SaGa Original Soundtrack
SaGa Original Soundtrack
June 26, 2006
Buy at iTunes
SaGa: Makai Toushi, rebranded Final Fantasy Legend in North America, was Square’s first title for the Game Boy and established the foundations of a successful new franchise. While the series’ scoring responsibilities were soon given by Kenji Ito, Nobuo Uematsu was responsibility for the initial score for the series, having already come to recognition for his work on the first two Final Fantasy games. The resultant score was released in three versions: as part of a two disc set with the rest of the SaGa trilogy, as the opening disc of the series’ box set, and as a stand-alone digital download in Japan.
One of the main highlights of the SaGa soundtrack is the “Prologue”. The flute-like main melody here establishes the pensive sound featured throughout the series and is likely to endear most listeners. It may take some time to accustom to the piercing, occasionally crackling, synth used here, though the track still conveys plenty of humanity, thanks to Uematsu’s strength as a melodist. Uematsu offers further slow expressive melodies on the “Town Theme” and “Wipe Your Tears Away”. The latter, with its more expansive development and heartfelt ritardando, was a considerable technological accomplishment for its time. Its melody also went on to become one of the most loved in the entire series.
Away from the more reflective themes, Uematsu offers a range of other RPG staples. “Main Theme” conveys a sense of adventure while gamers traverse the world map. The march-like main melody is merely serviceable, though the classically-oriented development is quite endearing and brings some variety to the gameplay. Among the dungeon themes, “Demon Cave” is a strong attempt at using the Game Boy’s synth to convey an ominous aura, while “Forbidden Tower” is better suited for stand-alone listening with its heroic melody. In fact, the latter stands along Uematsu’s best old-school tracks and deserves some arrangements some day.
Uematsu composed the main battle themes for SaGa, “Fight” and “Fierce Battle”, in a similar manner to those on Final Fantasy II. After edgy introductions, these tracks develop into motivating anthems with dancing bass and fast runs. They’re not among Uematsu’s best, but are still effective and enjoyable, making the most out of the technology available at that time. A score refreshingly low on filler, the “Hurry Up!” isn’t as irritating as most of Uematsu’s themes usually carrying this name, given its greater melodic focus. There are also some relatively fleshed-out jingles used for the victory and game over screens that achieve the desired emotions.
Moving to the score’s climax, “Knights of the Demon World Tower” quickens the pace of the experience with its edgy bass lines and commanding synth leads. One of Uematsu’s many experimentations with augmented chord progressions, “The Highest Floor” is ideal for an abstract scene for the final battle, but is a little mundane otherwise. Aware of the limitations of the Game Boy, Uematsu didn’t try to offer a particularly intense and thick final battle theme, but instead reflects the contrasting personalities of protagonist and antagonist with different call-and-response phrases. Despite its brevity, “Epilogue” is a decent quasi-cinematic theme that rounds off the score thematically and offers some reflective moments.
All editions of the SaGa Original Soundtrack feature a synth arranged medley entitled “Journey’s End”. It is written in the style of a credits medley, with faithful renditions of several popular themes and various dramatic shifts. The arrangement opens modestly with a slow and somewhat repetitive rendition of the “Prologue”, but soon takes a more epic direction with an orchestra and organ version of the victory theme. After a reflective oboe-based interpretation of the town theme, Uematsu captures the classic Square vibe with an exuberant rock-orchestral version of the main theme, before concluding the medley with interwoven renditions of “Wipe Your Tears Away” and “Epilogue”. Though aspects of the medley could have been better in arrangement and production, it’s still a great bonus that captures the title’s magic.
Overall, the soundtrack to the original SaGa is an effective and likeable one. Nobuo Uematsu was able to carry over most of the charm of the original Final Fantasy titles when creating this score, while giving the title a slightly different character of its own. In addition, he is able to achieve a wide range of emotions despite the very limited technology available to him. It’s probably best purchashing this album as part of the All Sounds of SaGa collection, unless you feel tempted by the full box set, and in each case the arranged version is a welcome bonus.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.