The Seiken Densetsu series (known as the Mana series in the US) has been going through hard times. None of the games after Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana) and 3 (never released here) on the SNES managed to capture the magic of previous games. The developers reinvented the wheel too many times, and resulted in a lot of lackluster games. After many years, the true Seiken Densetsu 4 (coming soon as Dawn of Mana) was released. Many fans hoped it would bring back the series glory, but sadly, it failed to relive the magic by doing a lot of stupid things on the gameplay department. Fortunately, regardless of gameplay, the music in SD4 has remained strong.
Kenji Ito and Tsuyoshi Sekito are the main composers of the 4-disc monster, with Junya Nakano and Masayoshi Soken covering the bulk of disc four. The first two composers should be familiar to music fans since they have worked on the excellent Romancing Saga OST along with other music for Square Enix games. This is another solid soundtrack with great songs and a lot of variety.
The soundtrack has a strong start with a lot of great songs. The majority of the disc features a lot of soft, heartwarming tunes. They are not the most soul-stirring songs I ever heard, but I easily got into them. The melodies of each song are quite enchanting and addictive, and they make me feel at ease. There are no vocals to speak of with the exception of some light chants. The series always had a strong nature theme, and the music shows.
Along with the slow and steady tunes, a number of fast-paced songs are included with a rock and roll style. They are quite good, though I preferred the enchanting melodies. There is one song with an awesome melody, and it kept me listening to it over and over. It's a good sign when there are songs that make me want to listen repeatedly.
Prologue ~Mana, the Earth and the Spirits~ - Like many prologue songs in RPGs, this piece has a very soft and enchanting melody. It's a very nice song that gives good indication as to the style of the OST's music.
Mana's Tale - This song is purely heartwarming: the kind of song you may hear in a children's story, a very slow song with an extremely pleasant melody. It's the kind of song that makes you feels good on the inside.
A Silent Drop - A song that is similar to "Mana's Tale," but with a different mood. This song has more sorrow, but is an enchanting listen nonetheless.
Burning Spirits - Much different than most of the disc, but so engaging. A rocking style of music supported by techno and orchestra music meshing into a rock song. The whole melody is just a package of awesome, and I listened to this song numerous times. It's a really good collaboration between Ito and Sekito.
Green Whirlpool - Another nice song with a serene melody. It gives me the feeling of tranquility with some bits of sorrow.
The tone of the soundtrack greatly shifted from pleasant to dark and dramatic tunes, and provides grittier tracks on this disc. You can say it's the dark side of the OST. I didn't enjoy this portion of the soundtrack as much as the first. A lot of songs do have decent melodies, but tried being dark a bit too much, and didn't turn out so great. Most of the songs on this disc were composed by Sekito, and I find his style nowhere near as appealing as Ito's. Then again, some of Ito's songs on the disc were not as good as his first disc works. It was admirable that they tried branching to different styles, but the results didn't pay off.
There were some dark-toned songs that are quite good, and the disc contains numerous dramatic pieces though they were too short. The songs on the disc may have not been my cup of tea overall, but it's good in its own right.
Blood Feud - Now here's a song with a very strong evil vibe that is actually enjoyable. The gritty style and deep chants made the song dark, but not overdramatic. It's an interesting song that didn't spoon-feed the listener into thinking the song was dark.
Old and Distant Melodies - This song has the same style as heard in most of disc one, and like the others, it's very good. It's a slow-paced song using violins as the primary melody with xylophones complementing it, making the entire song enchanting.
The Fool's Dance - My favorite song in this portion of the OST. It has a great and catchy melody with a Latin flair to it.
Another disc that I have mixed reactions about, disc three still managed to have a lot of better songs (in my opinion). Again, Sekito's songs don't appeal to me very much, but it does contain several good tunes. I liked "Desperate Line" a lot and "Dark King" is a cool remix of "Blood Feud." There is something about Ito's works that makes them more addicting than caffeine. Whether it's a soft or an intense piece, his songs have quite a lot of charm to them. "The Final Decisive Battle" and "The Endless Dream" are some highlights of the songs he did in this portion. Not as dynamic as disc one and four, but it's another good dose of Ito's work.
Desperate Line - One of Sekito's few songs I liked in Seiken Densetsu 4. The beginning is decent, but it really gets interesting when the main melody kicks in. Too bad it's a bit on the short side.
The Final Decisive Battle - There is something about the final battle music that either makes you fall in love with them or cringe by how plain it is. While "in love" may not be the right words for this song, I enjoyed it quite a lot, with Ito composing an epic melody that gives the feeling of a final fight.
The Endless Dream - A very pleasant song that makes one feels at ease. It's quite a long song that gets better as it progresses, especially when the vocals kick in towards the end.
The final part of the soundtrack is quite a treat. The majority of the songs are remixes of the other Seiken/Mana games, primarily from the three main installments. Some of the remixes are orchestral while several received a rock treatment, and a couple of songs have two versions containing both styles. The disc already gave me a good impression with the first four songs with goofy names. This disc consists of the works of other composers who made their contributions. Sekito didn't do anything in this portion of this OST, and Ito composed only a few songs.
As mentioned earlier, there are two versions of most of the songs, and easy to indicate based on title. The SK4 versions are the orchestra songs with the exception of "Meridian Worship" and "Dwarves' Theme." These songs are pleasant, and most of them have a strong optimistic approach with a sense of adventure. As the version name implies, the "Hurry Up" versions are the fast-paced versions of the SK4 songs, using a rock and roll style. These types of songs are hardcore, but quite engaging. Both versions are great in their own right, and give a lot of variety. The last few songs last only a few seconds so they are not exactly the best example on how a soundtrack should end.
I never was a big fan of the series, and I've only played few of the games, thus most of these songs are unfamiliar to me. I recognized some songs from Seiken Densetsu 1 and 2, but that's about it. Regardless, I had a great time listening to these songs because they were fresh to me. While devoted fans of the series will get the most enjoyment out of this disc, non-fans will be able to enjoy this portion a lot, and it's a solid way to end the OST.
Rush, Rush, Rush - Despite the funny name, it's a rocking song with an engaging melody that has a lot of spunk to it.
Dwarves' Theme ~SK4 Ver.~ - This is easily the most obscure song in the entire soundtrack, along with its "Hurry Up" version. Amongst the beautiful live instruments found on other tracks, we get a cute MIDI song here. It came out of nowhere, but that's what makes it unique, and I had fun listening.
Endless Battlefield ~Hurry Up Ver.~ - One of the few songs I recognized from other games. This is a much speedier and hardcore version of the field map on Seiken Densetsu (released originally on the Game Boy as Final Fantasy Adventure). It was very nice hearing this after so long.
Meridian Worship ~Hurry Up Ver.~ - Another familiar song that was used alongside the Final Boss in Secret of Mana (SD2). It's an addicting song with both versions being great.
I lost interest in the series since Legend of Mana, but at least the series music has remained good. With the series' music being the only redeeming quality left, I had some high expectations. Fortunately, it lived up to those expectations, and it was a refreshing soundtrack. Some parts were hit and miss with mostly Sekito's works being a little unappealing. The pros easily outweigh the cons, and it's a very worthwhile purchase.
Reviewed by: Dennis Rubinshteyn