Saturday, May 14, 2011

Angel's Fear

I'd like to talk about another composer who made his name during the SNES era. That composer is Hiroki Kikuta, the man responsible for the music you hear in the cult classic Secret of Mana.

Kikuta initially applied to Nihon Falcom, but was ultimate rejected. It wasn't until he applied to Square that his career began. During the interview, he had his first encounter with Nobuo Uematsu, the man behind a large number of Final Fantasy soundtracks. The two quickly learned that they shared a passion for progressive rock. Kikuta thought that he was being rejected due to the laidback manner of the interview, but instead, he was chosen out of 100 other applicants.

Initially Kikuta was not composing, however. He was given other tasks, such as debugging Final Fantasy IV and creating sound effects for Romancing SaGa. It wasn't until a bit later that he was assigned game soundtracks, of which he only produced three during his time at Square. Those titles being Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, and Soukaigi.

Chances are, if you played video games during the SNES era, you're already familiar with Secret of Mana. Many people regard it as one of the, if not the best action RPG ever created. I'm not too crazy about the gameplay, personally, but the game definitely has some killer tracks. However, I do hold an extreme love for Seiken Densetsu 3, which is the sequel to Secret of Mana. The gameplay is smooth and solid, the graphics are beautiful, the characters are interesting, and most of all, the music is absolutely amazing. Seiken Densetsu 3 is truly some of Kikuta's best work.

I really don't have anything to say about Soukaigi, however, as I have yet to play it. I don't seem to be alone in this, as I could only find one gameplay video on YouTube. The music, however, seems pretty solid.

As I said earlier, those three games are the only ones he did at Square. After seven years, he made his departure, going on to form his own company, Sacnoth (which later became Nautilus and died). He has also founded Nostrilia, which he uses to publish his albums. But he hasn't stopped composing. Kikuta has produced soundtracks for nine games since his days at Square, including recent titles such as Concerto Gate and Shining Hearts.

If you haven't checked out Seiken Densetsu 3, and you enjoy action RPGs, I implore you to do so. It was never released in America, sadly, but there is fortunately a translation patch.

Further reading:
Hiroki Kikuta's Wikipedia article
Kikuta's Square Enix Music profile
Angel's Fear: Kikuta's official website


  1. that must have took you some time to write, well done

  2. Interesting. Funny how they are all asian.

  3. Great blog! Keep the posts coming, i enjoy reading them!

  4. I'll have to fire up my emulator and give Seiken Densetsu 3 a try, since you hold it in such high regard. The gameplay sounds spectacular from what I've heard, here and elsewhere.

  5. @Von Brownian They basically took all of the good from Secret of Mana, removed the bad (horrible path finding and whatnot), and made it even better. It's an extraordinary game. Plus you get to choose a team of three out of six characters, each with their own storyline, which is pretty cool.

  6. Great post again!
    I never played Secret of Mana for the SNES, but I did had it on the gameboy. Same soundtrack?

  7. @Tomgh Thanks! Actually, the Game Boy never received a Secret of Mana port. However, its prequel, Final Fantasy Adventure (Seiken Densetsu 1), was made exclusively for the handheld. Later on, Final Fantasy Adventure was remade for the Game Boy Advance as Sword of Mana. Perhaps you're thinking of one of those.

    Regardless, Final Fantasy Adventure did have some awesome music:

    On an unrelated note, don't let Final Fantasy Adventure's title fool you. As stated earlier, it was actually Seiken Densetsu 1 (Secret of Mana being Seiken Densetsu 2). It was merely localized as a Final Fantasy game to promote sales. Same thing was done with the original SaGa games for the Game Boy, which were localized as Final Fantasy Legend.

    Yeah, don't you love it? Kinda like how Final Fantasy IV and VI were localized as II and III. But oh wait, there's still a gap between that and Final Fantasy VII. Good job Square. What a mess. To simplify things:
    Final Fantasy Adventure = Seiken Densetsu
    Secret of Mana = Seiken Densetsu 2
    Seiken Densetsu 3 = Seiken Densetsu 3

    Also, I just learned that there was originally going to be a sequel to Seiken Densetsu for the Famicom Disk System that would've spanned five disks. Holy. But that might explain why Secret of Mana feels unfinished/wonky in a few places:

  8. Also, I don't know why I didn't link to this amazing song in my original post:

  9. I like his leather vest. He's one awesome man.

  10. Yay for asians making good music for video games!

  11. @SynthRockEngine
    Yeah you're right, it was Sword of Mana. That must have been over 13 years ago haha. I remember to notice the music, it had something particular.

  12. Secret of Mana is a favourite of mine. Thank you for this article.

  13. very interesting, you never think of the music behind a video game.

  14. Very good post, thanks for sharing :)

  15. I remember playing this in my youth. Great game and great soundtrack.

  16. Oh god, just reading your comment trying to untangle the Final Fantasy & Secret of Mana series makes my head spin! Squaresoft sure does like to complicate things. And now they're up to what... Final Fantasy 15? Ugh.

    I really wanted to comment to say YAY, Seiken Densetsu 3!! I love love love 2D RPGs, its awesome that you're spreading the love in your blog through music! I never really stopped to appreciate that aspect of them.

  17. good, i remember playing this too.