Secret of Mana – “Star of Darkness” (Hiroki Kikuta)February 20, 2010
Secret of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 2, 1993) was one of the classic SNES Squaresoft RPGs that is still fondly remembered today (though I personally didn’t find it very appealing beyond the battle system and the three player option: the story was pretty trite, down there with Illusion of Gaia). Regardless of what you think of it though, Hiroki Kikuta‘s (Seiken Densetsu 3, Koudelka) soundtrack was pretty good, though perhaps a bit overly cheerful in places – so “Star of Darkness” seems kind of odd in that setting!
I think I like “Star of Darkness” so much because of its atmosphere, this overarching feel of a long, desperate slog (or perhaps a crusader’s march) up the steps of this dark pyramid beneath the evil starlight. The minor key and heavy strings weigh down on the listener, making it an effort to stand strong against the enemy and thus showing the heroes’ great determination. The build of the piano, which in some ways reflects the stairs of the temple and in others the distant and twinkling spirit of Mana, builds in the intro and is sustained throughout the loop while the drumbeat and bells give the track a great dirge-like quality.
The rest of Seiken Densetsu 2 is of high quality as well, so certainly is worth checking out. I think you can also still buy the actual album from some places, as it has been reprinted several times. There are of course some classic pieces such as “Angel’s Fear” which is probably the most popular Mana song, but I happen to like “Star of Darkness” better. There are a few good remixes of “Star of Darkness”, particularly “Distorted Star” by Graylightning and Snappleman.
Hiroki Kikuta has an excellent series of soundtracks, the latest of which is Tiara (coming out sometime this year). VGMdb lists several interviews with him, including one of Secret of Mana and his collaboration with Yuko Shimomura on Alphabet Planet. He’s even got a homepage, but it’s all in Japanese!