Shenmue's OST consists of two things: dramatic "scene" music, and then background music with various moods. Now, the dramatic music can be expected as amazing (as it is...the theme songs are great): but few could expect the BGM to turn out as well as it did.
People call this soundtrack a "movie score"...After all, most of the important scenes in the game play out like an interactive movie. However, I disagree with this statement because of the concept as to what makes a movie soundtrack vs. what makes this soundtrack. This soundtrack is unique in many aspects, and the most obvious aspect is the BGM that fits so well into the game, and sounds great on its own.
Perfect example is disc 1 track 5, "Christmas on Dobuita Street". This is the simple background music that plays while Ryo wanders Dobuita. I could not see it fitting well into a movie, but I enjoy it nonetheless and I can see how it fits into this awesomely unique game. This is one of my favorite tracks, though.
Another great aspect for this soundtrack is the magnificent use of the piano to start tracks, and then bring in a full synth orchestra to hit the dramatic part. This musical concept is executed in many of the Shenmue tracks, and even then it isn't repetitive.
The ending vocal track is also very cool, and the last two parts of the song are sung entirely in English, which was a neat little surprise. The music behind the vocal is great as well, and I am glad they put up a Karaoke version.
This soundtrack is also one of those "every track is good" OSTs. Most soundtrack fans know that you are almost guaranteed some annoying, skippable tracks on any one soundtrack. Most of the "great" OSTs lack these tracks. Shenmue OST 1 is another of these. Also, take note in the number of composers, including the very famous Yuzo Koshiro (who did early works with Falcom and also composed great OSTs such as Actraiser). This combination proves to make an AWESOME soundtrack. Here's hoping that OST 2 will feature many of these same composers.
There is one little problem with this OST, however. It lacks a pretty significant number of tracks. Tracks that you won't find on here are songs such as the menu music (deciding to start, load, or continue), or little less-than-10-second themes like going from day to night (which is a neat little track).
I cannot see how you would not want to buy this soundtrack...The "eastern" flavor mixed with the enjoyable piano and high-quality synths makes this one of the best recent OSTs around. I just wish I had bought it sooner. Unfortunately, you can't really find this one in stores anymore. Good luck finding it on various online auctions.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann