Romancing SaGa 3 Original Soundtrack Remaster
Romancing SaGa 3 Original Soundtrack Remaster
August 20, 2014
Buy at CDJapan
Perhaps the biggest change of Romancing SaGa 3‘s soundtrack compared to its predecessors was its increase in weight. Following the precedent set by the Final Fantasy, Mana, and Chrono series, a three disc score was expected from Kenji Ito on this title in order to provide a more expansive and diverse accompaniment to the gameplay. Despite the increased number of tracks, Ito took the time to ensure almost every one was memorable and accomplished. For the most part, the soundtrack for Romancing SaGa 3 offers the best of both worlds, with its mixture of light and dark tracks, and provides an encompassing finale for the trilogy. The soundtrack received a three disc album release and was later featured on the series’ box set. In 2014, the soundtrack was re-released in a remastered version by Square Enix complete with new packaging. It features recordings of the original sound source remastered to today’s standards by Yasuji Maeda at Bernie Grundman Mastering.
Many tracks on the release maintain the dark influence of the Romancing SaGa 2 soundtrack. For example, the “Prologue” sets the tone of the game with its moody orchestration and cinematic development. It benefits from a condensed dramatic arch and slightly deeper orchestration compared to its predecessor. This sinister influence also pervades the main dungeon themes to beautiful effect in the game. While “Dungeon 1” has the colours of a movement in a romantic symphony, “Dungeon 2” is an experiment in ambient soundscaping and synth vocals. The themes to portray the Holy King’s Tower, Demon King’s Palace, and Leonid’s Castle are also among the most exquisite and expansive additions to the soundtrack. The soundscapes are a perfect complement to the in-game scenery and demonstrate Ito’s compositional and technological mastery in equal measure.
However, the dark influences do not overwhelm the soundtrack and there are still plenty of other tracks to balance the experience. Character-based anthems make their long-awaited return on this album and portray the diverse cast well. Whether Thomas’ mellow musings or Mikhail’s overstated ramblings, Sara’s sentimental orgel solo or Monica’s regal chamber arrangement, the portrayals are quite linear and stereotypical, but nevertheless become memorable with their extensive use in the game. The themes for Julian and Katharina have become particularly popular and build upon Ito’s talents as a Latin jazz composers. In addition to these the character themes, there are also many light-hearted interludes provided by the likes of “Trade”, “Snowman Town”, and “Great Arch”. There were originally intended as minor superficial additions to the soundtrack, but are so catchy and fun that they’re bound to make most smile.
Whether with light or dark themes, the soundtrack consistently ensures the game is a much more emotional experience. A particularly encompassing example is the overworld theme “Field”, which manages to motivate and intimidate gamers in equal measure with its dramatic march-like rhythms. It is hindered somewhat by a fairly mundane orchestration and a premature loop, but is still a solid listen. The sonorous woodwind-based “Voyage” and guitar-supported “Muse’s Theme” are among the more relaxing tracks on the soundtrack, whereas the themes of sadness use similar ensembles within a minor tonality. Ito also steps up to provide fitting depictions of the more exotic locations in the game, for example “Desert” with Square’s trademark wind sound effects and “Rashkuta” with its Indian tonalities. “Crystal Ruins” and “Ice Lake” also sound abstract yet beautiful with their minimalistic synthy arrangements here.
Of course, the biggest fan pleasers on the soundtrack are the battle themes and these are aplenty here. “Battle 1” builds on the formula that Ito established for the battle themes on Romancing SaGa: expect a bright brass-based primary melody, a mellow string-based secondary melody, and plenty of bass punctuation along the way. “Battle 2” is little different yet is slightly more sinister and catchy, while “Gen Castle Battle” and “Magical Tank Battle” will be more pleasing to the old-school rockers out there. As ever, Kenji Ito saves the best till last with the successive battle themes to portray the Four Demon Nobles and the final encounter. In each theme, Ito focuses on liberating rock-based melodies while offering just enough weight in the arrangements to reflect the intensity of the situation. The various keyboard leads are especially enjoyable and are just screaming to be performed by Kenichiro Fukui some day.
The main problem with this soundtrack is Kenji Ito’s approach to orchestration. Too many tracks on the soundtrack are dominated by heroic brass or moody strings, while the accompaniment plods with snare rolls or mundane ostinati. Shifting throughs entimental and bombastic sections in predictable manner, the ending themes are a good example of this problem. There are parts that introduce lyrical countermelodies or gushing tutti, but these features are mostly superficial gloss. This functional approach generally won’t be a problem for casual listeners, since Ito’s tracks consistently sustain interest with their solid primary melodies and intricate development. However, a handful of tracks are downright obnoxious due to their pompous writing and piercing synthesis, including the disappointing arrangements of the opening, victory, and end title themes. To convey grandeur, it’s necessary to do more than turn the volume up to the max.
Due to its lack of Western localisation, the soundtrack for Romancing SaGa 3 only went to achieve considerable fame in Japan. The soundtrack is highly regarded there, thanks to its memorable melodies, diverse stylings, and atmospheric depictions, and regarded with similar esteem to the other three-disc epics Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Seiken Densetsu 3. Although most will lack the nostalgia factor, those looking for an excellent Super Nintendo RPG soundtrack should find that Kenji Ito brings the goods on Romancing SaGa 3. The soundtrack is worth checking out and is available at a reasonable price thanks to Square Enix’s recent remastering.
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Posted on May 30, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on May 30, 2015.