Seiken Densetsu 4 Original Soundtrack -Sanctuary- :: Review by Bryan
After seeing a plethora of composers take the helm in the ever expanding Mana series, it now seems that it belongs to Kenji Ito. After seeing several series contributions from him, I'd have to say that he was a nice addition to the 'Mana' games. However, his somewhat consistent style might be considered old to some, and this soundtrack takes that theory and runs with it. What you think is up to you, but here are my thoughts on this work.
This soundtrack starts off with a beautiful piano piece by Ryuichi Sakamoto. There is somewhat of a solemn theme here, which actually takes away from the tracks effectiveness. It just doesn't seem to go anywhere. A great try anyway.
Kenji Ito takes this series to a new level by introducing some nice orchestral pieces. His first addition, �Prologue ~Mana, the Earth, and the Spirits~� is a great opening theme. The strings play a somewhat dreary theme, accented by the harp in the background, making me think this is a somewhat sad beginning. Tsuyoshi Sekito's first addition to this soundtrack, �Pack of Ice Wolves Ver. 1�, plays out about the same as the previously mentioned track. Another sad theme takes hold here. This track sees a bit more development than the last, with the addition of other instruments close to the end. This section abruptly ends after about 15 seconds. Nice try. The rest of Disk One pretty much plays out this same theme. I do want to mention one more track however. "Reminiscence" is a nice deviation from the boring, sad themes that came before it. Flamenco flair introduces a flute theme that makes this a very nice addition to the disc. Otherwise, Disk One fails.
Disc Two pulls away from the sad theme, and gives the 'dark' theme a one-two. Sekito gives us a really nice rock addition in "Blood Feud". Starting with the typical electric guitar, it crashes into some choir voices, which somewhat sit behind the orchestral forefront. A pretty nice piece overall, however still lacking in originality. Ito throws in more of his typical orchestrated pieces; they sound almost exactly like his contributions to Disc One, only with a dark theme instead of the sad ways of said disc. One track of his worth noting is "The Fool's Dance". It's another flamenco piece, with a twist. I actually see some potential in this one, as it seems to differ from Ito's standard comfort zone. In conclusion, while this disc seems to be a better attempt than the first, I still feel it is subpar to what other composers are attempting at this time.
By Disc Three, things in the game are getting bad. The intensity of these tracks has risen, and the quality has as well. Sekito has taken over here, and he's doing a better job than previously stated. One noteworthy track of his would be "Desperate Line". This just so happens to be an arrangement of a classic Hiroki Kikuta piece from Secret of Mana! He manages to do "Flight Bound for the Unknown" great justice, which I am very proud of. Ito does actually have a noteworthy track here, and that's "The Final Decisive Battle". What Ito lacks in every other aspect of his works, he always makes up for that with incredible intense final battle themes. This is easily the best theme out of Ito's contributions here. All in all, Disk Three seems to play out as the best in terms of quality thus far. Allowing Sekito to take the helm is largely responsible for that.
I'm not sure if Disc Four plays a direct role in-game, but its chock full of arranges from past Mana games. There are several composers responsible for this, and I'll play out this review based on each of them. Masayoshi Soken is a very competent composer indeed! This diskc includes several original pieces by him, as well as the majority of the arrangements also being his responsibility. All of his arranges can be summed up in the same explanation. Soken uses a rock influence to arrange most of these tracks. The best way to describe him here would be Motoi Sakuraba with variety, in my opinion. His originals are outstanding. "March March March" and "Rush Rush Rush" are both the same song, with March being arranged in an orchestral way, and Rush being in a progressive rock battle theme way. The rest of his originals are short, victory-like ditties. Not much can be said about those. Overall, Soken is the winner on this disc, hands down.
As for Junya Nakano, I saw his name and got very excited. Since when have we heard arrangements by him? This had to be good, right? Wrong. Not much arranging went on here at all. He took two of Kenji Ito pieces, and brought them into the synth quality of the PlayStation 2. (They were both Game Boy tracks I believe.) That's just about all. Bad Nakano, bad! The score's synthesizer operator Hirosato Noda arranged the dwarves' theme from Secret of Mana. He did two arrangements of the pece, both in a chip tune style fashion. Take it as it is. I'm not fond of the arrangements, but then again I'm not fond of the chip tune sound. They do however, feel underdeveloped. A nice try, but I would have preferred something a bit more... well, not chip tune. Ito also contributed two originals to the fourth disc, both holding true to his roots. They are boring and underdeveloped. There isn't really a whole lot to mention here.
After trying time and time again, I just can't get into this soundtrack. I find myself coming back to Disc Four quite a bit. If anything, the arrangement disk sold this soundtrack. Sekito made this work bearable, and I commend him for that. If you're looking for something that rivals the old Secret of Mana soundtracks, steer clear of this. If you like somber melodies, occasionally stepping forward and out of the dark, you may like this. My suggestion: Buy it, invite two friends over, and use the first three discs as coasters for your drinks while listening to the fourth.
Overall Score: 6/10