The Legend of Heroes is probably Falcom’s most unique series to date. The first two titles in the series were actually a part of an older Dragon Slayer series, which has connections to Xanadu, Sorcerian, and virtually every other non-Ys game Falcom created. Then the third and fourth Legend of Heroes titles were released. Years later, they were brought in with Legend of Heroes V to create what is now called the “Gagharv Trilogy.” Many people speculated that the series would end at this point. However, it has not, as Falcom decided to create a new chapter in the Legend of Heroes (or, in Japanese, “Eiyuu Densetsu”), with the subtitle Sora no Kiseki (which we have translated to “Tracks in the Sky”). Falcom published the OST as a release separate from the game, and the two discs are available to Americans through CocoEbiz.com. Is it worth purchasing?
The short answer is “yes.”
The long answer is found within the rest of this review.
The previous Legend of Heroes titles always had themes that were very bold, epic, and “classical” in nature. They would shoot for “grandiose” with a few of the main themes, but then, much of the rest of the OST would fall short of this goal. This was especially true in the case of Legend of Heroes V, which many Falcom fans believe fell flat on its face in terms of music composition.
But Sora no Kiseki seems to be going for a style that is completely its own. While the opening track is still an “orchestral” piece, one can take a quick listen to discover that the style is more fun, light-hearted, and breezy than the comparitively enigmatic and moody theme “The White Witch” from Legend of Heroes III. From the outset, what we have is a soundtrack that screams “have fun with us!”
The next few tracks are all very good for “early game” songs: I wished to sample them all, but alas, I cannot. They are all beautiful pieces with super-high quality synth (some of the best synth instruments I’ve heard to date!), and they have bouncy melodies that make you want to import the game.
Then we run into what is probably my favorite battle theme in years, “Sophisticated Fight.” This is pretty much a jazz piece. The use of cymbals, wood block, piano, bass, and horns make this an especially fun and well-written song. And listen to how good this sounds! I’ve listened to albums from Falcom that claimed to be “fully arranged” from previous years that didn’t sound half this good! I am just tickled pink with this song.
To give an example of what a “filler” track is like on this OST (because every OST has to have a few boring filler tracks), I included “Tower of the Four Wheels.” This is another run-of-the-mill dungeon theme, featuring an uncommon scale that is used to achieve the effects of mystery and intrigue.
The next fifteen tracks all manage to preserve the light adventure that is The Legend of Heroes VI ~ Sora no Kiseki. I chose to sample tracks 11 and 23 to make this point. While sampling nearly any of these tracks would’ve made my point, I chose these two because I enjoy them more. I don’t even have a musical category/genre term to describe Secret Green Passage: it’s just a good song. Ruan has a pretty theme as well, especially when the “children’s choir” synth is incorporated. Be sure not to miss this track. Many of the other tracks in-between maintained a jazz feel, focusing on the use of a walking bass and piano.
The Madrigal of the White Magnolia Suite is, in my opinion, the worst part of the OST. The compositions are definitely that of a “suite,” but the sound quality doesn’t do the compositions justice. Frankly, this part bores me: I would love to know how the music fits into the context of the game; however, since I don’t, I find no pleasure in listening to these tracks.
The second disc of this OST takes a turn toward a more dark, more intense, and more pulse-pounding sound. Sure, it still has light jazzy themes (such as “Studio City of Zeiss”), but to get a feel for what I mean, be sure to listen to “Leiston Fortress.” This song reminds me of the dungeon themes typical of Noriyuki Iwadare, particularly in his Lunar compositions. In other words, this is an awesome dungeon theme. I can just imagine myself playing this game and enjoying the music as I take out the opposition (Falcom!! C’mon, get someone to publish all of your games in America! Please?).
Amber Love (“Kohaku no Ai” in Japanese) gets its third, and best, version on disc two: the piano version. This is a really nice piano solo jazz piece, it gives off that “I’m hurt, but I’m still in love” vibe that’s so typical of a lot of softer jazz piano.
Tracks 10 through 17 are all “harder” songs, many of them probably being battle or dungeon themes near the end of the game. I am especially fond of these tracks. They, along with the early tracks of disc one, are what I would put on a “Best of Legend of Heroes” CD. Especially impressive is track 15, “The Fading Light of the Sealed Land”, which uses a choir synth that I believe is the same one used in “Symphonic Fantasy White Witch”, an arranged album from Falcom released only two years before this OST. Techno-style drum loops make a tense beat for the horns, chimes, and everything else happening on this beefed up power-house of a song.
The album trails off with a number of softer instrumentals, and then finally, three versions of the ending vocal, “The Whereabouts of Light.” I’m always and forever a fan of Falcom vocals; this one is not anything especially impressive, but it’s another one of those medium/slow J-pop ballads that I can get a craving for after a few hours of power-rock have given me a raging headache.
If I were to give the most sober rating of this OST, I would say that it certainly isn’t the best OST out there, or even the best OST Falcom’s ever released; but considering there have not been too many incredible OSTs in the last few years, this is one that has impressed me for its time. The fusion of jazz and pop added to the necessity of having a looped VGM track all combine to create one very unique OST, one that should not be forgotten or brushed aside for bigger and better things (which have always turned out to be underwhelming when the hype has faded).
So lose the hype, and pick up the Legend of Heroes VI OST.