As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers.
Terranigma was made in 1995, and one of the few games developed by Quintet. It’s the last of a three game series, the first being Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia following it. Terranigma only had a Japanese and PAL release since Enix (the publisher) had closed its U.S. division by the time localization was done. I would advise you to play this game. Do what you have to do so that you can play this fantastic game (and I won’t advocate any specific means), and you won’t regret it. I had heard its praises sung over and over again across the internet, but had never played it before a few years ago.
My dad had brought home Illusion of Gaia when I was 4 or 5, and it was difficult to understand. There were some odd translation issues, but when I was older and understood how to play video games better in general, I could figure it out despite the localization difficulties. I thought it was the only game of its kind until I learned it had a prequel and even a sequel called Terranigma! I made it my mission to play Terranigma. I was not disappointed with my decision.
The composers for Terranigma were Miyoko Kobayashi and Masanori Hikichi. I immediately gravitated towards this soundtrack because of the mental images and associations that it made in my brain guts. Because the music to the game is fantastic and adds a whole new layer to the gameplay, I need to review it, but I’m going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. Of course, every person defines spoilers differently so the warning is still in effect, but I’ll try and do my best.
Light and Darkness
Light and Darkness is the theme playing at the title screen, and what a great lead-in it is. From the beginning, you get that light air of curiosity and discovery leading into 0:23 when the scale of your adventure appears before you. I like the royal undertones to the whole thing, which makes you feel as if you are fighting on behalf of something. In this case, you are fighting for something, and that’s the rebirth of planet Earth. I also like it at about 0:43, when it gets into the sort of mystical and heavenly sounds. It then mixes the two aspects together, which creates the two sides of one song: light and darkness, if you will.
It’s a fantastic introduction to the tone of the game you’ll be playing.
As you depart from the town of Crysta, you enter the map of your home. Ark, the main character, has been tasked with setting out and restoring the physical continents of the world above. His world, the aforementioned underworld, is home to crystal formations and an abundance of lava flow. The song illustrates how dangerous the underworld is, but maintains a sense of determination. It’s clear that Ark has a job to do, and the harsh landscape of his world has forged who Ark is as a character. On the top of the screen, you can see the scrolling barrier of the world above. It’s not defined, but judging from this music, it has to be better than this. This song is the most recognizable song from a soundtrack. It’s not WIDELY known like Beware the Forest Mushrooms or Bramble Blast, but in terms of Terranigma is it certainly iconic.
There are two reasons that I chose Zue for this list. One is that I was stuck here forever running in circles. Two is that this song has a great jungle beat, set for the jungle area that you must fight in and explore. After you resurrect the animal kingdom, you are asked by the lions to go into Zue and clear it of the evil making the other animals crazy. There are a lot of paths and entrances in each room, so it’s easy to get lost, but getting lost isn’t really as bad as it sounds as long as you have this song playing.
After clearing Zue of evil, the King of the Lions asks you to travel to the dark valley with lots of bones and dangerous creatures to find how his son is doing on his test to become a man… lion. So you head down… down… down… into the valley and find Liem! Liem is the Lion Prince and you must help him back up the dark and dangerous elephant graveyar… I mean valley. Since this is obviously not at all a reference to The Lion King, I won’t bother making the reference myself. See? I didn’t do it.
Liem’s theme brings a smile to my face every time I hear it because it represents the courage of the young lion despite his size. This courage is contagious, and despite not knowing Liem for very long, you try your best to get him up that mountain. Who knows? Befriending a future king might work out for you one day.
After resurrecting humans, Ark loses the ability to speak to animals and now can only speak to humans. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to wake up than in a Tibetan monastery. Although the names of the cities in Terranigma aren’t the same as their real counterparts, you can roughly gauge their locations based on where you find them on the map and the music that plays. As one might guess, the inhabitants of Lhasa are kind and you are nursed back to health by the monks.
When you are freely able to travel all over the world later on, Lhasa is a good place to stop. The song establishes it as a peaceful and worry-free area, so you will be able to go back whenever you want to. Not necessarily one of the most original songs on the track, but it’s one of the most comforting. Sometimes, I want a song that is mellow and nothing more, especially after the events that lead you to Lhasa. You can’t blame the song for making you want to stay there a little longer.
This song comes at the end of the game, after the final boss battle. I won’t get too descriptive about the circumstances, like I said in the beginning of the post, but this and the credits song get me emotional. The beginning of the song features a much slower and spaced out version of Light and Darkness, which represents the end of your grand adventure. It transitions into the more peaceful song because it’s telling you that the journey is over and there is no more conflict or tasks for you to complete. Ark can rest. After all he has been through in his journey, he has earned it more than anyone.
Call me over-empathetic, but the moment really tugs at my heart strings because I’ve been along with Ark throughout his whole adventure. Having it end is always hard. It’s a great song that helps to end a great game. What else can I say?
Terranigma is a fantastic game featuring a lone figure leading the entirety of life itself forward. As the game progresses, you move forward in time and watch civilization advance (with your help, of course). There are countless shocking moments and even more great songs for you to hear. Quintet only ever made 14 games (at least as the company called Quintet) and that’s a real shame. The developers had something great here, and with an awesome soundtrack to boot. I’d love to see one more game out of them.
Play this game. I guarantee you won’t regret it! Of course, I’ll see you next time!
“No light without shadow, no shadow without light.”