I’ve quietly fallen in love with the music to a game called Legaia Duel Saga. I did not love the music the instant I first popped the CD into my CD player, nor did I absolutely hate it after the first play through. But, as I listened to it more and more, I realized that I’d become fonder and fonder of certain pieces, and then eventually torn over the fact that I had come to absolutely love these songs and despise others. Did I love Legaia Duel Saga, or did I not? One would think that with the talents of Hitoshi Sakimoto, Michiru Oshima, and especially Yasunori Mitsuda contributing that I’d have formed an opinion more quickly. I admit the names drew me to the album, but it was the silent persuasion of a few beautiful songs that opened me up to the rest of the musical pieces presented here, many of them good, and some not quite.
I’m reluctant to call the style of the album Celtic simply because there are more than just those influences present here. It’s more of an amalgam of different styles, and I’d prefer to classify it as world music, although the album’s sound isn’t entirely exotic.
If you’re coming to this CD as I was, thinking that Mitsuda’s pieces will “make” the album, it’s time to lower your expectations. I’m not saying his tracks are bad, far from it actually. It’s just that the artist who truly outshines the others is Hitoshi Sakimoto. I was never a huge fan of his work, having been less than impressed with Vagrant Story and not particularly fond of Final Fantasy Tactics either, but this latest work of his has changed my opinion of the composer. I expected to hear the orchestral-styled pieces that he’s known for, and to an extent his tracks incorporate orchestral influences, but it’s the mix of this along with traditional world music that creates an intriguing tapestry of sound.
Sakimoto’s “Lost Forest” is the track that makes the entire album, good and bad, worth the purchase. I cannot put into words how beautiful this piece is. The combination of acoustic guitar and piano is done so expertly that it literally gives me chills while listening to it. “Funding the Worthless War” is a piano solo that is probably one of the prettiest piano arrangements I’ve heard since Yoko Shimomura’s “Main Theme” from Parasite Eve. Although not as dramatic, it’s enchantingly sweet. The melody pops up two more times, once in “Your Voice” as a charming arrangement with bells, and the other a reprise within the ending theme.
Not all of Sakimoto’s pieces are of a sentimental nature, though. Although I’ve heard people say that his Celtic-sounding tracks are reminiscent of Mitsuda’s work, I beg to differ. A few may take a bit of getting used to, but tracks like “Already Rented” are incredibly catchy and have that folk song, “dance-around-the-square” feel, especially “The Ones Who Obtain Tomorrow” with it’s authentic handclaps and jazzy fiddle.
Now comes Yasunori Mitsuda. After a long draught he’s returned to the game music scene and in one year alone has composed two soundtracks (Tsugunai and Xenosaga) and contributed to two more, Legaia Duel being one of them. Perhaps I have my expectations too high for the man, but I feel that he is stretching himself a bit thin. Granted, most of the tracks he composed are solid compositions with pleasing melodies, but there are a few disappointments, and I can’t say his music here can compare to previous works.
Of course, his token Celtic-themed pieces make an appearance. The opening theme, “Fight!! Then Riot!” is in typical Mitsuda style: a slow, peaceful start that builds to a strong, powerful conclusion. It’s a very nice piece, just nothing we haven’t heard before. “Wasteland of Faraway Places” is another of his homey town themes, and sounds all too similar to Xenogears’ “My Village is Number One” and Chrono Cross’ “Arni Village.” Again, nice composition, but nothing new.
The most interesting of Mitsuda’s tracks is “Boss’ Pipe Organ.” Although we’ve all heard his religiously inspired choral pieces, I’ve never heard Mitsuda compose for a pipe organ before. This sounds more Castlevania-ish than anything else, but I really like it. “Advancing to Faraway Places” is probably my favorite contribution of his to the album. Its flowing melody, tender flute, and pretty piano accompaniment gives it a sweet and touching sound. And then there is “Maya,” a very pretty, yet somber, piano arrangement. The rest of Mitsuda’s tracks, however, are simply okay. “God’s Fist,” “Avoiding Destiny,” and “Unique Person’s Banquet” are what I believe to be battle tracks. Knowing that battle themes aren’t his strong point, I’m not surprised that these come off weaker than the rest. But overall, they aren’t nearly as unappealing as Oshima’s cacophony of sounds.
Of the three composers, I’m the most disappointed with Michiru Oshima’s work. Even though both Mitsuda and Sakimoto composed a few “clunkers,” they’re nowhere as unpleasant as Oshima’s. Considering her work on the first game, Legaia Densetsu, I guess I’m not all that surprised that her music hasn’t improved much. Even though she has a few passable tracks, “Wind, Tree, and Water” the best of them, most of her compositions are unappealing and bland. With so much beautiful music sprinkled throughout, this only emphasized the lack of quality and attention given to these pieces. It almost sounds as if she wasn’t very interested in the project and just spewed out whatever she could just to be done with it. Maybe I’m being harsh, but if it weren’t for her, I’d probably have considered Legaia Duel Saga one of the best OST’s to have been released in some time.
Legaia Duel Saga’s beauty is subtle, its energy gentle, and its deficiencies glaring; amidst some truly amazing music are pieces too jarring and bland to pass notice. Yet, the good greatly outweighs the bad and makes this soundtrack a solid purchase for anyone who appreciates game music (as well as Mitsuda completists). You can find this at Game Music Online for about $35.