Bard Banter is a series which highlights an RPG composer’s work by listening to, and discussing some of their greatest works throughout the years.
Look, I am well-aware of the fact that we’ve covered the works of Kenji Ito already, but that was before Romancing SaGa 3 hit the scene and demanded an encore. Simply put, this man is a wizard in his field and I’ll take any opportunity I can to further promote his works. If you are familiar with Kenji Ito, or have already checked out the previous article, feel free to skip the introduction below and go right to the music!
Though he might not be a household name, you might already be a(n unaware) fan of Kenji Ito, especially if you’ve been playing JRPGs for the past few decades. Kenji Ito is to SaGa and Mana what Nobuo Uematsu is to Final Fantasy. Having been active as a musician since the early ’90s, he is responsible for composing many of the works found in multiple classic RPGs over the years.
While Ito is credited as a composer for the Mana franchise, he surprisingly was not responsible for the two most iconic entries in the series – Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana. Regardless, he has composed some incredible tracks over the years, and I’m very excited to hear what is to come in the long-awaited Western releases of Romancing SaGa 3 and Saga: Scarlet Grace – two titles blessed by Ito’s talent. But for now, here are some tracks that have really stuck with me over the years from Kenji Ito.
Percussion-led compositions in games can carry the predisposition of being annoying or overwhelming when not utilized within a march, fanfare, or a guns-blazing battle theme. This track emphasizes a snare and timpani beat from the get-go, but does not fall within any of the aforementioned criteria. Somehow, it still works, and neatly fills the void associated with traversing long, winding stretches of terrain.
Get used to listening to this one A LOT. This main battle theme will be stuck in your head before too long, but thankfully, Kenji Ito never disappoints with battle compositions, as you’ll discover for yourself at – spoilers – the end of this list.
This theme is played when you enter the dreams (or nightmares) of a fellow party member, and I think it does a great job of portraying that through instrumentation. It’s strikes a healthy balance between comfort and mystery – quite fitting, given the subject matter.
Vanguard Take Off
Since we here at SwitchRPG are not in the business of spoiling things for players, let’s just say that this tune is tasked with promoting a large mobile landmass that has lied dormant for many years. Rest assured, you will come across this place on your own journey through Romancing SaGa 3, and I hope that you appreciate this track for expertly complimenting that event.
I have a soft spot for any retro RPG theme that incorporates “wind” into its instrumentation. I think it is a rather subtle way to breathe (pun intended?) additional life into the piece. Both Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger utilized this concept, and now I can count Romancing SaGa 3 among their ranks.
In Romancing SaGa 3, Buné is the equivalent of Barbariccia from Final Fantasy IV – both are female, elite adversaries with an affinity towards the wind element. This theme plays after discovering her lair atop of a mountain, and serves as a constant reminder that the Sinistrals are the real deal, and not something to be trifled with.
Like “windy” themes, I’ve always had a thing for underwater tunes – so much so that I felt compelled to compile a list of my favorite aquatic themes earlier this year. While I had not yet experienced Romancing SaGa 3 when I first published that article, I hereby declare that this track should be included in that list posthumously.
Sometimes, the best course of action is to find a wicked bass line and roll with it, and this track does that wonderfully. While it is fairly uncommon to hear this one while playing, it is one that certainly won’t spoil the milk when it does make its debut. Why I went with a milk analogy here, we may never know, but you get it!
Four Sinistrals and Last Battle
If you are not yet convinced of Kenji Ito being an absolute boss when it comes to battle themes, you will be after listening to these final two compositions. And I know I said I wouldn’t spoil anything, so feel free to skip the final track as it is the final boss theme. Believe me though, it will absolutely blow your mind once you experience it, especially in the heat of the encounter itself. Both tracks are amazing here, but the last one is easily one of my favorites ever composed by Kenji Ito.
That sums it up for this Bard Banter, but there will be more to come soon! What are your thoughts on Kenji Ito and Romancing SaGa 3? What are some of your favorites from the game? What did you think about mine? Let me know!