Shining and the Darkness / Sound Story of
Sound Story of Shining and the Darkness
June 7, 1991
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Inspired by the popularity of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Sega hired Climax Entertainment to create their own high-profile dungeon crawler for the Genesis, Shining in the Darkness (known as Shining and the Darkness in Japan). They hired newcomer Masahiko Yoshimura to create a score for the game in a classical style inspired by Koichi Sugiyama’s Dragon Quest works. The soundtrack was celebrated with an album release featuring arranged and original tracks.
This album release presents the music of Shining in the Darkness in three forms. The low-fidelity original Genesis soundtrack is presented as a medley across the last three tracks. An elegantly synthesized orchestral version of the main themes is featured on the first track. Each of the themes from the game is also presented in an enhanced sound version in the middle of the album. All three versions give a different perspective on the music, while retelling the story of the game in different ways. In this regard, the soundtrack is extremely well-presented. However, most will find the inclusion of sound effects during the original sound medley to be distracting and unappealing — the music can speak for itself without such interruptions.
Masahiko Yoshimura adhered quite closely to RPG tradition when composing Shining in the Darkness. Like the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest titles preceding it, there are staples such as adventurous marches (“The Ancient Temple”), serene town theme (“Welcome to Storm”), and bombastic battle music (“Confrontation with Monsters”). Predictably, epic organ music accompanies the churches, while merchants are portrayed as jolly old fellows. A further major theme is the contrast of light and darkness through heroic and moody tracks. Climax Entertainment didn’t want to divert too much from the traditional dungeon crawler formula and, as a result, Yoshimura wasn’t asked to produce a revolutionary soundtrack and didn’t produce one.
Despite its derivative nature, the soundtrack for Shining in the Darkness is still an impressive achievement. Like Koichi Sugiyama before him Masahiko Yoshimura takes a classically-oriented approach to the soundtrack and this results in some pleasing stylings — spanning the gallant nationalistic orchestration of “Searching for the Princess Claire”, to the rich woodwind phrasing on “Requiem”, or the dissonant modernist leanings of “Fateful Battle”. The technical rigour and stylistic ambition of such tracks is evident even in the Genesis sound version — where a number of innovations pushed its chip to the limits — although Yoshimura’s classical training shines most in the arranged versions.
The soundtrack is also filled with memorable and meaningful melodies, some of which recur in interesting ways. For example, the main theme is introduced in a moody manner on “Spreading Out the Map” before receiving a much heavier and more bombastic treatment on “Confrontation with Monsters”. Among other arrangements, it is fittingly recapitulated in a lavish and nostalgic orchestration at the close of the soundtrack. The thematic treatment here is clearly inspired by film scores and gives the game — and album — a cinematic scope suitable for telling a story. The opening medley especially reinforces the thematic basis of the soundtrack — presenting each central theme in a rich symphonic manner to capture the various moods of Shining in the Darkness.
While a conventional RPG soundtrack, Shining in the Darkness features the cinematic melodies, classical stylings, and rigorous synthesis needed for it to inspire the hearts and minds of its listeners. It is especially appealing that this album presents the soundtrack in both its original and arranged forms, while emphasising the storyline of the game. That said, the presentation of the original music as medleys with sound effects was a poor decision and considerably reduces the value of the soundtrack. Regardless, Shining in the Darkness was a strong start to the Shining series’ musical legacy.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.