Of all the crossover games known to man, Namco × Capcom is probably the most unique. Upon initial announcements of the title, people immediately assumed that it would be another fighting game crossover (like Marvel vs. Capcom). However, it turned out to be a strategy RPG. Not only that: it was a fairly successful strategy RPG that caught the attention of many Japanese gamers.
At the present time of this review being written (October 2005), no plans exist for the game to come to the United States. And we shouldn't be surprised if it never comes! Look at the tracklist: how many of those games are completely unfamiliar to US gamers? The answer is: too many. This game feeds on nostalgia and allusion to other titles, yet American gamers have little knowledge of these titles. Honestly, who is Berabo Man?! Wonder Momo? Phantom Travel Records?!?!? These are all quite obscure titles to US gamers.
As for the game's music, much of it is comprised of stellar arrangements of past VGM. And may I say, some of these songs sound remarkable! I was particularly pleased with the Street Fighter arrangements, and I enjoyed all of the Vampire Hunter tracks. We also find one Rockman (Megaman) song on the OST, and it is simply one awesome synth-rock hit (disc 1 track 29).
As a reviewer who focuses entirely on VGM related to RPGs, it was certainly refreshing to hear arrangements to music from games that were originally not RPGs. They contain a style all their own: much more driven and action-packed, even moreso than some of the best battle themes RPGs have to offer. For me, this made the album a particularly enjoyable treat. However, for more well-rounded VGM fans, these arrangements may not do enough to impress, as they do not contain any live instruments and are probably not as well-done as other arranged albums in existence for these various games.
The game also sports well over a dozen "original" tunes, and nearly every one of them is decent, though many of them are just various arrangements of the same two or three main themes. There are two vocal pieces on this album: "Brave New World" and "Someday, Under the Moon." Both of these were written by Yuzo Koshiro, and they are simply outstanding. Honestly, they are some of the best J-Pop songs I've heard in the last five years. Techno-pop mixed with ambient piano and sweeping string sections is always a good thing.
The non-vocal original songs are equally impressive. Songs like "Trembling City of Aris" and "Evil Profusion" nearly caught me off guard: I didn't expect such power-packed songs on this soundtrack. When I say "power-packed", I am talking in the more dance-rhythm-techno sense, and less in the rock sense. In nearly all of the original songs, super-reverb-echo-piano is used in ways that I only wish I could create on a keyboard. Kudos to the unlisted composer of these original tunes.
One slight disappointment for me: the two Xenosaga tracks (found on the first disc) do not seem to have any sort of arrangement. Maybe my ear isn't detecting it, but I think these tracks were straight ports from the Xenosaga OST. It would have been nice to hear something interesting done with them. On the other hand, the Tales of Destiny track (another of the few RPGs referenced in Namco × Capcom) sounds decent.
Personally, I think this album represents a wide range of musical styles within the world of VGM, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of VGM: especially people who are only listening to RPG soundtracks (like myself).
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann