Legend of Mana Soundtrack, Yoko Shimomura, 1999
While the 32-bit generation saw a seismic shift in gameplay and graphics design from 2d to 3d, that didn’t mean nobody created pixel art masterpieces during those years. And given how much Square’s 16-bit games had pushed the envelope in the early 1990s, it only makes sense that the company would occasionally return to the art style that had endeared its products to countless gamers. Square’s major forays into 2d gaming on the PS1 were SaGa Frontier 2 and Legend of Mana – and it’s probably no coincidence that both games were produced by Square veteran Akitoshi Kawazu. That probably also explains the non-linear style of RPG gameplay both games tried to pioneer. However, while the lack of a strong central narrative was typical for the SaGa games, it set Legend of Mana apart from its franchise predecessors, reaping strongly divided feedback from gamers and reviewers alike.
There were other aspects of Legend of Mana that found more unanimous praise – particularly its audiovisual presentation, which included gorgeous visuals and one of Yoko Shimomura’s best scores. For Shimomura, working on the Legend of Mana soundtrack was a thoroughly positive experience. One of the reasons for Shimomura to move from Capcom to Square had been her desire to work on a fantasy title – and of course Square’s line-up of high-profile RPGs would be the perfect outlet for that ambition. As Shimomura put it in an interview: “I kept saying I wanted to work on a fantasy and this title finally came around. I really had fun with it. I tried hard to make it fit the style of the game and to express myself!!”