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SaGa Battle Track Compilation :: Review by Chris

SaGa Battle Track Compilation Album Title: SaGa Battle Track Compilation
Record Label: Square Enix
Catalog No.: SQEX-10220
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Square Enix's music department have recognised that battle tracks are probably the most popular aspect of their RPG soundtracks and, in recent years, have released several compilations of battle tracks commemorating this. Their latest, the SaGa Battle Track Compilation, is a commercial release that features three battle tracks from each of the SaGa series' games (excluding its DS remakes). The album is partly redundant with an earlier album bundled with pre-orders of Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song and Square Enix's main battle tracks trilogy.


Starting with the Game Boy's original trilogy, Uematsu composed the main battle themes for SaGa, "Fight" and "Fierce Battle", in a similar manner to those on Final Fantasy II. After edgy introductions, these tracks develop into motivating anthems with dancing bass and fast runs. They're not among Uematsu's best, but are still effective and enjoyable, making the most out of the technology available at that time. More impressive is Kenji Ito's first ever battle theme "Lethal Stike". More wholesome and balanced than Nobuo Uematsu's battle themes from the original SaGa, it plunges gamers into battle with its vigorous runs, while offering plenty of great melodies to whistle along to. Among the SaGa 3 selections, Ryuji Sasai's boss theme "Gods of Another Dimension" meanwhile 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.

Kenji Ito's battle themes became staples for the series with the Romancing SaGa trilogy for the Super Nintendo, most of which previously appeared on the SaGa Battle Music Collection. The iconic opening phrase of Romancing SaGa's "Battle 1" will get listeners invigorated and the subsequent sections keep the adrenaline flowing with their nonstop melodies and bold orchestration. "Battle 2" is even more catchy, with its passionate trumpet solo and slapped bass accompaniment, and mixes Latin, orchestral, and rock influences seamlessly. From Romancing SaGa 2, "Seven Heroes Battle" reflects Ito's capacity to create lively and lyrical battle themes once more, while the final battle theme is somewhat understated yet still conveys the determination of the heroes against great wrath with its expansive, ever-changing melody. Ito also includes three battle themes from the conclusion of the Romancing SaGa trilogy to portray the Four Demon Nobles and the final encounter. In each theme, Ito focuses on liberating rock-based melodies while offering just enough weight in the arrangements to reflect the intensity of the situation.

The subsequent generation of SaGa games features a number of stylistic experiments, facilitated by the more liberated synth of the PlayStation. From SaGa Frontier, "Battle #5" is a particular fan favourite with its high-octane rock stylings and provides an interesting contrast from the numerous orchestral tracks, while another of the final battle themes "Last Battle -T260G-" is a welcome entry here too after its absence on the earlier compilation. Those looking for a more artistic approach to battle themes will find more appeal in Masashi Hamauzu's "Feldschlacht IV" and "Mißgestalt" from SaGa Frontier II, however. Both tracks curiously intertwine thematic fragments with Germanic march-like orchestrations in an impressionistic manner. Two of Hamauzu's selections from Unlimited SaGa, the Latin-influenced "Battle Theme IV" and electronic mix Battle Theme EX", are also impressive. However, better tracks such as "Battle Theme I" or "BT 'ultimate'" would have been more suitable instead of "Battle Theme III".

The final selections on the album are dedicated to the battle theme arrangements featured in Romancing SaGa's PlayStation 2 remake. Unlike many of the other selections on the album, there is no overlap between the track selections here and those featured on the promotional album. Probably the biggest highlight of the entire album is "Passionate Rhythm", which blends Kyoko Kishikawa's catchy Latin-influenced vocals with Tsuyoshi Sekito's extremely brisk and elaborate flamenco guitar work. It's simply an ardent and breathtaking collaboration. Sekito's rock-based arrangement of "Decisive Battle! Saruin" is also breathtaking with its invigorating melodies and extensive solos. The transformation from the original version, featured earlier on the album, is astonishing and even better than the material The Black Mages produces. The album suitably concludes with a bonus track, the original version of the catchy if brief victory theme from the original SaGa, "Eat the Meat!".


This album demonstrates that the SaGa series features numerous excellent battle themes. However, it is probably better to enjoy these battle themes in the context of the games or their soundtrack releases rather than as a compilation. The selections are generally solid, though many notable battle themes are left off and there isn't a single exclusive on the release. For most consumers, this album will be unnecessary and redundant.

Overall Score: 5/10