Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Sound Version :: Review by Z-Freak
Two years after the release of Secret of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 2), Square had begun to make a sequel once more and had a choice to make: Which composer do we choose? For the first Seiken Densetsu, Square was lucky to get the attention of the very talented Kenji Ito who managed to create some more-than-satisfying music with the Nintendo Game Boy. When Seiken Densetsu 2 was in the works, a man known as Hiroki Kikuta decided to take the task at hand. The result? Seiken Densetsu 2 became an instant winner like it's prequel. Now since Kenji Ito was already working on the Romancing SaGa 3 score, it was obvious he wasn't available, so they gave the job of music composer to Kikuta. He would not disappoint Square at all. However, due to terrible marketing by Nintendo, Seiken Densetsu 3 has not been released on American soil; instead we got the awful Secret of Evermore and the slightly-above-average Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Consequently, despite being in many ways superior to the score of Seiken Densetsu 2, the Seiken Densetsu 3 Original Sound Version failed to receive the same publicity. Anyway, on with the review.
Disc One starts off with the wonderful "Where Angels Fear to Thread." This track begins with some quiet piano and flute instruments, then after a while the main theme from Seiken Densetsu 2, "Angel's Fear," shows itself. The only difference from the original is that a drum was added. This track is representative of the theme of the game: beautiful, yet mysterious. Beyond this, Disc One almost entirely consists of character and town/setting themes, though certain other tracks are used for other purposes. "Innocent Sea," for instance, is used for sad events or flashbacks and the guitar and flute use evokes sadness quite effectively. Apart from these gems that add a little diversity, Disc One is a little bland in terms of what it has to offer, though there's plenty of great character and setting themes nonetheless.
Let's discuss a few character themes in more detail. "Whiz Kid" serves as Duran's Theme. It definitely has a heroic feel to it and is representative of Duran's personality, reflecting the fact Duran takes his role of King's Knight seriously. The next character theme is "Witchmakers," which is Angela's theme and also the main theme of the Althena Kingdom, Angela's home. It has an Asian sound to it and fits the sorceress quite well. "Raven" is the theme to Hawkeye, the former Navarre soldier. The theme presents his easy life as he steals from the worthless thieves in order to help out his comrades. Flute and drums are used extensively in this track, and that's certainly a good thing in this instance. "Oh I'm a Flamelet" is Charlotte's theme. It has a mischievous/goofy feel to it, which reflects her babyish personality.
The town and setting themes are also mostly very good. "Walls and Steel" is the theme for the Castle City Jad. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I really love this town theme; the drums in particular make it sound very lively. "Sweet Little Cafe" is the normal town theme, and it easy to imagine the peace and quiet of the towns it represents as you listen to it. "Another Winter" is the theme for the huge Maze of Ice. It sounds pretty serene thanks to the way the bells are included. "Damn Damn Drum," however, is very annoying. Having myself being stuck for hours on the volcanic island didn't help me at all, and I'll admit that I really can't stand this track at all, Kikuta really did overuse the drums here. At least its title is appropriate, I guess! More effective is "Evening Star," the theme of the Holy City Wendel. The music does sound somewhat sacred due to the use of the synthesized chorus used at the start of the track.
Disc Two starts out with seemingly bland "Lefthanded Wolf," which is Kevin's Theme. This theme improves when the flute joins in and it sounds 'untamed', much like Kevin and the Beastmen which it represents. Other earlier additions to Disc Two include "November Harvest," which is used for the Desert region. I have a greater fondness for it than "Damn Damn Drum," since the desert posed no problem at all to me and the track makes good use of the guitar strings being plucked at the end of the track. "Female Turbulence" is Riez's theme, and is also the theme used for her Kingdom, Rolante. It sounds a bit militaristic, and conveys Lise's serious attitude about any situation at hand. Another early Disc Two theme is "Different Road," which is used on the Pathway to Heaven Mountain area. I can't describe this one at all, but I can say it was fitting for the area.
A change of pace in the soundtrack is reached with "Nuclear Fusion," the normal boss theme. It's exciting, fast-paced, and gives off a feel of danger as well as encouragement during all those tough battles. It's also extremely unusual, sharing the same flair as many of the battle tracks from Seiken Densetsu 2. What a battle theme! Also on Disc Two, several other boss themes are heard, but they ultimately pale in comparison. "Obsession" was used for Genova and several other bosses. The main instrument used in this piece is what many refer to as 'Pseudo-Electric Guitar', called PEG from here on. It is very annoying and gets old quick, and the battles involved with this theme were long and difficult, so that didn't help. "Strange Medicine" was used for the Moon God Beast. For those who played the game and fought that thing, you'll agree the theme was pretty annoying. It's not as bad as "Obsession," but close enough.
The remainder of the notable themes on Disc Two are mostly dark ones. One of the most notable is the minor villain theme "Three of the Darkside," which plays in any scenes involving Death Jester, Dark Shine Knight, or Jagan. At first it starts weakly, but soon blooms and develops an evil tone, much like the villains themselves. "Last Audience" is the theme to the Black Market found in the city of Byzel. It definitely sounds Arabic and is what you'd expect from Middle-East infuence. "Meridian Child" must be one of the most emotional tracks in the game, used at the end of any characters intro, as they set off to right their wrongs. It's probably the most well-known and heavily arranged track on the album. Aside the drama, a few other light-hearted tracks are also featured. "Splash Hop" is the oh-so-funky theme played while riding the turtle Booskaboo. It sounds Jamaican or something along those lines, and is a very nice work.
Disc Three starts out with the enjoyable "Can You Fly Sister," which is Flammie's theme. This one I do enjoy a lot, as it is very bouncy and happy. "Decision Bell" is used for the Mana Holyland and the bells are used appropriately in this theme, making it sound very sacred. Disc Three also features "Weird Counterpoint," which was used in Dragon's Hole, a gigantic dungeon. I got to hear this track plenty of times over. However, it wasn't bad; the part where the drums are only heard is interesting. Aside from that, there is nothing really special about it. Other features of Disc Three include "Angel's Fear," which is an arrangement of the original theme of Secret Of Mana. I just love how Kikuta plucks the strings from the guitar, it's really an excellent track. Beyond this, Disc Three can be split into two distinct parts: more boss battle themes and the final battles/ending themes.
We'll discuss boss themes first. "Secret Of Mana" is a very bad title for this track, due to the fact that it has nothing but the damn PEG going on. Most bosses with that theme used were annoyingly difficult. "Faith Total Machine," which is used for Gorva and the Light God Beast, starts out weak, and then PEG rears it's ugly head. Unlike other bosses, the ones fought during this theme were fairly easy, so I can forgive Kikuta for this one. "Rolling Cradle" is one of the better boss themes, used for Bill and Ben, the Earth God Beast. It was fast-paced and exciting, but people won't enjoy it too much if they aren't prepared, as all battles with this theme being played are difficult, but not too annoying. Now for my all time favorite boss theme of all, "High Tension Wire," which is anything but dull. It's a shame it was only used in three battles: Tzenker, Wind God Best, and Koren. With its jazzy guitar and wind flute, it easily sets the mood to fight on.
Now it's time for the final boss themes! "Sacrifice - Part One" starts out with an evil tone, quickly followed by breaking glass effects, which sets the mood for the ultimate battle that will follow. "Sacrifice - Part 2" is actually a remix of Seiken Densetsu 2's "The Oracle," which was used in the Dark Lich Battle. The extensive use of drums in this track is appropriate, and clearly shows the struggle between the heroes and the villain. After certain amount of damage has been incurred, "Sacrifice - Part 3" kicks in, clearly telling us not to lose hope, as it will end soon. This final boss theme alone rivals other Squaresoft winners like Final Fantasy VI's "Dancing Mad" and Romancing SaGa 3's "Last Battle." It's an absolute masterpiece, clocking at almost 4 minutes for a single loop, making it not only the longest theme on the soundtrack but one of the most well-developed final boss battle themes ever. Following these ending themes, we move to the ending theme, "Return to Forever," which is another satisfying ending theme that rivals popular predecessors' work. Disc Three ends with the sad "Long Goodbye," which is the game over theme. It's not much and hardly a dramatic end to the soundtrack, but is fitting nonetheless.
In conclusion, Seiken Densetsu 3 was a landmark not only because of it's beautiful graphics, but because its music is among the finest ever heard on the Super Nintendo. Unlike some of the soundtracks I previously reviewed, this one is not out-of-print, being readily available at both AnimeNation and Game Music Online. If you should stumble about it, be sure to get it as it's worth buying, especially if you've played the magnificent Seiken Densetsu 3.
Overall Score: 9/10