Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial is one of the premiere games in the dating-simulator genre; a genre that has pretty much stayed in Japan. Tokimeki Memorial shares something in common with traditional RPGs in that you have to micromanage your character’s development in a variety of statistics in order to woo a particular girl. Fancy the girl on the track team? Well then, you had better build up your “athleticism” statistic, among others, in order to woo her. Yes, dating sims’ emphasis on the statistics/micromanagement stands in contrast to the love-adventure genre which is focused more on the storyline narrative and whose gameplay is limited to Choose Your Own Adventure style choices.
So what does this have to do with the Tokimeki Memorial Guitar Collection soundtrack? Well, given that the game is based more around modern day romance and not around epic quests and battles against evil emperors, power metal style guitar shredding a’la the Ys series is nowhere to be found here. The few times electric guitar is used, it’s in more of a smooth jazz vein. Otherwise, it’s mostly acoustic guitar in various non-rock genres used. There are even tracks where there were no guitars at all. After hearing the first track “Confession” and asking myself afterward “where’s the guitar?” I had a sinking feeling about this soundtrack. Unfortunately, that sinking feeling proved correct. I found this soundtrack extremely disappointing.
The biggest problem I had with this soundtrack was that all the songs dragged on way too long and got really boring. Even those few songs that started off with promise (such as the Spanish tinged “Sunflower” and the sunset beachy “Mid Summer Afternoon”) fell into the trap of dragginess. There are two huge culprits when it comes to dragged out songs: repetitiveness and meandering. Both of these culprits were present in full force on this soundtrack. “More! More! Tokimeki” and “At the Hill of Legend” are two examples of songs that got boring due to repetitiveness. Repetitiveness can be effective to get a listener into the melody, but not when songs clock in at around five minutes. Most of the other songs suffered from meandering. “Confession” is one of the biggest culprits. By meandering, I mean that the songs went on and on like open ended jams that didn’t know when to end and lacked catchy melodies to really entice listeners.
Perhaps this is a bias on my part, but I am a huge fan of electric guitar. It’s such a versatile instrument capable of a wide variety of sounds both smooth and harsh. It is therefore that I was very disappointed that only a scant few tracks even used electric guitar. “More! More! Tokimeki” and “Graduation” are the only two that had electric guitar throughout the entire songs. The former was a repetitive poppy piece while the latter was a meandering smooth jazz type song. Others either had no electric guitar or scant use of it. Even more disappointing than the lack of electric guitar was that there were pieces in this soundtrack that had NO guitars. In a soundtrack entitled “Guitar Collection” having songs devoid of any guitar is blasphemy. “Confession” and “The Sakura Season” had no guitars, just synthesizers.
No soundtrack would be complete without vocal numbers, and this one has three. “The Sakura Season” eschews guitar in favor of synths and a saxophone solo. It had a rather heavy handed melody. It dragged on way too long and ended very suddenly. The saving grace of this song was the vocalist. Sure she had a cutesy helium voice, but it was not annoying or intolerable. In fact, I rather liked it, and I normally cringe when I hear cutesy helium voiced females. “Meeting You” also had a pleasing vocalist. Unfortunately, that acoustic ballad was boring and dragged on far too long. The best vocal number was easily “When We’re Together.” The vocalist had a voice that was sweet and airy without sounding weak or lazy. The guitar had a simple jangly pop melody that was very catchy. It was also the shortest song on the soundtrack, so it never fell into the dragginess traps.
I’ll save the best for last: “Ballad of the Effeminate Geek.” Cool title, isn’t it? Not only is it a cool title, it is also far and away the best song on this soundtrack. It is a mostly acoustic number that has some electric bits later on in the song. It’s only about four minutes long and unlike the other songs on this soundtrack, it doesn’t drag. It’s not overly repetitive and not overly tangentially meandering. That song is definitely a keeper.
It’s pretty obvious that I did not like this soundtrack. But I will say that with some work, this soundtrack could be brilliant. There are some great musical ideas here, but they’re mired under enormous heaps of filler and, dare I say it, utter crap. With some work and refinement, the ideas in these compositions can be extracted, refined, and reworked into some great songs. But as it stands now, this soundtrack is mostly a whole bunch of ideas piled together without enough cohesion. There is a diamond to be found in this rough, but quite frankly it’s really really rough and I don’t have the patience to wade through all of that just to get to a small diamond.