In late October 2003, I finally got the chance to try out one of the more obscure Super Famicom titles, being Tengai Makyou Zero (also known as Far East of Eden Zero). The game featured extraordinary graphics, an addictive battle system, a seemingly great story, and last but not least, an excellent soundtrack. It was later that I found out that the composers for this title was Toshiyuki Sasagawa (whom I’ve discovered earlier in 2003 with Tengai Makyou ~ The Apocalypse IV OST), Kouhei Tanaka (famous for the Sakura Taisen series, Lennus, Alundra and many others) and Aya Tanaka (could be Kouhei’s sister/wife, who knows?).
Sasagawa has done about 90% of the soundtrack, with a few sparse themes by the Tanakas. The overture for TM0, accompanied by gorgeous anime-like sequences, was a collaboration by Sasagawa and Tanaka. Taking the orchestral/oriental route, trumpets blare while the pounding drums drive the melody to an oriental passage which features typical Asian flutes and percussions, until the trumpets and drums bring the theme to an end. This gives the listener an idea of what to expect, a solid and varied soundtrack of rare and consistent quality. The first theme other than “Overture” to catch me by surprise was “Cursed Coronation ~ Wriggling Stagnation ~ Broken Seal”, which serves as the music during the introductory back-story sequence, which tells how the Demon King Ninigi was freed from an ancient seal. The music changes as the act goes on-screen, from the background history of Jipang to the seal being broken and Ninigi wreaking havoc. After that, we move on with the first town theme “Peaceful Village”. An acoustic guitar, flute and Asian percussions create the quiet feel for the hero’s village. Things get more and more interesting as we come across the first dungeon theme. “Cave of Monsters” has a slight comical sound to it, while the drums and flute gives a bit of mystery, the “toy crank” effect just throws everything off balance. As the first dungeons are relatively simple, this care-free theme is perfect for the situation. In every RPG, we have battle themes. Those of TM0 are arguably some of the best I’ve heard on the Super Famicom. “Infernal Army Corps” is the main battle theme, the synth, beats and melody all work together in making battles extra enjoyable in TM0. Regardless of whether I’ve fought once or ten thousand battles, this particular theme never gets old, it just works wonders with the Dragon Quest-esque battles. At some points in the game, the party encounters a number a wise sages that either offer advice or spells/techniques. Some will challenge the hero for specific techniques and with that; what better theme to fight these “loony” sages than “Wise Man’s Ordeal”? Wacky sound effects of springs accompany the flute, Asian percussions and shamisen, which are fitting to throw you off as these fight aren’t exactly a walk in the park. Moving on to more serious themes, “Confrontation ~ Infernal Captain” serves as the main boss theme, which has its own particularities which makes it stand out from all other boss themes out there. The first factor is the use of a harmonica, which isn’t exactly threatening, but it feels just right for this game. Another particularity to it is the starting melody is actually goofy, until the synth kicks in halfway through. Another staple theme from RPGs is the overworld map theme, here blandly titled “Overworld”. Don’t let the generic title fool you; this theme actually has substance compared to others of its type. Starting off in a military march, the brass and bass work together in order to create the epic feel which gains some ground once the synthesized choir joins in. It may sound fairly typical with the choice of instruments, but being able to hear it as you walk the beautiful plains of Jipang just brings in quality as it matches the looks perfectly.
One of the most beautiful dungeon themes is “In the Cellar”, which features echoing drums, bells, and some wavy synth which gives it a “crystalline” quality, which fitted the underwater dungeon perfectly, but it also brought out an “aquatic” mood. “Hisui’s Theme” is the theme to the first character the Hero meets on his journey. Asian flutes and soft acoustic guitar accompanied with strings; brought out the gentleness out of this character who was eager to help out to the best of her ability. The theme to the recurring villain, “Akamaru’s Theme” proposes a slightly goofy direction, having the spring effects used in “Wise Man’s Ordeal”, with some shamisen, Asian percussions and some other instrument which I cannot identify. It is fitting for such a comedic character, as he doesn’t seem to really improve over the course of the game. One of the main party members is a little fairy named Subaru, with her theme, we are treated to two sides as she often provides comedic relief (which is represented by those wacky “toy crank” effects) and bears a child’s innocence(the flute does that part). While Akamaru may be a clumsy character, he knows how to put up a good fight. “Akamaru’s Counterattack” is the unique boss theme for this game, this techno-based battle theme features excellent development, the brass works alongside the synth and gives the sense of an epic battle, which makes sense as the Akamaru battles were fairly difficult. One of the most memorable moments of TM0 was the Street Fighter-esque battle between two monstrous robots; the drums and brass do a fine job of creating tension while battle ensues as it was tricky to defeat the enemy’s robot. Later on in the game, the party enters a fortress which resembles the ancient pagodas of Japan. In this area, the aural treat is a stylish piano-driven theme called “Castle of Dragon King”. The piano moves constantly as the bass and flute take a supporting role, and nearly halfway through, a saxophone makes a brief appearance just before the piano quickly brings the theme to an end. One of the last battle themes is used as you face Ninigi for the first time. “King of Hell” starts with some eerie strings and soon moves on to a techno-like melody, an instrument which resembles the harmonica makes an appearance for the majority of the theme, which is soon succeeded by synth and soon starts over from the techno-driven melody. One of the most heroic themes being “Higan, the Hero of Fire”, uses the main melody from “Overture”, and puts an emphasis on the brass and synth, in where the scene it gets used gives it such an amazing impact. No review of an RPG soundtrack is complete without discussing a bit about the final boss and ending themes. “The Final Battle” is a bit different as it uses more Asian instruments, like percussions and flutes, while a piano plays a quick passage. The climax is the strings getting louder and louder and ending with a quick drum roll; it really creates the perfect mood as this final boss was near impossible to defeat even at levels up to 70 and literally took forever to bring down, not to mention he was armed some deadly spells. “To a New Future” has the soft acoustic guitar accompanied by the Asian flute, which has strings join in around a quarter of the way through the theme. It basically captures all the elements used in this soundtrack and brings in a pleasant sound, a calm melody, yet still contains a few epic phrases. It worked just right as we could see the world of Jipang reverting to its normal, former self.
This is one of these soundtracks that can be appreciated whether you played the game or not, but experiencing the music in the game will amplify the overall enjoyment factor ten folds. Getting hold of this soundtrack is fairly tricky. As far as I know, this particular soundtrack has only appeared once on eBay (and I’m the lucky bastard who ended up getting it :P), and I have yet to see it on Yahoo Japan Auctions. I believe this had gone for about $40, but given the rarity of this set and probably low demand for it, it may be possible to get it for less. To whoever wants to hunt this true gem down, good luck!!