Unless we are quick enough to forget that Japan has come up with such quirky RPG hybrids as the "racing RPG" (Racing Lagoon) and the "soccer RPG" (Inazuma Eleven), we won't be surprised at the existence of Dun-Dam, a DS title labeled in all Japanese ads as a "Dam Management RPG." I always wanted to control the levels of the town's water supply; haven't you?
I can't actually speak to the quality of this particular RPG... not yet, anyway. But after listening to the soundtrack, I can certainly speak to the quality of the music. And based on the soundtrack alone, I would be very happy to have this game come to North America.
The composer, Toshiko Tasaki, has worked on a couple of Shin Megami Tensei titles, as well as the DS adventure game "Touch Detective." My personal take on Tasaki-san's work is that it could generally use some extra help to "get where it needs to go." There are a lot of great musical ideas, but rarely do they develop into something valuable or meaningful.
On Dun-Dam, however, my opinion of Tasaki's work has definitely changed.
This is an RPG soundtrack that will appeal to any RPG fan that gives the soundtrack a chance. In this sense, I would equate it to the Rune Factory soundtracks; not because Rune Factory and Dun-Dam share a similar melodic or instrumental style, but because they both manage to capture that ineffable feeling that makes us say, "hey, this is good game music!"
At no point does the soundtrack attempt to be a film score. And at no point does Tasaki-san decide to give us bland atmospheric drivel. No "mood music." These are solid compositions that stand well on their own and bring a new level of vibrancy to whatever game they're ascribed. And based on the concept art I've seen for Dun-Dam (mostly in the soundtrack's packaging), I'd be surprised if gamers thought the score didn't fit the game well.
Now, while the album is split into two discs, it's not two discs of original music. The soundtrack repeats a common occurrence for DS soundtracks. The first disc, while it doesn't explicitly say so in the tracklist, is the "DS sound source" version. The second disc contains original compositions, which are of a higher synth (sound processing/library) quality. The second disc also contains the vocal theme song for the game, as well as two extra versions of said vocal track. One version is a remix from SuperSweep founder and techno-mix mastermind Shinji Hosoe. The remix isn't too far from the already sugar-coated synth pop original piece. Hosoe adds extra percussion and some chiptunes to the mix.
This album was published by 5pb.Records, and while I don't know any sales figures, I do know that among English-speaking importers, the album has fallen under the radar. Hopefully this review will serve to generate more interest in the soundtrack, because I think it's one of my favorites for the year of 2009. I expect even greater things from Toshiko Tasaki in the years to come. She's proven she can do a "chill," soothing soundtrack; let's see what else she can do.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann