The Mana series is much beloved by fans, and the music of the series has always been celebrated regardless of the composer writing it. A number of composers have graced the series over the years, and say what you will about the PlayStation entry Legend of Mana, the soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura was great.
This album presents several key themes in jazz and cafe styles, with great arrangements and atmospheres throughout. It begins with a traditional jazz ensemble performing a swinging and upbeat take on “Hometown of Domina,” and is followed by a Latin-flavored “To the Sea.” One of my favorite original tracks, “Polpota Harbor,” gets a straightforward solo piano performance, while “Legend of Mana” comes as bossa nova in style with some great jazz flute. Another personal favorite, “Pictureseque Landscape” retains its aggressive edge with a Parisian cafe arrangement featuring accordion, violin, and guitar. “Singing Wind, Journey’s Path,” probably my absolute favorite from the original soundtrack, gets an infectiously upbeat pop-oriented arrangement with live guitar, piano, and woodwinds. Rounding out the collection is aggressive-turned-romantic “Tango Apssionata – As The Heart Wills,” the melancholy flamenco “Such Cruel Fate,” a beautiful bossa nova vocal version of “Seven Shades of Life,” a laid back jazz tune in “Nostalgic Song,” and a slower take on the main vocal theme from the game, “Song of Mana,” which sports beautiful harmonies and a fantastic acoustic arrangement.
It’s great to see an album of arrangements paying homage to the music of Legend of Mana. The album is available on CD Japan if you want to add a lovely live jazz album to your collection.
It’s that time of year again. Square Enix put out their annual sampler from Tokyo Game Show featuring goodies from their upcoming albums. They usually use these samplers as a vehicle to announce new albums and show off impending ones, but this year’s sampler features mainly material that we’ve known is coming. Also of note is the fact that the samples are all full-length tracks instead of the snippets that we’ve sometimes received in the past.
The disc opens with the ten-minute-long “Thunder Falls” from the Final Fantasy XIV: Before the Fall OST. It’s out now, and I highly recommend it (review here). There’s a lovely battle medley from Final Symphony II, featuring “Fierce Engagement” from Final Fantasy VI and a tease of “One-Winged Angel.” Imperial SaGa features Kenji Ito back in his orchestral element after so many rock excursions (Million Arthur, SaGa Battle). It’s fantastic and features a nice variation of the SaGa theme. We also get a taste of the upcoming Legend of Mana arrange album in the form of a wonderful jazz arrangement that is playful at times and beautiful at others. An arrangement from the highly-anticipated Chrono arrange album, “Dimension Break,” has been released before, but sounds as lovely as ever, there’s a new folky tune from Final Fantasy XI, an explosive orchestral/rock hybrid from Alice Order, Mitsuto Suzuki doing his thing on Mobius Final Fantasy that sounds reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII, a live band track featuring Motoi Sakuraba with great solos, and a rock track of his from Star Ocean V that’s nice to hear after Sakuraba’s focus on styles other than synth rock in recent years.
In all, while there aren’t any surprises, this is a solid sampler that should have give fans a lot to look forward to. There’s something for everyone with Mana and Chrono arranges, a Final Fantasy spin-off, and a serious classical album coming soon. Stay tuned!