Okay, folks, hear me out. It is not typical for us to review the soundtrack for a live stage play. We have written reviews for films based on RPGs (such as FFVII Advent Children), but a stage play? Think of all the Sakura Wars albums out there to review!
Here is what makes this particular release special. First of all, it’s not an original cast recording. In other words, it isn’t a bunch of spoken lines punctuated with the occasional musical number. This is the “soundtrack” to the stage play, which means it’s all of the prepared audio. There are a handful of tracks with spoken words in them, however, as the performers go back and forth between speaking and singing (see “Let’s Give It a Name!” as an example).
The other thing that makes this album special is that the play is about the “Seven Heroes” of Romancing SaGa 2. Players of said game know that these heroes are actually villains. Long ago, they fought to bring peace and harmony to the world, but over time, they decide that this world isn’t worth it and hatch a plan to travel to another dimension, which would destroy the present world in the process. However, the story in this stage play focuses on the times when the Seven Heroes were happy, and some of them find a new path to the future that works for them (the title to track 19 alone gives away one major change between the game and this theatrical production).
Okay, there is also a third thing that makes this recording so very special. While there are arrangements of past SaGa pieces (including two classics from Uematsu on tracks 01 and 14), the vast majority of songs here are original compositions from series maestro Kenji Ito. Some of these unique compositions have also found their way into the 2018 mobile title Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe. In that sense, we have something that started as a play but now enters the canon of SaGa games, through music!
There is one final bit of information that doesn’t make SaGa THE STAGE special, but it does make the album fantastic: epic performances. Some of you may remember the incredible improvised singing of Kyoko Kishikawa from the PS2 remake Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song — well, she’s back. You can hear her in the opening track, blasting your ears with all kinds of goodness. And all those great arrangers and performers featured on the Re:birth and Re:tune albums? Many of them make appearances on this album as well, with rocking versions of “Seven Heroes Battle” and “Last Battle,” along with a softer, smoother version of “My Journey Begins.” They even perform on the original composition “Wagnas’ Battle,” which is decidedly my favorite track on the entire album.
My takeaway? As obscure as this title may seem, it should be required listening for SaGa fans of all stripes, especially fans of Romancing SaGa 2. I have no idea how many physical copies Square Enix ran in the initial printing, but my suspicion is that this soundtrack will disappear relatively quickly. If I’m right, then your window is closing. Go get it! It’s a ridiculously fun and enjoyable album, especially for those of us who know and love the SaGa series!