Secret of Mana – “Angel’s Fear” (Hiroki Kikuta)November 25, 2010
I’ve already talked some about the Mana/Seiken Densetsu series before, but not yet the most notable piece of Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana (1993), “Angel’s Fear”.
“Angel’s Fear” opens with the dragon’s roar, a mysterious, primeval sound, a sound echoing from Nature’s heart. The same idea would fit nicely with Princess Mononoke‘s soundtrack, I think. This transitions to the opening phrases of “Angel’s Fear”, a call-and-response between alternating bars of piano that are complimentary in such a way that neither would be complete without the other. The piano casts brilliant rays of light through the resplendent forest canopy, the purity and vitality of nature. The next segment puts the piano as accompanying melody while a flute plays the “Mana” theme. This is followed by the second half of the piece, transitioned through cymbals, and invokes images of summer wind blowing through the trees. It is one of the finest tunes from videogames that shows the tranquility and spirit of nature. The name is a little ambiguous, but I think it might refer to the fear that something might happen to the forest, dominated by a massive world tree, the Mana Tree.
There have been a large number of arranges to “Angel’s Fear”, but I haven’t been fully satisfied with any of them. The first is in Seiken Densetsu 3 (never released in the US) with a piano and harp arrange, though the flute section feels a little too music box. Hiroki Kikuta arranged anther version for the 50-minute Secret of Mana+ that opens with a lot of nature ambience. There was also a nice version from Orchestral Game Concert 3, which has excellent punctuation from the sleigh bells and a beautiful flute section, though the brass and percussion makes it feel more like Gershwin. You might also want to check out Symphonic Fantasies.
OCR has plenty of arranges too, most notably Nigel Simmons’ “Return to Elysian Lands” which is a full-blown orchestral arrangement or overture, opting for plenty of original material. Close to the three-minute mark is a stirring surge of brass and drums, followed by the noble cello. You may also want to check out Ailsean’s “Angels on the Shore” from Seiken Densetsu 3, which has a beautiful piano and flute but the other instruments are a little too sappy, the bells sounding like wine glasses. Another good one is the jazzy “Smooth Mana” by Gux.
Finally, there is an old piece from VGMix 2.0 by Shoryuken, which opens with a brilliant piano introduction and then explodes into flight and freedom of breakbeat drums and piano, punctuated by bells. The main melody is played on flute and strings, then in the second half supported by saxophone in a jazz break. This is probably my favorite fan arrange of the bunch.