01 - Beyond Time
02 - To The End of the Sky
03 - Beyond Time (off vocal)
04 - To The End of the Sky (off vocal)
The Legend of Heroes...
Almost completely unknown outside of its native Japan, Falcom's unique series has been captivatingplayers since its earliest chapter in 1989. Recently, the third, fourth and fifth in the series were remade for the PSP, and Bandai has just announced they are bringing the fourth (named, "Eiyuu Densetsu IV: Akai Shizuku" or, in English, "Legend of Heroes IV: A Tear of Vermillion") here to the United States. This will be the game's first time to be released in English, and is a monumental occasion - Legend of Heroes IV features a script unlike any other in an RPG, with superb writing, deeply developed characters, and plenty of sheer heartbreak (and utter joy.) Let's hope Bandai is able to keep that emotion alive for the English port!
But before the breathtaking trials of Avin in Legend of Heroes IV, we had a more upbeat, lighthearted story. Of course, this was Legend of Heroes III - The White Witch. The first of the Gagharv Triolgy (meaning Legend of Heroes 3-5) to get the PSP makeover, the game told the story of Jurio and Chris, a young boy and girl who embark on a pilgrimage, a rite of passage that denotes thier transition from child to adult. That's one of the themes of the game - growing up - as well as the people they meet along the way and the trials they face together. Since the game's very first release on the PC-98 in '94, the game has been called Japan's most poetic RPG to date. I'm not kidding, Japanese and Westerners say this stuff. The script, along with LoH IV and V's, has been copied word for word and novelized for print. As of this review's being written, Falcom still sells it (see www.falcom.com).
With such a highly lauded story, a good theme song only makes sense. For the PSP remake, vocalist riya (no capitalization) was called upon to write and perform the opening and closing songs. Yep - a pop star who actually writes her own music and lyrics! And an excellent job she did.
"Toki no Mukou Gawa", which can be translated as "Beyond Time", is the opening song, and was also used for the TV ads for the PSP remakes. It's a beautiful piece; there is so much to love. riya's singing is soulful, emotional and full of the excitement of youth, which is perfectly compliments Legend of Heroes III's theme. I've translated some of the chorus for you, taking a few liberties, but I think I retained the feel of the message:
We can go anywhere
Aim for the open sky
If you can do it with a smile
The world stretches out before us
Still shimmering from yesterday
We can go anywhere
Even beyond time
When you gently touch me
The world stretches out before us
Still shimmering from yesterday...
The rest of the lyrics are just as good (and fitting), of course touching on traveling together and what the future may hold. I don't know if riya had read the scenario first or not, but she did a really great job matching the song with the game. MANYO, from Littlewing (http://www.littlewing.ne.jp/) arranged the song, and did a fine job. Light, full of strings, and very uplifting. Very tight drum programming works with the song and helps rather than hinders. You can hear lots of acoustic guitar as well, with castanets and church bells highlighting the theme. I love castanets! I love bells! I love this song!
Onto the ending theme, "Sora no Hate he" (in English, "To the End of the Sky"). Again, beautiful. A distinct and clear melody, sung with passion, is carried by strings, horns and percussion. After the first chorus, it quiets down to unveil a marching snare drum and gentle vocals, building up again to the chorus, eventually joined by some excellent drum programming. Around 2:30 forward, especially at 2:45, the gentle singing and strings
remind me of Soukaigi's "Lovely Strains" - that's a huge compliment. Everything here is good: an excellent song.
The last two tracks are karaoke versions of the two previous themes. Having riya's vocals lifted out reveals yet more of the excellent instrumentation, with some cool uplifting synths and string bits. Of course I'd rather have riya's beautiful voice too, but even without her, the songs are still awesome and they really show off the professional work that MANYO gave them.
A couple of interesting facts: according to MANYO's blog, the guitar work was performed by Masaaki Iizuka, whom has appeared on many, many other albums, from well-known series like Langrisser and Macross, to pretty much anything else you can imagine. Cool. What's cooler is that all the artwork, both in-game and for the CD liner, was done my Minako Iwasaki. She was the same person who, way back when, used to illustrate for Falcom. Her new takes on the characters are very nice, and it's very neat to see her come back to bring the story back to life. Her artwork will also be featured in the remakes of LoH IV and V.
Get this single! Now! Just do it, please...CD Japan and Amazon.co.jp have it, and most other retailers should be stocking it, especially since it can be filed under popular music as well as game music. Just search for riya, or use the catalog number. Go!
Reviewed by: Connary