Romancing SaGa 2 Original Sound Version :: Review by Chris
Following the success of Romancing SaGa in Japan, a sequel was inevitable and came in time for Christmas in 1993. Kenji Ito returned to create a synth orchestral score for the title and offered a number of developments from the first game's score. Most significantly, he offered a darker tone to represent the turbulent storyline and struggle of the heroes. The soundtrack received a one disc album release and was later featured as the fifth disc of the series' box set.
Kenji Ito's ambitious opening theme for Romancing SaGa 2 considerably enhances the visuals. It actually splices together several sections that each convey different moods and scenarios during the opening sequence. The first section establishes a foreboding feel with its dark if mundane use of synth orchestra and chorus. While the game's visuals remain relatively static, the track evolves cinematically to portray more hopeful moments and a sinister turn, leading to an abrupt transition into battle from 3:47. The battle segment is entirely satisfying, given it captures a sense of 'good vs evil' and features memorable melodies, though may have been more enjoyable separated on the soundtrack release. At seven minutes long, the final theme is pretty bloated, although listeners can enjoy a bonus condensed version at the end of the soundtrack.
The dark influence featured on the prologue is developed with many of the themes on Romancing SaGa 2. It's particularly impressive how "Dungeon 1" manages to convey a sense of fate with its macabre twists on a romantic dance format. The interlude led by synth vocals at 0:34 is particularly well done from both a compositional and technological standpoint. This track and, to a lesser extent, the other dungeon themes offer a much more emotional support to the gameplay than its predecessors. Sadly, not all these themes are impressive all these years on, given Ito often relies on little more than drab string melodies and pompous drum rolls. The relatively strong military melody of "The Emperor Goes to War" is let down by bland orchestration and synthesis, while the likes of "Disaster" and "Dungeon 3" only manage to evoke emotion in their secondary sections.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of throwbacks to the style and themes of the original Romancing SaGa. The title themes from both SaGa and Romancing SaGa are revisited, the former given a modest pastoral interpretation and the latter a more romantic orchestration. In addition, "Victory!" sounds even more lively than usual and series' mainstay "Wipe Your Tears Away" is also reprised just before the climax. Among the stylistically familiar entries, "Battle with Kujinshi" and "Seven Heroes Battle" once again reflect Ito's capacity to create lively and lyrical battle themes. As with the rest of the score, neither are quite up to Romancing SaGa's high standards, with slightly lower end synthesis and less memorable melodies. Nevertheless, the former is still a personal favourite with its hard bass punctuations and exuberant brass melodies.
In the absence of character themes, Ito places particularly strong focus on the various setting themes on Romancing SaGa 2. "Imperial Capital Avalon" is written in the style of a heroic march, just like the headlining tracks on the predecessors. The melodies, while technically new, hint at certain character themes and are likely to be nostalgic to series' veterans. The slow and relaxing "Town in a Foreign Country" and "Village 2" are also close in style to what most would expect from RPG town themes. Other tracks, such as "Canal Fortress" and "Sunken Ship", take a more ambient approach and elegantly mix electronic and acoustic elements. "Ancient Ruins" is also relatively novel in its approach, with its Arabian synth lead and distinctive tonalities. It complements the visuals of the setting wonderfully, though is too stereotypical to impress otherwise.
The climax of the score begins with the eponymously titled last dungeon theme. This track reflects the darkness and importance of the location with its pipe organ solos and further synth chorus work, although suffers like much of the score from bland orchestration and generic stylings. The final battle theme is somewhat understated in its timbres, in contrast to its full-fleshed predecessor. Nevertheless, it still conveys the determination of the heroes against great wrath with its expansive, ever-changing melody. The ending themes for Romancing SaGa 2 capture a sense of triumph and relief following the drama. At eight minutes in length, "Ending" is a particularly elaborate composition featuring an extended victory march and a glorious reprise of the trilogy's main theme. The soundtrack is closed with some bonus tracks, including four brief dance jingles.
Overall, the score for Romancing SaGa 2 features a significant shift in tone compared to its predecessor with its darker and sadder themes. The result is spell-binding in context, though the stand-alone experience is generally not as good. Too many themes on the soundtrack feature vanilla melodies or clichéd orchestration, and the exuberance sound of its predecessor is generally replaced with a drab one. The soundtrack still features its highlights, but is better experiencing as part of the series' box set, rather than as a single soundtrack given the superior material that precedes and follows it.
Overall Score: 7/10