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Seiken Densetsu Sound Collections, people. S D S C. You know you want to... listen to it.
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One of the greatest composers at Square, Kenji Ito started one of Square’s legendary series (Pun intended :P) : Seiken Densetsu, roughly translated to Legend of the Holy Sword. Released a year after scoring SaGa 1(Final Fantasy Legend in the US) with Nobuo Uematsu, Ito is asked to compose for the first game of the Seiken Densetsu series on the GameBoy portable, named Final Fantasy Adventure in the US, on his own. Obviously, the game was a success as Square released three sequels to this game. The second and third games were scored by Hiroki Kikuta, while the fourth one by Yoko Shimomura. In japan, there are three CDs dedicated to this game, the original soundtrack, an arranged soundtrack called « Let thoughts Ride on Knowledge », while the last one is the arranged music and OST all in one CD, called Seiken Densetsu Sound Collections. The arranged tracks are done by Takayuki Hattori. Anyways, let’s take a closer look at this wonderful gem.
Note : Tracks 1 to 7 are the arranged tracks, the 27 remaining tracks are the OST tracks.
1. First Chapter - Determination: Rising Sun ~ Fighting Arena ~ Endless Battlefield : We are introduced to the title theme, lushly orchestrated, although it’s arranged via synthetizer, a very pretty piece, not long after we are brought to the Arena battle theme, which is dramatic at best, you can imagine the hero fighting for his freedom, and soon, he is freed, as we hear the overworld theme, which is very majestic, powerful, vibrant. Once these three lovely arrangements are done playing, we are brought back to the title theme for a closure.
2. Second Chapter - Menace: Glance Dukedom ~ Dungeon 1 ~ Fight 1 : The second set of arrangements starts off with the Empire’s Theme, which sounds quite eerie, not to mention, somewhat evil, the violins used in this segment help give the track give a very sinister feel. It soon turns to the first dungeon theme, while it may not sound like much, it’s a decent simple segment, that does its work as you can imagine the hero travelling in monster-infested dungeons, then the track builds up for the first boss theme. Wow !!! This segment is really powerful, played with acoustic guitars and trumpets/horns, it has this spanish/european feel, there’s an instrument used here which I can’t identify which is often associated in spanish music. Anyways, after two loops, the track comes to an end.
3. Third Chapter - Mission: Village ~ Royal Palace ~ Mana's Mission : The peaceful and emotional arrangements are found in this track, the village theme consists of a soft acoustic guitar, backed up by flutes, which makes the listener relax as it moves on the royal palace theme, which gives a strong feeling of hope, until it moves on to the Mana’s theme…. It becomes VERY emotional…. Especially due to the the lovely vocal, it makes me shed a tear each time I hear it, not because it is sad, on the contrary, it is very beautiful. The acoustic guitar closes the track along with a few violins in the end.
4. Fourth Chapter - Friends: Birth of Chocobo ~ Chocobo Theme : Oh yeah ! Here we are treated to two very special segments, being the very first use of the chocobo theme (composed by Uematsu) outside the Final Fantasy universe. The first one is rather mellow and very comical, sure to brighten up anyone’s day who hears it. The second theme is a parade-like march on the chocobo theme, with the trumpets and all. There are both wonderful renditions of the chocobo theme we all know and love. (Right ? :P) It closes with a passage of very sweet melodies.
5. Fifth Chapter - Parting: Dungeon 2 ~ Fight 2 ~ In Sorrow ~ Let Thoughts Ride on Knowledge : This theme has an arabian feel and sound to it, it slowly builds up to one of the more impressive themes of the game : The second boss theme. This one takes the listener for the ride of a lifetime, the acoustic guitar plays the main melody, backed up by violins and trumpets and the spanish folk instrument. After the amazing boss theme, we have the theme of sadness, the piano succeeds in passing the feeling to the listener. Then we are brought to a determination theme in which the Hero will do what it takes to overcome the evil and free the land of its curse.
6. Sixth Chapter - Decisive Battle: Mana Palace ~ Julius' Ambition ~ Last Battle : The Mana palace’s theme has a lovely piano entrance, soon joined by violins, in which the listener gets the feeling of exploring a large ancient temple (D’uh !), the music then moves on to Julius’ Ambition, which sounds very sinister, dark, unnerving, it builds up little by little until we move on to the Final Battle. Woo. This is one winner, the impression of power, survival, and hope are felt in this segment, there is a nice acoustic guitar interlude by the end of the track.
7. Last Chapter - Life: Legend Forever : Yeah, a lovely ending theme, using the Mana’s theme, an assortment of instruments find their way here, acoustic guitar, trumpets, violins and even a chorus (synthetized, of course), which gives the listener the feeling that he has lived through a magical adventurem a good one at that.
8. Rising Sun : Yay !! Original GameBoy music, at last. While it may sound terrible by today’s standards, Ito concentrated his efforts on the compostion rather than synth and brings us a refreshing title theme.
9. Fighting Arena : Somewhat repetitive, but these synthy effects have a sort of charm to them, and the theme fits the scene just right.
10. Requiem : Yep, a theme of sadness, it is played whever the Hero loses one of his friends during the adventure, while it won’t make you shed tears, it still hits you emotionally.
11. Endless Battlefield : The overworld theme is a very enjoyable and epic (kinda) theme, you get the feeling that you’re off to save the world while fighting off minor baddies in the field.
12. Village : A very quiet, slow theme, take your time to explore the town, and relax while you’re at it.
13. Town Theme (Unreleased) : Oh !! Lookie, lookie, a completely new theme, it sounds alot more happy and bouncy, which seems really fitting for a town theme, now why didn’t they release this one ????
14. Dwarves’ Theme : A nice little theme, although a bit harsh on the ears, not of compositional quality, but the music sometimes gets a bit too loud.
15. Glance Dukedom : The Empire gets an interesting theme, it is rather slow-paced and sounds slightly menacing, which is perfect when we see the villains plotting throughout the game.
16. Dungeon 1 : This theme really represents the depths of a cavern as you search every nook and cranny for treasure and fight off monsters. Can’t say more than that ^^;
17. Fight 1 : Another theme I really like, it gives you the strenght to outlast those wimpy bosses, easily a great example of Ito’s expertise in battle themes.
18. Royal Palace : A slow and quiet piece, sounds a bit symphonic in nature, which is good when you’re visiting castles and such.
19. Mana’s Mission : Even without the vocal in the arranged version, it still gives some emotion as you learn of your mission some more.
20. Danger ! : A very short panic theme, not much to say here except « Run, run, or you’ll be well done ! » :P
21. Jema’s Realization : This theme makes me imagine that the character Jema thinks about how he has been stubborn in the past and wants to make it up to the Hero by joining him on his quest, it would fit such a scene perfectly.
22. In search of the Sacred Sword : An epic theme which shows the determination of the Hero as he searches the world over for the legendary Excalibur.
23. Birth of Chocobo : A cute little theme as a baby chocobo hatches before your eyes and becomes your friend. ^_^
24. Theme of Chocobo : The theme as we know it, although Ito arranges it slightly, which is nice.
25. Dungeon 2 : This is the dungeon theme that sounds arabic, it sure gives off a mysterious feel as you wander through more complicated rooms filled with traps and the like.
26. Mowgli : The very first moogle theme, although it is really short as it is a short lasting status ailment, but it is fitting for it. :)
27. Dungeon 3 : This dungeon theme gives a more epic feel as you know you’re getting closer and closer to your ultimate goal.
28. Fight 2 : The second boss theme is another great example of how Ito is versatile with battle themes, this one is far more dramatic than the first as bosses at this point are far more complicated and you need to think carefully before you make a move.
29. In Sorrow : Another sad theme, this one makes a better attempt at capturing the emotion and feel, must be played during important losses.
30. Let Thoughts Ride on Knowledge : I have no clue where this track is being played, although I can say that it is decent composition and synth wise. It’s very melodic for one.
31. Mana Palace : The final dungeon certainly gets a pretty but still epic theme, you know you’re almost there and have to stay alive until all is over.
32. Julius’ Ambition : The main villain, Julius, was granted a creepy melody, you can clearly see him plotting the death of out Hero while listening.
33. Final Battle : This is it, the decisive battle, draw your sword and give your best, this is indeed a very impressive track, it gives you the edge in battle as you hold on to life while freeing the world from this monster.
34. Legend Forever : It starts out with a very nice synth effect, re-using the title theme in different variations, you’ve earned this lovely medley of many themes from the game for beating the vile Julius, congratulations. Easily a great ending theme, despite the weak synth at the time.
So there you have it, Seiken Densetsu Sound Collections is indeed a great treasure for soundtrack enthusiasts. The downside : It is currently out of print, however, AnimeNation, which is ironically one of the less reccomendable import stores, might be able to get you a copy. If not, then Ebay is your only chance, fortunately, it tends to go at reasonable prices, around 30$ at the most, which is a great price for such a rare and good CD.
Seiken Densetsu Sound Collection... This is basically the soundtrack to FF Adventure, a zelda clone Square made in the early 90s-late 80s, which will soon be remixed for GBA. Kenji Ito, the composer of this soundtrack is pretty renowned by people that like the old VG music for his talent in the upbeat sector. His battle music, for one, is basically in a class of its own and even if the music is freakin' game boy music, it still kicks a lot of ass. There is only 1 thing which can kick more ass: remixes of said music and battle themes, which this soundtrack presents in the first 7 tracks!
The first 7 tracks are
- First Chapter - Determination: Rising Sun ~ Fighting Arena ~ Endless Battlefield
- Second Chapter - Menace: Glance Dukedom ~ Dungeon 1 ~ Fight 1
- Third Chapter - Mission: Village ~ Royal Palace ~ Mana's Mission
- Fourth Chapter - Friends: Birth of Chocobo ~ Chocobo Theme
- Fifth Chapter - Parting: Dungeon 2 ~ Fight 2 ~ In Sorrow ~ Let Thoughts Ride on Knowledge
- Sixth Chapter - Decisive Battle: Mana Palace ~ Julius' Ambition ~ Last Battle
- Last Chapter - Life: Legend Forever
So the names look weird. However, from the names, and from listening to them, it becomes obvious that you pretty much get 20 remixes of 90% of what's worth listening on the soundtrack, including battle music. Its hard to describe how good this really sounds because of how unusual the soundtrack is. Every song type has its own style too, which is all the better because it adds a unique flare to the soundtrack. For example, this is the first time I've ever heard battle music played on a classical guitar (and not on an electric guitar like Darkness Nova or The Black Mages soundtrack). It has a Spanish Salsa feel to it and I have yet to see another composer do it (other than Uematsu with Vamo alla Flamenco, but that's just 1 song). What's also particularly interesting is how the chocobo remix in this soundtrack is mambo. I hate mambo, but they managed to pull it off pretty well too. But it's a REALLY weird song, and you actually hear little noises in the background that are meant to sound like what you'd think chocobos would. It's very interesting o_O. It's then followed up by a classical guitar version of chocobo music, which is very soothing and relaxing to listen to (like when you're out of your midterms and you're utterly fried >.>).
The dungeon songs are extra gloomy, but not ambient and crappy like so many other rpgs have done before. Listening to these isn't what Myst was to the gaming world, its interesting. The harp and xylophone really help set the mood. Mana's Mission is probably one of the best sad/tragic songs made by Square before Suteki da ne. Not only does the moan capture the essence of the moment from the game, but it also provides a rare depiction of real sadness and pain. It's a beautiful song, to go with the rest of the soundtrack. It doesn't have lyrics of its own, but those who've played the game will remember the cruel irony of the heroine's life this song personifies.
Anyone who's grown up with FFA and the game boy will be flooded with memories from listening to this puppy, and awed by the remixes. It's not a hard soundtrack, not even the battle music. There's a lot of brass, accoustic guitar, violin and castagnettes. Unusual, but so enjoyable. Lastly, what's interesting about the remixes is that they pretty much all run into each other. They basically were played 1 after the other and the song was broken into 7 pieces. The flow makes it very interesting as the songs don't run into each other but lead to one another. This makes the songs vary from their original tune so they'd fit into the mood of the next song. The GB remixes, I won't say much of, other than some of them can be pretty annoying if you're used to today's standards (the dwarves' theme to name one *shudders*), but the overworld themes and the battle themes are still on par with the rest of the good stuff Square's brought us in recent years. All in all, if you see this soundtrack anywhere, you'd be a fool not to get it.
There's something cool about a soundtrack that has both original and arranged music in it. I tend to be more of a fan of original music, myself, but I sure can't complain when an artist decides to throw in some arranged tracks too. The OST for Seiken Densetsu (Final Fantasy Adventure if you're not feeling very Japanese) was originally released as its own album shortly after the game was made. A short while later, an arranged album titled "Let Thoughts Ride on Knowledge" was released. And then, in one of the best soundtrack marketing moves in history, Square decided to re-release both of these soundtracks on a single CD, in all their glorious entirety. I imagine this annoyed the people who bought both of the albums separately, but it's good news for people who haven't yet tasted Seiken Densetu's musical magnificence.
Seiken Densetsu Sound Collections begins with the 7 arranged tracks, with the 27 original tracks following. Timewise, the two halves of the soundtrack are almost the same length. All OST tracks were composed by Kenji Ito. Ito handled the arranged tracks too, though the actual orchestration was done by Takayuki Hattori.
* * * Arranged tracks * * *
1. "Prologue: Determination". It opens with an orchestra performance of "Rising Sun", violins carrying the melody. Now that's a pretty nice melody to start with, but the other instruments make it just that much richer. Before the happy tones overwhelm you, though, a battle theme ("Fighting Arena") interrupts with its cascading brass. Everything becomes stormy, but then out of the chaos comes the valiant "Endless Battlefield" arrangement to save the day. In the last minute, "Rising Sun" comes back and finishes this fantastic opener.
2. "Second Chapter: Menace". This one begins with a sinister woodwind rendition of "Glance Dukedom". The melody and harmony both do this cool stair-stepping effect, where the chords are ascending but actual notes are descending. After a loud crash, the arranged version of "Dungeon 1" cuts in. This piece fits so perfectly with "Glance Dukedom" that you may not even realize you're hearing a different song. It's got roughly the same harmony, but with a couple extra instruments thrown in -- a high-strung violin and some brass for a touch of evil. Then the track undergoes a major shift, into a Flamenco version of "Battle 1". Folks, this is what arrangement is all about. Despite the fact that the style is different and the tempo is slower, it's the same song at heart. Only this time, it's the old song on steroids. Guitar, castanets, this one has the works, and is guaranteed to please.
3. "Third Chapter: Mission". The first arrangment of this piece comes from "Village", which is a slow light melody played out on a trio of guitars (great instrument choice, I think). There are also some flutes that really flesh out the harmony. Next comes "Theme of the Royal Palace", which continues along the same vein, though the violins give a slightly more regal air to it. This segment is stretched out for a bit, and each repetition does something a little different with the instrumentation and harmony. Then things start to turn a bit sour, the music taking on a dark mood about halfway through. The sorrowful "Mission of Mana" enters, the main melody carried out by a female soloist. I really love this part... it's so sad and beautiful at the same time. Back to the village theme once more, and it's done.
4. "Fourth Chapter: Comrades". Quite a departure from your standard arranged game track, the first part of this one is a very silly-sounding "Chocobo's Birth". It reminds me of some crazy party on board a Carribbean cruise. The craziness continues into "Chocobo's Theme", where I think it fits pretty well, seeing that the Chocobo music has a history of fun arrangments like this one. What follows is "Dwarves' Theme", which begins as another guitar-based arrangement. This one is a lot slower than its original version, and the flutes tend to make you feel a bit sleepy.
5. "Fifth Chapter: Parting". Now for some Middle Eastern flair, it's "Dungeon 2" (which had that kind of mood even in its original version). The flowing harps and chimes make this one sound very mysterious, doing justice to the flavor of the original. Things start to heat up a bit, and everything gets louder and faster, until we land in an arrangement of "Battle 2" that will knock your socks off. It's Flamenco again, but this song is even better suited to the style than Battle 1. Ito took a song that already had perfect composition and a melody that oozes heroic battle, and made it even better with some great instrumentation and stylistic arrangement. "In the Midst of Sorrow" follows, a piano-based arrangement with some other instruments thrown in to enhance the feeling. It's nice, but what follows is even better: "Let Thoughts Ride on Knowledge". It's the most minimal song on the soundtrack, but also one of the most beautiful. Made up of nothing but a sweet little melody and accompanying chords, this harp piece is like pure emotion in musical form.
6. "Sixth Chapter: Decisive Battle". On to the next. "Mana Temple" is a curious brooding song, though I actually care for the original version better because I think the harmonies in the arrangement make it sound too happy. And this track should not be a happy one, as the following excerpt, "The Ambitions of Julius", shows. Not what I'd choose as my theme if I were a villain, but it is evil enough, I suppose. It's basically just a prelude to "The Final Battle", which is not a Flamenco arrangement as you might expect. Rather, it's a marchy symphonic piece with snare drums, brass, and the whole works. While it slightly diminishes the creepy feeling that the final boss music had, it does sound more fierce and climactic. Oh wait... is that a guitar I hear? I guess there *is* a bit of Flamenco in there after all, but just a bit.
7. "Epilogue: Life". Unlike the other arrangements, "Eternal Legend" gets its very own track. There are several instrumental styles at work here, from guitar solo to orchestral to vocal. It's a pretty cool piece, with interesting variation in the harmony and melody. (Not too interesting, though, it's still very conventional-sounding.) The only part I don't like is the last 30 seconds of the song, as the melody rises and the voices do this annoying "ahhh-ahhh" thing. Sounds like music from some cheesy 60s Disney movie. -_-
* * * Original tracks * * *
8. "Rising Sun". Like the arrangement, this is a great opener. It's got one of those cool narrative melodies, and the harmony keeps tickling your emotions as you're not sure if it's supposed to be happy or sad or whatever.
9. "Fighting Arena". This one's kinda funny. The bass has this rapid descending thing going on, and the melody instrument appears to be communicating in Morse Code. Neat idea, but there's just not enough meat in this thing.
10. "Requiem". Here we can hear one of the popular instrumentation techniques used for Game Boy music: a harmony made up of a very low bass and a rocking midrange instrument covering the rest of the chord. If done well, this can sound quite good... but I expect a little more from Ito. The melody is of a sad parting, and I guess that's all you need to know.
11. "Endless Battlefield". A great overworld song if I ever heard one. Like "Rising Sun", it doesn't have a definite mood associated with it. This thing has such narrative goodness, with the harmony twisting and turning from major to minor to modal to god-knows-what. Not exactly simple, but more complex and rich than most anything you'd hear on the radio nowadays. :P
12. "Village". More of that dual harmony. Hey, you gotta go with whatever works, I suppose. The melody is pretty good here, so I guess that makes up for the predictable harmony.
13. "Town". This song was never included in the actual game -- no big loss, IMO. It's got kind of a lame harmony, and the composition sounds too much like "variation for the sake of variation". Melody is okay, though.
14. "Dwarves' Theme". Hehe, this is a cute one. The melody is played extremely high up on the keyboard, and makes a nice playmate for the bouncy harmony. You can just imagine Dwarves pushing around their minecarts and whatnot, totally oblivious to the incredible evil gathering in strength all around them.
15. "Glance Dukedom". Played when you first escape from the Battle Arena, this song symbolizes the evil intentions of the Glance Dukedom (Glaive Empire if you're going by the American name). There are two parts to this piece: a quick cascading descending melody accompanied by an ascending harmony, and then a slower segment with a sinister melody accompanied by an oscillating harmony. Alone, these two segments aren't that special, but together, they work beautifully. I imagine they are supposed to represent the twin evils of the Dark Knight and Julius.
16. "Dungeon 1". Employing some of the tricks used in the previous song, this dungeon theme succeeds in sounding very mysterious, but not very evil. Not one of my favorites.
17. "Battle 1". Prepare yourself for some rapid notes here, combined with some great harmonic buildups that really set the mood well. I love this track's composition... all three sections work together so well.
18. "Theme of the Royal Palace". This track boasts some great slow harmonic progressions, and it's a shame that it's so short. The melody also fits in well.
19. "Mission of Mana". Surely one of the more memorable mood pieces of SDSC. Very nice melody, and although the composition is simple, it musically conveys an event quite well.
20. "Danger!". A nice quick "escape" piece. Like 99% of those, it's too short to review.
21. "Gemma's Self-Realization". I'm really quite impressed with the backup instruments for this one. Instead of merely playing chords, there is some genuine counterpoint going on with the melody. It's rather sad, but still has a glimmer of hope hidden in those harmonies.
22. "Seeking the Holy Sword". Though not quite as great as its big brother, "Endless Battlefield", this overworld piece is still a keeper, no doubt about it. The initial harmonies are quite unusual, but as the song progresses, you can see where Ito is going with it. Similar in structure and style to big brother, almost as musically pleasing.
23. "Chocobo's Birth". Kind of a prelude to the Chocobo theme.
24. "Chocobo's Theme". It sounds like this version of the Chocobo theme was written between FF2 and FF3, before the theme took on its familiar second part (listen to the FF2 Chocobo music and you'll see what's missing). Rather annoying, if you ask me, as it's just way too repetitive.
25. "Dungeon 2". This song has some of the best instrumentation on the OST part of the disc. The melody has an awesome timbre, even for a synthesizer. The Middle Eastern style works perfectly here, as it reminds me of some ancient Egyptian tomb. Creepy, indeed.
26. "Mowgli". Ten seconds of Moogle-ification in the game merits ten seconds of Moogle (or Mowgli, for the Japanese) music.
27. "Dungeon 3". Kind of an odd twist here... the melody is in the bass instrument, while the treble maintains a flowing harmony. Bordering on the ambient, this track is quite repetitive, but that works perfectly as a mood-setting dungeon piece.
28. "Battle 2". I kid you not, this is my all-time favorite battle theme. It's a bit like the first battle theme, in that the composition is absolutely fantastic. The melodic sections of the piece are a lot harder to separate, however -- and I guess that's a good thing, because that just shows how well the whole piece flows together. I could go on for pages, but the bottom line is that you simply must hear this track.
29. "In the Midst of Sorrow". This track boasts quite a long and varied melody, which is a good thing here. Very emotional, so it sets the mood well. And the good composition makes it nice and story-like.
30. "Let Thoughts Ride on Knowledge". I always imagine this piece being played on a harp or lute, like it is played by a certain character in the game. The melody instrument plays series of tri-note chords, of which only the top note is part of the actual melody. There is a bass instrument, but you hardly even notice it, because the absolute beauty of this piece just grabs you and doesn't let go.
31. "Mana Temple". Harmony makes this piece. Like the third dungeon track, the melody is in the bass for a change. And also like that track, this one is pretty ambient. The harmony is incredibly mysterious and awe-inspiring. Makes you feel just like the game's hero, treading in a sacred place normally meant for gods.
32. "The Ambitions of Julius". Not sure why they stuck this track in so late in the album, as this plays near the very beginning... but I guess it works as a nice intro to the next song.
33. "The Final Battle". The name doesn't lie. I like this track a smidgen less than "Battle 2", but that's still speaking very highly of it. Ito has the poor Game Boy churning out notes as fast as it can go, pouring on the modal harmonies like there's no tomorrow. By itself, the melody doesn't sound that battle-ish, but when it works with the harmony, it's a winning combination.
34. "Eternal Legend". Here's a cool ending theme. It begins with a very faint version of "Rising Sun". Then the volume comes back, leading into a theme that's kind of an exposition on the "Rising Sun" theme. It's a slow, well-crafted composition, with relatively simple melody and harmony, but it's still good.
* * * Final thoughts * * *
Yes yes yes, oh god yes!!! I think that Seiken Densetsu Sound Collections would be worth buying for the original tracks alone, but then again, I'm a hardcore OST fan with a thing for that special synth sound. But if you're into game music more for the orchestrated stuff, then SDSC is still worth getting. Yes, those 35 minutes of arranged music are worth every penny. And who knows? Maybe after hearing those tracks, you'll appreciate the OST sounds more than you would otherwise.
There is absolutely no reason for you to miss out on this fantastic album. It's a well-stocked item at most online soundtrack stores, and it delivers some great music. This is one of the first game STs I ever purchased, and it's been number one in my favorites list for a long time. Check it out, why don't you?