Top 25 Soundtracks 2011: Number 16

Number 16: Secret of Mana

Oh, the days of 16-bit RPGs. When co-op was faintly dreamed of and games were all about story and exploration. I still remember the first time I played Secret of Mana at a friends house, how awesome it was that we could play cooperatively. I also remember the first big boss we fought, and most of all importantly to this article, I remember humming the music weeks later. In fact, the music was in my head so solidly after that short time I made a point to hunt down mixes of it on Overclocked Remix years later, and even have a few on my cell phone now.

Secret of Mana's soundtrack was impressive to me even at an early age, and it still remains so to this day. Whether it's the hauntingly solemn title theme, or the oddly compelling Into the Thick of It, Secret of Mana made great use of the SNES's sound chip.

Being composed by Hiroki Kikuta instead of Uematsu (Square's usual) gave Secret of Mana a very different flair for it's day. Much of Secret of Mana's skillful composition was excellent at capturing emotion, both of the world and of the player and running with it. We've all heard the generic happy town tune in many a game, but the one that Secret of Mana offers is well, catchy and happy but also a tune that doesn't make you despise the town (a fate too many RPG towns suffer simply by virtue of being too happy).

Secret of Mana also stands out from the park through the use of it's instruments. If you listen closely, you'll notice that Secret of Mana uses different instrumentation then most soundtracks. A lot of 16-bit soundtracks tended to make heavy use of electronica sounds, ones which the systems could very easily produce, while Secret of Mana sounds more like a wood percussion soundtrack. It's a unique take that makes it stand out. I mean come on, it has a Dwarvish Polka!

In addition to those other elements, Secret of Mana's soundtrack is also very fluid. Being unique and different hasn't hurt the soundtrack in the slightest, but rather gives it additional areas to branch out to when you listen to it. It stands on it's own very well. It's also one that is appealing to all sorts of listeners. Those who played the game love the nostalgic feeling the games music brings, while those who have never touched a game in their lives can also appreciate and enjoy it.

Secret of Mana deserves it's spot at number 16 for this as well as other reasons. It's a solid wonderful soundtrack, one of the few that saw a CD release alongside the game release in its day (another bonus for it). If you've never heard it before, look it up and give the whole thing a listen. You'll be glad you did.

Secret of Mana
Enjoyment: 3.5
Stand Alone Quality: 3.5
Composition: 4
Emotional Reaction: 3.75
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Nostalgia: 1
TOTAL: 4.19

Number 16--Secret of Mana by Hiroki Kikuta
Number 17--Sonic CD Japan Edition by Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata
Number 18--Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 by Frank Klepacki
Number 19--Streets of Rage 2 by Yuzo Koshiro
Number 20--Final Fantasy VII by Nobuo Uematsu
Number 21--Shadow of the Colossus by Kow Otani
Number 22--Chrono Cross by Yasunori Mitsuda.
Number 23--Sonic CD US by Spencer Nilsen.
Number 24--Megaman II by Manami Matsumae, Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, and Takashi Tateishi
Number 25--Dawn of War II by Doyle W. Donehoo

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