Review: Hiro 30th Anniversary Album Thank you for listening!

Hiro may not be a household name, but you’ve likely heard his music. He’s the legend behind many of the earliest SEGA soundtracks, including those for Hang-On, Fantasy Zone, After Burner, and more. Catchy, technically impressive, and incredibly prolific, this album demonstrates all of these and more with one disc of “best of” material from his 30 years in the business, and a second disc of arrangements by Hiro and others many of which are entirely new to this collection.

So much of this music is amazing, from the chugging 1985 rock synths from Hang-On, the infectious catchiness of Space Harrier, the swanky swing in Enduro Racer, the playful and iconic Fantasy Zone, and the realistic jazz, pop, and exotic flavors from Out Run. There was fantastic ’90s rock with After Burner, sticky-sweet pop with Dynamite Dux, epic fantasy and explosive ’80s synth rock with Sword of Vermilion (one of my personal favorites), the comedy of Rent-a-Hero, and more modern dance, grunge, J-pop, and J-rock with his Sega Saturn era contributions.

The remix disc features all of the same songs, but arranged. There’s a lot of jazz to be had with SEGA’s [H.] band, a classy jazz ensemble called Akai Ryu-sei, and arrangements from Hiro himself from across the ages. Some are simple synth upgrades to the originals, while others are full-fledged jazz renditions, but all are tastefully done. There’s also a funky and wild dance/chiptune take on Sword of Vermilion by none other than Hip Tanaka, a retro synth/chiptune spin on Dynamite Dux by Omodaka, a big anime-style vocal opening from Rent-a-Hero, and a dreamy funk fest by Taito composer Shohei Tsuchiya with Crackin’ DJPART2.

So, let’s get on to the bad news. Unfortunately this album is not being sold through any regular soundtrack import sites. Your best bet is to hit Amazon or eBay if you’re looking for this one. There will be mark ups, but it’s a fantastic bit of history chronicling an unsung hero in game music.

Tekken Revolution Soundtrack (SRIN-1135)

More Tekken! SuperSweep is at it again, with both Tekken 7 and Tekken Revolution having recently been released. Expect more dubstep and electronic action from the Bandai Namco team and friends, including tracks from SuperSweep’s own Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso in addition to Yuu Miyake, Nobuyoshi Sano, and the rest of the gang. Taku Inoue handles the bulk of the music this time around, and as such, there’s a little pop mixed in with this dubstep.

He opens with the grungy rock/electronic “New World Order” with anthemic male vocals, and moves into industrial with “Blood, Sweat, and Fists.” There are laser-like synths in “Everlasting Heaven” and a distorted and searing soundscape present in “Self Destruct.” Yuu Miyake delivers “El Condor,” a trippy electronic track with an ethereal atmosphere and lots of reverb. There’s the dancey “Lunar fringe theory,” the pumping “Chopper” with its crazy slap bass, and even some flamenco flavor in “Bassamenco” and “Françoise’s Bassline.” Vocoder vocals are found in “Brasil evolution,” clean acoustic guitar in “lost in a station,” and Inoue’s uplifting rock in “Night rises” and “Kodama Starship,” the latter of which almost sounds like something out of Katamari Damacy with its vocal work.

Tekken Revolution is published by SuperSweep Records and is available for import from CD Japan if you’re interested.


Another Tokyo Game Show, another Square Enix Music sampler CD. This is the eleventh (see volumes 9 and 10), given to customers who made purchases over a certain threshold. The discs have evolved over the years to include full tracks from recently-released and upcoming albums from Square Enix Music’s label, and they had a lot to show this year.

The sampler begins with “Nox Aeterna (E3 2013 Trailer)” from Final Fantasy XV, a tragic and somber affair. The music that has been performed from this game is fantastic, and I wonder if this trailer track will appear on the final soundtrack release. From there, “No Turning Back” is a tense Hollywood action cue from Kingslaive (which I rather enjoyed), “Blazing Heart of Justice” is pure metal from Justice Monsters Five, and two tracks–a Japanese pop vocal piece and a pumping battle track with Masashi Hamauzu’s signature piano and strings–from World of Final Fantasy that have me excited for this soundtrack in particular. SaGa Scarlet Grace offers beautiful sweeping orchestra, Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Age introduces a gorgeous orchestral sound to “Ozmone Plains,” and NieR Music Concert & Talk Live offers a live vocal rendition from NieR that I can’t wait to hear and watch. Some new games are included, such as a synthy Celtic track from Celestial Aruls, some great synth music from Naoshi Mizuta from both Akashic Re:cords and Guardian Codex, an RPG town theme from Pop-Up Story: Mahono Moto to Seiju no Gakuen, a folksy vocal theme from Kamitsuri, and two unreleased tracks from Mobius Final Fantasy: one that offers mellow male vocals and synth work similar in style to Mitsuto Suzuki’s solo albums, and another that is sweeping and epic, working in the Final Fantasy main theme.

In all, this is a strong sampler that shows a lot of great music in the works. There’s the usual stuff to be excited about, including Final Fantasy XV, NieR, and SaGa Scarlet Grace, but some of the lesser-known titles now have my interest.

Stay tuned for our reviews of these albums in the coming months. Unfortunately the sampler will be difficult to find with TGS being long over.

GRAND KINGDOM Original Soundtrack (BSPE-1060~2)

Fans of SRPGs and Basiscape should be pleased to see the release of the three-disc Grand Kingdom Original Soundtrack. It blends catchy fantasy themes with Hitoshi Sakimoto’s signature orchestral sound with exotic instrumentation similar to other projects the team has worked on like Muramasa. There are also strong Celtic influences throughout and prominent use of accordion to reflect the game’s mercenary setting.

Listeners will likely take note of the epic fantasy main theme, “Resonail: Land of Endless War,” the whimsical yet rugged “The Guild: Base Camp,” the gritty “Mercenary Trade Show,” the decisive and folksy “The White Wolf Mercenaries,” the uplifting and sometimes tense “‘A first campaign should not be fought recklessly,'” and the classic JRPG-style battle theme, “Let’s Get ‘em, Boss!” There’s the slowly-building “Determination,” the bouncy and playful “Worthy Foe,” and the angelic and mysterious “Away From Prying Eyes (Fiel’s Theme).” “Target the Enemy Leader” is a triumphant blend of rock and orchestra, “Don’t Leave Me” is melancholy and sweepingly beautiful, “Endless Forest” is dangerous with big bass and a Western vibe, “Pure Blood, Pure Knights (Landerth’s Audience Chamber)” is regal and restful, “Hurry!” is tense but fun, “In the Wake of Destruction” is an energetic battle theme that touches on progressive rock, and “Prayers of War” closes things out with a sweet ethereal vocal theme.

Whether you played the game or not, there’s some fantastic fantasy RPG music here, and it may be some of Basiscape’s best work to date. Best of all, it’s available on iTunes and Amazon in the United States in addition to physically from CD Japan.