Every time I listen to Tales of Legendia, I am amazed at how breathtaking it can be. Of all the releases on August 24th, 2005, this is by far the most solid. FFXI~Music from the Other Side of Vana’diel remains my favorite of the “big five,” but Legendia is a timeless album that will always have a home in my music collection.
The album was brought to us by Masaru Shiina (aka Go Shiina), who is a member of the Namco Sound Team. It was a welcome change, as I was growing a bit tired of Motoi Sakuraba’s contributions to the series. His music feels like it belongs in an anime more so than a video game, which isn’t a bad thing. Every instrument sounds fantastic; from the brazen trumpet to the mind blowing drum set. Many of the instruments are real and have a trademark sound, particularly the trumpet, flute, violin and strings. Their darker, fuller tone gives the soundtrack a zesty kick that keeps you listening just to hear what they’ll do next. In “Big Sister Honwaka,” the song starts out with a jazz flute solo (Hubert Laws style), but the melody bounces to the trumpet, violin, and then an acoustic bass. The best part — they are doing jazz solos! Never have I heard such an amazing jazz improvisation on a violin. Jazz is just one of the many styles that Go Shiina presents, and every style is brilliant and well done.
The first disc starts with “TAO,” performed by the J-Pop sensation Do As Infinity. The song doesn’t fit the album at all, but I like it because it’s short. After the opening track, the disc introduces many different styles of music; the first being “Melfes ~ Shining Blue,” which is a moving orchestral piece that starts off low but builds intensity and intrigue near the end. Similar to this song, there is “Forest of No Return,” which is another orchestral piece equipped with a wonderful violin and lush strings. On the other side of the spectrum, we have “Spinning Thoughts, Bound Hands,” which is a ballad featuring an electric guitar solo. This is one of the recurring themes on the soundtrack, and the electric guitar gives off a profound sadness that very few composers can match. There’s also “The Legendary Sorcerer,” performed by Kanon, which is an operatic styled orchestral piece with a rock drum set, and chanting women. Occasionally, the off-key chanting is reminiscent of the Atelier soundtracks. The first disc ends soulfully with “My Tales,” by vocalists Donna Burke and Gab Desmond. This vocal feels strangely out of place, even though it is well done. I feel that it would have been better at home in a Disney movie, and should it have been left out.
The second disc is arguably weaker, but also features a plethora of musical styles. It starts with “A Firefly’s Light,” which is an amazing vocal track. It fits the soundtrack better than the rest, and it has an infectious chorus. The disc also puts out some jazz with “Big Sister Honwaka” and a piano solo with “Thank You.” There are also more vocals on this disc, including “Let’s Talk,” performed by the Suzukake Children’s Choir, and an English version of “A Firefly’s Light” performed by Donna Burke. The former track is well done, and the children are together and in-tune, which is rare for kids’ choirs. However, the latter track doesn’t fare quite as well. I don’t like Donna Burke’s voice, and I don’t like how the song was arranged for English audiences. It’s terrible. The feel of the chorus was changed, and the lyrics are horrible. Fortunately, the soundtrack ends on a good note with “TALES,” an orchestral epilogue that leaves you with a sense of closure. I really appreciated how Shiina didn’t end the album with a vocal track. It was a nice touch.
The third disc contains drama from the game, which, if you are anything like me, you won’t be able to understand unless you are fluent in Japanese. However, if you do speak Japanese, you should enjoy them.
All in all, Tales of Legendia is a ground-breaking album. Go Shiina has proven that he has what it takes to separate himself from the rest, much like Masashi Hamauzu, Michiko Naruke, and Koichi Sugiyama. I hope that he produces more albums in the future. Aside from a few filler tracks, the album is extremely solid throughout and it’s not one you will forget. I’m giving it a 9.5 out of 10.