Giftpia Title Music + Nanashi-FM


Review by · May 14, 2006

OK, this CD requires a bit of backstory. See, back in 1997, a former Square staffer named Ken’ichi Nishi started a small RPG developer called Love-de-Lic, and created a very unique game with that company called “Moon.” In addition to unique gameplay and a very unusual story, Moon also featured a very innovative soundtrack, giving its protagonist a “moon disc,” or “MD” player, and placing 36 different MDs throughout the game world. For each MD that you found or bought, you could add the song contained therein to your MD playlist, giving you total freedom over what background music you were listening to while playing this unusual game. And the songs contained on these MDs were actual musical pieces contributed by 30+ independent artists, in a wide variety of genres, so you really had quite a selection to choose from!

After three years, Love-de-Lic dissolved into three smaller companies. 2001 and 2002 came and went, and its descendents Vanpool and Punchline each developed and released games for the PlayStation 2 console. Finally, in 2003, the third of the Love-de-Lic descendents, Skip Tokyo, released their first game, for the GameCube: “Giftpia.” Now, Skip is generally considered to be the official successor to Love-de-Lic, as they’re the ones still fronted by the original founder Ken’ichi Nishi. In what seems to be an effort to support this particular standpoint, Nishi himself stated that Giftpia was meant to be a “spiritual sequel” to Moon, designed specifically to appeal to fans of Love-de-Lic’s original 1997 work.
Now, this is where the soundtrack comes in. If Moon had a soundtrack containing original works by over two dozen independent artists, then surely Moon’s so-called “spiritual sequel” would need to do something similar, right? Well, Skip sure seemed to think so, as Giftpia does indeed continue this trend — albeit on a smaller scale.

In the world of Giftpia, there’s a radio station called Nanashi-FM, which plays songs by a wide variety of — you guessed it — independent Japanese recording artists. These songs are what make up the meat of Giftpia’s soundtrack, and the majority of what you hear in the background during your gameplay. And yes, the number of songs and artists is less than 2/3 of what was in Moon, but you’ve still gotta hand it to Nishi and the rest of the Skip/Love-de-Lic staff. I mean, seriously, who else in the gaming world would ever do something like this in an RPG?

Given my love of Moon’s soundtrack, I was very excited for the inevitable release of Giftpia’s, and kept my eye on gaming news sites for quite a while after the game’s Japanese release. It didn’t take too long before the soundtrack was announced… but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting!

Skip, in conjunction with Enterbrain and Famitsu, released their soundtrack to Giftpia as a bonus CD included with a 99-page full color Giftpia fan book known simply as the “Giftpia Book,” and gave it the unheard-of pricetag of 880 yen (roughly $8 American!). The book was chock full of official art, concept sketches, lists, interviews with Nishi, bios on the other Skip staffers (including a group photo and small self-drawn caricatures), information on the independent bands and artists that contributed to the soundtrack, details on previous Love-de-Lic and Nishi works, and more. The CD, then, contained the Giftpia title theme, plus the game’s 21 Nanashi-FM tracks, and came packaged in a surprisingly durable stiff plastic sleeve, with beautiful full-color disc art.

Now, I don’t think any gamer in his/her right mind could pass up a deal like that — and it seems I was right, as this book became absolutely impossible to find less than 24 hours after its release. Seriously, my friend and I each bought a copy, and when I went back into Sendai City in eastern Japan the next day to snag a third copy for another friend back home, I emerged empty-handed… and I haven’t seen this book again since.

Not physically, anyway. It still seems to have a bit of an online presence, however. And while it may yet be a tricky treasure to find (since most sites that still carry it ship only to Japanese addresses), I definitely think it would be worth your time to track this one down — especially given its insanely small pricetag, which means even tremendous overseas shipping costs couldn’t keep this from being a great deal.

The CD opens with Giftpia’s rather unusual title theme, contributed by Love-de-Lic’s crazy in-house composer Taniguchi Hirofumi (known for his unique brand of kooky music in previous Love-de-Lic titles like “Moon,” “Chulip,” “UFO: A Day in the Life,” and “Chibi-Robo”). See, Giftpia was an interesting game in many ways, as it also included full voice-acting in a language called “Hanamogeran,” invented just for this game. And Giftpia’s title theme is, of all things, a Hanamogeran opera piece.

As you might imagine, though, it doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as operas typically do. The background music, while quite well-composed and catchy, is very erratic and occasionally atonal (as is the norm for Taniguchi). And the singing… well, it’s kind of hard to describe, but let’s just say these singers do put their all into it, despite having some very, very distinctively odd voices. The end result, though, is a funny, interesting, and quite memorable song, and a splendid introduction to this decidedly original soundtrack.

There’s one big problem with the rest of this CD, though, and it’s something that I find to be extremely unfortunate (and actually quite irritating, to be honest). It seems either the Skip staffers or the good people at Enterbrain or Famitsu came to the conclusion that the Giftpia Book’s low price would attract a large number of buyers who had never played the game. So, in an effort to hook that particular target audience into buying the game, they decided not to include the full songs for any of the Nanashi-FM tracks, instead opting to include somewhere between 1:30 and 3 minutes of each one, then fading it out during its bridge.

You may think this was done for legal reasons, but it actually says, right in the Giftpia Book itself, that this was done intentionally, and that listeners who want to hear the “full chorus” should play the game. So no matter what song you’re listening to (aside from the Giftpia title theme, which is thankfully included in its entirety), expect it to fade away right as it starts to pick up for what I can only imagine would’ve be a wonderful grand finale.

For as annoying as that little marketing blunder may be, though, it doesn’t make the music itself any less impressive. Like Moon’s wonderful OST, the Giftpia Book CD features a truly eclectic variety of genres: there’s a catchy techno-ballad sung in reasonably decent German (“Wertes Baum”), an obviously Beatles-inspired psychedelic mood piece (“Fruits of Love”), a country rock song (“SUN GOES DOWN”), an excellent tango (“EL LLORON”), and even a System of a Down-style thrash metal work (“right from wrong”). One of my personal favorites is “ASTORO,” an extremely upbeat dance-pop song that’s guaranteed to make anyone start flailing around like an idiot. “The Grown-Up Game” is also rather interesting, as it takes a very simple backbeat like that of a children’s song, and adds to it a child with an inexplicably creepy voice singing odd variations on the Japanese alphabet, then bursting out into tears. And for those of you who like more experimental music, there are always works like “pop error song” and “icicle,” which slowly transform random noises (industrial, computer, and other) into really catchy techno beats.

In fact, the material on this CD is so very good overall that it could’ve easily been a fourth disc on “The Sketches of Moondays,” the fantastic complete Moon soundtrack released in 2002. It really does feel like a microcosm of everything that makes Moon’s soundtrack so very spectacular, and is only really held back from its full potential by the incompleteness of virtually every one of its songs. Still, for 880 yen, the book alone would be worth it, to say nothing of the 50 minutes of bliss that this CD encompasses. Despite the underhanded and enraging marketing scheme used here, Skip shan’t incur my wrath, since they did release this puppy at less than 1/3 the cost of the average Japanese game soundtrack, and less than half the cost of the average strategy guide. And a great value can make any shady business tactics acceptable!

Like “The Sketches of Moondays,” the “Giftpia Book” actually introduced me to one of my current favorite Japanese bands, Akino, and has me on the lookout for albums from a few of the other bands that contributed to the game as well. And if that can happen to me, it can happen to you, too! No matter what kind of music you like, there’s bound to be something that appeals to you on this CD. Finding the CD, though, won’t be such an easy task — but it’ll be extremely cheap if you do locate it, and it’s well worth taking the time and effort to seek out. Despite its one blatant shortcoming, this is a great album all-around, and comes highly recommended to all fans of game music, and music in general.

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