Treasure Hunter G Original Sound Version
Treasure Hunter G Original Sound Version
June 9, 1996
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While hardly a real symphony, the Sting Symphony, named after the publishers of the game, was a group of seven composers who all worked together on this album, which was the score for Treasure Hunter G, a SNES game in 1996. The leader, Mitsuhito Tanaka (who went by the acronym John Pee), composed most of this score, while Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, and Toshiaki Sakoda composed the majority of what was left. The three others — Akiko Goto, Tomoko Matsui, and Yoko Takada — only did a few themes each. Though Iwata and Sakimoto were prolific composers before and after Treasure Hunter G, the others have never achieved much acclaim beyond, despite Tanaka and Sakoda contributing to several other projects.
John Pee’s Contributions
The leader of the Sting Symphony, John Pee, composed the sheer majority of the soundtrack, ranging from memorable themes to some of the more mediocre, uninspired tracks. His contributions, however, have a different feel from the others, not being so orchestral and complex like Sakimoto’s work or focused and driven like, say, Goto’s contributions. Saying his effort was the most enjoyable part of the Original Sound Version may be a bit misleading, however, he is the so-called heart of the music in Treasure Hunter G. Surprisingly enough, like most leaders do, he didn’t even start the soundtrack (leaving the duty for Sakimoto), making his first appearance in “My Rural Town,” a fairly typical, mellow town theme, which may lead some to think that it doesn’t go anywhere, especially in the first 40 seconds or so, but actually creates a nice little climax before the loop at the three quarter mark. You may call it epic when it reaches this stage, though it doesn’t maintain this status for much longer than a few seconds. “Well, Let’s Get Out There and Fight!” follows directly after, and it isn’t big, only lasting a whole minute, therefore it doesn’t have sufficient development and lacks a meaning and depth.
His town themes often come out as semi-inspired and much to the liking of the aforementioned town theme. “Enticing Town” seems pretty enough to the untrained ear, with the sweet harp scaling up and down, but on closer inspection, the composition is identical to “My Rural Town.” In the game, the track works fine, however, outside of it, I’m not as generous in my liking towards it. The difference in style and mood can be selected without too much brain power in Pee’s next village theme. “Upscale Town” takes a different road from the previous lot, embracing a very docile amount of smooth jazz as its focus. Like all the others, again, it uses similar compositional pattern, but providentially, it works to the track’s advantage when considering other aspects including the versatile instrumentation and thoughtful imagery.
Despite the minor blandness in his village tracks, Pee has his success in composing for area and dungeon themes. For a good example, one cannot go past both his world cavern compositions. “World Cavern 1” really shocked me, but in terms of sound quality over the music itself. If you want the finest, crispest electronica quality from the Super Nintendo, then look no further than this track. The aural electronica harmony is astounding and couldn’t better represent a large mysterious cave, full of gadgets and such. “World Cavern 2” goes out all ambience, easily notified in the first few seconds of the tracks play through. Typical ambient instruments are included but all perform their role with charm and lust, especially the fluttery piano which enters every so often with the clichéd scary notes. Of course, other great hits include “A Hearty Welcome to the Pyramid Investigation Group” a track slightly Arabian in nature, with more mood setting features than musical pleasure, however is extremely catchy and flowing. “Surrounded by Forest 1” sounds as if it were inspired by Yasunori Mitsuda’s “Secret of the Forest” from the Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version, but goes in a new direction once the melody kicks in.
Pee, like any other composer on the Original Sound Version, has his share of sad and grand themes, thankfully all which are good. “Come Here! I Defend You” is the first real epic track. Instrumentally, it’s a fairly standard orchestral piece (very similar to some themes presented by Kenji Ito on the Romancing SaGa Original Sound Version), but it has an attractive tune and a surprising addition of the organ in the middle. “Wow, What a Story” is absolutely powerful! Not too much happens within the orchestral piece itself (in fact, it’s actually very short), but the progression and the build up is superb. Perhaps Pee’s strongest composition on the entire album, “Sad Freedom” is a cool blend of soft instruments and light orchestral passages. It lives up to the name well, not going over the edge in sadness, and follows a progressive, moving path all the way to the end. An introduction from the piano proves to be a smart asset of the track, as well as counterparting with the right notes. Unfortunately, the composer Ending theme, “Across the World,” doesn’t live up to the set standard of “Sad Freedom” or any of the amazing Sakimoto compositions shown beforehand. I really don’t know what went wrong; it sounds good and clean for a good portion of it, but it borders generic and boring status which shouldn’t be even considered when trying to create something fresh.
Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Contributions
Despite being the most well-known force on the album, Hitoshi Sakimoto’s contributions amount to just seven compositions, meaning his role was minimal in comparison to Pee’s. Made in a symphonic style, the album bridges the development and maturity of this aspect of his work between 1995’s Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together and 1997’s breakthrough Final Fantasy Tactics, though is most significant due to its highly melodious nature. His only ‘true’ role on the album is to compose the Balladry series of themes, a group of pieces used in the final episodes of the game, though he is also responsible for two introductory tracks and two others.
Sakimoto introduces the album with “Gemini Wing,” a short introduction to the world in which Treasures Hunter G is set with cinematic qualities. The first and weakest variation on the Balladry melody, the theme builds beautifully, though is strained because of its dire length of 0:57. It is followed up by the bouncy “Hamarira Hahihi,” a variation of Sakimoto’s own ending theme for the game, that blooms due to its intricate phrasing and melodic memorability. Most will draw comparisons with this and Sakimoto’s Final Fantasy Tactics Advance work. Moving on to the composer’s central themes, “Demi Human Battle” is an orchestral battle theme that builds with direction and confidence from an agitated riff akin to “Bloody Excrement” from Final Fantasy Tactics. The only other track not related to Balladry is “A Former Kagonari,” a trademark Sakimoto chorale, but one of his most beautiful, complemented well by excellently manipulated synth vocals.
The highlight of Sakimoto’s contributions is the three courses of Balladry that conclude the soundtrack. The first, “Apprentice of Balladry,” is a slow string track that plays after you defeat the big enemy within the game. While one of the least interesting variations, the way the lead instrument revolves almost obsessively around the same note adds an almost romantic aura to the theme. The big guns from Sakimoto are released with “Emperor of Balladry,” undeniably one of the strongest melodies the composer has ever thought up, and he arranges it with such force and passion that it remains my favorite track on the entire album. Quite surprisingly, “Emperor of Balladry” is actually the final battle theme of the game, and despite the theme’s gliding nature, overtones of purity, and romantic buildups, it works well with in context to create a complex variety of feelings. “It Is Raining on the Peninsula of Megahama” is just as bouncy as “Hamarira Hahihi,” but is more developed and musically mature, now delightfully orchestrated and featuring several contrasting sections. This Balladry variation is the most accessible and will easily please.
One of the reasons why people are attracted to this album is because of the MIDI arrangements at the end of Disc Two, which contain arranged versions of all of Sakimoto and Iwata tracks with improved instrumentation. While there are no new sections in the arrangements, they are impressively treated, arranged by Sakimoto himself. The arrangements mostly emphasise the melodic prowess of the original themes while emphasising human emotions within them. Likely the most successful is “Emperor of Balladry,” beautifully arranged into something that even surpasses the original. All arrangements are well worth exploring and are a highlight of the album.
Masaharu Iwata’s first Square work was a surprisingly small role of just six works. He first enters with “There Goes That Shameful Daizauburou,” a track that mixes epic and calm vibes. The grand melody sounds great and noble after the sweeping Sakimoto epic that plays beforehand. “Go! Go! Kids” is the main battle theme of the game and he definitely puts his all into the creation of the piece. The militaristic drums and strings give you that thrill of excitement, something that is mandatory for a battle and its corresponding theme. Another great epic theme is “Buddhist,” a theme which doesn’t really reflect on the name, but provides a great short period of sweeping string action. “Muruowaan” is Iwata’s only genre-different track on the entire score. Mysterious in its intentions, it’s successful in portraying this mood and creates a good atmosphere, especially to end the first disc. “An Illicit Fishing Boat and Russian Patrol Ship” is a battle theme used in the game, but to much grief, it isn’t one of Iwata’s most likeable tracks on the score. I don’t think there’s much going on besides predictable string action and some nice percussion work. “I Might Die” is Iwata’s last contributed track to the original score, and is one of his best. Presented inside is lovely horn and brass work, which compliment each other perfectly and soundly; the melody is supposed to be chaotic, and the composer manages to pull it off.
Toshiaki Sakoda’s contributions are fillers more than anything else. Though he does put in effort, the tracks often come out as too short or too underdeveloped. For example, he enters the score with “Hey You, What Time is it,” which is only a 46 second long composition. Unfortunately, there are a few other tracks like these on the soundtrack (“Teachers Elegy,” “I Memorized My Multiplication,” “DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!,” “The Turtle Samurai Appears”), although there are a few gems from Sakoda. One of them is “It Has Been a Long Time Since Someone Called Me a Magician,” which has a xylophone playing the addictive main melody while the rest of the track is entirely of ambient leanings. “Hey Darlin’, Are You Gonna Come Any Closer?” is a nice bluesy piece which may not be enough to make most dance, because of the awkward harmony, but is a strong piece of music. “Dead Town” is an outstanding atmospheric town theme. The delicate descending piano lines are simply chilling and the bass is a great accompaniment to emphasise the beauty. It marks a collaboration with Pee along with the tense and percussive “World Cavern 4” and the orchestral epic “Heading West to Escape my Past”. It’s a pity a composer who can create so much emotion and atmosphere fails so frequently where development is concerned.
Yoko Takada only contributes six tracks and only to the first disc, but thankfully most of her compositions are worthy in some way. “Urgent, Get There in a Hurry” is her first track and, while it may not be that great standing alone without context, it does work well when placed in context. “This is Also Training” sounds a lot like filler at first, but it develops nicely eventually; the organ and harpsichord are utilised incredibly, though it would have been good to hear more from them nonetheless. “Of My Life, I Regret Nothing” is beautiful in its own right; the organ and synth choir play a sad, inspired melody. It has got a good diverse set of instruments, but the composition is too short and I doubt one could stand it for very long when hearing it in context of the game. “Psycho Beasts” combines orch hits with a driving bass line to create a witty rock-based theme, while its successor “The World’s Cavern 3” is equally intense, despite the loss of the rocking effect.
Akiko Goto’s contributions to the album are quite large, and are focused to the theme that is originally shown in the composition. “Somehow, Something Doesn’t Look Right” is entirely focused on being action based and doesn’t budge from that certain status in the slightest, which is a good thing, I may add. “Haririririiiiii” is a fantastic fun piece which easily shows Goto having fun creating. The string backing and the melody is just too good to be true, though this track isn’t one of the composer’s best. Regrettably, “Mad Science” sounds like utter tripe compared to his other work. It’s too repetitive and it doesn’t really lead anywhere, not to mention the instrumentation chosen wasn’t particularity effective either. “Psycho Beats” starts like the previous track, but unlike “Mad Science” it seems to lead somewhere, and that place is fun to hear with the synth solo and such. Goto’s last single composed track, “A Position of Total Control” is slow and ominous, but fails to portray the meaning of the title it was chosen to accompany; I was expecting something a little more action packed. Matsui doesn’t have any single compositions, and is always paired up with Goto. Their first track, “Surrounded by Forest 2” is a lot more original and magical than Pee’s forest track, and I like how the harp just flows well altogether with the piece. Off to a good start, the composers don’t keep me particularly interested in the next track, “There is Nothing Else We Can Do Except Sing,” a fairly decent synth choral theme. Last but not least, “Winged Maiden” is far from the best track by the pair, having an organ and flute as instruments, but hardly any content.
So what can one expect when hearing seven composers on one Original Sound Version? The result is one of the best musical scores to ever grace the SNES, but that’s mainly because of the contributions of Sakimoto, Iwata, and Pee. The other composers made some great compositions, but hardly any of them stand out which is a pity, especially since, with the exception of Sakoda, none of them have been heard from again. An overall high-quality experience with many standout tracks and a fine arranged section, the Treasure Hunter G Original Sound Version is worthy of high praise and well worth listening to.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Harry Simons. Last modified on August 1, 2012.