The Legaia Original Soundtrack
The Legaia Original Soundtrack
SPE Visual Works
November 21, 1998
Buy Used Copy
Legend of Legaia, known in Japan as The Legaia, was a moderately successful RPG released for the PlayStation in 1998. Like many games published by Sony Computer Entertainment at the time, Legend of Legaia was composed by a big name composer: Michiru Oshima, a veteran of the Godzilla films and Fullmetal Alchemist animations. In contrast to most RPGs of the day, Michiru Oshima composed Legend of Legaia in an understated manner so that it would blend unobtrusively with the game. The resultant soundtrack was highly effective in context, but can it possibly satisfy as a stand-alone release?
Those looking for mind-blowing entertainment will not find it in the Legend of Legaia soundtrack. The music is understated throughout and even its biggest moments, such as its main theme, still have a subtle quality to them. Nevertheless, those looking for richness of a different kind may be satisfied with the offerings. Immediately with the “Theme of Legaia”, Oshima demonstrates she is a very competent composer, able to evoke the colours and sounds of the world with her orchestrations, while taking listeners on a considerable journey through the expansive melody. This is a main theme that is more than just functional and emotional; it has considerable artistic integrity too, something that was rather lacking in other RPGs at the time of its release.
Oshima’s soundtrack to Legend of Legaia generally has an organic quality, which entirely befits the game’s story and landscapes. In defining background themes such as “Barren Fields of Mist” and “Forest of Mystery”, especially, she refrains from using the typical orchestral or guitar-based textures that dominated in favour of elements such as spiritual vocals, wistful flutes, and earthy percussion. These elements — spectacularly implemented on the PlayStation — combine to create such multifaceted and dynamic soundscapes that they perfectly complement the visuals. These elements don’t produce the most striking pieces of music on a stand-alone level, but are unquestionably beautiful and are also somewhat enigmatic too, making them potentially fascinating to revisit.
There is a greater volume and diversity of material here than Oshima’s ICO soundtrack, meaning that the soundtrack offers more than just ambient underscore. “Cave of Warmth” and “The Glow of Rim Elm’s Sunset” continue the scenic focus, but are clearly more inspired by RPG convention — the former having a superficial bouncy and catchy quality, the latter reflecting the sentimental emotions of the character. Others such as the renaissance-inspired “Lively Imperial Palace” or harp-based “Town Lanterns” also have a fairly stereotyped quality, but are still quite authentic imitations. Some will argue that these themes disrupt the artistic focus of the soundtrack, but it’s impressive how Oshima is able to integrate conserved elements throughout while fulfilling the diverse demands of the RPG.
The action themes for the game are among the few to use a completely contrasting palette. Climactic tracks such as “Unrivaled Chaos” make use of a Western-styled orchestra with rasping brass interludes and epic string passages, all implemented using top quality samplers. Furthermore, many have a greater rhythmic focus, such as “Disciples of the Mist” with its dissonant piano backing and “Attack” with its drum machine beats. These deviations certainly enhance the drama of the soundtrack experience without sticking out too prominently amidst the more soothing tracks. Defining compositions such as “Young Nobleman of the Mist”, “Bio Castle”, and “End Title” effectively unify the various stylistic threads of the soundtrack while capturing the climactic nature of the game in a suitably understated manner.
Overall, the soundtrack to Legend of Legaia stands out as a hidden gem within an era dominated by melodramatic hyper-melodic RPG scores. The soundtrack is best heard in context, given the modest, atmospheric nature of much of the music and the abrupt way most tracks end on the album release. However, the album nevertheless manages to be moderately interesting to revisit during its 66 minute playtime and certainly captures some of the artistry of Oshima’s overall creation. It will be a satisfying listen for listeners that know what to expect and have a tolerance for more subdued music.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.