While I haven’t played or even seen Square Enix’s Gunslinger Stratos series, gameplay videos look pretty awesome. It’s an anime-style third-person shooter with some amazingly well produced pop rock and metal. There’s everything from heavy metal and J-rock to pop ballads and vocaloid. This compilation album includes the soundtracks to the first two games in the series (there’s a third now), featuring a wide variety of talent from within Square Enix and without.
It all begins with the catchy and upbeat metal track, “Choose Your Way,” which sets the stage for the vocaloid-heavy “DAYS,” the explosive metal-meets-dubstep “Isolated Clash,” the Gothic rock “Boquet de Fleurs Neige,” the Japanese-infused “Golden Dolphins” with rapid-fire koto, the spacey pop-rock “Beyond the Azure,” and the infectious Genki Rockets-flavored “Kimi no Ita Ano Hi ni.” Gunslinger Stratos 2 gets arrangements of several of the tracks from the first game, but also a number of originals including the desperate and spacey rock track “Inferiority Complex” (my personal favorite), the dreamy “Soul Evolution,” the bumping dubstep “9Elements (Nine Elements,” and a beautiful “unplugged” version of “Ending” with piano, strings, and layered vocals.
Fans of J-rock will get a kick out of this soundtrack. There’s some wonderful tracks and great production values throughout. Unfortunately it’s sold out on CD Japan , but keep an eye out on the used market if you’re interested.
The highly anticipated Castlevania series has finally hit Netflix, and Lakeshore Records has published the meaty hour-long soundtrack by composer Trevor Morris (who coincidentally has both first and last name shared with Castlevania lore). He’s provided an interesting and intense score featuring pulsating synth work and a blend of strings and choir that, while unusual to describe, fit in perfectly with the action on screen. Listening to the score without having watched the series, I was immediately drawn to “Main Title” with its oppressive synth swells and Gothic vibe. The rest of the soundtrack was effectively mood setting, but it wasn’t until watching the series and having the context for the music that it really struck me.
“Wallachia,” for example, features a desolate ambiance with gritty electronics that accompanies the world of this Castlevania adventure perfectly. The tense but subdued “Vlad Searches for Lisa” quickly turns to malice with ominous synth work as he discovers her fate, and “There are no Innocents” is a twisted and dark blend of buzzing synths and droning strings. The guttural male choir featured in “Hordes Descend on Targoviste” is effectively terrifying, as are the crunchy synths and choir swells of “Bloody Greist.” Things get more calculating and contemplative in “Bit of Dried Goat,” exotic and mysterious in “We Can’t Turn Away,” and explosive and dangerous in “Trevor Fights the Cyclops.” There’s hope and triumph in “I’m Trevor Belmont,” a sense of finality with heavy percussion hits, a church choir, and a descent into madness with “Let me Kiss You,” and new age synths and angelic choir in “Alucard Rises.” The album closes with the uplifting and hopeful “Hunter, Scholar, Soldier.”
I would have never thought dark pulsating synths would fit so well in the Castlevania universe, but in context, they do. They feel like an unnatural heartbeat chugging away beneath somber and desolate strings, pads, and choir. While there isn’t a whole lot of music to walk away with and hum here, there is some great brooding music that will take you through the ups and downs of the excellent first season of the series. I’m already looking forward to sinking my teeth in to whatever comes next!
Pick up the album up now on iTunes or wait for the physical release which comes out August 4 on Amazon.
SuperSweep is at it again, publishing obscure music that you won’t hear anywhere else. This time it’s the PlayStation Vita title, Omega Labyrinth featuring Daisuke Nakajima as the primary composer with a number of vocal anime-style themes thrown into the mix. The game itself is a challenging roguelike dungeon crawler with a story centered around the protagonist seeking out a grail in order to request a wish to increase her breast size.
In terms of the music, it follows the upbeat anime formula. The opening vocal theme, “Brave Heart,” offers sticky sweep pop rock with female vocals that are silly and energetic, followed by another vocal track that is more acoustic and folksy in nature. There’s everything here from cool ninja rock with shakuhachi and shamisen to classic J-rock with impressive guitar solos. You’ll find the usual suspects for this type of game: tense dungeons, epic boss battles with explosive rock, and a lovely sweeping orchestral pop tune to close out the game.
The album is available at CD Japan if you’re interested.
Last week we looked at Kenji Ito’s battle themes from the Million Arthur series. I referred to producer Hyadain’s original soundtrack, which we’ll take a look at now. The mysterious Hyadain had made a name for himself in the doujin scene producing excellent music and arrangements, and was later revealed to be artist Kenichi Maeyamada. His production values come through strongly in this album, featuring a blend of pop, rock, and fantasy goodness.
The first track, “Faction Selection” starts right in with some wonderfully produced J-rock and a descending bell tone melody that offers something unique. “Footsteps to Fortune” is a laid back overworld-esque theme that starts off strictly fantasy before introducing electronic elements and percussion to lend the track a cool edge. “Round Table Congregation,” one of my favorite tracks, opts for intense militaristic electronics, percussion, and strings, while “Welcome Back, Lord Arthur!” is a super cute and upbeat pop tune with Rhodes and strings that sounds like it ought to have vocals. I also love the octave-jumping bass in “Faerie Sighted!,” the ominous dungeon-sounding theme, “Wait, Could it be?,” the dark and sinister “D-O-U-B-T,” the regal and beautiful “God Save the King” with its melancholy harpsichord, swelling strings, and bell tolls, and the silly “Pumpkin Soup” with wood block and chip tones. “Sadness Shall Someday Fade” is the obligatory sad theme, “Morgan Fay” offers catchy gothic rock, and “Won’t Say Goodbye” is a glitchy upbeat electronic outro that ends on a positive note.
Hyadain didn’t disappoint, and I’d love to hear more collaborations between the artist and Square Enix in the future. If you want to pick up the soundtrack, it’s available on CD Japan.
The Million Arthur series offers some great music. Square Enix has put out a couple albums over the past two years from this series, with the score for the main title composed by Hyadain, and now this battle collection composed by Kenji Ito. You’re going to find your typical Kenji Ito rock here, which fans will appreciate.
The tracks range in style from the aforementioned rock, which falls in line with the SaGa battle arrange albums, to pop-infused electronic rock, and one track, my favorite, which sports bumping electronic beats paired with beautiful piano work. There’s a dark and mysterious track that comes in about midway through that features some great string work and a bell melody, while things get a little dancey towards the end of the album with an octave-jumping bass and gorgeous crystalline melody. The last track takes a more traditional Japanese instrumental approach with some lovely woodwinds and a ninja-esque vibe.
In all, this is a fine showcase of the Million Arthur series. I think fans will be pleased to see Kenji Ito working on the franchise, and his fans will enjoy what they hear on this album. It’s currently available on CD Japan for those who are interested.
What an unexpected surprise! Square Enix put out this unassuming soundtrack to their recent iOS/Android title, School Strikers, with music by Mitsuto Suzuki and Kengo Tokusashi. Upbeat melodies, great electronic atmospheres, and some great productive values all make this an enjoyable and surprising listening experience.
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