When the Seiken Densetsu book/box was released, Square Enix advertised 3 arranged albums from each of the 3 “main” composers in the series. First up was Kenji Ito, who arranged music from the SD1, SD4, Sword of Mana (SD1’s remake) and Children of Mana on an album entitled “Re:Birth.”
The second album, from Hiroki Kikuta, turned out not to be very much of an “Arrange” album. It’s more a “sound upgrade” album, akin to the Ys Renewal albums from the mid-90s. According to the liner notes, Kikuta himself states that this is how he wanted the music to sound when he wrote it, before it had to be compressed to fit the Super Famicom cartridge.
And, well, it’s not even the whole OST getting reworked. It’s 16 tracks, sampling pretty much all the memorable pieces from the game (though there are a few I wish were here but aren’t). Had Kikuta remade the whole OST, it would’ve been great to insert this version into the iOS release of Secret of Mana. Ah well.
There’s been a lot of disappointment, and even a bit of outrage, over this album. It’s truly not much of an arrangement at all. I remember when the Japanese website launched with samples of this album, and RPGFan forum-goer GrimReality stated that “OST samples were up” but that no one knew what the arranged version would sound like. I had to correct him: “No, those are the arranged versions. It’s just slightly improved.”
And what are those improvements? I can name three definitive improvements. One: the percussion is more life-like, less compressed. Two: all vocal samples are 2012 “state of the art,” and are probably the biggest improvement of all. Three: all instruments have more natural acoustics, including echo and reverb. Comparing any track from the OST to this album, you can always hear that the instruments on this album hold their tones a little longer and don’t have those sharp cut-offs.
This means that the most-improved songs are those with vocals. Without question, “Prophecy” and “Still of the Night” are the two tracks that benefit the most from this synth upgrade. Other songs have barely noticeable changes, and still others just sound boring comparing to their strange and lively OSV counterparts.
So here’s my recommendation: if you’re a hardcore collector, you’ll want this album for the few improved tracks it sports. If you’re the exact opposite, a “casual” listener, and you don’t own the OSV, you might want this album in its place since the synth is a little more realistic. Everyone else should either buy the OSV or stick with the OSV (if they already own it) and skip this album. I personally fall into the category of “hardcore collector,” so I own every single Seiken Densetsu album (with big help from that book/box they released). But if push came to shove and I had to start selling off my collection for financial reasons, this CD would be one of the first ones to go … if I could find someone who wanted to buy it, that is.