I often bring game soundtracks to the office to listen to while I work. And, sometimes fellow employees happen to hear some of the music I listen to. It so happens that one day a co-worker was listening in on one of my soundtracks that featured a pipe-organ. From that day forward he jokingly referred to my game music as “satanic music”. So, the day I walked in with the “Me and Satan King” soundtrack (for obvious reasons renamed “Okage: Shadow King” here in the US), I only confirmed his belief. Of course the music on this soundtrack is anything but satanic. Then again, it’s not angelic either, but is an entertaining mix of quirky melodies and fun compositions.
Like the game’s creatively designed characters and unique storyline, “Me and Satan King’s” music is fresh and original; aside from a few tracks it resembles nothing I’ve heard before in an RPG. Thus, on my first listen I had a hard time getting through the entire two-disc set. I was expecting to hear your conventional Celtic-styled pieces (although there is a touch in the first few tracks), militaristic “army” marches, or overly dramatic event themes that have somewhat become a staple of the genre. Instead I found myself listening to music that was whimsical, mischievous, and most definitely quirky. And once I had accustomed myself to that sound I was able to enjoy and appreciate the music for what it was.
I once read a game review in which the writer described Okage’s music as “jangly”. Looking back after having listened to the soundtrack, I could find no better word for it. Loud, jazzy, and just a little bit noisy at times, “Me and Satan King” is a soundtrack with a lot of character.
Variety is the key word here, and with 6 different composers working on the project, there’s lots of it. Ranging from the slightly sentimental to hardcore techno, each composer brings with him a unique style that together creates a nice mix of melodies. However, Jun-ichi Doi’s compositions were among my favorite. His music has a more harmonious sound to it and is less jarring than the more “jangly” pieces. Interesting enough, a few of his tracks (“Theme of Highland Village” being the most notable) are reminiscent of Junya Nakano’s Dew Prism work, another game known for its un-RPG-like music.
Toshiaki Murata’s contributions were the most fun, though. “Theme of Tenell” and “Beiloune-Hatter” both have that cartoony, haunted house feel to them. And yet, Murata is able to pull off these pieces without making them sound too comical. I love the samples he uses, just a tad silly yet unique.
The town themes here all have two arrangements, an original and an “R” version, which I assume is a rearranged version for when you return later in the game. The nice thing about these is that they sound similar, but the rearranged version is different enough to remain interesting, not just a sloppy rehash.
If I were to point out the album’s greatest weakness, though, it would have to be in the battle themes. Like the town themes, there are two versions, a regular and a “Disadvantage,” however the second version doesn’t sound so much like a remix than an entirely different song. These themes are unfortunately much less interesting than the rest of the soundtrack. They may fit well within the game itself, but alone a good majority are a little too noisy and not quite as appealing as the other tracks. “Vampire Evil King Battle” is the best of these themes with some snazzy synth and a fun, jazzy melody, but the rest sound too much like “mecho-electronic” rubbish. Then again, I haven’t played the game and my opinion of these may change once I do. However, with so many other great pieces on the soundtrack, I guess I can’t complain much.
Every great while a soundtrack comes along that reestablishes my belief in game music as a viable art form. And with a colorful palette of melodies, “Me and Satan King” proves to be one of those rare soundtracks. Its quirkiness is probably its greatest feature, and this is by no means a bad thing. If you’ve played the game you already know what I’m talking about. If not, getting to hear this music outside of your PS2 may be a bit difficult. None of the online retailers I know of carry it, and I was only able to get hold of mine through a friend who lives in Japan. My best advice would be to keep an eye out on Ebay. I’ve seen a good few of them pop up over the last year. Also, if you have the means and the money to use a third-party contact, Yahoo Japan auctions is another alternative. Truthfully, I highly recommend going the extra mile to get your hands on this unique album.