Note: Seiken Densetsu is known as the Mana series in the US. I will be mentioning it by the English name. The US version of Seiken Densetsu: Heroes of Mana is simply known as Heroes of Mana here.
Since Seiken Densetsu 3 (which never came here) for the SNES, the Mana series has been getting a downfall. None of the spinoffs turned out to be so great, and even Dawn of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 4) didn’t live up to players’ expectations. The stories aren’t interesting, and the gameplay tends to be stale. These days, the series has only two saving graces. First, the visuals always looked great. Second, the musical score was always strong. The latest spinoff is Heroes of Mana and the soundtrack for it came along months later. It is composed by Yoko Shimomura, best known for her composition on all Kingdom Hearts games, and working on Legend of Mana, prior to that. The game itself is unsurprisingly mediocre, but once again, the music is a treat.
The album starts off promising with the opening theme, “To the Heroes of Old ~Opening theme~.” The song started out simple, but showed its true colors when the main melody kicks in, showing off its epic might, and an indicator of things to come. There are some easygoing songs scattered in the album such as “The Premonition Begins,” featuring a simple, calm sensation, utilizing clarinets for the main melody.
The next song, “Charge!” sets the tone for majority of the songs for disc 1. While the melody gets a bit stale, I did like how epic it started, utilizing an orchestra to give the song a surge or power, and would make you feel like charging into a battle. In “Charge!” and various songs that follow, there was one element that greatly stood out to me; the drums. There is something about the way Shimomura utilizes drum beats, to not only enhance the song, but make them stick out. “Tales of the Old Nostalgic Kingdom” and “At the end of the Hot Sands” are prime examples of songs whose drum beats manage to intrigue me, despite seeming ordinary and good melodies too. It is something that cannot be explained in words.
In addition to the songs mentioned above, there were a few others I liked. The first few seconds of “Tense Movement” gave me the impression that it was going to be typical war music, but I quickly had a change of heart. It kept the military style, but the violins and brass made the melody fresh and interesting, and it feels like you are in a heated battle, but not getting overdramatic. The style of “The Way the Heart Is” reminds me a lot of Kingdom Hearts, mainly due to how the upbeat the piano gets. The melody gives off a bit of a playful feel, but with a degree of sophistication. The violin throughout the majority of the song complements the piano harmony well. What I liked “And Thus Fate Becomes Cruel” is mainly the violins. Their execution is what makes the song dynamic and the various other instruments complement all-together to create something quite memorable.
Unfortunately, there were some songs that simply didn’t click with me at all or had some potential, but didn’t get utilized. I really liked the serene melody in “Hidden Light,” but it never escalated into something more divine, and the melody repeats a bit frequently. I liked how “Summoning the Beast God” began, building up into something grand, but then the melody shifts to a boring tribal style, then suddenly gets more interesting, then suddenly ends; all in just a minute. The last disc one song, “Strategy Meeting” is an easygoing song to hear after hearing a lot of powerful tunes, but it is a bit too ordinary, and it is not the most interesting way to end the first disc.
Disc 2 started off promising, but the soundtrack has begun to get a little stale. There are a couple of nice songs present, but there is less of that dynamic, upbeat sensation that I enjoyed in disc 1. The soundtrack took a darker turn, utilizing sinister melodies to create tension and make it seem epic. Songs such as “Ring of Revolving Fate,” “It’s Either Real or Not” and “Trembling Earth, the Time of Fate” fit the dark tone and are decent songs, but they didn’t click with me. On the other hand, “And Those who finally reached their Destination” is quite good. The song didn’t try too hard to make it dark and epic, utilizing, heavy orchestral beasts, like a lot of songs I hear do. The melody uses a simple piano beat that remains consistent most of the time, violin during key parts of the song, and drum beats to enhance the melody. All together, the song creates a dark feel, though nice to listen, and didn’t have to rely on a powerful orchestral score to set the tone.
There are fewer goodies in disc 2, but they are gems nonetheless. “Devoted to King Annais” is a nice, upbeat song, utilizing the drum beats, which stood out to me on most of the disc 1 ones, and having an enchanting melody, giving the listener an Egyptian sensation. The following song the most obscure of the soundtrack, “The battle Vs. Celestan.” It is a heavy metal song that started off a bit too gritty, but gets more enjoyable when the techno beats complements the heavy guitar. Since almost everything in the soundtrack uses an orchestral style, it gets brownie points for being distinctive. There is something about “The Wings of Soaring Reality” that I’ve really enjoyed. It is instantly engaging with its lighthearted style and the instruments used, created a carefree feeling, and make me picture a fairy tail. The regular version of “To the Heroes of old” is also great, but it is a longer and slightly less epic version of the opening theme.
There are also several slower-paced song to set a lighthearted tone like “Make an Effort” or to creation emotion like “Sadness.” They are nice songs, but they didn’t stand out to me. The only slow paced song I liked came from the ending theme, “The Tale Told by the wind.” It starts off with a nice, simple piano beats, but it gets better when the violin comes in. The melody itself isn’t something that would stick to my head for a very long time, but the song is beautiful and serene, and it is worth listening to a few times.
It turned to be yet another solid soundtrack from the series. This isn’t my favorite album in the franchise, but it is certainly enjoyable. Shimomura kept a certain theme, and a lot of songs have similar elements, but there was enough distinction in the songs to keep things fresh. It’s another solid soundtrack in the Mana series and if the gameplay quality can be just as good, then perhaps the series can be good again.