Legend of Mana represents an interesting point in the Seiken Densetsu series, in that however you may feel about the title in terms of its gameplay, its music has always been heralded as some of the best in the PlayStation era of RPGs. This is in no small part thanks to the legendary Yoko Shimomura, who has shown us time and time again that she knows exactly how to draw emotion out of every track she produces, all while retaining a signature style that not many game composers can hold claim to. As a result, Shimomura’s compositions shine throughout Promise, an overall pleasing Mana arrangement album.
Promise contains twelve tracks from Legend of Mana, all ranging from jazz to what can be best described as “café” style music. “Hometown of Domina” opens the album up with a pleasing swing-style piano and high-energy drums. A double bass carries the song throughout. This piece would not feel out of place in a fancy restaurant, complete with fine wine and a live band. “To the Sea” appropriately moves the album into exciting, Latin-flavored territory, with a fantastic flamenco guitar solo in the third half of the track.
“Polpota Harbor” winds things down, playing it straight as a piano-only piece. I’m not sure it needed to come into play so early into the album, given the drastic shift in energy, but it is an entertaining piece nonetheless. After this is the titular “Legend of MANA” track, which returns to the café style that the album originally started out with; this time it brings in a saxophone, one of my favorite instruments. There’s also a wind flute that plays along with the saxophone, providing a unique feel to this track in particular.
“Picturesque Landscape” is a track that has the most “Shimomura feel” to it. The quick, impactful violins and accordion feel reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts, another series that Shimomura has devoted much of her talent towards. On the flip side, “Traveler’s Road” gives credence to its namesake; it’s the kind of song that you can imagine yourself hearing while walking through the countryside, the sun setting in front of you. Songs that can conjure these sorts of images in my head are ones that I tend to find emotionally impactful, much to their credit. “Singing Wind, Journey’s Path” flows neatly from the previous track. If “Traveler’s Road” has you walking down a path, then this song has you sprinting down that path, eager to see what’s on the other side of the hill.
Next up is “Tango Appassionata – As the Heart Wills.” Shimomura’s signature powerful piano returns here, with the accordion making a return as well. This song doesn’t match tonally with the rest of the album, in my opinion — in fact, I would even argue that it doesn’t match the name of the song itself! Though I still find it entertaining to listen to, it evokes a feeling of battle or desperation in its quickness that doesn’t mix well with the other tracks on the album. That being said, the violin segment at the two-minute mark never ceases to engage my ears whenever I listen through the album.
Promise begins its final third with “Such Cruel Fate,” a track that starts and ends with a flowing violin as its centerpiece. Simply put, this sounds exactly like a song that one would tango to — though I’m only speculating, as I can’t dance to save my life, let alone tango. Either way, I found myself swaying along to the beat and snapping along to the song’s swelling finale. The next track, “Seven Shades of Life – Bejeweled City in the Ruins,” is my favorite. The café style of music that I mentioned previously returns in full force in this track, with the inclusion of a female singer tying the easy listening of the piece together. I was surprised when a vocal track showed up in the final third of the album, making the song all the more impactful. It’s also the only song that includes a harmonica, making it stand out for that reason as well.
“Nostalgic Song Reprise – Finale” lives up to its name, bringing the album full circle. Its instrument set is identical to “Hometown of Domina,” but the piece progresses at a much slower pace. If “Hometown of Domina” played during a café’s lunch hour, for example, then this song would play as the dinner segment is winding down. The final track is “Song of MANA,” another vocal piece. This is another favorite of mine, again because of the singer’s talents. The swelling vocals provide a satisfying conclusion to a relaxing album.
And that’s the long and short of it. Without any experience having played Legend of Mana myself, I was able to enjoy Promise with no trouble. It is a smooth experience of an album — one that’s perfect for easy listening while studying or working. Personally, I’ll be listening to this album for both of those purposes for months to come.