how it went with the I & II medley, so I expected little from the seven-and-a-half-minute Ys III string that follows it. But III's medley actually comes off quite well. Once again, some good tunes didn't make the cut, but the omissions aren't as egregious as the ones made for the I & II amalgamation. (Granted, III's soundtrack features far fewer "musts" than its predecessor, but that just makes it a more suitable culling ground for short medleys.) The track progression works extremely well: I expected wall-to-wall rock tunes, but focus is instead placed on subtle moments of the soundtrack (fear not, headbangers: there are two excellent rockers placed back to back right in the middle of the procession). The only negative is that the Tigre Mines track is cut off just as it's heading into its filthy, kickass breakdown.
Once you get your Ys fill, give a listen to the trio of J.B. Harold Murder Club jazz tracks. As much positive attention as it has received over the years, and as awesome as some of its basslines are, the opening number is fairly repetitive. The "Investigation Rest" piece, a beautiful tune with lovely piano and horn melodies, is the true star of the J.B. soundtrack. The loungy ending tune is a stylish closer.
The next place to seek out excellence is the triumvirate of Tengai Makyou tracks, which feature a Far East flavor that so effectively establishes atmosphere for the fantastic RPG. The opening, intermission, and ending numbers featured here all contain numerous segues, transitioning without warning from soothing melodies to more ominous fare and then to the fast and raucous. They're high-quality compositions, but they do seem better suited to act as atmospheric accompaniments than to stand on their own as musical tracks.
You may be at a loss as to where to go from there. A glance at the track list will reveal three tunes apiece from Fighting Street and Monster Lair, two titles perhaps best known for being the first CD games released here in the US.
Actually, a lot of people cite Fighting Street's music as the effort's "redeeming feature." I, on the other hand, believe Fighting Street has no redeeming features, and the two tracks from it that I actually like were left out in the cold by this disc in favor of the crappy bonus-stage music. To be fair, listening to the Retsu and Joe tunes outside of the deplorable FS in-game environment allowed me to appreciate neat things that were done with the instrumentation and hear appealing parts that the numbers never had time to reach during play. But these aspects hardly make the tunes great as standalone audio pieces.
As for Monster Lair, its soundtrack is one of those that insist on being weird. Its stage music is chaotic, often taking the form of deplorable racket but occasionally flaunting odd appeal. The ending tune is bizarre instrumentally but somehow pretty pleasant to listen to.
There are some surprise inclusions on the disc. While Cobra is a very cool digital comic, I don't think anyone would expect it to be a source of material for a musical feature; but its brief opening track is actually a great little composition that stands up quite well on its own. Its ending tune, though, is long and eclectic to an extreme, and while "eclectic" is quite fitting for the game, it doesn't make for good listening.
Mitsubachi Gakuen provides a cheery, upbeat pop vocal. Placed in the unenviable position of following the wonderful Ys III medley, the tune never had a chance to begin with of impressing anyone, but it really isn't bad. The singing won't go over well with all listeners, however.
The two least-worth-listening-to tracks on the disc were pulled from Gambler Jikochuushinha. The "snazzy" opening is devoid of merit, and the number that follows it is just plain silly.
If you're going to buy Urusei Yatsura, then you might as well pick up the package that contains the music disc. It used to be that the audio CD's inclusion meant a price three times that set for the bonus-less UY release, but nowadays, we're talking an extra five bucks or so. It's not a fantastic compilation, but if you're acquiring Urusei Yatsura to begin with, you're probably not in the market for fantastic stuff anyway.