Aside from a card game spin-off, it’s been 7 years since the last Mana game, Heroes of Mana, was released on DS. Rise of Mana, the newest entry, was released as a free-to-play game on Android and iOS last month. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not we’ll see it localised, but at least we can enjoy the music in the meantime! Rise of Mana’s soundtrack features a strong mix of peaceful and upbeat tracks, and clearly takes inspiration from its Final Fantasy brethren.
Believe in the Spirit kicks off the album, setting the scene well for the rest of the music and, likely, Rise of Mana itself. It’s the only piece in the soundtrack that has vocals, and they’re generally well-sung. The mystical, magical sounding tune may be a bit hit-or-miss for different listeners, but it did bring back memories for me of older Mana titles. The instrumental version is the final track and, while it still uses some background choir voices, it’s quite peaceful without the main vocals.
The first half of the soundtrack is primarily slow, peaceful melodies. Silent Resolve is a beautiful song filled with relaxing chimes. It’s the kind of piece perfect for a lazy afternoon. Sunlight Through the Trees is a similar piece, but with a far stronger arrangement. It’s vibrant, and I could truly picture its namesake as I listened. Where Hearts Beat Free continues the peaceful vibes, but brings back the mystical feel of the opening track; it’s a Mana piece through and through. Later on in the album, One Bard’s Tune is another easy-listener. It didn’t resonate with me immediately, but the muted feeling of grandeur grew on me by the end. The arrangement of Rising Sun was notably lovely, and the elegant piano solo is beautiful.
Luck of the Draw begins a series of upbeat, chirpy tunes. It’s short at only a minute in length, but sure to raise your spirits when you need a pick up. Ode to the Workshop is quite similar in style, and its music seems as inspired by Gust’s Atelier series as its name is. A Map Unfurled brings the album back to a quieter tone with its strings, but beautifully sets up the adventurous feel of On Windswept Plains, my favourite track, which made me want to dive into a grand RPG adventure.
Speaking of grand RPGs, Rise of Mana’s OST definitely, and perhaps unsurprisingly, often reminded me of various Final Fantasies, XII most of all. Listening to Breath of the Goddess, Quickening Light, The Sanctuary of Mana, and The Far Side of Grief brought back memories of my adventures through Ivalice with their soft but perky tunes. Aside from letting me reminisce about an entirely different game, none were particular standouts.
Though the album is filled with soft tracks, there are number of excellent upbeat, dramatic scores. The Enemy Appears is perhaps the best, and vigorously sets the scene for an encounter with foes. It has the “we can do this” feel often found in JRPG music, and is an excellent contrast to its slower friends. A Worthy Foe is even more action-packed with its strong, Ys-style battle music. Both were tunes I found myself listening to again and again.
Other tracks were less impressive. The Drip Drip Drip of Memory, Ominous Clouds, Those Who Delve Into Darkness and The Way Between Dimensions struggle to be anything more than standard JRPG-fare. Heart’s Lantern and Omen were particularly uninteresting, and difficult to listen to on their own. Finally, Back to Mana’s embrace brings the whole album together with a slightly more upbeat mystical, albeit still peaceful, score.
If you’re a fan of previous Mana or Ivalice-style music, then Rise of Mana’s soundtrack is a fairly safe album to recommend. It’s strongest when delving into the peaceful, relaxed tones, though it manages to stand strong with most of its battle music too. There isn’t a track that will be especially memorable, but it’s certainly an easy, enjoyable album to listen to and I was glad to have the chance to do so.