Trotting alongside Square’s flagship RPG series Final Fantasy, the SaGa series is always unconventional, oftentimes overlooked, sometimes despised. I, myself, have yet to not fall in love with a SaGa game, regardless of how good or bad the gameplay mechanics may be (note that I have not yet played UNLIMITED:SaGa). For me, the aesthetic appeal of the art and music are enough to draw me in.
Having composed music for half of the games in the series, Kenji Ito’s name should rightfully be associated with the SaGa series. As such, Square Enix offered this special promotional item as a preorder bonus to the Japanese release of Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- for the PS2 (a remake of the Super Famicom hit, “Romancing SaGa”). Let the salt rub in the wounds, my friends: while we in the states are fortunate enough to have this game coming to us, I guarantee that this special little collection of battle music will not reach our ears. It’s time to start hunting on eBay.
Even if you were one of the rare fans of the series who already owns All Sounds of SaGa, the OSVs for Romancing SaGas 1~3, the SaGa Frontier OST, and the Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- OST, you’d still be missing two bonus tracks recorded as piano solos from Ito himself. So before you protest that you really have no desire to claim hold on this promotional item, think again.
Among Ito’s many compositions, perhaps none are as memorable as these songs. Though I am also a huge fan of Ito’s score for the first Seiken Densetsu (remade as “Sword of Mana”), these battle themes are one notch more powerful than what we heard in Seiken Densetsu. From the start, we have the SaGa 2 regular battle theme, which is some of the best GameBoy music you’re ever going to hear. For those that have played the game, this song is wildly nostalgic.
The next seven songs come from the Super Famicom music era, and it’s no surprise to find that Ito made excellent use of the sounds available to him. Of the three games, I’d have to pick the songs from Romancing SaGa 3 as my favorite. These songs are the most fast and furious, and they simply do not become boring, even after multiple listens.
I was personally disappointed with the tracks chosen from SaGa Frontier. SaGa Frontier has a total of 12 battle themes (5 battles, 7 end bosses). I would have chosen one of the earlier battle themes (perhaps battle 2), and then one of the boss themes (either Asellus or T260G). Regardless, these two songs are also fresh and original battle themes: just not the best from that game.
The next two songs are from Minstrel Song, which has got to be one of the best OSTs I’ve heard in years. These two battle themes are just some of the many spectacular battle themes from the game. Between the two put on this album, Awakening Memories (featuring some guitar work from Tsuyoshi Sekito) is one of the best. These are live instruments that we’re rocking out to here! I love them, and you should to.
After a straight half-hour of rock&roll battle music, ranging from the limitations of GameBoy synth up to live performance, Ito gives us the opportunity to kick back, relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy some non-battle themes on the piano. First up is a medley of “Opening Title Screen” music from the various SaGa games. It runs for six minutes straight, and it is beautiful. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not technically complex at all; it’s quite simple in fact. But, for those gamers who have turned on their consoles over and over and heard these lovely songs, it’s a treat to hear them arranged on one instrument like this.
“Podorui”, a four minute piano ballad, ends this wonderful collection of music, not with a bang, but with a gentle breeze. I don’t particularly care for it, but again, it does help create that calming atmosphere that is almost necessary after the thirty minutes of straight Ito battle rock-fest.
You know you want this CD. Everyone should. It was a great idea, and Square Enix was kind to release it as a bonus item. However, it can’t be found in most online stores for the obvious reason that it is a promotional item. Do what you can to find it: it is worth hunting down.