I’ve talked about Arcana before.
Wait, that review’s not by me…I haven’t talked about Arcana before?! I know I’ve mentioned it on the podcast, at least. It’s up there next to The 7th Saga and Wanderers from Ys on the list of “crummy JRPGs eternally burned into my brain”. Like most of the games on that list, it has generic gameplay and a unique aesthetic—and that aesthetic extends to the music!
The soundtrack really captures the feel of ’90s fantasy media in Japan. It falls right into place when set next to anime of the era like Record of Lodoss War or The Heroic Legend of Arslan. The composer really went all-in on the genre, and we ended up with a soundtrack that stands out in a game that’s largely been forgotten.
While more popular contemporary games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have recognizable musical styles in their own right, I wouldn’t say their styles really embody ’90s fantasy anime the way that Arcana does.
Speaking of popular ’90s games, there’s something else interesting about Arcana‘s soundtrack. The instrumentation makes it pretty obviously a HAL game, but there’s something else I noticed after repeated listenings. There are certain compositional elements that point more specifically to the composer of a popular and well-known series. An unforgettable part of HAL history that’s popular to this day. I’m talking of course about
HAL’s Hole in One Golf Kirby!
Jun Ishikawa’s fingerprints really shine through for me as a long-time fan of the music from the Kirby series. It’s also interesting to think that he must have been working on the original Kirby’s Dream Land at the same time as Arcana, as they were released about a month apart. While it’s hard to compare the games directly when they’re on different platforms, there are a few tracks from the later Kirby’s Dream Land 3 that, between the instrumentation and the composition, feel like they could be dropped into Arcana and would fit right in. It’s fun to go back and watch a composer’s career unfold through the games they worked on.
Like most of the games I talk about in the “Featured Game Soundtrack” column, this is another one I put on for background music while I work. I’ve probably put more hours into listening to the OST than I have to playing the game. For the amount of listening enjoyment I’ve gotten out of this overlooked SNES game, I’m glad to have found a little time to talk about the work of Jun Ishikawa.