01 - Overture
02 - Moonlight Requiem
03 - Loveless Angels
04 - Departure
05 - Mercenary's Battlefield
06 - Misrid Hunter
07 - Bounty Hunter
08 - Night at the Inn
09 - Garden of the Dead
10 - The Blue Hunter
11 - Demon's Servant
In an effort to hear more of Naoaki Jimbo’s music, as well as play another dungeon crawler, I purchased a limited edition copy of Demon Gaze, released by Nippon Ichi Software of America. Unfortunately, it came with an abridged soundtrack, but in giving the full album a listen, I am reminded that more is not always better. Consider this a review and a half. While the full 2-disc soundtrack contains an hour of extra music, most of what was excluded runs the gamut of slightly redundant to "better left unheard," almost making this album a solid "best of" option. I say "almost" because NISA makes some strange selection choices that seem to do no one any good.
There are five songs missing that would have better captured the heights of the full soundtrack, and one, "Bounty Hunter," that could have been excluded from this release. It also seems that NISA limited themselves to selections from only the first of the two discs in the full OST, meaning that the endgame music is excluded by default. Given that this album comes in below 30 minutes, I am not sure why more tracks were not included, and the exclusions do not seem related to the even shorter album that was included with the game's Japanese release.
While I do not think it fair to weigh Demon Gaze against Jimbo's later works, there is one comparison that I can't help but note. Anyone who listens to this and then listens to the soundtrack for Stranger of Sword City will notice the thematic similarities. It isn't simply the significant use of synthetic singers (vocaloids) and substantial layering of horns with strings, but rather exact melodies, for multiple measures at a time, are shared by both. The games released a year apart, and it seems that Jimbo focused more on improving his efforts for Stranger than exploring wholly new ones. One song not featured on the NISA release, "Strange Shadow," is entirely the same melody as Stranger of Sword City’s "Feeling of Fear." Anyone wanting to hear the evolution of Jimbo's abilities may want the full soundtrack just to make these comparisons.
Considering this album on its own merits isn't hard. The music features fast-paced, Jpop/rock-inspired songs alongside unique pieces with a synthetic but airy tone. The juxtaposition matches the game's anime-esque demon-hunting-harem themes well.
After a too short opening, "Overture," that I would have loved to hear more of, we are treated to "Moonlight Requiem," which features instruments that complement each other well and are further improved by perfect audio mastering work. The melody gives an oddly hurried but peaceful pace that goes well with bright, nature-themed dungeon crawls. My favorite of the airy themes would be "Night at the Inn," which features a vocaloid, chimes, and flute weaving a wistful tune that shows a lot of Jimbo's capacity for layering simple melodies to strong emotional effect. Also, the flute, which features prominently in this song, is of a high enough quality that I question if it is a synthetic instrument.
Similarly, there is a lot going on in the more rock-oriented tracks, and Jimbo delivers solid contributions in all of them. Of these, I think "Misrid Hunter" is the most solid. It is a fight song that hits the sweet spot as a pop song, with fantasy tones meant to cheer the player on. There is also "Loveless Angels," which is featured as the opening animation song and presents with the high-energy rock beats you might expect. However, my favorite among the energetic songs is "Demon's Servant." Horns blare, vocaloids sing, and a piano hammers away in a fast-paced, staccato melody played in a minor key, which I imagine accompanies a fight against a demon. The song works and shows off a lot of what makes Jimbo's compositions special.
There really is only one song that that I wish were not on the album. "Bounty Hunter" doesn't fit the rest of the tracks and isn't particularly impressive. I can see why they included it. If you really wanted a broad sample of what the soundtrack entails, "Bounty Hunter" is the best of a small number of tracks meant to accompany the more lighthearted moments in the game. However, given NISA's choice to make such a short album, it is disappointing that this song is present instead of any of several others.
On that note, I am not sure if I can recommend this album. NISA's limited edition release of the game sells at a premium, and this soundtrack is good, but it isn't as great as it could be for that premium. Also, this shortened release avoids much of the redundancy present in Stranger of Sword City, which is good or bad depending on what you want out of it. However, buying the game and full OST separately is only a slight bump in price. Finally, with the release of Demon Gaze II, we can expect a combination "Best of" album covering both games, and waiting for that may be a better strategy.
Listening to the Demon Gaze soundtrack was entertaining, and it was especially enlightening to analyze Jimbo's earlier work and see where he has come from. I also greatly enjoyed the game. For those reasons, I am happy with my purchase and have high expectations for Jimbo's work in Demon Gaze II, slated for Japanese release late this year.
Reviewed by: Ronald Buie