The Legend of Legacy Original Soundtrack
The Legend of Legacy Original Soundtrack
Monomusik (JP Edition); Wayô Records (EU Edition)
March 18, 2015; October 13, 2015
Buy at Official Site
Masashi Hamauzu has been quite prolific since going freelance, with roles ranging from everything from concert events, original albums, and anime works. However, he hasn’t been as active in the game music industry. Beyond Fabula Nova Crystalis, he has only composed for smaller projects such as Guntama – Gunshi no Tamashii and some contributions to the latest Super Smash Bros. Legend of Legacy marks Hamauzu-san’s return to game composition and for it he has brought a nice team of musicians for the score: Benyamin Nuss on piano, Mina’s vocal talents, Hijiri Kuwano on violin, Ippiqui Takemoto on percussion, and Toru Tabei performing the guitar. The two-disc soundtrack was originally released by Masashi Hamauzu’s personal label, but is now also available to Western customers through Wayô Records. With such an impressive list of talent, did this score deliver?
The album starts off with the “Main Theme” which will be heard throughout the whole score. At first what seems to be a heartfelt, subdued introduction the theme evolves into a more upbeat, light-hearted style featuring the piano as a main driving force before moving into a more aggressive styling that pushes the theme to a aurally pleasing final chord. While offering a wide range of colors from this particular palette of sound, “Main Theme” does sum up the score perfectly.
One thing that Hamauzu-san creates well is atmosphere and melody whether he is using an orchestral or minimal instrumentation. Tracks like “Avalon”, “Ruins in the Forest”, “A Shrine Untouched by Man” are very much the former as they are very atmospheric with little to no melody to shine over the brilliant chord progressions. This is certainly not a bad thing where Hamauzu is concerned due to the fact he creates this sense of surrealism through the instruments that not too many composers can achieve. Take “Ruins in the Forest” for example. Not only does it utilize some smooth synth elements, but also light percussion and a sultry violin solo that meanders carelessly over everything but isn’t entirely overbearing. It is present but it isn’t trying hard to make itself known. The same goes for “A Shrine Untouched by Man”, Mina’s vocals are heard but they aren’t incredibly loud and are quite in the background instead of at the forefront. “Avalon” is more in line with the ambient pieces from score like Final Fantasy X and XIII.
“Singing Rocks”, “Dreams”, “The Shipwood”, “The Bottomless Depression”, and “Sacred Mountain” are other great examples of Hamauzu providing beautiful soundscapes with lush textures and diverse instrumentation that whisk you away from wherever you might be. “Singing Rocks” features simply a piano, performed by Benyamin Nuss, and some subtle wind effects that only amplify the piano whereas “The Shipwood” features a more abrasive sound to start with the fluttering flute then quickly morphs into a more relaxing beat in both percussion and strings but still with that high pitches uneasiness that keeps you from being completely relaxed. The usage of dissonance here in the piano is quite interesting to me as the whole atmosphere presented is kind of off. It clues the listener for having not played the game that this area is not safe.
With a nice selection of ambient compositions, Hamauzu shines all the more with his melodic offerings. “Initium” is a pleasantly light-hearted composition featuring acoustic guitar, piano, light percussion, and of course violin solo played by the talented Hijiri Kuwano. The main theme is also woven into the piece nicely. Probably the catchiest of all of the compositions on the album comes in the form of the battle theme “Double Dimension Battle”. I am glad to hear a new battle theme that sets itself apart from “Blinded by Light” from Final Fantasy XIII. The melody and supporting rhythmic qualities are quite a driving force especially at the 1:31 mark. I love that pattern as it is so unorthodox but quite pleasing to the ears! “Guardian” also achieves something new with the lower violin melody giving it almost a Middle Eastern quality. The driving strings, horns, and percussion remind me much of the battle themes from Musashi Samurai Legend. Again, Hamauzu pleases with the rhythmic detail at 1:20. It is lighthearted and tense all in the same breath.
Other battle themes worth include “Recapture”, which has a tense string ostinato along with a piano line that simply floats over the driving percussion. “Battle with the Dragon” was heavier than I expected from Hamauzu-san and I must say it took me a while for this one to grow on me. “Courage” has a really interesting string ostinato rhythmically and the brass feature of this one caters to my love of brass. It has a very heroic sound and also includes a passage of “Double Dimension Battle” which is very welcome! “Battle with the Heavenly General” takes a bit to get interesting, but when I hear the reference to “Double Dimension Battle” the composition improves. “The Star Graal” starts off very different for a battle theme with a beautiful violin solo and swelling strings but quickly the dissonance appears and then we are off to the final battle music! I actually like this very unorthodox approach as it isn’t like Hamauzu’s previous efforts for final battle music. The violin features are so well done!
Among other additions, “Hidden Forest” reminds of the Saga Frontier II era with the accordion, string, and piano combination that keeps a level of adventure and mystery. It even reminds me of Dewprism even though that score was done by Junya Nakano. Speaking of the Saga series, Hamauzu goes into full Unlimited SaGa mode with “Melody of Shadow” offering a masterfully performed and written violin in addition to a sublime piano accompaniment. This might not exceed the excellent “Enigmatic Scheme” but it is definitely good enough to be its equal in my book. “The Spirit Callers” has a nice pleasant airy, ethereal sound with strings, piano, and flute along with light percussion. It has a calming, yet sorrowful sound. “Deserted Village” is another composition that features a sorrowful tone and is the only piece featuring an acoustic guitar solo. Hamauzu has done this before with “Hope’s Theme” from Final Fantasy XIII as well as in a few compositions from Project α Clock. Although the guitar is appropriately used, nothing compares to the solo piano composition “Forgotten Light”. I believe this version of the Main Theme is superior to other versions on this soundtrack. It is gorgeously performed and composed. I had the pleasure of playing this one and I could feel the emotion pouring out of every note. It ranks as one of my favorites from Hamauzu-san.
In my review of Opus 4, I mentioned that Hamauzu’s music tends to be quite stimulating for the brain. This score is certainly not an exception! Some of the melodic offerings are very indirect as in not obvious that they are driven by melody. One might mistake them for ambient compositions if not listening closely. I found many of them to be very clever and the fact that I had to force myself to be on edge while listening for them made the experience fun and enlightening! “Dungeon in the Desert” has an interesting melody in the synthesized effects that is divided amongst different sounds. The rhythm lures you right in and it is quite catchy! “Fight Against the Unknown” and “City of Solitude” are other examples. I could point out every facet, but I want to leave some surprises for those that listen!
The ending theme titled “Traveler’s Song” features Mina on vocals and has the sound that one can expect from her. Beautiful and gorgeous vocals combined with relaxing instrumentation. I’m actually surprised Mina’s voice is the sole focus of this composition as the instruments do not get in the way. The end of the piece features the instruments more giving a nice gorgeous bridge to the final refrain. Although it doesn’t feature a complex orchestration, it still enters my favorite ending themes from Hamauzu’s career. The last track on the album is simply a reprise of “Double Dimension Battle” albeit a shorter version and there isn’t much difference other than the length. However, it is a reminder that this battle theme is well written!
I believe Masashi Hamauzu offered a great “crossroads” sound for Legend of Legacy. By this, I mean he has not only given music reminiscent of his past works, but also the more refined, impressionist sound that Hamauzu has grown into over the last decade. There are compositions that have offered a new, refreshing style and rhythm because of his experiences through his collaborations with Mina for Imeruat and some that have a more refined, classical sound that came out of his chamber music by collaborating with Benyamin Nuss.
If Final Fantasy XIII is considered as Hamauzu’s magnum opus, then Legend of Legacy, to me is the stepping stone beyond such a success and reveals all that he has learned thus far as well as showing a glimpse of the continued evolution of his own style and craft. Making a successful album isn’t always about offering something new or clinging to what is comfortable. It is about the progression from previous efforts, that fine tuning, that searching for your own voice and making it better, making it relevant… the ability to reinvent what made “you” you in the first place. I would recommend this album to anyone whether you are a fan of Masashi Hamauzu or just a fan of smart, innovative, and refreshing music. However, this album does have some ambient compositions that are more for atmosphere than melodic quality, but for those who dissect them will find something to enjoy and perhaps find some hidden melody. I look forward to Hamauzu-san’s next album in earnest! You can purchase The Legend of Legacy from Wayô Records now.
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Posted on November 5, 2015 by Josh Barron. Last modified on November 6, 2015.