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Seiken Densetsu Music Complete Book

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SQEX-10249~58
Released On: September 14, 2011
Composed By: Kenji Ito, Nobuo Uematsu, Hiroki Kikuta, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Masayoshi Soken, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yoko Shimomura, Masaharu Iwata, Takayuki Aihara
Arranged By: Sachiko Miyano, Kenji Ito, Hiroki Kikuta, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Masayoshi Soken, Junya Nakano, Hirosato Noda, Osamu Katsumori, Takayuki Hattori
Published By: Square Enix
Recorded At: Katsushika Symphony Hills Mozart Hall, Avaco Creative Studio Inc, Sound Inn, Crescente Studio, Sound City, Tai Studio, Air Studios, Polar Studios, Square Studio, Tower Side Studio, Tokyu Fun, Hitokuchi-zaka Studio, Onkio Haus, Sunrise Studio, Take One, Little Bach Kobuchizawa
Format: 20 CDs (19 CDs, 1 DVD)
Buy this CD from Play-Asia
Tracklist:

Disc Zero: Seiken Densetsu 20th Anniversary Special DVD
01 - Music Clip (2ch / 5.1ch)
02 - Creators Interview
03 - Recording Documentary
Total Time:
58'47"

Disc One: Seiken Densetsu Final Fantasy Adventure Original Soundtrack
01 - Rising Sun
02 - Fighting Arena
03 - Requiem
04 - Endless Battlefield
05 - Village
06 - Town (Unused Track)
07 - Dwarves' Theme
08 - Glance Dukedom
09 - Dungeon 1
10 - Fight 1
11 - Royal Palace
12 - Mana's Mission
13 - Danger!
14 - Jema's Realization
15 - In Search of the Sacred Sword
16 - Birth of Chocobo
17 - Theme of Chocobo
18 - Dungeon 2
19 - Mowgli
20 - Dungeon 3
21 - Fight 2
22 - In Sorrow
23 - Let Your Thoughts Ride On Knowledge
24 - Mana Palace
25 - Julius' Ambition
26 - Final Battle
27 - Legend Forever
Total Time:
34'40"

Disc Two: Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu Original Soundtrack
Story Categorize A
01 - Prologue ~Awakening Tale~
02 - Rising Sun
03 - A Boy's Dream
04 - Fighting Arena
05 - Requiem
06 - Endless Battlefield
07 - Dungeon
08 - Battle 1 ~Believe in Victory~
09 - Jema's Realization
10 - Pray
Story Categorize B
11 - A Girl's Longing
12 - Village
13 - Pleasing Scenery
14 - Royal Palace Theme
15 - Let Your Thoughts Ride On Knowledge
16 - Mana's Mission
17 - Chain of Fate
18 - Under a Sky Full of Stars
Story Categorize C
19 - In Search of the Sacred Sword
20 - Cactus House
21 - Dwarves' Theme
22 - Nightmare
23 - Temptation of the Abyss
24 - Guide to a Strange World
25 - Violation of Time
26 - Entwined Heart
27 - Investigation of Recollection
28 - Running Towards the Future
29 - Danger!
30 - Battle 2 ~Courage and Pride From the Heart~
31 - Inside the Sadness
Story Categorize D
32 - Lovely Face
33 - Time of Decision
34 - Crumbling World
35 - Mana Palace
36 - Unrelenting Pain
37 - The Eternal Journey of People
38 - Final Battle
39 - Epilogue ~A New World~
40 - Legend Forever
Total Time:
75'18"

Disc Three: Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu Piano Sound Version
01 - Grateful Memories
02 - Pure Smile
03 - Rainy Tears
04 - Solitude
05 - Lost Scene
06 - Hold Your Heart
07 - Ever Promise
-Bonus Track-
08 - Rising Sun ~ Endless Battlefield (Premium Arrange Version)
Total Time:
33'07"

Disc Four: Seiken Densetsu 2 Original Soundtrack
01 - Angel's Fear
02 - A Curious Tale
03 - Rose and Spirit
04 - Always Together
05 - Kind Memories
06 - Into the Thick of It
07 - Summer Sky Blue
08 - Dancing Beasts
09 - Distant Thunder
10 - The Child of the Fairy Tribe
11 - Occurrence of a Moonlit Night
12 - In the Dead of Night
13 - The Holy Invasion
14 - Secret of the Hot Sands
15 - What the Forest Taught Me
16 - A Wish
17 - Soul of the Night
18 - Did You See the Sea?
19 - Crisis
20 - Orphans of the Storm
21 - Where the Wind Ends
22 - Flight into the Unknown
23 - Eternal Recurrence
24 - The Legend
25 - The Eight Strokes of the Bell
26 - A Strange Incident
27 - The King of the Coast
28 - The Dark Star
29 - Premonition
30 - Steel And Snare
31 - A Prayer And A Whisper
32 - Ceremony
33 - Reaching Tomorrow
34 - Time Enough for Love
35 - Pure Night
36 - The Curse
37 - The Sorcerer
38 - A Conclusion
39 - I Won't Forget You
40 - This One is Hope
41 - Meridian Dance
42 - Wings Flapping No Longer
43 - The Penultimate Truth
44 - I Closed My Eyes
Total Time:
66'05"

Disc Five: Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Soundtrack
01 - Not Awaken
02 - Where Angels Fear To Tread
03 - Ordinary People
04 - Whiz Kid
05 - Walls And Steel
06 - Axe Bring Storm
07 - Little Sweet Cafe
08 - Witchmakers
09 - Another Winter
10 - Ancient Dolphin
11 - Hope Isolation Pray
12 - Raven
13 - Damn Damn Drum
14 - Innocent Sea
15 - Swivel
16 - Oh I'm a Flamelet
17 - Evening Star
18 - Don't Hunt the Fairy
19 - Fable
Total Time:
56'59"

Disc Six: Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Soundtrack
01 - Lefthanded Wolf
02 - Person's Die
03 - Harvest November
04 - Few Paths Forbidden
05 - Female Turbulence
06 - Intolerance
07 - Different Road
08 - Powell
09 - Political Pressure
10 - Nuclear Fusion
11 - Positive
12 - Meridian Child
13 - Closed Garden
14 - Splash Hop
15 - Innocent Water
16 - Delicate Affection
17 - Three Of Darkside
18 - Last Audience
19 - Obsession
20 - Strange Medicine
21 - Frenzy
Total Time:
65'38"

Disc Seven: Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Soundtrack
01 - Can You Fly Sister?
02 - Decision Bell
03 - Secret Of Mana
04 - Faith Total Machine
05 - Weird Counterpoint
06 - Rolling Cradle
07 - Black Soup
08 - Hightension Wire
09 - And Other
10 - Electric Talk
11 - Religion Thunder
12 - Angel's Fear
13 - Sacrifice Part One
14 - Sacrifice Part Two
15 - Sacrifice Part Three
16 - Reincarnation
17 - Farewell Song
18 - Breezin
19 - Return to Forever
20 - Long Goodbye
Total Time:
76'35"

Disc Eight: Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack
01 - Dawn of Mana - opening theme
02 - Prologue ~Mana, the Earth and the Spirits~
03 - Rising Sun
04 - Mana's Tale
05 - Pastoral Melody
06 - Pack of Ice Wolves Ver.1
07 - The Beast God's Labyrinth
08 - A Silent Drop
09 - Seed of the Giant Tree
10 - Dark Shrine
11 - Emerald Shine
12 - Burning Spirits
13 - Echo of Darkness Ver.1
14 - Unknown Light
15 - Stroud Ver.1
16 - Pack of Ice Wolves Ver.2
17 - Reminiscence
18 - A Mysterious Forest
19 - Shadow of Vine
20 - Feelings Not Forgotten
21 - Mask of Corruption
22 - A Lost Hope
23 - Goblin's Beat
24 - The Lost Ones Tremble
25 - Green Whirlpool
26 - Red Wyvern
27 - Stroud Ver.2
28 - Guardian Holy Beast Flammie Ver.1
29 - Guardian Holy Beast Flammie Ver.2
Total Time:
71'03"

Disc Nine: Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack
01 - The Deep Blue
02 - Seeking the Light
03 - Evil Memories
04 - Blood Feud
05 - Impact of the Darkness
06 - A Terrible Premonition
07 - Pack of Ice Wolves II
08 - Echo of Darkness Ver.2
09 - The Dark Crystal
10 - Stroud Ver.3
11 - Karen
12 - A Prelude to Despair
13 - Rondo of Sand
14 - The Peak of Twilight
15 - Death Sally Battle
16 - Compensation of Fate
17 - Grief and Hope
18 - An Unbreakable Heart
19 - A Wandering Heart
20 - Temptation
21 - Old and Distant Memories
22 - No Turning Back
23 - The Fool's Dance
24 - The Truth Behind the Mask
25 - Renewed Determination
Total Time:
62'25"

Disc Ten: Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack
01 - Roar of the Iron Clump
02 - To Where Mana Exists
03 - Skyrocket to Victory
04 - Endless Melee
05 - Godless Golem
06 - Pack of Ice Wolves Ver.3
07 - Desperate Line
08 - Dark Palace
09 - Dark King
10 - Desperate Fight
11 - Echo of Darkness Ver.3
12 - Den of Thieves
13 - The Stage of Ruin
14 - Illusions
15 - The Final Decisive Battle
16 - Eternal Parting
17 - Birth of the Goddess ~The Beginning of a New World~
18 - The Endless Dream
19 - A Legend Forever
20 - Epilogue ~The Continuing Future~
21 - Traces
Total Time:
64'38"

Disc Eleven: Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack
01 - Pop, pop, pop
02 - March, march, march
03 - Rush, rush, rush
04 - Shout, shout, shout
05 - Endless Battlefield -SK4 Ver.-
06 - Eternal Plains -SK4 Ver.-
07 - The Child of the Sprite Tribe -SK4 Ver.-
08 - Splash Hop -SK4 Ver.-
09 - Weird Counterpoint -SK4 Ver.-
10 - Don't Hunt The Fairy -SK4 Ver.-
11 - Meridian Worship -SK4 Ver.-
12 - The Darkness Nova -SK4 Ver.-
13 - Dwarves' Theme -SK4 Ver.-
14 - Irwin On Reflection -SK4 Ver.-
15 - Endless Battlefield -Hurry Up Ver.-
16 - Eternal Plains -Hurry Up Ver.-
17 - The Child of the Sprite Tribe -Hurry Up Ver.-
18 - Splash Hop -Hurry Up Ver.-
19 - Weird Counterpoint -Hurry Up Ver.-
20 - Don't Hunt The Fairy -Hurry Up Ver.-
21 - Meridian Worship -Hurry Up Ver.-
22 - The Darkness Nova -Hurry Up Ver.-
23 - Dwarves' Theme -Hurry Up Ver.-
24 - Irwin On Reflection -Hurry Up Ver.-
25 - Gentle Eyelids
26 - Morning Light Horn
27 - Stand on the Front Lines
28 - Hurry Up!
29 - Yes! That's Far Enough!
30 - Challenge Arena Fanfare
31 - A Big Victory
32 - Breath of MANA
33 - Rising Sun (piano solo version)
Total Time:
67'42"

Disc Twelve: Seiken Densetsu Legend of Mana Original Soundtrack
01 - Legend of MANA ~Title Theme~
02 - Nostalgic Song
03 - World of Mana
04 - Song of Mana ~Opening Theme~
05 - Places of Soul
06 - Hometown Domina
07 - Daedal's Organ
08 - Wanderer's Path
09 - Pain the Universe
10 - Cliff Town Gato
11 - Earth Painting
12 - Marginal Beast
13 - Moonlit City Roa
14 - Everyday Dream ~Spirit's Song~
15 - To the Sea
16 - Southern City Polpota
17 - Everyday Dream...
18 - Calmly Travelling
19 - Bedight Orbit
20 - The Wind Sings of a Journey
21 - Mystic City Geo
22 - Memory of Running
23 - The Darkness Nova
Total Time:
63'37"

Disc Thirteen: Seiken Densetsu Legend of Mana Original Soundtrack
01 - Pastoral
02 - Ranch Night
03 - Maker's Galopp
04 - Dreamseed Fruit
05 - A Good Thing
06 - Play the Organ!
07 - Play the Organ! Part 2
08 - Nocturne
09 - Digger's Song ~Underground Path Song~
10 - Calm Song
11 - Sorrowful Song
12 - Joyful Song
13 - Mysterious Song
14 - Missing Truth
15 - The Excitement of Both of Us
16 - Irwin on Reflection
17 - The Other Truth
18 - Complicated Destiny
19 - Bonded by the Soul
20 - Aid
21 - Leading into Prosperity
22 - The One who Waits for the Breath of Destiny
23 - Depression Blues
24 - Gem Thief Sandra's Plight
25 - City of Flickering Destruction
26 - Foolish Decision
27 - Those Who Are Shining
28 - The Great Virtue of Gathering Mana's Spirit~Theme of Mana
29 - Holy Power of Mana
30 - Silence of Time
31 - Nostalgic Song ~Ending Theme for Mana's Story~
32 - Song of MANA ~Ending Theme~
Total Time:
66'37"

Disc Fourteen: Seiken Densetsu DS Children of Mana Original Soundtrack
01 - Breath of MANA -for the Glory-
02 - Rising Sun
03 - The Ensemble of Children
04 - Tale of the Distant Sun
05 - Longing
06 - Creeping Pulsation
07 - Emergency
08 - Beyond the Blue Sky
09 - Tower of the Flickering Prayer
10 - Peaceful Underground Lake
11 - Storm of the Red Sand
12 - Frozen Majesty
13 - Forest of the Sickle Weasel
14 - The Wind Sings Loudly
15 - King of Chaos
16 - The Blocking Menace
17 - Evil Beast
18 - Triumphant Return
19 - The Desire Vanishes
Total Time:
43'40"

Disc Fifteen: Seiken Densetsu DS Children of Mana Original Soundtrack
01 - Together with Comrade-in-Arms
02 - Hymn of Light
03 - Challenge
04 - The Ruined Ground
05 - Fate
06 - Rut of the Crystal
07 - The Shaking Earth
08 - The Sky's Lamentation
09 - Grasslands of Eternity
10 - Trial
11 - The Thunder Emperor's Aloofness
12 - Infant of Mana
13 - Feelings Not Forgotten
14 - The Beginning of a New Legend
Total Time:
40'19"

Disc Sixteen: Seiken Densetsu Heroes of Mana Original Soundtrack
01 - To the Heroes of Old ~Opening Theme from Heroes of Mana~
02 - Heroes of Mana
03 - Premonition of the Beginning
04 - Attack!
05 - Let's Begin the Story
06 - The Beast Kingdom
07 - The Beast King's Army
08 - Quickening
09 - Power for Tomorrow
10 - A Moment's Rest
11 - Setup
12 - As the Heart Likes
13 - The Black Mirror
14 - Kingdom of the Wind
15 - Story of a Good Old Kingdom
16 - A Prayer for the Holy Capital
17 - Flowing Sand Seen in a Dream
18 - At the End of the Hot Sand
19 - Secret Sparkle
20 - An Oath, My Friend!
21 - Even if Fated, it's Still Cruel
22 - Retreat
23 - A Desire with Courage
24 - The Dragon Emperor
25 - Summoning a God Beast
26 - A Moment of Happiness
27 - Strategy Meeting
Total Time:
70'59"

Disc Seventeen: Seiken Densetsu Heroes of Mana Original Soundtrack
01 - Playing the Song of Snow and Ice
02 - Freezing Beat
03 - To the Heroes of Old
04 - Devoted to King Annais
05 - The Battle Vs. Celestan
06 - Knights of the Wind
07 - Take a Breather
08 - Overachiever
09 - Secret Objective
10 - Soar on Wings of Truth
11 - Battle with a God Beast
12 - Sadness
13 - Isn't There Any Hope for Us...
14 - Fragment of the Illusion
15 - Spin the Wheel of Fate
16 - Is That Reality or Illusion?
17 - The Earth Quakes, the Destined Moment
18 - And the One Who Arrived There
19 - Dying Moment
20 - Finishing Blow with the Holy Sword
21 - Departure Into the Darkness
22 - A Story Told by the Wind ~Ending Theme from Heroes of Mana~
Total Time:
73'06"

Disc Eighteen: Seiken Densetsu Final Fantasy Adventure ~ Let Your Thoughts Ride On Knowledge
01 - First Chapter - Determination
02 - Second Chapter - Menace
03 - Third Chapter - Mission
04 - Fourth Chapter - Friends
05 - Fifth Chapter - Parting
06 - Sixth Chapter - Decisive Battle
07 - Last Chapter - Life
Total Time:
35'07"

Disc Nineteen: Seiken Densetsu 2 Arrange Version ~ Secret of Mana
01 - Secret of Mana
Total Time:
49'26"

Square Enix. Masters of ... sucking my wallet dry by repackaging some of their best work.

Two years ago, Square Enix released a 20th anniversary box set of music for the SaGa series (20 CDs plus one DVD). This time, they're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Seiken Densetsu (or "Mana") series. Since the series has less music to sport than the previous, we're down one disc (19 CDs and one DVD), but we get the arranged CDs released (so far) that the SaGa box didn't get.

Now, this item isn't exactly a box. It's more like a book, as the title suggests. This video from my friend Jayson Napolitano at Original Sound Version should give you an idea of how the packaging works. It's an effective way to keep things consolidated, especially in contrast to the do-it-yourself packaging that the SaGa box offered. In short, I love the packaging. Very nice layout, lots of nice artwork too.

Let's quickly run down through the contents, and then I'll give some semi-detailed analysis on each soundtrack. The soundtrack order isn't based on chronological publishing. Rather, it runs through the four "main" games in the series, then hits up the three "side" titles, and then wraps up with the two arranged albums.

There's a "Disc 00" DVD which has a great, 10 minute medley orchestral performance, as well as some interview footage. The Sword of Mana Premium Soundtrack is included as discs 2 and 3, and that stupid 8cm single-track bonus disc had its contents folded into disc 3, so that's good. Also, the two exclusive tracks from "Breath of Mana" (a promotional CD for Seiken Densetsu 4) were stuck at the end of disc 11.

Renaming of albums happened without much hesitation. What used to be referred to as Original Sound Versions are now Original Soundtracks, and the final disc, "Secret of Mana+" just had the plus sign removed altogether. In its place, it's just called "Seiken Densetsu 2 Arrange Version ~ Secret of Mana." Alright then.

Here's the point, though: the collection is mighty close to complete. What's it missing? Mostly, it's missing scattered arrangements found on other discs, like "Chill SQ" or "drammatica" or the Kenji Ito piano works album. And, of course, there are those three arrange albums coming in the next few months, one by each of the Mana series' main composers: Ito, Kikuta, and Shimomura. Completionists like me will probably have to order those out of habit after buying this book.

Well then, let's get to the music itself.

The 20th Anniversary Medley

The 10 minute medley track, arranged by Sachiko Miyano, gives a fair shake to each of the titles represented on this box. Usually, it's just one song per game, but a solid minute is given to that song. The "transitions," if you can call them that, are rather weak. It's less a medley, and more a collage. There's nothing done musically to really connect these pieces in a way that makes sense. Miyano-san could take notes from the Symphonic Fantasies arrangements. In any case, though, the orchestra does a fantastic job, and I love watching the video since they put the three composers in the audience, humming along and listening intently to their babies (now all grown up in orchestral form).

Final Fantasy Adventure

What can I say? Kenji Ito was a master of Game Boy chip music. His compositions for SaGa 2 are some of my favorites, but they are blown out of the water by this original score. Rising Sun, Endless Battlefield, Mana Palace, the dungeon and battle themes... sweet merciful Mary, it's all too much. I've said it in other reviews, but I'll say it here for the uninitiated: when the composer is limited to 3 channels of basic audio input, the onus is placed on the composer to come up with fantastic melodies, catchy bass lines, and sweeping arpeggiations to make up for the lack of real instrumentation. Some of the best music has come because composers have had to get "back to basics" on the Game Boy. Listen to these audio samples for proof.

Sword of Mana

Ito returned over a decade later to upgrade his own work and add some new music in this remake of the original Game Boy classic. Though the GBA synth tends to be little more than a tinny equivalent of SNES and PS1-era sequenced music, it doesn't matter because the original melodies were so strong. The new tracks, sadly, show their weakness in comparison to the originals. Again, I turn your attention to Mana Palace and Endless Battlefield. These songs are mainstays in my heart.

The Sword of Mana, or "Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu," soundtrack is categorized into four "Story" sections. I like the layout of the tracklist, it flows very well when listening. Putting the Dwarves' Theme further out, for example, was a big plus. Too much town music at once can be grating on the nerves.

The second disc for Sword of Mana are actually arranged tracks, but since they were packaged with the OST back in the day, the creators of this book decided to pair it with the OST. First, we have seven reverb-heavy piano arrangements performed by Ito-Ken himself. Then, at the end, there's a synth orchestra piece of the two big themes from this game: Rising Sun and Endless Battlefield. Be sure to check out "Lost Scene," which contains the arrangement for Mana Palace. If you haven't put it together yet, Mana Palace is basically one of my favorite songs ever. It also serves as the game's final dungeon theme. Few RPGs have had final dungeon themes to surpass Mana Palace, in my opinion.

Seiken Densetsu 2

The game that you probably know better as "Secret of Mana" probably suffered the greatest injustice for this release. Everyone knows that the unlooped, single-disc layout of the OST is bonkers, and that if there was one thing this box set needed to remedy, it was this. I want a two disc SD2 soundtrack, and I want it in this box. Sadly, no such luck. Instead, I'm treated to unlooped, 1-minute versions of some of Hiroki Kikuta's best compositions. And these were his first (for a videogame)! I wouldn't call it beginner's luck per se, but the Secret of Mana soundtrack shines in ways that some of his later works simply couldn't (see Koudelka, for example).

Part of what makes this soundtrack so great is the unique synth found here. I recently met Kikuta-san at a convention, and he spoke to the problems of the Super NES "FM Synth" system. Basically, you could create your own sound bank, but it had to be super compressed. The level of compression was somewhat flexible, but you were limited as to how much space you got. So Kikuta decided to give high-compression to certain instruments, and low-compression to others. He created his own sound bank with the help of Square's sound programmers, and the end result is really something special. Anyone who's listened to the music can attest to this. The opening track gives you chills, the first "overworld" song you hear ("Into the Thick of It") makes you want to go on an adventure, and the boss battle themes are very catchy.

Seiken Densetsu 3

Of all the Mana games represented here, this is the only one yet to be granted a North American audience. And it's a shame, because it has a lot to offer. In terms of gameplay, it's similar to SD2, except there are six characters instead of three, and your adventure is sculpted in different paths depending on whom you choose to be your main and alternates in your three-person party. In terms of music, Kikuta-san used a similar sound bank to the previous game, but wrote over 60 songs this time, so there's even more love to share.

It should also be noted that, among the soundtracks found in the book, SD3 seems to be strangely hard to find, even with the NTT reprints a few years back. So, if you're on the fence about this book and you don't own the SD3 soundtrack, these three discs might be enough to make you go overboard. But you probably only have a few weeks after this review is published to get a copy. Keep your eyes peeled!

The best tracks from this set of music, in my opinion, are the end boss tracks. The three "Sacrifice" tracks, followed by "Reincarnation," is one of those priceless bits of music, on par with Uematsu's "Dancing Mad" four-part instrumental rock opera. The good news isn't just that Kikuta reaches such heights on this soundtrack, but that he nears that same peak elsewhere throughout the SD3 soundtrack.

Seiken Densetsu 4

Oh, how the mighty fall. At least in terms of gameplay. This PS2 title, known to you as "Dawn of Mana," received low marks in virtually every department. One place it did well, though, was the music. A team led by Kenji Ito, assisted by some of SE's other (at-the-time) resident musicians, made a soundtrack that rivals Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song. Those are bold words if you know my take on that soundtrack.

The sound quality of the SD4 soundtrack is insane. It sounds lifelike, and that's because many of the tracks actually have real recording by professional musicians. Electric guitar, drums, violin, piano, winds, vocals ... lots of good stuff has been recorded for this soundtrack.

But it's not just the sound quality. No, the music itself is quite strong. Ito isn't always one to impress me, but on Dawn of Mana, he really did a great job. Not only that, he also takes music from Kikuta, Shimomura, and himself and arranges it for this new title. Disc 11 has a lot of that, but there's also some found on the other discs. A beautiful blend of old and new, these four discs are fantastic. They are, however, overwhelming as well. When I first got the Seiken Densetsu Book in the mail, it was around this point I had to stop listening and take a break. This is a lot of music for a single game.

Legend of Mana

This is one of the first soundtracks I owned. Of course, to help pay for college, I sold it within a year of buying it. But now it's back in the collection. Permanently. I'm happy to have it, because it marks the beginning of my love for Shimomura.

Now, a quick Shimomura history lesson. Discounting her "hidden" work for Capcom (Breath of Fire, some early Mega Man titles), Shimomura's game music starts with Square. First she did Live A Live (a game that, sadly, still hasn't come to North America). Then Super Mario RPG. Then Parasite Eve. And then Legend of Mana. It was this game that really got me hooked to her writing style. She is a master of string-based melodic lines. She makes violins sound so awesome, sometimes it hurts. In a good kind of way.

She's also a master of catchy, syncopated rhythms. Songs like "Earth Painting" and "To the Sea" feature awesome percussion (including pitched percussion, such as marimba) to keep the music moving along in a quick, lively sort of way. Throw some interesting melodic work on top and you've got yourself a song, and it doesn't need any cowbell. Take that Bruce! (or, um, Christopher Walken...).

Fast songs aside, Shimomura also showed a softer side with the vocal theme "Song of Mana" and the beautifully sad "City of Flickering Destruction." These two discs are the ones I find myself most drawn to. I could listen to these on loop, forgetting that there are 17 other discs in the set. But I promise not to neglect the others. Seriously, I promise!

Children of Mana

This is the only soundtrack I knew nothing about when I ordered the SD book. The soundtrack was previously a digital-only iTunes kind of thing, and up til the present, that just wasn't my kind of thing. I mean look at me, I'm shelling out the kind of money you could use to buy a new PS Vita to collect music CDs. I'm an artifact kind of guy, here!

Not only that, Children of Mana is the only game in the series I've never touched. I never beat Dawn of Mana, but I played enough of it to know I didn't want anymore. Children of Mana, I never even borrowed or rented this game. I had no interest in it.

The soundtrack is put together by a diverse team. Yes, it's mostly Kenji Ito, but it also includes work from Masaharu Iwata and Takayuki Aihara. These individuals bring something very special to the table, an added spice that you won't find elsewhere in the Mana series.

There are some very pretty pieces of music to be found here. Among them, I believe my favorite is disc 15 track 2, "Hymn of Light." But if you're willing to search, you'll find more. There isn't that much to go through here: 33 songs taking up a little more than 80 minutes of your time. But, being new to me, I found myself enjoying the surprise. I thought the lack of a physical CD release in the past meant the music wasn't very good. Turns out I was wrong.

Heroes of Mana

Some games have soundtracks that are worth much more than the games themselves. Not just on price point, but in terms of sheer value. One classic Square Enix example of this is UNLIMITED:SaGa. That game was railed against by virtually anyone who bothered to touch the game, but most everyone agrees that Hamauzu's music for it was fantastic. Such game don't deserve their awesome soundtrack counterparts. Throw Heroes of Mana into this category, if you please.

Heroes of Mana is some bastardized RTS on the DS with Hero control. It precedes FFXII Revenant Wings, and is basically a very unbalanced, not-so-fun version of said game. I despised Heroes of Mana. Totally, totally disappointed in it.

The soundtrack, on the other hand? Shimomura put her all into this, and the end result is something that nearly reaches the mountaintop experience that is the Legend of Mana soundtrack.

The source material is improved upon even further on the "drammatica" disc, and I suspect Shimomura will also make good use of it in her upcoming Mana series arranged disc. For now, I find myself trying to keep the soundtrack at arm's length, because I have such bad memories of the game. But if I can instead distance myself from those memories and just enjoy this soundtrack, see it as a bonus extension of the Legend of Mana OST, I think I'll be in good shape. Seriously, it's got all the same bouncy stylings, punctuated by heartfelt, swelling, emotional ballad-esque pieces.

Let Your Thoughts Ride On Knowledge

Editor's note: I've been told that this title is translated all wrong by the fans who have attempted to popularize this "Thoughts Ride On Knowledge" thing. I've since been told it's more accurately translated as "Put Your Thoughts To Music." Heck if I can decide which is better, but I'm sticking with the way we've always listed it at RPGFan.

Takayuki Hattori is a godsend. He did the orchestration for this album and another one before it, the "Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite." These two albums were produced as though they were rivals to Koichi Sugiyama's massively successful Dragon Quest Symphonic Suites. And gues what? They do rival the DQ albums. And in my opinion, among early DQ, early FF, and this disc, this disc wins. Hands down.

And that's in spite of the oldschool recording quality and the true-to-form, vanilla orchestration. It's as I said many paragraphs ago: Kenji Ito wrote his heart out when he made the FF Adventure soundtrack. So translating it to a live orchestral performance just goes to show how absolutely brilliant it really is.

These seven tracks are medley pieces, and throughout them, nearly every song from the old Game Boy soundtrack is given some treatment. Just ... listen to them. I can't put my thoughts to music. Or words. Or knowledge. Just listen. Heck, just buy the album. If you don't want (or can't afford) this box, just get the Seiken Densetsu Sound Collection. It has the Game Boy OST and these seven tracks all on one disc. That's a keeper right there.

Secret of Mana Plus, Minus Plus

It's been over a decade since I first heard this single-track work of art from Hiroki Kikuta. And I'm still not quite sure what to make of it.

On the one hand, it's this completely large and inaccessible slice of music with so many style shifts and references to the original source that I get totally lost.

On the other hand, I've never heard anything quite like it, and that's usually what makes me come back for more. I mean, I've never heard anyone use water and telephones to make good music like this.

If ever there were an arranged album that was designed to help you lose yourself in the music, this is it. Though Square Enix may have changed the album's name for this box set, the content has not changed. I just can't help but wonder, when it comes time for Kikuta to release his new arrange album (which will cover both SD2 and SD3), will it be like this, or something totally different?

Re-Learning To Read

I'm not a big collector of audiobooks. But this is one book you'll need your ears for. It makes me think differently about collected works. This is such a strange amalgam of music from different composers, across 20 years of videogame history. I really like it, but on the other hand... let's face it, this thing is expensive. After shipping and handling, I paid nearly $250 for this beast.

Hence, like all things expensive, I have to label it "for collectors only." But if you're a serious collector, now's your chance. This is a fantastic collection, and so close to "complete" for the series, it's so hard not to jump at the opportunity. And, unless buying this makes it impossible for you to pay your rent, I doubt you'd have buyer's remorse. There's just too much good music to keep you occupied for years to come. You'll note that I said nary a single negative thing about the music itself. And I stand by that critical silence. I have well-respected peers who would disagree with me, as they find fault with this song or the other, this soundtrack or the other – but me? I'm just basking in the glory of the whole set of audio.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann



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