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Soundtrack of the Month 01/2011: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest Sound Collections

Soundtrack of the Month 01/2011: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest Sound Collections

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Looks like we’re starting a trend, as our January 2010 soundtrack of the month was also late! Our bad.

So, Mystic Quest. Too often is this game mocked and reviled by RPG fans, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this game. Not only did I love the characters, dungeons, on-field enemies, and changing animations as enemies took damage in battle, but Ryuji Sasai and Yasuhiro Kawakami’s soundtrack have remained one of my favorites to this very day.

The memory I primarily associate with this game is one summer that I spent with my cousins in Las Vegas where we would start a new game in the morning (naming our character CLASHION), and finish it by the evening, repeating the process the following day for nearly a week. Yes, I know this game, and I love it, and you should too!

Find out why you can at least appreciate the soundtrack even if you hated the game in our Soundtrack of the Month feature to start off 2011!

First off, a hardcore rocker composing the soundtrack to a videogame? Maybe it’s more commonplace now, but at the time, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was a pioneer, bringing serious metal to the SNES. While Ryuji Sasai (who we interviewed extensively about this soundtrack) brought with him his background as a rock performer, Kawakami, who handles the town and some dungeon themes, made a perfect companion, bringing the classic fantasy RPG sound to the mix.

It’s difficult for me not to talk about every single track on this CD, as it’s all great, so I’ll hit some of the highlights. Ryuji Sasai starts us off with the upbeat “Mystic Quest” title theme may be too cheerful and bright for your tastes, but there’s no doubt that it’s catchy, and the fact that Sasai worked into in other tracks on the album, including the world map theme, “World,” makes for a cohesive listening experience, also a rarity in the early days of game music.

His rockin’ battle themes are some of Squaresoft’s best, from the chugging electric guitars and brass of “Battle 1,” lightning-fast tempo in “Battle 2,” and epic “Battle 3” with its orchestral intro before the shredding begins. His dungeon themes also hit the spot, starting with “Fossil Labyrinth,” which captures that prehistoric sound with its rhythmic percussion and moving on to the gusty “Mountain Range of Whirlwinds” with its powerful French horns. “Last Castle” is one of the heaviest tracks on the album with a killer melody and an awesome chorus section that really drives home the fact that you’re nearing the end of your journey. I also love the playful “Rock ‘n’ Roll” jingle that recalls classic rock tunes that you’d expect to hear in a 50s diner.

Kawakami, as mentioned, takes a softer approach, starting with “Beautiful Forest,” a track whose title describes it perfectly. “City of Forest” is equally sweet and serene along with “Shrine of Light,” while tracks like “Dungeon of Ice,” “Dungeon of Waterfall,” and “City of Wind” take a more atmospheric approach using sound effects to highlight their respective environments.

In addition to the soundtrack, the album also contains some remixed tracks, dubbed “Arrange Version.” “MYSTIC RE-QUEST I” and “II” are arranged by Sasai, bringing to life “Last Castle,” “Lava Dome,” and “Battle 3” with live electric guitar by Sasai himself along with beefed up synths and percussion. “RE-MIXTIC QUEST,” on the other hand, is arranged by Kawakami, opening with the sounds of rain, bell tolls, and crickets, similar in style to his original compositions for the game. The track is over 7 minutes long, and features several of his themes in a lovely new age style, although the robotic “MIXTIC QUEST” phrasing with hip-hop percussion between sections is rather unnecessary.

The packaging is also quite nice, coming in one of those old NTT Publishing digi-pak cases that many old Squaresoft soundtracks came with. The booklet is covered with artwork from the game, and there are liner notes, individual composer credits, and even a brief interview within the booklet (all in Japanese).

This is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, and even if you can’t bring yourself to enjoy this short RPG adventure that was admittedly aimed at children, you should be able to dig into Sasai’s rockin’ themes and Kawakami’s sweet soundscapes. The arrangements are a nice touch, and the packaging tops it all off. While this one is a bit hard to find these days, I’ve seen people selling it for $40-$60 on VGMdb and other sites. This is one that belongs in everyone’s collection.

What do you think of Mystic Quest as a game and as a soundtrack? Do you have a particular favorite from the soundtrack?

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