Gokinjo Bouken Tai Soundtrack, Akihiko Mori, 1996
Gokinjo Bouken Tai is one of those 16-bit games that could have only come out of Japan – and of course was never released anywhere else. It’s a joyous, upbeat adventure, befitting its protagonist – young kindergartner Mana, who lives in a small Japanese town with her family. What makes Mana special is her ability to see and interact with youkai – Japanese spirits, gods and demons. Gokinjo Bouken Tai’s gameplay arguably hews closely to traditional JRPG tropes. However, its anime-inspired, unusual setting and the obvious love and care that has gone into creating its colourful world turn it into a small, largely undiscovered gem.
Approaching the end of his sadly short career – and coming off the creative triumph that was Mystic Ark – composer Akihiko Mori turns in another outstanding effort, once more expanding his stylistic palette while maintaining the strengths that had made previous works so outstanding. Given the game’s quirkiness and its kindergarten-aged protagonist, it’s no surprise that the Gokinjo Bouken Tai soundtrack is more overtly child-friendly than a magnum opus like Mystic Ark or a whirlwind action score like Shien’s Revenge. But this is children’s music done right – with just as much care for substance and attention to detail as any great work of art, regardless of genre.