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Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack :: Review by Z-Freak

Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack Album Title: Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Oo Records
Catalog No.: OOCO-26
Release Date: December 12, 1996
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Sega Saturn was one console with loads of potential and several true gems, like the Shining Series. One of the few worthy Saturn RPGs is known as Shining the Holy Ark. Unfortunately, due to Sega's poor marketing strategies, the Saturn soon became obsolete compared to the other current CD-based consoles. Let's just forget about the Saturn's demise for now and focus on Shining the Holy Ark, STHA from here on. According to reviews, STHA was praised as a high quality entry in the series, with vibrant graphics, an interesting story, a decent combat system, and, last but not least, spectacular music. Highly regarded composer Motoi Sakuraba took composing duties for STHA. Like Beyond The Beyond and Shining Force III, although labelled an Original Soundtrack, this soundtrack is an arranged album. Those who have heard his earlier arranged works such as for Beyond The Beyond, Shining Force III, and Star Ocean should already have a good grasp on his stylings.


For STHA, Sakuraba takes a similar route to what was done with Shining Force III, except there is much more going on. With the opening track "Prelude ~ Lure from the Eclipse," Sakuraba starts us off with a heroic, epic melody. The use of brass, percussion instruments, and choir suggest a mystical land filled with dangers and adventure. The violin, backed up by the percussion, gives the impression of activity, and this is emphasised further when Sakuraba starts using his trademark organ, accompanied with a violin. Unexpectedly, he goes nuts on his synth, playing notes as fast as possible. This sudden burst of activity is a welcome change that gets the listener to pay more attention as the arrangement returns to the original melody and comes to a close. This opener is but a taste of things to come; if you enjoyed this piece, you will likely love what the rest of the CD has to offer.

One of Sakuraba's strong points has always been battle themes and he delivers with style in STHA. "Ceremony of Darkness ~ Part I" would suggest the random battle theme (no, I have not had the opportunity to play this yet, so I am merely guessing), which features beautiful piano solos, effective percussion, and some interesting transitions as it progresses. Clocking in at 6 minutes and 42 seconds, it has ample room for improvisation. Do you get the feeling you're fighting some creeps while hearing this? Absolutely! "Dance of Life and Death" could be the boss theme, and it's one to really pay attention to. The instrument of choice here is the violin, which creates a good sense of danger and excitement. The organ parts are well-executed as well, which will remind some listeners of Shining Force III . Smack in the middle of the track is a short but delightful flute solo, which conveys a feeling of hope, despite the brutal beatings one could receive in a rough battle. The violin shows up for a few seconds until the synth takes over for the remainder of the theme.

Unfortunately, not all the battle themes will be globally loved, despite their effectiveness. "Ceremony of Darkness ~ Part II," for example, is probably the final battle, as it is utterly ferocious. However, it is perhaps too ferocious; Sakuraba doesn't hold back on loud percussion and synth whatsoever, and, unless you are a big Sakuraba fan, this track is likely to be too ear-grating for you. For others, this is by far Sakuraba's most brutal arranged piece ever, and, by brutal, I mean "The Holy Grail" of arrangements. Sakuraba knows and acknowledges its "fun factor" despite being very hard to appreciate for most listeners. If were creating an RPG, I'd have Sakuraba compose something like this to show that the final enemy really means business!

Despite all these rough tracks, STHA does have a few calm pieces. "Search Far and Deep" would probably be either the world map or a dungeon theme, as the piano, eerie violin, and wavy synth suggests a place enshrouded in darkness. "Elegy of the Bewildered" is the longest track at nearly 9 minutes. It is a unique piano solo, which would certainly interest piano enthusiasts more than any others. It's a rather complex piece, as it progresses through several transitions and uses the main theme to give it especially wonderful results. If there would be sheet music for this piece, I'd certainly love to have it and learn this piece, no matter how complex it gets.


Overall, the Shining the Holy Ark Original Soundtrack is a must for Sakuraba fanatics. For anyone else, it depends on how much it ends up costing, as it usually surpasses the $100 range. Sure, it's only 1 CD, but it is 1 CD of total musical bliss in any way you look at it. It often appears on eBay, but just watch out for incredibly high reserves and bidding wars.

Overall Score: 9/10