Rudra’s Hidden Treasure Original Sound Version
Rudra’s Hidden Treasure Original Sound Version
April 25, 1996
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Ryuji Sasai’s first and largest composing work for the Square, the Rudra’s Hidden Treasure Original Sound Version, provides a high-quality accompaniment to a Japan-only RPG. Though the obscurity of the game has meant the album never reached the masses, it’s regarded to be among the best Super Nintendo RPG scores released, right up there with Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Mystic Ark, and Treasure Hunter G. Highly melodic and stylistically unusual throughout, Sasai combines charismatic character themes, Mystic Quest style rock battle themes, good-humoured experiments, and a range of dark and climactic themes throughout the score. Remarkable for its use of bass riffs and symphonic-rock fusions, in particular, though the album endears due to the power of the melody, it’s intellectually inspired too.
The opening to the album reflects the major stylistic elements of the score. “The Quest for Rudra’s Mines” is a subtle gem that beautifully builds from its sombre harp-led introduction into a rich and melodic work with a cinematic focus. Introducing the main theme, some would consider it a hybrid between Nobuo Uematsu’s memorable and accessible melodies and Yasunori Mitsuda’s more emotive and subtle ones. After its buoyant start, a prominent bass line repeatedly echoes a descending synth vocal melody creating tension before additional forces are added and the theme gains a full-blown action focus. Complex, original, and still melodic, the introduction of two marvellously crafted interludes between the bass-heavy fast-paced sections reflects the emotional depth of the score further while demonstrating Sasai’s innate ability to implement seamless transitions. The third in the line of introductory tracks, “The Mysterious Stone,” is a rock-orchestral hybrid that combines prominent percussion and a distorted bass guitar riff with a mysterious synth vocal melody; reflecting Sasai’s rocking roots, also evidenced by his band works and Mystic Quest, the theme is similar to tracks on Tsuyoshi Sekito’s Brave Fencer Musashi soundtrack, but with more melodic ingenuity. Its successor, “RUDRA,” is the principle rendition of the main theme introduced in “The Quest…,” which also provides the basis for “Sanctuary” and “Change of Mind” later in the soundtrack. Used in the main area of the game, the theme is ingeniously orchestrated so that it is epic and majestic, but somehow sad, hopeful, and comforting, as any RPG main theme for the SNES ought to be. The power of the beautifully shaped melody is strong here, though the harmonisation is also spot on. With these four contrasting tracks, it’s very clear that Rudra’s Hidden Treasure is set to be a diverse and enjoyable musical experience.
The album’s character themes are probably the most interesting themes to listen to on the whole, especially as each theme is arranged into a battle theme half way through the disc and occasionally appears elsewhere. Sion’s “Sword of the Valiant” utilises bold brass fanfares to create a powerful melody that is lightly ornamented to provide a regal feel; supported by dense counterpoint and rampant timpani use, it is a fitting representation of the heroic and occasionally audacious character. Its battle arrangement, “Strange Encounters,” is a lot more upbeat and written in a welcome light rock style that hybridises elements of the Mystic Quest classics “Battle 1” and “Battle 2” while continuing to emphasise the main melody. The theme for Surlent, “Between the Two Worlds,” once again employs use of a triumphant melody, but is orchestrated in a way that pronounces contrasts between thoughtfulness and power, and sensitivity and pride, reflecting excellent implementation from Kawakami once more. Its variant, “The Spirit Chaser,” is the most famous theme on the soundtrack and one of the most memorable, well-driven, and fun RPG battle themes ever created. Its lyrical rock organ melodies are delightfully pronounced against vibrant bass guitar and drum machine beats while the contrasting sections only add to the charm of the theme. The third character theme, “Crime of the Heart,” is the softest of the four, intended for the beautiful and innocent Riza, though still features a powerfully orchestrated section and receives a very upbeat battle theme, “The Flame and the Arrow”. As for Dune’s “Take the Gold and Run,” it aptly reflects a lone wolf, opening in a style akin to Final Fantasy VI‘s “Shadow,” though receives the most complex development section to represent his depth. Its battle variant is another classic, albeit composed in a similar style to the others.
Sasai isn’t scared to reflect a comical side in his compositions. A good example is “Under World,” which evokes a sense of darkness through amazingly fun means. A slap bass guitar ostinato gives the track a quick metre and a stylistic rationale to be built around, while the haunting synth main melody corresponds in an unconventional way with it, creating cross-rhythms and syncopation. The way two relatively simple forces synergistically correspond is the key to this track’s success. Another action track is “Dance With the Zombie,” one of the strangest Neo-Classical waltzes ever created. Kawakami alters the bass line so that each note on the second beat undergoes a pitch bend and revert to create a plodding and goofy effect ideal for representing a zombie moving its feet while dancing. A disjointed synth vocal melody eerily glides over this bass line and the two major forces sometimes intersynch as if the zombie and the protagonist suddenly romantically come together while dancing. It’s an inspired and unforgettable composition that is deeply humorous. Also noteworthy are the “Night Shift” and “Ko-So-Do-Ro,” two minimalist compositions that features melodic fragments interpolated by a few percussive forces, “Parade” and “Run For It,” two contrasting themes that do what the titles imply but are notable for their light-hearted use of glockenspiels, and “Shadows of Illusion,” a rock-based track that has a constantly changing metre for witty effect. “Waiting for the Moon” and the whistleable “Whistle Down the Wind” are another duo of themes that really reflect the awesome relationship between Sasai’s triumphant melodies and their quirky accompanying bass lines; given Sasai is a bassist himself, it’s not surprising that his bass riffs are inspiring and unusual throughout this album, but the way they correspond with the melody is the real highlight.
As the album approaches its conclusions, numerous darker compositions and quite a few great action cues appear. “Night Gallery” is one of the many fantastic dungeon themes on this increasingly imaginative, daring, and classic album; intended for synth vocals and organ, suspended chords initially accompany an eerie vocal melody before the organ begins to play some more intricate Baroque-influenced passages. Though a few of the themes are hackneyed and interesting, e.g. “Evil in the Deep,” “Mystics in BABEL,” and BABEL’s brief arrangement “Bio Hazard,” there are plenty of highlights: “Storm Over the Place” is a superbly orchestrated preparation theme with very effective imitative phrasing and counterpoint; “The Nightbreed” develops from a mysterious tuned percussive motif and colourful arpeggiation into another intricate Baroque-influenced theme; and “Edge of Darkness” is a climactic full-orchestral theme that builds from a bass riff similar to Holst’s Mars, Bringer of War from The Planets suite before undergoing an extended chromatic buildup. As for the action pieces, “Battle for the Fields” and “Evil Eyes” are both catchy old-school classics, again doing what Sasai did best in his Mystic Quest days. After a few cinematic tracks, the theme for the ultimate cataclysm, “Land of Doom,” is featured. The final dungeon theme before the gamer is unleashed into a battle with our final enemy, the track is remarkable for the way it derives all its emotional qualities from brief flashes of colour that appear above a well-pronounced bass riff that near-enough unrelentlessly repeats the same note. Ambient, mysterious, and beautiful in a certain sense, the entrance of a short-lived and heartrending melody around half way through represents that the end awaits while the repeating single note demonstrates the inevitability of conflict.
The conclusion to the album is its best section. The four-tiered battle theme fuses elements of the soundtrack’s rock-based battle themes with various darker compositions. “Battle of the Last Enemy ~ In the Mirror” is the first of the battle themes and sets up the tension for chaos to be unleashed with its suspended bass guitar chords, slow-paced organ line, and ascending chord sequences. The second, ‘Damned’, is slightly more intense with an exotic bass riff and more of a true melody, though it isn’t until ‘Evolution’ that the pace quickens, Sasai’s trademark light rock bass lines are introduced, and a catchy melody becomes evident. The fourth and final fight comes when the track “Battle of the Last Enemy ~ Final Conflict” enters. The most agitated of the four, there is a sense of ‘all or nothing’ present, though the third theme is probably the most enjoyable given its closest to his Mystic Quest compositions. After the reappearance of “RUDRA” in “Change of Mind” in the form of a reflective music box melody, the best and longest track on the album, “Beyond the Rising Heart,” appears. An action-packed and light-hearted recapitulation of “RUDRA” and each of the four character themes in a 5:08 medley with great transitions, it represents unity, victory, and the melodic strength of the score in a way any traditional RPG should. The album concludes with the rather charming staff roll theme, “Echoes.” Like many of the earlier themes, it has a march-like feel through its emphasis on brass fanfares and percussive instruments, but gradually grows more intricate and interesting as it progresses. Despite repeating one melody a few too many times, it’s an appropriate end to the soundtrack written in a style that allows one to reminiscence about the music previously heard.
A few filler tracks and samey use of styles aside, the only major problem with this soundtrack is that it crams 58 tracks on to one disc. Given the 61 track Final Fantasy VI score and 64 track Chrono Trigger score received three discs each, this isn’t really acceptable. Tracks don’t usually get a chance to properly loop and less memorable and more underwhelming in their brevity, despite being well-developed compositions. The album deserved a two disc score at the very least and really deserved a mini-arranged section too. Ahh well… Even so, it is well worth listening to, demonstrating Sasai at his best. Melodic, memorable, consistent, unusual, fun, and diverse, Ryuji Sasai’s old-school cult classic has it all… except a second disc!
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.