Yo-Jin-Bo ~Unmei no Freude~ ROCKS

[back cover]
Catalog Number: TRCD-10050/1
Released On: September 30, 2005
Composed By: Yasuo Muraki, Don McCow, USSY, Kanna
Arranged By: Yasuo Muraki, Don McCow, USSY, Kanna
Published By: Two Five Records
Recorded At: Sound Inn Studio, Power House Studio, Sound Arts Recording Studio, TWOFIVE Studio
Format: 2 CDs
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Disc One
01 - Wolf
02 - GO DASH!
03 - Real Rock
04 - Heaven's Warrior
05 - RULE ~Tempestuous Rain~
06 - GET UP
07 - Visitor ~Lamentation~
08 - Bodyguard's Theme
10 - Oh My Love
11 - FURARETE Blues
12 - Karma
13 - Memento Ring
14 - Promise Land
15 - Miracle
Total Time:

Disc Two
01 - Gift of Summer
02 - Magic Gem
03 - The Unmanageable Princess
04 - Cut Them Down Three Ways
05 - The Evil Traitor
06 - Pursuer
07 - Showering Sparks
08 - Duel
09 - Peaceful Scene
10 - Ancient City
11 - The Evil Traitor Becomes a Demon
12 - Theme of Love
13 - Grand Finale
14 - What You Would Call Nature
15 - Constant Feelings
16 - A Slice of the Circumference
17 - The Road
18 - Walk Down the Road
Total Time:

Yo-Jin-Bo is a visual novel by the sound company TwoFive that was published for US audiences by Hirameki. It may not have been the deepest or most refined visual novel out there, but it was 100% pure fun. I really liked how it flipped the script. Instead of starring a teenage boy pursuing a storyline with one of many girls, Yo-Jin-Bo starred a modern-day teenage girl inhabiting the body of a feudal-era princess pursuing a storyline with one of many guys. Although that may sound off warning bells and make people think it's some trashy "chick flick" romance (it does have its lovey-dovey moments and beautiful bishounen), Yo-Jin-Bo, with its primarily male cast, was actually one of the more testosterone-driven visual novels I've played. It had action, bloody violence, and a sense of humor definitely geared more toward guys. Oh yeah, it had pretty good music too.

The soundtrack also plays along with the theme of script-flipping. Instead of poppy vocal themes sung by cute-voiced females, the vocal themes in Yo-Jin-Bo are hard driving J-rock tunes with male vocals by the voice actors from the game. I've gotten pretty tired of hearing cutesy female voices, especially helium voices, in video game vocal themes. Therefore, it was a nice change to hear ballsy rock from guys in the soundtrack's first disc. These songs are mostly character themes and can be heard during a particular character's key plot points, including major battles and endings.

The music itself on disc 1 is driving, fist-pumping, distorted guitar J-rock with the occasional ballad thrown in. Many have thunderous basslines which, as a bassist, I appreciate. Unfortunately, there is a major downside to these vocal themes. Every voice actor in the game acts splendidly, but most of them are lackluster or just downright lousy singers. The best vocal performances are on "Wolf" and "Visitor ~Lamentation~," the latter of which is my personal favorite vocal song here. On the other hand, the vocals for "Real Rock" and "Heaven's Warrior," among others, sound like average Joes singing in the shower. "GET UP" is also a great song that suffers from lackluster vocals. Too bad, because without the vocals, the music here has cool riffs and interesting dynamics. This is one soundtrack where I really would have liked karaoke versions of these songs, since many of them would have simply blossomed without the subpar vocals choking them down.

Composer Don McCow is one of the main men behind these vocal themes. Who is Don McCow you ask? Well, Don McCow is the pseudonym for a composer (Isao Mizoguchi) who has worked alongside Noriyuki Iwadare at TwoFive for many years. McCow's best known works (for English-speaking gamers) are probably the vocal pieces he helped write for the Lunar series. Perhaps that influence is why Yo-Jin-Bo contains copious amounts of the silly humor one might associate with Lunar.

Disc 2 has the various in-game music tracks that aren't vocal themes. The number of tracks is similar to disc 1, but the tracks themselves are quite short making disc 2 about half the length of disc 1. That's not to say Yasuo Muraki's compositions in disc 2 are bad. In fact, I think they're rather good. The pieces are nicely composed with great melodies and some nice layering. Unlike other visual novels with mostly atmospheric music, the music here is punchier. Muraki not only proves himself skilled at writing whimsical pieces, period style pieces with a modern flair, and emotionally charged piano pieces, but also flat out rocks. Tracks such as "Cut Them Down Three Ways" and "Duel" rock hard with their distorted guitars and pounding drums. "Duel" even has a cool shamisen-sounding harmony under the rock guitars. Muraki is a talented and extremely versatile composer and I wished the tracks on disc 2 were longer; the longest one is not even two minutes long.

Yo-Jin-Bo was my first experience with TwoFive and I was very impressed by the music, voice acting, and sound effects in the game. The music heard in this soundtrack is as good as I remember it, save for some of the vocal performances. It's been years since I played Yo-Jin-Bo, but upon hearing the music, I recalled my experience with the game as clear as day. Rock is not a genre I often hear in RPGs or graphic adventures (Japanese visual novels or otherwise) and it's always good to hear video game soundtracks that do rock well. I hope to hear more out of TwoFive, particularly Yasuo Muraki, in the future.

Reviewed by: Neal Chandran


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