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Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite OST

[back cover]
Catalog Number: GTCD-0002
Released On: September 1, 2008
Composed By: Kenichi Arakawa
Arranged By: Kenichi Arakawa
Published By: Success
Recorded At: Success 379 Studio
Format: 2 CDs
Buy this CD from VGM World
Tracklist:

Disc One
Arrange Version
01 - Town
02 - Guild
03 - Shop
04 - Inn
05 - Shrine
06 - Training Hall
07 - Underground Floor 1
08 - Floor 1, 2
09 - Floor 3
10 - Floor 4
11 - Floor 5
12 - Floor 6
13 - Floor 7
14 - ????
15 - Battle
16 - Mid Boss
17 - Last Boss
18 - Event A
19 - Event B
20 - Event C
21 - Ending
22 - Victory
23 - Bonus Arrange Version
Total Time:
60'27"

Disc Two
Original Version
01 - Town
02 - Guild
03 - Shop
04 - Inn
05 - Shrine
06 - Training Hall
07 - Underground Floor 1
08 - Floor 1, 2
09 - Floor 3
10 - Floor 4
11 - Floor 5
12 - Floor 6
13 - Floor 7
14 - ????
15 - Battle
16 - Mid Boss
17 - Last Boss
18 - Event A
19 - Event B
20 - Event C
21 - Ending
22 - Victory
Total Time:
55'57"

Kenichi Arakawa decided to follow suit with Yuzo Koshiro on his score for another intentionally retro dungeon crawler. Koshiro worked on the Etrian Odyssey (Sekaiju no MeiQ) titles, as well as 7th Dragon. And when he created the music, he actually made two versions of each song. There was the DS version, and the "original" version, which was essentially some sort of 8-bit sound source (FM, PC-88, things of that nature). This same choice in compositional style, for another retro dungeon crawler, is what we find in Arakawa-san's score for Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite, translated "The Tower of Mist and the Sword of Law" (released in North America as "The Dark Spire"). The difference here is that Arakawa's 8-bit soundtrack is also found within the game, using a "retro play" option that makes the entire game (graphics and sound) switch to an outdated 8-bit mode.

The Dark Spire is, in and of itself, a no-frills experience. There isn't even title screen music or an "opening theme" of any sort. The OST kicks right off with the town theme. And take a look at the track titles. This game was designed to be bare-bones and generic. The tracklist reflects this minimalist approach.

But the music...well, that's another story entirely. Let's start with the first disc, the DS sound version. In the case of Koshiro's works, I have almost always enjoyed the 8-bit versions over the DS versions. This has everything to do with Koshiro's ability to write amazing music with limited sounds, as well as his inexperience with "updated" synth sequencers, the likes of which you'd want to use for the DS. Arakawa seems capable of doing the composition and synth manipulation in either case. As a result, I find that I can really get into the DS sound version here.

The key to getting the DS version right, I believe, is picking the right synth voices for the melody and primary harmonies. Kenichi Arakawa has some great ideas for this. He's not afraid to throw in some strong, distorted electric guitar, and he's also content to use some sophisticated synth leads and pads to fill out the sound. I won't come out and say that every DS version song is a winner. But, to use the baseball analogy, Arakawa hits more than he misses. The opera voice that he works into the dungeon themes for Floor 6 and 7 (and a few other places, including "????" which is a rather strange track title) in the DS version are simultaneously epic and hilarious. I didn't expect to hear that at all: synthesized, sequenced lyrical voice work is an extremely difficult thing to pull off.

My favorite battle theme on the DS side is "Mid Boss." There's a great 20 second piano solo run (all 16th notes) near the end of the loop. It exists on the disc two as well, but it sounds much better on the DS.

Disc two...it's just straight up awesome, if you're into 8-bit (specifically NES) chiptunes. Very few of these songs are slow or droning. There's always something bouncing around in the upper octaves, and the bits of bass and percussion provided sound totally rad. If this were an NES game, and it had this soundtrack, I would've been totally into it as a kid. After all, I'm an adult now, and I'm totally rockin' to the 8-bit beat.

The only tracks on disc two that really failed to meet my expectations were the three Event themes. The first two didn't have enough going on...it had the "droning" problem that most of the album managed to avoid. As for "Event C," the music just sounds irritating when transposed to 8-bit.

This two disc soundtrack is available via special orders from Japanese publisher SUCCESS. If you dig the recent Yuzo Koshiro soundtracks, and you like having the option of going "retro" with any one song you hear from the DS version, this is definitely a good album to have in the collection. I feel very strongly about this, and I hope that more and more composers start doing this with their soundtracks, particularly for DS games. It's a winning combination every time!

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann



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