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A Most Unnecessary Soundtrack Release: SaGa 2 Hihou Densetsu Goddess of Destiny Original Soundtrack (Review)

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Alright, maybe that’s a little too harsh. Square Enix was kind enough to release a soundtrack CD for their SaGa 2 remake on the DS, which I have to applaud them for. The game was originally released on the Game Boy in 1991 (and again in 1998), so in terms of Square Enix remake cycles, this series has been long overdue. The main thing that makes this album redundant, however, is the fact that Square Enix just released the insanely massive SaGa 20th Anniversary Premium Box last month, which contained the original SaGa 2 soundtrack, and honestly, this version isn’t drastically different.

No, I’m not saying it sounds like Game Boy music. But it doesn’t necessarily sound like the best that the DS has to offer, either. This is an album that wants to sound like game music, and it has some fun in the process. While the original game was scored by Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uematsu, Ito alone tackles the remake, which I’m sure had hopes built high for a lot of people out there. There are, however, a couple bonuses and surprises for hardcore fans who are looking to pick this up.

Hit the jump for our full review of the SaGa 2 Hihou Densetsu Goddess of Destiny Original Soundtrack.

The album opens with “Future Quest,” an epic new track with slight references to the original SaGa series opening theme, originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu. It works in orchestral percussion and bell tolls with regal brass before it devolves into a sort of wild west version of the theme ala Wild ARMs, complete with jingle bells and a chugging bass. Surely an interesting way to start things off.

The next track is the best one on the album, and is one of these surprises I mentioned earlier. It’s a lovely arrangement of “The Legend Begins” featuring live violin by Aya Yoda and live guitar by Mitsuhiro Ohta. The strings and bell tolls in the background sound worlds better than the rest of the stuff on this album, and I don’t understand why they didn’t take this approach with the entire project given that the DS can stream music. This is definitely a great arrangement by Ito.

It’s then into the soundtrack proper. “Searching for the Secret Treasure” is a bouncey, parade-like take on the overworld theme. I do love the punchy bassline, but the strings and brass are totally unconvincing, giving the piece a comical atmosphere. Even “Hero’s Theme” takes this whimsical approach. “To the Lands of Another World” instead features a woodwind, but the long, drawn out notes and heavy reverb create a distinctly gamey sound that once again had me thinking Wild ARMs.

Hey, a battle theme. They can’t ruin that, right? Well, I agree. They can’t. I’ve always loved “Lethal Strike,” and the super perky synth rock arrangement here is a lot of fun. Layers upon layers of synth are used to create a totally fun listening experience. I also like how “The Whereabouts of the Fierce Battle” works in the main theme. “At the End of the Decisive Battle,” however, instead opts for the unconvincing orchestral sound to the detriment of the track. The victory fanfare theme, “Eat the Meat” on the other hand, makes me feel like I’m about to giddyup on a Chocobo. Before eating it.

“Muse’s Paradise” and “Wandering Soul,” on the other hand, are a little more serious, using belltones to voice their sweet melodies, which really creates a beautiful sound. “Muse’s Paradise” even works in references to the main theme, which is a nice touch. “Mystery of the Secret Treasure,” one of the dungeon themes, also sounds rather upbeat with its new age approach.

I have to mention “Wipe Your Tears Away,” one of Uematsu’s themes from the original SaGa. It was the “sad” theme for the game, and although it retains this melancholy sound here, it’s a little more upbeat with its shaker percussion and uplifting chorus section that ascends with strings and the bass pumping along.

Getting to the last couple tracks, “Burning Blood” is actually funny with its 50s rock vibe, and “Save the World” finally gets some rock going with cheesy sounding electric guitar samples and rock organ. It’s still a powerful battle theme, fit for a final battle. “Ending Theme 1″ gets its march one with crash cymbals, snare rolls, and a sticky sweet string melody.

And the last bonus? Artist muZik (who was also featured on the Final Fantasy III DS album) has a nice retro-style remix of “Lethal Strike” and “Eat the Meat” that combine electronic and chip elements into a fun mix that isn’t going to necessarily blow you away at only 2 minutes in length, but it’s a quirky little bonus to top off the rest of the experience.

I guess it’s a fine line between adhering to the original to keep fans happy while upgrading the sound, but I would have liked to have heard Ito’s talents put to better use. Still, it’s obvious that this soundtrack doesn’t take itself very seriously. They were going for a distinctly retro sound to appeal to oldschool gamers who are likely to the ones to buy the game and soundtrack. I’d say I prefer the original Game Boy version of the soundtrack, but it’s good to know that this one is out there for those who are interested. The booklet contains liner notes from Uematsu and Ito along with a little advertisement for the SaGa 20th Anniversary Premium Box. It’s also covered with artwork from the game, which is always nice to see.

Are you surprised that Square Enix decided to remake SaGa 2 of all the classic SaGa titles they could have gone after? Are you appreciative of the fact that they put out a soundtrack CD despite just having released the premium box?

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