Seiken Densetsu -Legend of Mana- Original Soundtrack
Seiken Densetsu -Legend of Mana- Original Soundtrack
DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (2nd Edition)
July 23, 1999; October 20, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
The fourth Seiken Densetsu album brings a third composer to the series. The good thing for Yoko Shimomura was there was no specific style for her to match due to the constantly changing composers and styles. Already experienced, having composed a series of successful scores, including Live A Live, Front Mission, Parasite Eve, and Kingdom Hearts. However, this was to be very different to her previous soundtracks, being somewhat darker and more classically-oriented. Indeed, after hearing this album for the first time I was completely surprised, as the change from setting in the Parasite Eve Original Soundtrack to this one is absolutely unexpected. Shimomura considers this her finest work, and as a composer with many talents, this album represents her very well indeed.
The Original Soundtrack opens with the gallant piano track “Legend of Mana ~ Title Theme,” which is orchestrated to give a large amount of pride and hope. The track which follows this excellent opening is “Nostalgic Song,” which is actually based on the previous theme. The main melody is played by an oboe, and with the decoration of certain notes a wavering effect is created, which seems to give an image of nostalgia. Shimomura shows her wide knowledge for instrumental manipulation in this track, as she uses a number of different playing techniques for a huge amount of them. Still within the inroduction of the game, we are introduced to another track, which is “World of Mana.” The track is ambient, and Shimomura uses frequent synth bird song noises to give a sense of peace and holiness. The melody dies and rises in volume, giving us an effective ambient theme. The last introduction theme is “Song of Mana ~Opening Theme~,” which is sung by the rather charming Annika. The melody is sung with passion and desire to provide us with a massively effective introduction to the game. The vocalist is pure, and the melody thus rings out even more. These tracks are a great start to the album.
Aside from introduction tracks the album also features a number of setting themes, and there are plenty of towns which all need a different feel to them. The first setting theme we hear is “Hometown Domina,” which is the fatherland of the main character. The melody flows nicely, and it is accompanied by a nice jumpy accompaniment. The melody switches instruments, and the mood of the track follows this trend too. You get the impression of a joyous village life through this track, however in places it seems a bit miserable and it reflects that things could be better if evil were defeated. “Southern City Polpota” is a much more upbeat track. It begins with a piano melody which has brilliant chords in the left hand. Playful jumps are added, and the piece frequently halts just to catch up with itself! I like this track a lot, and it portrays the ideas of joy and happiness perfectly. We are then left with “Mystic City Geo,” which also has a rather playful melody. A xylophone and plenty of other percussion join in to make it all the more interesting and enjoyable to listen to. Shimomura shows us through these tracks how she can simply change the feelings of towns in the game by just slightly altering the timbre.
“Mystic City Geo” is perhaps one of the most fun tracks to listen to on the album, however we are faced with a few other intriguing ones, namely “Maker’s Gallop” and “Dreamseed Fruit.” “Maker’s Gallop” has a very mechanical accompaniment, which sounds very much like valves and steam compressed pumps running in a factory. The melody is quirky and great to listen to on full volume. “Dreamseed Fruit” isn’t so much fun, but it definitely has an interesting rhythm. It is interesting to see how the bass works against the melody, although a lot happens in the track as a whole. A funny pair of tracks are “Play the Organ!” and “Play the Organ! Part Two,” in which the latter is a repeated version of “Play the Organ!” The melody in “Play the Organ!” is sophisticated and well-played; however, when we get to “Play the Organ! Part Two,” the melody goes wrong, and the player really can’t perform it. I think Shimomura made “Play the Organ! Part Two” well, seeing as though it is extra hard to play a piece wrong with style!
The album also features a selection of action tracks. “Wanderer’s Path” is the first most obvious instance of an action track, and it is a good one too. Once again we have the typical repeated bass line, and a fast tempo accompanied by some militaristic instruments. “Pain the Universe” is the next obvious installment of an action track, and this one sounds very much like a battle track too. Shimomura takes a more electronic approach to this track than she does with others. She widely uses bass, distorted, and solo electric guitars to give contrasting moods throughout the sections. “Earth Painting” shows a similar use of tempo and wide variety in the bass to present us with another good aciton track. However, Shimomura uses an entirely different set of instruments to achieve this effect, and this is impressive as it shows her manipulation skills greatly. “Marginal Beast” and “The Darkness Nova,” one of the most popular tracks on the album, both portray specific techniques which are constantly used by Shimomura and other composers in action tracks. Each feature a drum rhythm, which is added to give a sense of pace and rhythm.
The Seiken Densetsu -Legend of Mana- Original Soundtrack sees the production of a number of mysterious tracks. “Missing Truth” is perhaps the finest example of this. It features a wide variety of instruments, which seem to come together to create an ideal reverberated timbre. Frequent, low, beated notes blend the ideas of darkness into this slow track, despite its high melodic line. The next track which is as mysterious as this is “The One Who Waits for the Breath of Destiny,” which begins with a piano melody in which the right hand rises, yet the left hand falls. An instrument is added on top of this, and it plays a shock descant against it with a syncopated rhythm. We then enter a state of confusion, which is created by the sudden change to a more adrenaline-pumped theme. This is certainly one of Shimomura’s best themes on the disc.
I have always seen “Complicated Destiny” as being one of the best tracks on the album, and this is simply because it is a track which develops marvellously over the time that it plays. It begins as a mysterious and militaristic track, which has a piano along wih a drum beating in the background. It builds up nicely and we soon move on to a section of joy. Yet it soon fades into a new section of sorrow. The melody obviously slows here, but a feeling of love and hope is created through the track as it continues. With rising melodies and dynamics, the feeling of purity and grandeur grows with the track. It is full of pride, and it reflects Shimomura’s composing abilities extremely well. This is a good addition to an ever impressive album.
The second to last track, “Nostalgic Song ~Ending Theme for Mana’s Story~,” as played by the Cavyn Wright Group, is a wonderful, albeit short, string arrangement of the Disc One track “Nostalgic Song.” The melody is certainly brought out better in this version, and the accompaniment gains my respect further through the way that the pizzicato playing technique works perfectly in conjunction with the melody. Annika sings the final track, “Song of Mana ~Ending Theme~,” to near perfection, and despite a hard melodic jump around the 0:36 to 0:38 mark, she performs the rest of the track wonderfully. After the ominous introduction, we transition into a new section which is very upbeat and full of success. This is typical for the last track of an Original Soundtrack, and it is certainly amongst the better ones. The vocals have been well chosen, the Swedish lyrics are appropriate, and the rest of the instruments are well-utilised. I was particularly wowed by the piano part in this track, as I was through the rest of the album. This is a fantastic way to end an album and is certainly not any old hackneyed pop ballad.
The album starts on a high with “Legend of Mana ~ Title Theme,” and “Song of Mana ~Opening Theme~,” and similarily it ends on a high too, with tracks such as “Holy Power of Mana,” and “Song of Mana ~Ending Theme~” leading us out. Shimomura uses a vast variety of musical devices and instrumentation to create what she thought was the best combination to make a brilliant album. She sees this Original Soundtrack as being her best, and in my opinion it is at least amongst them. In my opinion, this isn’t the best Shimomura work that I have heard, yet it still ranks as a well respected album from her. The second disc starts off badly, and this is the worst part of the album. The tracks at the start of it have melodies which are too short and out of character with the rest of the album. Yet, apart from this, there is nothing else to criticise and there are relatively few filler tracks. It’s a great album with some epic tracks included.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.