Video Game Soundtracks You Might Have Missed: Secret of ManaMay 8th, 2012 at 21:58
Ok, so I’m kind of banking on the theory that at least SOME of you may not have played Secret of Mana yet, or at least appreciated its magnificent soundtrack, and if that’s the case, then I kind of envy you because you’re about to have your mind blown away and replaced with a better, stronger one that is galvanized by the following sounds:
Secret of Mana was definitely a special enough game already, what with its insanely colorful graphics, charming (often adorable) characters, minimalist story that could move you with what little it did have to say, and a pretty cool system for powering up your weapons and magic that ensured hours of engrossed battling. Yet, the thing that rises head and shoulders above everything else is the music.
Often ethereal, mostly complex, sometimes rocking and occasionally even terrifying, there are very few soundtracks I can recommend as a master class in enchantment as this one. T
The composer is a man called Hiroki Kikuta, someone brought into Squaresoft to work on the sequel to a game they had made for the Gameboy called Seiken Densetsu, which we know here in the states as Final Fantasy Adventure (and, confusingly, is known in Europe as Mystic Quest). The original game’s composer, Kenji Ito, , had been moved on to another game series (Romancing SaGa), and thus the spot was open for a new guy. At the time, Hiroki had been working on Final Fantasy IV as a debugger, but having fanboyed out with Square’s main music man, Nobuo Uematsu, over the Prog music they both loved, he was given the task of creating a soundtrack, completely free of direction, for Seiken Densetsu 2, a.k.a. Secret of Mana.
Kikuta wrote the music while the game was still being conceptualized, that is to say, he had very little idea what was going on in the actual game while he was writing music for it. Thus, certain pieces actually wound up in places where he didn’t really intend them, such as a theme he had written for the Sprite character (whom I, in all my cleverness, always named “SPRITE”), winding up the background music to the dessert town, Kakkara Village:
An odd choice for a favorite, but this is apparently Kikuta’s.
Then again, despite the huge amount of Prog-inspired tracks that everyone loves, my own personal favorite is the super-funky Scorpion Army theme, “A Curious Happening”:
I love the xylophone chime and the staccato keyboard hits, and I just adore that final bit with the piano. So cool. It’s really too bad the Scorpion Army didn’t get a little more screen-time in the game except as comic relief bosses; I actually wanted them in the game more because I wanted to hear this song more! Thankfully, they leave a ship behind in the Dwarf Town in Gaia’s Navel and you can actually go visit it and listen to this tune, which I used to do all the time as a kid.
Still, when not breathtakingly beautiful, bright and cheerful, or downright funky, the soundtrack had its moments of crazy heavy rock, such as in the boss theme, which stands out as one of the greatest boss themes ever:
Ahhh so many things going on in this song! Those crazy drums (with the very Metal double-kick), the slap bass that only comes around a couple of times, and several melodies that take over the whole thing in its astounding 2 minute duration… there are just too many things to love here.
Actually many of the themes are heavy and complex, at least when the scene is served by it. I’ve always liked “Steel & Snare”, a bass and drum song that has some insane time signatures going on:
And then, with one bang of the Flammie Drum, you might be whisked away to a battlefield with some of the calmest music you’ve ever heard:
The plot of the game, such as it is, revolves around trying to stop a monster called Thanatox from turning people into zombies in order to gain magical power (which is how you do it, apparently). A couple of times in the game, you have to infiltrate temples full of said zombies (who are actually really cute and there are adorable Tomato Men too, but I digress), and the music is super creepy:
And if that wasn’t bad enough, it comes back way later in the game when you finally confront Thanatos and he becomes this enormous skeleton creature called Lich that fills up the whole screen, and a theme plays that is like a more insane version of “Ceremony” called “Oracle” (or, “The Sorcerer”):
Once you defeat that bastard, everything’s cool right? You just heard the craziest thing ever and now we’re all good? Nope! There is one more boss to go, and I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that the music that accompanies it is absurdly good:
Oh man that bass-line. It’s incredible! If you’re not that good at picking out bass-lines, watch this guy play it perfectly and maybe you’ll agree with me.
Speaking of bass nonsense, if one were to try and picture Secret of Mana music played on real instruments, the game’s ending theme, “Second Truth From The Left”, would kill any bassist trying to attempt the solo that you can hear toward the end of the loop:
That thing is so insane it simply makes me laugh to hear it. Your reward for completing the game is a bass solo, that’s just incredible.
Anyway, chances are that you have already heard all of this music, maybe Secret of Mana is already one of your favorite games and the soundtrack is the reason, but if you’re anything like me, you clicked on all of those links anyway just to hear the songs again, because man they’re that good.
As for Hiroki Kikuta, he went on to create the also-awesome soundtrack for the third “Mana” game, Seiken Densetsu 3, which we never saw over on these shores officially, which has been regarded by many as Square’s biggest crime against humanity. He then went on to create his own games, all of which I have yet to play, whoops!
Still, at least I was able to tell him, in person even, that his music is amazing and a huge inspiration for myself and anyone else who appreciates video game music. I also got a picture with him:
Booya, Grandma, Booya.