Under the Wave Master label, SEGA released another retro soundtrack grouping very recently. They’ve been on a roll recently, with products like the Phantasy Star 1st Series hitting the soundtrack market. This release pairs up two games from the same sound staff. Hiroshi “hiro” Kawaguchi composed the music for the games Sword of Vermilion and Rent-A-Hero, with Yasuhiro Takagi having helped with Sword of Vermilion.
The SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive) RPG, Sword of Vermilion, is not the most memorable of games. But the game’s soundtrack? It’s fairly strong, particularly for its ability to properly wield the often-irritating Mega Drive synth. But before we even get to the synth, the producers of this album decided to open it with a bang. Koichi “Mickey” Namiki put together a seven minute medley track in the same vein as your typical early 1990s Falcom arrangement might sound. The guitar tracks (rhythm and lead) sound awesome, the drum performance is heavy, the slower parts of the medley are super chill, and when given the chance to shine, the keyboard is awesome as well. This is a fantastic arranged medley; anyone who has fond memories of the game will absolutely adore this arrangement.
The OST proper (tracks 2 through 28) has some great music. Though, it is not without its pitfalls. An attempted organ piece, “Church” (track 8), sounds absolutely awful. The composition itself isn’t that great, but the distortion inherent in the SEGA Genesis sound chip makes the song that much worse. It’s like fungus and excrement was stuck in the organ’s pipes.
But for every “stinker” on this OST, there are at least three fun, bouncy, catchy tunes from Kawaguchi and Takagi. My favorite tracks include the Opening theme, boss battle themes, “Last City,” and “Erias.”
There’s a second arranged track at the end of the disc: it’s a cheesy parade/march tune, and despite having a lot of live performers (including vocalists), I couldn’t even convince myself to become interested in the piece.
I’ll give some quick impressions to the Rent-A-Hero OST. Rent a Hero was an obscure, Japan-only Action RPG release on the Mega Drive (it had a Dreamcast follow-up as well). Frankly, I knew nothing of the game before getting this soundtrack. But the music? Well, it’s silly! Most of it struck me as bland, but it has its good musical moments. Also, composer Takenobu Mitsuyoshi lends his voice to a few of the tracks on here. That was a nice surprise. The bonus tracks from the Dreamcast version were a nice bonus as well.
Hiroshi Kawaguchi’s music over his long tenure with Sega has had its ups and downs. As for the Sword of Vermilion OST, I’d say it’s one of his better soundtracks for the Mega Drive. And, indeed, it is one of the better Mega Drive RPG soundtracks, considering how difficult it is to make good music on that console (you can call me biased, but I consider this more fact than opinion: SNES vs SEGA audio, SNES wins hands-down). If you want the Sword of Vermilion OST, this is the only way to get it. So hopefully you can enjoy Rent-A-Hero as well, because it’s coming along for the ride!