ESP RA.DE. Ψ Drive Waves 2019 (SRIN-1166)

SuperSweep was tapped to provide a remixed BGM mode for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 shmup, ESP Ra.De. Ψ. Given Hosoe-san and SuperSweep’s history with this game genre, you can bet they knew just want to do. The album features two discs, the first of which are in the in-game remixes, and the second of which are extended mixes of ten of the tracks. There’s also a non-stop mix available as a bonus disc for anyone order from the SuperSweep store.

The soundtrack featured original music by Masahiro Kusunoki and Tetsuya Mizoguchi, but the entire SuperSweep team and several friends contribute remixes to the remixed BGM mode. The album opens with the dreamy “ESP Person” before the pumping and fittingly titled “”DESPERATE SCHOOL” and fast-paced “NIGHTMARE” come in. Each artist on the album takes a crack at “RAGING DEICIDE,” a synth-heavy anthem that is featured no less than six times, all by different arrangers. Takahiro Eguchi’s version is drum-heavy and glitchy, Ayako Saso’s applies less emphasis on synths and adds shredding electric guitar and octave-jumping bass, Fumihisa Tanaka’s version is more driving with epic pads and arpeggiated bass, and Atomic’s remix is searing with an increased tempo and layered synths. It’s interesting to hear so many different takes on the same theme. “ACT IN JUDGE” is more bubbly and upbeat while “WANGAN RAPID LINE 2nd” glides with some nice electric piano work. I love the Metroid-esque “FAIRIES FEAR” with guttural bass and sparse percussion, and the three-part sequence starting with the surprisingly chill “RAGE” with dreamy pads and measured drums, which morphs into “WING” with added epic choir, which again morphs into “MADNESS” with added distorted choir and screams and screeching in the background. The closing track, “SNOW ILLUSION,” brings soothing bells and closes out on a reflective note.

The album is available for import from CD Japan, and the bonus disc is available from purchasing direct from the SuperSweep shop in Japan only.

Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

The original Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U had one of my favorites soundtracks of 2014, featuring a blend of rock arrangements from across the series alongside some great original tracks. It felt very much like Dynasty Warriors and made sense given the game was a mash-up of different Zelda games. When Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was announced, I thought perhaps we’d get rock arrangements of the beautiful and thoughtful soundtrack to Breath of the Wild. That’s not what we ended up with and for good reason. The Age of Calamity soundtrack is very much in the style of Breath of the Wild with a few action-oriented excursions here and there, but for the most part, the soundtrack lives within the world of Breath of the Wild. This is important given how story-driven Age of Calamity ends up being and how integral to the Breath of the Wild timeline it is. In that way, this approach to the score makes a lot of sense.

Read more about what the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity soundtrack has to offer below. Continue reading Review: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Review: FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS Original Soundtrack Vol.2

Noriyasu Agematsu returns with the most excellent music from FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS. The original score was a standout and even earned Agematsu the opportunity to collaborate with Ariana Grande on the game. Vol. 2 brings two more discs of orchestral RPG goodness featuring some of his teammates at Elements Garden as well.

The album begins with the super hero theme song, “Parallel Star,” which feels like a pop song without vocals. From there, we get the tragic “Point of No Return,” the spooky “Misgivings” and the militaristic “Under His Banner.” There’s a lot of variety, but it’s all amazingly well produced. There’s the uplifting orchestral theme, “Another Tale to Tale,” the beautiful and whimsical “Wisdom of Ages,” and the traditional Japanese flavors found in “MUSASABI.” Final Fantasy fans will enjoy the melancholy take on “The Prelude” with Agematsu’s “Dawn.” The bombastic “A Cinematic Clash” and the explosive rock/orchestral theme “Banish the Darkness” with strong Final Fantasy vibes and references are also standouts. “Over the Rain Clouds” is uplifting and triumphant and “The Sky’s The Limit!” sports lightning fast guitar shredding while “Allure of the Unknown” gets a crystalline carvenous sound with hints of “The Prelude.” There are Celtic influences in “Unfettered Waltz,” mystery and intrigue in the exotic “The Order of Pi,” and playful rock organ in “Chill Out.” The sweet solo piano in “Forgiveness” takes us into the final stretch with the ominous and unsettling “Split in Two,” the dance floor stylings of “The Zenith,” and epic orchestra and choir in the very awesome “I, and I Alone” closing things out. A bonus at the comes in the way of “DUEL!! (Band Exvius Version) which is a live rock performance with violin and rock organ and is a nice touch.

Overall, Agematsu follows up his original soundtrack with more amazing music. This one is actually not available on the Square Enix North America store, but can be found on Apple Music and the two-disc CD can be imported from CD Japan.

NieR Music Concert CD -The Memories of Puppets- (SQEX-10689~90)

Square Enix has held many NieR concerts over the years but one of the first was The Memories of Puppets tour in Japan, which I had the good fortunate to attend. It featured piano, guitar, a string quartet, and vocals by Emi Evans, J’Nique Nicole, and others. I’d previously enjoyed the Blu-ray recording, but this Tokyo Game Show-exclusive CD is the audio version of the concert featuring its intimate acoustic sound with electronic elements programmed in.

The CD kicks off with more slow and measured versions of “City Ruins” featuring J’Nique Nicole’s powerful vocals and “Amusement Park” featuring Emi Evans. “Memories of Dust” places emphasis on the guitar, giving it a strong Western film vibe, while guitar and piano team up with Emi Evans for “Peaceful Sleep,” the beautiful town theme with lovely string harmonies. “Vague Hope,” one of my favorite themes from NieR: Automata, is a piano and guitar duo with Emi’s original vocals, and is a high point on the album. “Song of the Ancients – Atonement” is a duo between Emi and J’Nique that featured lots of programmed elements in the way of drums whereas “Pascal” included a child singer and had the audience clapping along with the cheerful tune and fancy guitar work. “The Sound of the End” gets a minimalistic arrangement that is almost soothing, while “Alien Manifestation” features J’Nique Nicole, who was not the original singer, making for a nice alternate take on the theme. The string quartet shines on it own in “Mourning” while a solo piano before a foray into the original NieR Gestalt/Replicant territory stirring performances of both “Kaine” and “Ashes of Dreams.” The album closes with “Weight of the World / The End of YoRHa,” a full arrangement with programmed synths and Emi starting off before the entire audience joins in. Everyone in the room was crying by the end of it, but fortunately the audience’s wails didn’t make it onto the album.

Having attended the show and loved the Blu-ray recording, I always wanted a CD recording. Unfortunately it was an event exclusive, but the Square Enix North America store has the Blu-ray for sale and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Look for the glint of glasses on the top balcony when it shows the audience and you might just see me!