Lesser-known Video Game Soundtracks: Tales of Legendia (PS2)

Hi again and welcome back for another Lesser-known Video Game Soundtrack.  Today, we’ll look at the seventh installment in the legendary Tales series, developed by a Namco “D League” team and composed by Motoi Sakuraba’s backup composer.

Tales of Legendia is considered to be the game that essentially made Namco think twice localizing Tales games.  It did not sell well in the US…. but Namco only has themselves to blame for this.

Namco decided to develop the game internally and cut out the usual development team, Namco Tales Studio (the remaining members of the RPG company, Wolfpack).  Yes, Namco decided against using their own TALES STUDIO for a TALES game.  This project was doomed from the start, really.

Namco assembled Project MelFes to handle the game’s plot and mechanics.  According to numerous sources, the team was assembled using programmers from the Soulcalibur and Tekken series.  It may explain Tales of Legendia‘s interesting combat system a bit.

Tales of Legendia, unfortunately, turned out to be Project MelFes‘s first and only project.  The team was quickly disbanded after the merge of Namco and Bandai.  I’m not sure if this was a reaction to the merger or the direction of the Tales series or disappointment with the sales of Tales of Legendia.  There’s been much speculation.

What we receive, as a game, is a rare glimpse into a “one-shot developer’s” view of the Tales series…. a vision that many did not like, myself included.  Some gripes:

  • First of all, Legendia removed the multiplayer capabilities that all the previous games possessed.  The Tales series is legendary for its ability to allow multiple people to play at once.  Even the early Playstation games allowed a player to use a multi-tap to have four people play simultaneously.  The removal of this feature seemed unnecessary and really ruined the game for me.  Hell, I used to control Genus from Tales of Symphonia by using my feet!  Why couldn’t I do that with Will?  /rage
  • Secondly, the combat introduces a complex system of “throws” that can be used by the main character Senel.  I found myself controlling Chloe and ignoring Senel for most of the game- the throws were too difficult to execute and/or just not powerful enough to be worth walking directly into an enemy and taking massive damage.
  • The game went back to the original 2D roots of the series.  I enjoyed that but after playing Tales of Symphonia and really loving how well the 3D system was integrated, I felt like Legendia took a step backwards.
  • The whole second part of the game, in the US version, lacked voice acting.  This always happens to us, somehow, when Tales games are released in the US.  It’s obnoxious.  If you’re going to hire Cam Clarke, hire him for the whole game!  AMIRITE!?
  • Last thing I’ll mention- the game was not composed by Motoi Sakuraba.  We all love Motoi for many different reasons and a Tales game without Motoi is like a Final Fantasy game without Uematsu.

Well, I may have lied a bit about my last gripe.  I love Motoi Sakuraba, don’t get me wrong, but his work for the Tales series feels uninspired and dare I say hackneyed at times.  The work he puts in for games like Star Ocean:  Till the End of Time and Baten Kaitos is amazing and memorable.  The work for Tales games… well…  a tangent, if you will:

For instance, take a listen to the Battle Theme from Tales of Symphonia and compare it to the Battle Theme from Baten Kaitos.  Both were released for Nintendo GameCube and both were released in 2003 so this gives you an idea of “effort”:

Tales of Symphonia – Full Force:

Baten Kaitos – The True Mirror:

Okay, yes, Motoi writes music that sounds very similar and stuff- I mean, you can tell from the two tracks.  There’s no question in my mind, though- he must spent more time working on Baten Kaitos‘s OST than Tales of Symphonia.

POINT OF ALL THIS:  Maybe not using Sakuraba was a good thing.

Let’s see… I’ll just play a couple diminished arpeggios here… okay, perfect. I call this battle theme “Divine Thoughts of Stabbing Swords”. Now where’s my check?

Instead of Sakuraba, Namco and Project MelFes decided to use Masaru “Go” Shiina.   Wait, who?  What?  You’re replacing THE Motoi Sakuraba with this… this… guy I don’t know?  You can’t do that!  So he’s like, some prolific composer guy, right?  Actually, Go Shiina wanted to become a doctor but ended up going to college for German… and then composed the soundtrack to Tales of Legendia.  It’s funny how things work out.

As the story goes, Shiina was looking for a job, applying all over Japan.  Eventually, after being rejecting 40+ times by employers (including McDonalds), he was hired by Namco to enter sound into interfaces.  He was basically a code copyist and not a composer.  He bought a book on how to compose and would play his works for Motoi and other sound guys in-between coding.  They apparently didn’t like his work very much, as he says in numerous interviews.  This could possibly be due to the fact that Shiina has no classical music training at all.  His only experiences came from playing electronic piano as a child and playing in an Iron Maiden cover band during college.  So yeah, makes perfect sense for him to compose for a game.

Shiina’s style is probably best described as “versatile”.  In an interview with 1UP’s Jeremy Parish, Shiina explained that he wrote/played music just to impress girls.  He also stated that he wrote in many different styles because he  likes all different types of girls.  Seems legit.

That’s right ladies- he’s writing in whatever genre you like… just for you.

So, the OST to Legendia?  That’s what this post is about, right?  Well, it’s absolutely amazing, in my opinion.  The themes are fresh.  Shiina uses a FANTASTIC combination of digital and real instruments to create lush soundscapes, cheerful town music, serious battle music, and even some crazy bandit jazz (that’s what I’m calling it).  Here’s a couple personal favorites:

For the full OST, go here- it’s a playlist.  Yey!

Go Shiina seems to have included all the songs from the game on the official OST… well… except for one.  Please enjoy a true classic:

That happened.  And we let it happen.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this post.  Feel free to leave comments!  MOSES HAPPY DANCE!  YEEEHAW!

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

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