Seiken Densetsu -Secret of Mana- Original Sound Version
Seiken Densetsu -Secret of Mana- Original Sound Version
N25D-019 (1st Edition); NTCP-5030 (2nd Edition)
August 6, 1993 (1st Edition); October 1, 2004 (2nd Edition)
Buy at CDJapan
Among the finest Super Nintendo scores available, the score to Secret of Mana / Seiken Densetsu 2 is the masterpiece debut of Hiroki Kikuta. Featuring melodic and colourful compositions bounded perfectly together in a sea of ambience, the score is creative, diverse, and endearing, bypassing the stale and derivative nature of many game scores and the pretentious tendencies of others. Often simple but always thoughtful, the Seiken Densetsu -Secret of Mana- Original Sound Version is in a league of its own, reflecting Hiroki Kikuta’s individuality and the warmth of his relationship with visual imagery.
Mesmeric and beautifully structured, “Angel’s Fear” starts off the album in one of the best ways possible. Although this theme may seem relatively simple in comparison to the orchestrated soundtracks of today’s world, one can’t but help to feel a sense of gratification for the relaxing vibes that it creates. The town theme “Tell a Strange Tale” is a superb follow up; led by a lyrical flute melody and driven by an acoustic guitar line, it manages to create a feeling of companionship and without the need for hackneyed melodic resolutions, beautifully topped off by a contrasting secondary section. Not all creations are so profound. “Phantom and…a Rose…” “Always Together” focuses on the interplay of a tuned percussion motif and a simple wind melody. Ultimately a representation of the playfulness that runs throughout the game and soundtrack, it’s fun and hardly degradatory to the overall musical experience.
as with Kikuta using some really good instrumentation here, a sense of enthusiasm seems to be placed on the melodic line. The section that follows the 0:43 is my favourite part of the track, and this is simply down to the overwhelming sense of companionship that it offers. The next theme, “Phantom and…a Rose…” seems to contrast the two opening themes entirely. Being the first sad track on the album, it is full of force straight away, despite the fact that its basis is a continuous piano line and some suspended strings. This theme is structured in such a way that each part follows another; hence in the latter stages of the track, it becomes n embodiment of melodies and curious harmonies. Indeed, although the start of the track is sad, Kikuta introduces some hope in the latter stages to create a perfect image of the phantom (mysterious and anguished) and the rose (full of hope and new life). One of the last opening themes, “Always Together” is pretty uninventive in comparison to the previous tracks. Nonetheless, it offers something meaningful with its joyous melodies and a sense of companionship. The last of the opening themes is much better, however; “Fond Memories” reveals that Dyluck is alive, and hence it is full of hope and a sense of passion that is continued in later themes on the album.
From here onwards, the album takes upon many different atmospheres and forms due to the diversity of the tracks that Kikuta offers. The town themes, for instance, all vary in nature. (“Tell a Strange Tale” was the theme for Empire South Town and the sad “Phantom and…a Rose…” was a totally different theme for Sad Town). Joyous Town’s theme, “Colour of the Summer Sky” is an extremely upbeat and motivating piece of music that is sure to please anybodies eardrums. It has some really good developed sections that compliment the original melody, and due to this, I feel that it is a classic town theme that serves its duties fully. The other setting themes on the album generally stay within the same boundaries of originality and fun, but there are some that even surpass these. Sadly, “Mystic Invasion,” the theme for the grotto, isn’t one of these, although it still has the power to excite. It is probably one of the least inspiring on the album though, especially since it is merely a collection of rhythms. “Secret of the Arid Sands” pleases me a lot more though, and this is down to its fun development and consistent atmosphere. “Did You see the Ocean?” represents the witch’s castle, and what an extraordinary atmosphere it holds, too. This track has an awesome set of melodies that interact with a riff in the base of the track. Suddenly, the theme stops and goes into a melodic frenzy that represents something evil. The track loops after this, and the melodic journey is revived once more. The next setting theme, “The Wind Never Ceases” plays in the high peaks of Jahha’s Mountain. An airy sense of place is given from some rather laidback synth, and although the accompaniment may seem bare, the overall effect is great, especially after a nice developed section.
The field and forest themes are just as interesting, and although “Always Together” was the first of these, I assure you that the rest are much more original. “Into the Thick of It” takes a typical, early RPG approach with a simple melody and an interesting riff that both combine together well. “Distant Thunder” doesn’t quite reflect upon the track name, but it is an intriguing listen nonetheless. It is a track that is built up from a number of percussive and ethnic instruments, so it has quite a unique timbre in that sense. “What the Forest Taught Me” is the theme for the Upper Land Forest, and although it doesn’t develop to the amount that it could have, the use of instrumentation is again, excellent. The Crystal Forest’s “A Wish…” doesn’t disappoint either. The track creates a mystical atmosphere through the use of some tinkling instruments and suspended notes. All in all, the field themes are a good listen, but the truth is that Kikuta doesn’t bring them out to their maximum heights. Like so many other themes on the album, “Eight Ringing Bells,” the first palace theme, takes the melody from “Angel’s Fear” and takes it to a new atmosphere and setting. The Ice Palace is perfectly represented by this mystical theme, and the great thing is that it changes in pace and becomes a mission stating track. The next theme, “Steel and Snare” plays at Empire Palace, and it is one of my favourite palace themes, too. The melody is simple, and the harmony is merely a drum beat, but the whole track seems to have an impressive atmosphere nonetheless.
Next up are the flight scenes and battle tracks that Kikuta offers. “Flight into the Unknown” is the first of these, and although the accompaniment seems far too erratic at first, it really becomes a key asset to the track. The melody is upbeat and fluent, and it is further complimented by an accompaniment that fulfils a dynamic range as well as a range in timbre. The next flight theme, “Star of Darkness” gives a totally different perspective of the mission, which is now clouded and full of fear and undiscovered mysteries. This is one of the best themes on the sound version, as with it having an effective introduction, a meaningful accompaniment, and a captivating melody, it just stands out amongst the majority of other tracks. “Premonition” would be just as good if the accompaniment was more powerful, but since it isn’t, the power that it gives off isn’t the same. Nonetheless, the atmosphere created truly fulfils the track name, and on the whole, it acts as a perfect link to the next track and the string of battle tracks that then follow. “Eternal Recurrence” comes somewhat earlier, but its significance to the album is huge. The main theme for the game is repeated in this track, which represents the defeat of a monster. It is developed to great extremes, and it is a captivating piece of music that has some really interesting instruments. The first of the battle themes, “Danger” is erratic, suspense filled, and definitely a worthy listen. It is one of the most unique battle tracks for its age; with the track consisting of a dangerous section and a hopeful section, it is truly the tale of a close battle.
As we draw closer to the end of the album, Kikuta offers us some darker tracks which are ever-growing in intensity and imagery. One set of tracks tells of the revealing of Thanatos, who is the first, and penultimate, of the last bosses that you come across. “The Curse” is the first track designated to this monster, and it isn’t surprising to find that it is ghostly and intimidating. This track isn’t as melodic as the others on the album, but instead it consists of threatening sound effects and monster-like noises. The track links perfectly with “The Sorcerer,” which is also the theme that plays when you attempt to defeat the boss. “The Sorcerer” begins with four strikes of a deathly gong, and then, when you least expect it, a crazy, tension enhancing, melody comes in. As boss battle music goes, this is one of the best early efforts from a composer. It has the development, it has the atmosphere, and ultimately, it enhances the fear. The next track, “An End” plays after you have defeated Thanatos, and although most would expect the theme to be jolly and full of success, it is actually full of anguish and sorrow. “One of Them is Hope” is the first theme that reveals a sense of hope amongst the heroes, and with it signifying the sighting of the Mana Beast, too, it seems almost climactic. The theme sounds simple and repetitive until the 0:25 mark where Kikuta adds in some rather effect bass chords. The same sense of justice and need for success is carried into “Meridian Dance.” The melody of this theme is fantastic, and with it carrying perfectly into “Now Flightless Wings,” too, it could be seen as a perfect battle theme.
On the whole, this is an all-time classic that is sure to please many fans. The synth is great for such an early console, and considering the limitations, too, one has to admire the themes and how they develop. There are plenty of inspiring themes throughout the album, so Kikuta manages to maintain a certain degree of consistency when musicality is considered. The fact that this album is in high demand nowadays is the greatest compliment that Kikuta could ever get, so it just goes to show what an impact some good game music could have. Indeed, this is one of the best early RPG scores out there, so if you ever feel the need to explore some of the earlier music of the game music world, make this album the first that you come across. You won’t regret it.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.