You might already know my opinion on Shiness: The Lighting Kingdom’s soundtrack if you tuned into Episode 33 of Rhythm Encounter. I had the pleasure of interviewing the charming composer-producer, Hazem Hawash, and enjoyed a nice chat with him, getting to know more about the backstory of the music and its context within the game. If you haven’t checked it out or don’t have the time, then I’ll do you the favor of translating my excitement of this delicious soundtrack in word form!
Surprisingly, my first encounter with Shiness’ soundtrack was during the time of our yearly special feature, Music of the Year 2014. I was surfing around online and discovered a game company I’ve never heard of (Enigami) and a Soundcloud page for their in-progress game. My curiosity got the better of me, so I checked out all the music, and it ended up being one of my top three most anticipated soundtracks for 2015. Several years pass and news about Shiness’ April release hit my inbox, so I checked out the full soundtrack and was incredibly pleased with Hazem Hawash’s work.
One of the things that won my heart over is Hawash’s penchant for writing memorable, simple melodies. The main theme, “Shiness,” shows this incredibly well in its tranquil, lyrical melodic line in solo woodwind instrument. The strings are wonderful in this piece, as it enhances the mystery and beauty of the theme. I like the use of tremolo in the beginning, and the strings enveloping nature, surrounding the melody in both registers. Another small thing that I adore in “Shiness” is when the melody dovetails to the solo stringed instrument around 0:52, which then the track soon is invigorated with lively percussion. Absolutely gorgeous! I’ve included the tracks, “Calling Mantara,” “Chado,” and “We did it!” for my examples of Hawash’s lovely writing. While I could write all day on the beauty of those tracks’ melodies, I’m eager to move on to a certain type of track I always search for first when I receive a soundtrack…
If you know me by now, then you should know that my favorite type of game music is battle tracks (with main and love themes following after). I’m glad to say that Shiness succeeds in this area, delivering exciting and head rocking tracks. One particular track, “Challenge Accepted!” is the first battle theme you hear in Shiness, in which Hawash appropriately sets the musical standard for the rest of his fight music for the rest of the game. The track itself is percussion and guitar driven, with orchestral instruments either accenting or taking melodic lead. However, what makes this, and other, battle tracks special is that Hawash takes thematic fragments from the dungeon/field theme and injects them into the battle track.
An example of this technique is found between “Unknown Land” and “Challenge Accepted!” If you closely pay attention to the melody at 2:07-2:23 in the former, you’ll hear it again at 1:27-1:40 in the latter. Another example is between “Gromiz Lair” and “Laboratory.” The melodic line from the former immediately plays at the start of the latter track. Of course, I don’t want to focus on too many normal battle themes when the best battle music is the final boss tracks.
The final boss theme, “Beauty and the Evil,” is Shiness’ cream of the crop in regards to battle music. The final boss fight in Shiness is very exciting, and that is captured well in the music, as the track is on cruise control throughout its duration. There’s a lot get you pumped in this track, with its orchestral hits, driving low register string playing, and rocking organ playing. The organ writing in this track, however, might remind you of Nobuo Uematsu, and it would be safe thinking that some inspiration came from him for certain tracks like this. This makes sense, as Uematsu, alongside Hiroki Kikuta and Koji Kondo, are some of Hawash’s favorite composers (with even Kikuta appearing as a guest composer for “Promised Hearts — Summer!”). Another particular track that I feel may have been inspired by Nobuo Uematsu is “Laotan Palace,” in its melodic shaping (of course, my ears could be playing tricks on me!).
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m completely smitten by the music of Shiness. It’s clear a great deal of time and love went into this music project and I applaud Hazem Hawash for his debut as game composer. I do recommend Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom – The Original Soundtrack for those who are fans of the game, as well as for folks looking for music from an indie developer. Bravo, Mr. Hawash, I hope to see more from you in the future.