|Welcome to the music review at RPG
Classics.com! Our goal is help people see the soundtracks they listen
to in a better light as well as help the RPG music lovers out
there know what to get and know what crap they should stay the hell away from before they're stuck listening to something
so bad, they'll want to drive ice picks into their ears to relieve the pain. We are pleased to bring to you, this week, the brilliant All Sounds of SaGa! It features the complete soundtracks to the first SaGa trilogy (the Final Fantasy Legend games), as well as a bonus arranged track.
To view our previous reviews, check out the archives
Ahhh the Game Boy, a wonderful little bundle of joy to many, a worthless piece of junk for others. Since it's introduction in 1989, the Game Boy quickly caught the attention of SquareSoft, releasing Seiken Densetsu (known as Final Fantasy Adventure in the US). It was a success, and Square soon planned a whole new series of RPG: SaGa. While the Game Boy certainly didn't offer much in terms of sound quality, it didn't stop experienced composers Nobuo Uematsu, Kenji Ito and newcomer Ryuji Sasai from bringing us some of the finest music on the old handheld. What we've been served is a marvelous collection of tunes which states a rule back in the old days: Sound Quality was not important, composition was their weapon and strength to success. Anyways, on with the review.
The first SaGa, known as Final Fantasy Legend, was an example of poor sound quality but still retained high points thanks to the composition of the songs. The quality was even lower than that of an NES. We start off with « Prologue », which sets the mood for the rest of the series : Excellent musical score with a lot of instrumental diversity. « Main Theme » is the map theme for SaGa, the melody here helps a lot in keeping the player interested as the map wasn't very detailed back then. « Town Theme » shares similar traits, the towns weren't interesting in any way, the music helped in giving off a feel of calmness. « Fight » however, as simple as it may be, is interesting and doesn't get old after countless battles (not to me, anyways :P). « Eat The Meat » is the victory theme, which will be re-used in the two next sequels, it's not as epic as Uematsu's Final Fantasy works, but it does the job. « Demon Cave » is an excellent dungeon theme, it has a hint of evil to it, always leaving the player wondering what awaits him in the next floor/room. « Hurry Up ! » is the panic theme, whenever something urgent happens, this kind of theme kicks in, very fitting. « Fierce Battle » is the boss theme, like the normal battle, it is simple in composition, but is quite enjoyable, keeping the player going for long battles. « Requiem » is the game over theme, it's not much, but it does the job. « Forbidden Tower » sounds a bit like elevator music (nice pun ! :P), it starts out uninteresting, but it gets better and better as it goes. « Heartful Tears » is a track used in sad events, this track will be used in the 4 future sequels, always differently arranged than it's previous incarnation. « Knights of the Demon World Tower » must be the final dungeon theme, it gives us hope and sounds pretty epic. « The Highest Floor » is simply used right before you face The Creator, it's just ok. « The Furious Battle » is everything we could hope for the Game Boy RPG, a fast-paced and exciting theme to end the battle of all battles, it's just excellent for the occasion. « Epilogue » is obviously the ending theme, it's a nice arrangement of the main theme and is the perfect way to finish the SaGa 1 adventure.
A year or so later, SaGa 2 (Final Fantasy Legend 2) is released, the music is greatly improved, certainly because Ito took a more important role this time around. It starts out with « The Legend Begins », which is a better version of « Prologue ». « Searching for Secret Treasure » is FFL2's map theme, it sounds so much more epic and this time the maps were more detailed, further enriching the experience. « Lethal Strike » is FFL2's battle theme, like the previous track, it's a better battle theme than its prequels. « Eat The Meat » is slightly different, and of course better once more. « Peaceful World » is the town theme, and it complements the lovely town design this time around. « Adventurer's Theme » is one song I have not heard (I haven't played much of FFL2), but it sounds good. « Pillar of Heaven » is a strange track, I can't really describe it, but it sounds a lot like something out of Zelda 4, am I alone on this ? « Through the Cramped Darkness » is the dungeon theme, it sounds a lot more spooky than the first dungeon theme. « Ah !! » is another panic theme, this time slightly more fast-paced. « Decisive Battle » is the boss theme, it's one of the very best tracks from the entire soundtrack, it's that good. « Never Give Up » must be the final dungeon theme, it sounds very epic and is a lot more complex in composition that most other tracks in the set. « Heartful Tears » makes a comeback, sounding a lot better, and helps in conveying the sadness. « Burning Blood » is a more epic theme, stating « We're finally here, let's go beat the last boss and go home ! ». « Saving The World » is Arsenal's battle theme, it's just fitting for the mechanical monster, this theme will keep your blood pumping as the battle may be a long one. The ending themes of SaGa 2 are far more memorable, and even brings a tear to my eye, just by listening to it.
A few years later, SaGa 3 (Final Fantasy Legend 3) makes it's way unto the small portable, this time around, Uematsu & Ito take a seat, in which newcomers Ryuji Sasai (who will be known later for FFMQ and RNH) and Chihiro Fujioka are put to the test. How does their music stand up to the other two ? Fitting, but not quite as good as FFL2's score. It starts out with « Opening », an arrangement of the Prologue used in FFL1, very more upbeat. « Setting off into the Future » is a wonderful map theme, it is truly an enjoyable and epic-sounding track. « Oasis » is the town theme, it once more has the upbeat feel, very fitting indeed. « Fight ! » is very short, but it is the best of all 3 GameBoy SaGa battle themes. « Holy Ruins » is the temple theme in which the heroes go to find a time machine of some sorts, it has a mysterious feeling in it. « Gods of Another Dimension » is the boss theme, it's not too exciting, but fits the mood just fine. « Eat The Meat » appears for the last time, sounding better than FFL2. « Warrior's rest » is the game over theme, the FFL1 theme, it serves its purpose and nothing more. « Theme of Another Dimension » is certainly the Time Machine's Theme (Talon I think it was called), it's a great epic theme. « Village in a Strange Land » is the second town theme, sounding quite peaceful and fitting the scene nicely. « Dungeon » is the dungeon theme (No ! You don't say !!! 8D), it's not much in terms of composition and is truly boring. « Stelos » has to be the second boss theme, it's so much better than the first one, and it just gives off an epic feel. « Insanity » is the panic theme of FFL3, not much, but I guess it sets the mood fine. « Heartful Tears » sounds different this time around, a refreshing change if I may say so myself. « Laguna's Palace » is the final dungeon theme, it sounds great and once more gives off a feel of hope. « Spiritual Battle » is….. odd to say the least, it doesn't sound epic, and doesn't even sound like a final battle theme at all, but it's still an enjoyable listen. « Supreme Ruler of Time and Space » is the ending theme, it's an excellent closing theme to FFL3. Now we come to the very last track, an arrangement medley comprised of Prologue, Town Theme (FFL1), Heartful Tears and Epilogue. It's not that impressive really, they could had used battle themes in the mix.
So now comes the part where you will cry... You want this CD Set ? I'm sorry, but Ebay is the only place to look, and don't think of getting away with it without paying at least 100 $. Yes, it's very expensive due to its rarity, but if you truly are a Squaresoft fan, you might want to consider hunting it down. It's a lot of hard work tracking it down, but the rewards are high.
Greetings, video game music lovers. I'll be co-reviewing this rare (but highly tasty) soundtrack with Shinryuu the Dragon God, whom I hope you are all familiar with. Since he's already given you a brief history of the SaGa games, and a list of the composers, I'll just jump straight into the individual track reviews. All the tracks are numbered in the following fashion: disc number, followed by a period, followed by the track number on that disc. Pretty standard notation.
1.1. Prologue: This is the song that launched the gaming legacy known as SaGa. Like any good Old School game track, its beauty is in its simplicity. The track begins with several echoes of a certain seven-note sequence that I will refer to in the next track. The body of the song consists of a single "flute", carrying on the slow, measured melody; a "harp" which weaves around a bit; and a bass line which is nothing more than a series of slowly descending notes. The overall effect is wonderful. It's very hard to get tired of this song, simple as it is.
1.2. Main Theme: Listen closely to the very first few notes of this melody, and you'll see that they sound a lot like the opening seven-note sequence in the previous track. Don't expect the rest of the song to sound anything like the Prologue, though. This song is a very cheerful, adventuring piece. If you listen to the overall harmony of the piece (rather than just the melody), you'll find that the progressions are quite unusual, and I mean that in a good way. ^_^
1.3. Town Theme: Another slow "flutey" song, not unlike the Prologue. This one has a slight sad touch to it. Since there are two instruments devoted to the melody, it sounds a lot like a flute duet.
1.4. Fight: Although this track isn't menacing enough in my opinion for an ideal battle theme, it's still quite enjoyable to listen to. This song has some very nice composition. The various instruments intertwine with each other, rather than staying clearly separated as they are with most of the other tracks from SaGa 1.
1.5. Eat the Meat: Eat the Meat is the victory theme used in all 3 of the early SaGas. It's probably the simplest song in the whole soundtrack. Nice and bouncy, but not much else.
1.6. Demon Cave: This one is a creepy, foreboding song. While the clear melody does cut down on the ambience, it's still quite effective as a mood piece. It's not going to make the adventurers flee in terror, but it's going to make them cautious and a bit despondent.
1.7. Hurry Up!: One of my favorites. This song really takes off from the beginning, with a really cool melody and excellent backup from the other instruments. The melody itself has a distinct Eastern sound to it, and the overall harmony of the piece goes through some unexpected -- though highly enjoyable -- changes. A real sweet piece of ear candy.
1.8. Fierce Battle: Okay, this battle theme has more bite to it than track 1.4, but to me it's just too slow! The sharp chords at the beginning prepare you for some wild, turbulent song, but once the main melody kicks in, it becomes sort of a let-down. The dissonance in the harmony is a nice change, but the song just seems to dance circles around itself.
1.9. Requiem: Yet another piece with a slow calculated melody. This one is rather sad (appropriately). I consider this to be the negative counterpart to the Prologue, as the two are very similar in composition. This one lacks the beauty of the Prologue, but it gets the job done.
1.10. Forbidden Tower: The unusual harmonies used in this track make for an interesting mood piece, despite the rather repetitive bass instrumentation. The mood is hard to define, but to me it seems to represent a challenge that must be faced; not evil, but definitely mysterious.
1.11. Heartful Tears: Another SaGa classic. Again, the simple melody makes this piece. This track, however, develops more on its melody than the Prologue (for example). The melody is also not quite so slow and calculated. For some reason I never get any emotional feeling from this song, but otherwise it's a gem.
1.12. Knights of the Demon World Tower: This track has some well-used dissonance and a very interesting rhythm -- the melody is carried slowly by the first two instruments, while the third instrument plays at a different, faster tempo. I also like the blend of the instruments chosen, and how their sounds complement each other.
1.13. The Highest Floor: Getting the mood across seems to be the only point of this song, and it certainly gets an uneasy mood going. The composition of the piece is sorely lacking in any substance, however.
1.14. Furious Battle: A song certainly fit for the final boss of the game. It has a very strong and fast melody, complemented wonderfully by the harmony and the structure of the other two instruments. At one point, I think the composer somehow managed to change instruments in the middle of the song. Before hearing this piece, I didn't think it was possible in Game Boy music! If you're the type of person who hates repetition in music, the composition of this track will give all the variation you could ever ask for.
1.15. Epilogue: The majority of this track consists of a remix or two of good old track 1.2. I like how the bass instruments do more work in this piece, giving a lot more support to the melody. It's also a treat to hear a song which actually varies its tempo and instrumentation from time to time. While not excellent, it's certainly an above-average ending theme.
1.16. The Legend Begins: The good old SaGa prologue makes its second appearance. It's a bit faster than the Prologue used in SaGa 1, and it's written in a slightly different key (you wouldn't notice unless you listened to the two versions back-to-back). The instruments also sound more natural in this version, and the fading effects give it more feeling. It's my personal favorite of the three Prologues.
1.17. Searching for the Secret Treasure: Ah yes, another band of heroes sets out on their heroic quest. And they could not have asked for better music to start their journey! I love how they play with the harmony in this piece, and how the instruments interact with each other. This song really raises the bar for all the songs in SaGa 2, but don't you worry -- the rest of the tracks from this game have no trouble meeting this test.
1.18. Lethal Strike: Honestly, this battle theme will take you on a roller coaster ride. It starts off slow, but by the end, the notes really become a blur! Oh, and did I mention the melody? This is as close to narrative music as Game Boy music gets, folks. I dare you to find anything here that repeats more than once.
1.19. Eat the Meat: The traditional SaGa victory music also gets an overhaul in this sequel. The nice instrumentation almost makes me forget how repetitive this song is. Oh well... at least it's catchy.
1.20. Peaceful World: Perhaps it's just me, but I think "peaceful" is a misnomer. Yes, this piece is relaxing, but it seems somewhat sad to me, and I always think of "peaceful" as more of a happy, contented sound. This song is similar in style to track 1.3, only this one has some counterpoint going on, not just a one-note-at-a-time bass.
1.21. Adventurer's Theme: This is an odd song. First of all, it doesn't follow a conventional key signature (such as major or minor), but rather a modal one, which is about as heroic-sounding as a harmonica solo. I guess it works -- my only complaint is that they used this particular song for the adventurer's theme, rather than finding a more appropriate one.
1.22. Pillar of Heaven: Very ambient and cosmic-sounding. The melody seems to hover just out of arm's reach, like a twinkling star. The bass is a twirling galaxy, spinning lazily in the background. If you can, try listening to this song for a longer period of time, so you can appreciate the ambience more. The two loops it plays on the recording just don't do it justice.
1.23. Through the Cramped Darkness: So similar to track 1.21, it's almost scary. It also uses a modal scale, and has a chromatic thing going on with the bass. This song is put to better use, however -- it's a very effective dungeon theme. The composition isn't so great, though.
1.24. Wandering Spirit: A little note on the game -- when you fall in battle in SaGa 2, you appear in front of the god Odin, who offers to revive you and give you another chance at winning the battle. I think this piece is a perfect parallel to that scenario. It sounds sad right up until the very end (before the loop begins again), but just when you think it's all over, out comes a beautiful series of chords which wraps up the song like a musical ray of light.
1.25. Theme of the New God: This song opens with a interesting interweaving of instruments, which then evens out into a creepy, mysterious melody. When I hear this song, I always picture Apollo (one of the Gods who appears in the game) standing in his temple, his hair waving in the wind, gazing at the adventurers with an unreadable expression on his face. This is an example of repetitive music done correctly, though I wouldn't quite call this an "ambient" piece.
1.26. Ah!!: Wow, this is a short one. It features rapidly cascading notes which fall in a rather strange harmony. There's only so much you can do with a six-second composition.
1.27. Decisive Battle: Simply one of the best boss battle themes I've heard in a long time. It starts with a barrage of oscillating chords, backed up by a slowly ascending bass. Then the melody kicks in, dancing and twirling over the keyboard, while the other instruments intertwine and support it. With each rise and fall in the tension, you can almost imagine weapons clashing in the background.
1.28. Mystery of the Secret Treasure: A pretty, tranquil, underwater-y piece. The slow melody and bass make for some good harmony, while the third instrument wavers in and out of the background. Not as ambient as tracks like Pillar of Heaven, but it makes up for it with a greater deal of variation.
1.29. Never Give Up: Composition is the name of the game in this narrative piece. The melody and harmony both go through some wonderful transformations, keeping the song moving at a quick pace. I especially love how the very end of the song goes back to its starting key through some rather skillful twists of harmony.
1.30. Heartful Tears: Another track which was borrowed from SaGa 1. Personally, I think that the original version is better, since this version loses the "flutey" feeling that makes the original sound so good. This version does, however, feature some nice counterpoint (something that the SaGa 1 version lacked) in the harmony -- it kicks in about 45 seconds into the song.
1.31. Burning Blood: This song's quite a bit different than the others used in the game. The melody stands quite well on its own, but the harmony gives it excellent backup. One small complaint I have is about the choice of instruments, since the melody line tends to grate on your ears if you listen to this track too much.
1.32. Saving the World: This track opens with a tense sequence reminiscent of the opening for Decisive Battle. The choice of instruments is this piece is just perfect. Individually, the instruments don't do much, but combined together, the effect is pretty good. Not great... until a short variation of Burning Blood gets thrown into the mix at the end -- and that alone makes up for all the other shortcomings of this song.
1.33. Ending Theme 1: Now this song could have been better, in my opinion. It begins with a slow introduction, then proceeds into a victory march, which has a decent melody. Halfway through the song, there is a short passage which bears a lot of similarity to another passage in track 1.29, followed by a guest appearance by a part of track 1.20. Then it's back to the march again. The original stuff in here is pretty mediocre, but the blending of the arranged tunes makes up for it.
1.34. Ending Theme 2: I'm not sure why Square chose to make this its own track, since it's merely a continuation of Ending Theme 1. It starts with (guess what?) another arrangement... of opening track 1.16, this time. Nothing in the ending is going to wow you, it's fairly straightforward. But hey, there's still no such thing as a bad track from SaGa 2. ^_^
2.1. Opening: This version of the Prologue really takes off in a new direction. Not only is the instrument quality much improved over the two prequels, but its new upbeat makes you feel like you're listening to an entirely different song. Very original work -- I like it.
2.2. Setting Off into the Future: Another very strong game-opener. Again, we see a significant step up in the level of compositional quality in this game. The unusual harmony keeps things from sounding too clichéd, and the catchy pace of the song has you bouncing along with the melody.
2.3. Deep: What happened here? They were off to such a good start... This track isn't subtle enough to be called "ambient", but the melody sure isn't much to talk about. Nothing is really bad with this song, but then again, nothing is really good about it either.
2.4. Oasis: Again, a rather bland melody. This track is better than number 2.3, though. It does have some good instrument coordination and harmony, and the composition is unique.
2.5. Fight!: Okay, now we're back on the right track (pun intended). It could have been a bit faster, in my opinion, but it still sounds very battle-ish. The instrumentation is just wonderful, even if the melody's not great, and I found the percussion a welcome contribution.
2.6. Holy Ruins: Oh, so close, but no cigar. The melody's good, the composition's great... what's missing? From the sound of it, an entire instrument. Throughout the piece, the bass has this annoying, hollow "bumm-bumm-buh-bum" sound. The composer should have used that instrument to tackle the harmony -- it would have really fleshed out the music as a whole. I can only dream of the aural ecstasy that would have resulted if they had done so...
2.7. Stronghold: Now this piece has the harmony that I so desperately need. I love how the melody seems to almost "rise" in certain places, backed up by the excellent bass work. Oh yeah, there's lots of pretty intertwining of instruments as well.
2.8. Gods of Another Dimension: Ugh. Again, we have this hollow bass that is trying to be a percussion instrument, it seems. This track gets docked major points for not sounding even remotely like a battle song. One or two of the other instruments seem to be doing nothing but taking up musical space, padding a melody which isn't all that good to begin with. Next!
2.9. Eat the Meat: It's Eat the Meat. Nothing much to say about this one, except that it doesn't sound quite as deep as the previous two versions.
2.10. Warrior's Rest: While I am tempted to bash this track for the annoying sound of the main melody instrument, I have to admit that it's one of the most real-sounding instruments I've ever heard in Game Boy music. It's reminiscent of an oboe or English horn, and it is complemented very nicely by a more conventional-sounding harmonic instrument.
2.11. Theme of Another Dimension: This song is pure goodness. It's got your composition, it's got your catchy beat, it's got your head-bangin' melody, and it's got harmony up the wazoo. At one point, one of the bass instruments goes off on a crazy cascade up and down the keyboard, and it sounds great. The only flaw? It's too short. I want more, dag nab it! More!!!
2.12. Village in a Strange Land: The bass in this piece is wonderfully rich and full, giving it a great harmonic sound. This is the first song in SaGa 3 that I can truly consider a mood piece. It sounds very "legendary", like you just stepped back in time and are experiencing a piece of history first-hand. (This actually happens in the game, so I guess it makes sense.)
2.13. Dungeon: This track features the "dull bass" sound again. But as if that wasn't bad enough, the melody is way too repetitive, and there is neither narrative nor ambient quality in this piece. Bummer.
2.14. Steslos: Here we have the theme of the time-and-dimension-traveling ship, which is called the "Talon" in the English version of the game. I really love the instrumentation in this piece. The melody and composition could have been better, though.
2.15. Insanity: Despite its short length, this track actually manages to cram in some good composition. The instruments work together quite well, and it definitely conveys a mood of panic and disorder.
2.16. Heartful Tears: Don't believe what the title of this track tells you. This is not Heartful Tears. Far from it. While the melody is good, the instrument of choice is the same odd instrument that was used in track 2.10, which in my opinion was a very bad choice. "I knew Heartful Tears. Heartful Tears was a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no Heartful Tears!"
2.17. Dark Zone: The ultra-high melody of this song, complemented by the menacing arpeggios in the harmony, earns it the award for "Spookiest Mood Piece on the Soundtrack". A simple, yet effective, mix.
2.18. Laguna's Palace: Just when you thought that SaGa 3 could never effectively combine musical composition with emotion, here comes the final dungeon music to prove you wrong. This is the retaliation of the warriors, finally striking at the heart of the immortals' power. But until victory is yours, you can listen to this brilliant composition, which uses just the right mix of instruments.
2.19. Spiritual Battle: Just like the fabulous track 2.11, this one is way too short. I would have liked to hear a more battle-ish song myself, but the fast pacing and brilliant counterpoint are quite sufficient to make this a great song.
2.20. Supreme Ruler of Time and Space: While not quite as narrative as the other two ending themes, this would still have to be my favorite out of the three. Maybe it's the bouncy tempo, or maybe it's the happy melody that does it for me, I'm not quite sure. But I think this simple song brings closure to the first SaGa trilogy better than any grandiose symphonic piece ever could.
2.21. SaGa Arranged: The sole arranged piece of All Sounds of SaGa begins with a soft remix of the Prologue, performed by some very ethereal synthesized instruments. Then the song picks up with an original symphonic "victory" sequence, joined by a very cool-sounding pipe organ. The organ executes a series of dissonant chords, and a cascade of strings and drums carry the song into another soft remix, this time of track 1.3. The melody is played not by a flute, but by a beautiful-sounding clarinet. Instead of stopping where the original stops, the clarinet keeps going, expanding upon the original so well that you have to remind yourself that this is new material. What follows is a faster, rock-ish version of track 1.2. The clarinet trades off with a "fuzzy" synth instrument for the melody, backed up by a small number of string instruments and percussion. Then comes more new material, developing more upon the theme (though the rock influence drops out at this point). Back comes the clarinet for an arranged version of Heartful Tears. I love this arrangement, with the exception of some drums that pop in at one point and somewhat ruin the mood. Finally, after a bit more development, we visit the Prologue again briefly, then flow right into the very last part of track 1.15, the ending track to SaGa 1. This remix is very vibrant and features a fuller orchestra than any other of the arranged songs in this track. It ends in grand finale style, with a climactic bass drum and chimes.
The verdict? They could not have done better with the tracks that they chose for this arranged piece. However, they could have picked better tracks to begin with. While they were all quality tracks, each one of them came from SaGa 1, and they all had a very similar style to them. Where were the battle themes, or the songs from the other games? Perhaps if those other songs had been made into an arranged track of their own, I would be satisfied. But sadly, this is the only arranged track, and I don't think that it adequately represents the soundtrack as a whole. But if you're familiar with the original versions of the songs, and you listen closely enough, you should still be able to get a lot of enjoyment from this piece.
The 5 best tracks in All Sounds of SaGa (in no particular order):
- 1.7: Hurry Up!
- 1.14: Furious Battle
- 1.27: Decisive Battle
- 1.29: Never Give Up
- 2.11: Theme of Another Dimension
The 5 worst tracks in All Sounds of SaGa:
- 1.13: The Highest Floor
- 2.3: Deep
- 2.8: Gods of Another Dimension
- 2.13: Dungeon
- 2.16: Heartful Tears
The 5 most typical tracks in All Sounds of SaGa:
- 1.2: Main Theme
- 1.11: Heartful Tears
- 1.17: Searching for the Secret Treasure
- 1.24: Wandering Spirit
- 2.7: Stronghold
So what's good about this soundtrack? Almost everything. I absolutely love all the songs from the first two games, and most of the songs from the third game. You can clearly hear the musical evolution that is going on here. The songs from SaGa 1 are very minimalist, and yet I think the instruments from that game have such an emotional quality to them, synthesized though they may be. SaGa 2 is all about composition, though instrument quality also improves a bit. It's clear that at this point, the composers realized that they were no longer just writing "background blips and bleeps", but an honest-to-goodness musical masterpiece. SaGa 3 pushes the Game Boy sound hardware to its limit, fleshing out the songs with percussion, and utilizing a greater note range than either of the prequels. Each game has its own distinctive style, yet there are still clear connections that tie the trilogy together as a whole soundtrack.
Now on with the (few) negative points. The recording equipment used is obviously not as high-quality as it could have been. You sometimes hear crackles in the sound (especially in the SaGa 1 tracks), and I can assure you that they are not due to disc scratches -- I have an original set in near-perfect condition, and I get those crackles too. Believe me, Game Boy music can sound better than this (listen to Seiken Densetsu Sound Collections and you'll know what I mean). Another complaint of mine is the arranged piece. Not that it was bad in any way... it's just I would have liked to have more of it.
Unless you have some severe medical condition that prevents you from enjoying Game Boy music, you need this soundtrack. Go out and get it, because your life just isn't worth living until you hear it. =P And if you do happen to have a condition that doesn't let you enjoy Game Boy music, here's a word of advice from Doctor Kero: "It's not about synth quality. It's about musical quality."