Mystic Ark is a RPG created in July of 1995 by Produce!(now defunct), and published by Enix(now part of Square-Enix). It's considered the spiritual successor to the "7th Saga" and was released exclusively in Japan for the SNES. The soundtrack is composed by Akihiko Mori, who is a talented but lesser known composer who wrote the music for games such as Popeye 2(Gameboy), Bassin's Black Bass with Hank Parker(SNES), Shien's Revenge (SNES) and Wonder Project J2 (Nintendo64) just to name a few of the titles. Unfortunately—according to Mori's Wiki Page—he passed away from stomach cancer in 1998 at the young age of 32. Not being familiar with Mori's other works, I can only speak on his strong composition for Mystic Ark, which is his most popular.
There is a lot to unpack on this 2-disc compilation and after listening through the soundtrack to Mystic Ark, I'm now playing through the game myself to see the visual companions to these musical pieces. For those of us that prefer an English translation from Japanese, a quick online search will reveal numerous ROM sites and there are even fans that sell a cartridge SNES version; though I am not familiar with the quality of these. I was expecting this score to be a run of the mill 16-bit JRPG soundtrack when I came across it a couple of weeks ago but after being told that this is considered to be one of, if not the best JRPG OST of that generation, I began to change my expectations. There's a number of similarities with some of the most well-known 16/32-bit JRPG OSTs out there. If you were to tell me that this clever score was from an entry to FINAL FANTASY, Chrono, Tales or Dragon Quest.. I'd likely believe it. Certain tracks sound like something you would hear in these installments because Mystic Ark's music storyboard follows the traditional JRPG pattern of Introduction, Overtures, Character Themes, Battles Themes, Reunion, ect. But, the high calibre of each track is what sets it apart. Mori was an ambitious writer, his resourcefulness and self-determination only leaves me in some sadness as I think about the abrupt end of his career. He could have been another Uematsu, Hamauzu, Sakimoto, Kondo or any number of well respected JRPG composers. His work includes numerous musical styles: unnerving/mysterious chords, progressive waltz, synthesized choir, thrash metal, musical box and more. The music in Mystic Ark is carefully crafted. Pushing the chipset ability of the SNES to give Mystic Ark a unique wide-ranging composition. The title names are lengthy, descriptive and sometimes humorous to boot: The Composer's Holiday Is Always Passing Quietly, What's This Place? I'm in a Forest! or How Are You? Things Are Pretty Much the Same Here.
The first couple tracks of the soundtrack are rearrangements of other tracks in the score, they may not necessarily add much to the overall value but I do enjoy the arrangement of the "Composer's Holiday Is Always Passing Quietly" track more so than the original—especially the ending violin. Unfortunately, the Official Soundtrack to Mystic Ark has been out of print for many years now and if you come across a used copy.. the price tag typically resembles this. This wonderful video game soundtrack deserves a re-print. Additionally, I would also very much welcome a fully orchestral version, perhaps to accompany a HD Remake? Well.. It could happen. And what better way to allow a new generation the opportunity to discovery Akihiko Mori's Mystic Ark Soundtrack?
The Mystic Ark Original Soundtrack is uploaded in both FLAC and MP3. Give it a listen. If you're a fan of JRPGs, SNES or just plain good music, you'll be glad you did.