"Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana" is the fourth game in Square's popular Seiken Densetsu series. In America, we got the first one as Final Fantasy Adventure, and the second one as Secret of Mana. The third one never arrived on U.S. shores.
When I heard that Hiroi Kikuta was not composing the music for the fourth installment, but rather Yoko Shimomura, I could not have been any happier. I was never a fan of the music in Secret of Mana (not to mention the game itself), and the music I heard from the third game, while better, was still nothing that special. However, I am a huge fan of the music of Yoko Shimomura, enjoying both Super Mario RPG's music and its total oposite, Parasite Eve. As a result, I bought this soundtrack "blind", before I had played the game or heard much of the music.
Shimomura is actually the third composer for the series - Kenji Ito wrote for the first one (which I enjoy greatly). Because of this, there is no real "standard" that Shimomura had to keep to, because the series already had a stylistic change musically. She ended up creating one of the most masterful and beautiful game music scores ever written.
Right from the start, the soundtrack pulls you in. A beautiful piano starts out, followed by accompaniment, then it morphs into a haunting movie-esque form, and back again. This piano music returns in full force at the end of disc 2, track 28, with even better piano writing than the beautiful Parasite Eve main theme. The other main theme of the game is the "Song of Mana", which has two versions: a short one of only the fast part on disc 1, track 4, and the full version as the final track, disc 2, track 32. This theme is now one of my favorite OST themes ever, right up there with "Small Two of Pieces" from Xenogears, and far above "Somnia Memories" from Parasite Eve. The song itself is sung in Sweedish of all things, and it fits the music quite well.
The rest of the soundtrack is excellent as well. While I don't know the track names or how the music relates to the game, some of it is easy to spot. The first disc, in my opinion, is the stronger of the two, with a number of memorable tracks. Track 2 has another prevelant theme, a slow and relaxed piece that shows up again on track 31 of disc 2. Track 6 features nice "folky" town-type music, with an unforgettable prayer-type melody. Track 8 sounds like something out of Final Fantasy Tactics and is quite rousing. Track 23 is a total change of pace, with distortion guitars and heavy precussion, but it is still excellent.
Disc 2 is a bit of a change, with a number of mini-tracks and a bit more focus on ambience than melody in a couple of tracks. Track 1 has another catchy town-type theme. Track 6 is a mini-track which features that "folky prayer" theme once again, played on an organ. Track 8, while also short, is another beautiful piano piece. Track 9 is a cool primal dance that is what the primal dance in Chrono Trigger should have been like. Track 26 is an excellent piece of baroque-style counterpoint, perfect for the classical music lover in me.
Before I end, I'd like to mention one other thing - the sound quality. Put simply, it is as good as FF Tactics and Xenogears. Except for a couple of odd instrument choices, the music not only is wonderfully composed, but it's pleasing on the ear as well.
Overall, I can't recommend this soundtrack enough. While it has its flaws, it has so many great tracks that it is impossible not to get emotional while listening to it.