Shigeki Hayashi has been working almost exclusively with developer Sting for some time now. His frantic, fast-paced tunes on past games Riviera and Yggdra Union have earned him some reputation. Unfortunately, I fear that his reputation will soon mimic that of a man with whom many have love/hate relationships: Motoi Sakuraba.
There are two reasons that the Knights in the Nightmare soundtrack invites the comparison. First of all, Hayashi sounds a good bit like Sakuraba. Synthy prog-rock with synth choirs and a heavy emphasis on drum&bass…that’s definitely the Sakuraba formula. Hayashi has the added disadvantage of writing music for limited platforms (GBA/DS). The second reason Hayashi seems to be morphing into Sakuraba is that this soundtrack sounds so similar to Riviera and Yggdra Union, it’s difficult to tell the three apart. The first few times you hear a Sakuraba score, you may think “wow, this is pretty cool, I’m impressed!” But after hearing the 200th song from him that sounds just like the first, the admiration turns to loathing. I fear that Hayashi is going down this same path. Is he a one-trick pony? I don’t know. But this soundtrack doesn’t help in his defense.
Even within itself, it seems the music is repetitious. Having played the game extensively, I was shocked to find the soundtrack would fill two discs, with a total of 90 different tracks (including about a dozen “jingles”). Playing through the game, I felt like there couldn’t have been more than a dozen pieces of music written. Apparently, I wasn’t paying attention.
The first disc contains music that can be played at any point throughout the game. Standard battle themes, as well as the re-used (and, dare I say, overused) music for the game’s many short dialogue-based cut scenes, are found on the first disc. The second disc, which I consider to be far superior, is a chronological breakdown of special themes for the battles (including specific tunes for boss battles). These “one-and-done” pieces are what really shine; unfortunately, in the context of the game, you don’t get to hear them enough to enjoy them. With the soundtrack at your side, said problem is naturally resolved.
I’m still a fan of Shigeki Hayashi’s work, even with the tinny, grainy sounds that are produced through the hardware. But if this trend continues, and Hayashi doesn’t start bringing some variation to his subsequent soundtracks that allow them to stand out, it could be a detriment to Sting’s future games, and to Hayashi’s credibility. For now, I give the Knights in the Nightmare soundtrack mild recommendations, with the caveat that fans familiar with the “Dept. Heaven” series can expect more of the same here. You decide for yourself whether that’s good or bad news.