01 - Secret of Mana
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I'm usually not one to like arranged CDs of game music. I just feel that the ordinary game synth appeals to me more. I like the "special" sound of game music, and since many arranged albums (especially for RPGs) are often orchestral and symphonic in nature, and I don't like classical music especially much, there have been few CD's that get my attention for longer periods of time. However, Hiroki Kikuta's Secret Of Mana + is different. This is an arranged album of his two soundtracks Seiken Densetsu 2 and Seiken Densetsu 3. Since those two are my all-time favourite RPG soundtracks, I was very eager to hear this music.
People are usually divided on this CD - some love it, others just outright hate it. There are some reasons for this. First of all, all of the music is "melted" together in one gargantuan 50-minute long track! No, you can't skip to you favourite bit, you'll have to listen to it all! This turns many potential fans of the music off. And the music itself is very complicated - the keyword here is: experimental. Yes, the experienced Kikuta-fan will recognize all the music here, but some of it is very...shall we say "twisted"? And it is mixed with very strange sounds most people wouldn't consider to be appropriate on a record. We get waterfalls, birdsong, cellular phone sounds, and something that sounds like a person typing on a keyboard! All these things might turn you away from the music - I've heard people who are just as big fans of Kikuta as myself say that the music here disgusts them.
Personally, I love it! C'mon, how many fantasy arrange albums that AREN'T out there that take the usual "orchestral cinematic" approach? Be honest! At least Kikuta had the courage to try something different, and in my eyes he did just great. SOM+ is my favourite arrange album of all time; I love it's experimentalist nature, and all the twists and turns that are constantly going on in there. It is a very special CD, and even though I have a lot of bizarre and strange stuff in my record collection, I haven't quite heard anything like this before.
Maybe I'm being a little partial here since Kikuta IS after all one of my favorite composers, and I really enjoy industrial, ambient, and just about every other genre where rules are not clearly defined and innovation is the name of the game (this is, by the way, one of the reasons for my liking of game music). I feel that this CD divides music fans in two - if you just want another symphonic suite or piano collection, move along, because you're not gonna find anything to your liking here. But if you like different and cool sounds, and a nice, deep beat, and want to find something different, look no further. Such an unorthodox arrangement of some of the best fantasy music ever - can you beat that?!
Reviewed by: Daniel Kalabakov