Romancing SaGa La Romance :: Review by Dave
Back in the Super Nintendo era, Square produced a distinctly styled arranged album for each of its hit RPGs, each exuding plenty of creativity. Romancing SaGa La Romance was one of the best-received of these albums and treated Kenji Ito's score for Romancing SaGa with musical influences from the country of love: France. Arranger Masaki Mizoguchi largely succeeded in transforming the original themes into deep and refined creations.
Masaki Mizoguchi immediately establises the French influence with his arrangement of the opening overture. Few would expect the once conventional orchestral original to be presented with rustic guitars, folksy violins, and accordions as here. However, the interpretation works, given the melodies are preserved and the stylings are sophisticated. The conclusion, in which the melody transposes up a semitone, is particularly fulfilling. These bright folksy transformations of Ito's original material continues in "La Gloire du Chevalier", which captures the pride and elegance of the original knight's theme, while taking a number of cheeky and dazzling turns. It's a great way to transform a one-dimensional theme into a complex and meaningful one.
While the French influence is present throughout, it takes a range of forms. In addition to folksy tracks, there is a ragtime interpretation of the town themes on the fifth track featuring particularly infectious interplay between the piano and violin and a piece of relaxing guitar-infused jazz music prior to the conclusion. I also have a major soft spot for "Marche vers l'inconnu" and "Tango du Pays des Frontiers", which are influenced by the music of France's colonies in South America. These tracks wonderfully preserve the lyricism of Kenji Ito's melodies while giving them a more passionate and alluring quality. Written in the style of a tango, the latter is particularly accessible and worth multiple listens.
That said, not all the tracks on the album are flawless. "Pot-pourri des Héros" is a medley of the major character themes. The melody and personality of each theme is preserved, despite the French folk rock influence throughout. However, the medley approach will be somewhat unfulfilling for some listeners, as most sections are introduced with abrupt transitions and aren't sufficiently developed thereafter. The medley of the "The Palace of the Dream" and "The Crystal City" suffers more from stylistic incohesion, transitioning oddly through accordion-supported jazz sections to classical string quartets without much reason. The final track is a catchy and exciting rendition of the game's ending theme. However, the electric guitar leads come across too tacky for my liking.
While most of the album serves as easy listening, there are a few tracks that are particularly emotional. "Perdu dans la Forét" treats the atmospheric "Lost Woods" theme from the original game with a blend of impressionistic and jazz influences. The combination of the alluring piano chords, Eb clarinet descant, and mystical female chorus creates a rich, unusual, and ever-changing soundscape. The section from 1:23 is especially emotional, despite the slightly heavy-handed piano performance. A special mention is also deserved for the medley of "Deserted Village" and "Theme of Solitude", both for the way it achieves cohesiveness and offers so many personal moments. It brings a new depth to Ito's once formulaic 'sad' themes and serves as excellent music in its own right.
The way Masaki Mizoguchi transformed the Romancing SaGa soundtrack into these arrangements is astonishing. All the arrangements are stylistic shifts from the original, yet enhance their memorability, character, and refinement by a large amount. Though there are a few misses, the highs make this album highly recommended, both for fans of the original music and those simply looking for a refreshing instrumental album.
Overall Score: 9/10