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SaGa 3 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

SaGa 3 Original Soundtrack Album Title: SaGa 3 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Square Enix
Catalog No.: iTunes
Release Date: June 26, 2006
Purchase: Buy at iTunes


SaGa 3: Jikuu no Hasha, rebranded Final Fantasy Legend III in North America, was developed by an entirely different team to the earlier two instalments of the series, based in Osaka rather than Tokyo. The game's score was handled by Ryuji Sasai, a veteran of the Xak series who went on to score Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, and Chihiro Fujioka, also the game's director who went on to design the Mario RPG series. The resultant score was released in three versions: as part of a two disc set with the rest of the SaGa trilogy, as the third disc of the series' box set, and as a stand-alone digital download in Japan.


Despite the shift in composers, "Prologue" from the original SaGa forms the basis of SaGa 3's opening theme's melody. However, Ryuji Sasai's interpretation is much more upbeat, with a faster tempo, prominent bass line, and some ornate countermelodies. The synthesis is also somewhat more coarse and choppy, meaning the sonorous quality of the original is lost. Still, it's a decent way to get gamers straight to the action and reflects the rock influence of Sasai's musicality. With the exception of a blippy reprise of the victory theme, the other themes are inspired by, but not directly based on, compositions from earlier in the trilogy. For example, "Wipe Your Tears Away" is replaced with a similar alternative; however, like many such tracks on this score, it is less memorable and more undeveloped than its counterparts.

Sasai's rock influence persists in the world map theme "Journey to the Future", among the highlights of the experience. Filled with jubilant melodies and exuberant flourishes, it's an excellent way to capture the protagonist's sense of adventure. It's clear that Sasai felt limited by the Game Boy's synth when creating it, but he still manages to create quite an appealing track. The normal battle theme "Fight!" is also a fine example of chiptune rock, with its hard driving bass and wild arpeggiated passages. It's far less melodic than the battle themes in previous instalments, but makes up for it with its strong rhythms and stylings. It's certainly fun to battle to this one. The boss theme "Gods of Another Dimension" reflects the intensity of the battle better than its predecessors with augmented chord passages and frenzied development. However, it's perhaps too disordered and chaotic for casual listening.

The rest of the compositions on the soundtrack are a mixed bag. "Oasis" and "Village in a Strange Land" are both generic town themes — the former upbeat and adventurous, the latter slow-paced and reflective. They're entirely serviceable in the game, but lack the strong melodies and rich development to appeal outside of it. Featuring just two chords and a very repetitive ostinato, "Dungeon" is a completely mind-numbing attempt at ambience that fails to sustain repetition in context, while "Stronghold" also suffers from a crippling lack of harmonic variety. "Holy Ruins" and "Dark Zone" are considerably better dungeon themes and it has clear that Sasai spent some time developing the chord progressions and soundscapes of these tracks. Sasai also shows mature command of the console's synth on "Steslos" and "Theme of Another Dimension", both of which are motivating anthems filled with character and melodic potency.

Chihiro Fujioka's contribution to the score is a small one, limited to just four themes. "Deep" and "Warrior's Rest" are among the most calm tracks on the soundtrack and form a necessary contrast to Sasai's more upbeat creations. However, the former is certain among the most dreary themes in the entire trilogy and adheres to such a conventional 'melody with accompaniment' form that it could have been computer-generated. "Insanity" is equally disappointing — a jarring hurry theme that loops after just ten seconds. Following Sasai's vanilla and repetitive final battle theme, Fujioka closes the soundtrack as abruptly as it begun with an 80 second ending theme "Supreme Ruler of Time and Space". Both tracks pale after the supremicity of Uematsu's equivalents from the earlier instalments of the trilogy and once again seem rushed rather than considered.


While some have made outrageous claims that SaGa 3 is the series' finest score, with its 25 minute playtime, superficial stylings, and limited synthesis, the converse is actually true. There's no doubt that Ryuji Sasai and Chihiro Fujioka are respectively talented composers and designers, but they clearly didn't much effort into creating a well-developed and technologically commanded score for this instalment. There are plenty of highlights, particularly where the rocking battle themes and character anthems are concerned, but these are counterbalanced by an equally large number of derivative, repetitive, and ultimately disappointing tracks. Only purchase this soundtrack as part of a compilation or alternatively seek out the vastly improved album for its DS remake instead.

Overall Score: 6/10