You’re probably like me and don’t know a whole lot about the JRPG series Heracles no Eikou (Glory of Heracles). That’s because the games never left Japan. However, when our colleagues at SuperSweep, in their undying quest to release classic game music to the masses, announced this six-CD set, we definitely wanted to check it out. The box set includes the soundtracks to all four numbered games in the series (the first two on Famicom and the second two on Super Famicom), a Game Boy spin-off, a disc featuring a remastered arrange album and unused music, and a disc of all-new arrangements created just for this set.
Having zero expectations, I found myself impressed with the catchiness of many of the melodies and was particularly drawn to the Glory of Heracles II and IV soundtracks as they have a strong classical flavor not too unlike Dragon Quest, which is fitting given that many note that Glory of Heracles seems heavily inspired by Dragon Quest. How often is it that you get to hear an authentic Famicom or Super Famicom RPG soundtrack for the first time these days? Be on the lookout for “Mountain of the Spiraling Wind” and “The Wings of Pegasus,” among many others. The arrangements, performed by the Data East house band, GAMADELIC include jazz fusion and vocal arrangements. They’re expertly done and left me wanting even more! The included booklet (in Japanese) also has composer breakdowns and commentary from the music and game development team, which is a nice touch.
Pick up the album on CD Japan if you’re interested in giving it a spin.
Square Enix has a few treats for SaGa fans for the franchise’s 25th anniversary. One such treat is Imperial SaGa, a free-to-play title for PC that pays homage to the entirety of the series. While I admit that I haven’t really dug in deep into the SaGa series, I’ve always been a fan of the music. Kenji Ito reprises his role as series composer, accompanied to Tsutomu Narita, Yoshitaka Hirota, Hiroyuki Nakamura, and others, to give SaGa fans a heavy dose of classic JRPG goodness.
The soundtrack is arranged to feature what amounts to four variations on the same set of themes. After a grand orchestral main theme that references the classic SaGa theme, which is a nice touch, we get into the first set, which offers a nice blend of retro synth and rock stylings reminiscent of Ito’s recent SaGa rock arrange albums. “Battle ~ Adel” is probably my favorite track on the album, reviving the SNES-era rock with cheesy brass, bell tones, and a very catchy chorus section drawing heavily from early SaGa titles. “Decisive Battle ~ Adel” gets laser-like synths and wailing electric guitars, more in the style of the rock arrange, while “Decisive Battle ~ Adel” gets choir and bell tolls. After a cool victory fanfare, “Strategic Failure…” sports super cools ’80s-esque contemporary jazz with a funky bass line and spacey pads and bell tones. There are serious references to Final Fantasy Tactics in “Advance ~ HEROES,” another favorite of mine, and on to the variations I mentioned, with a electronic version of the battle theme with a super funky sax. The Lazareth/Iris variations opt for a big orchestral sound, while the final Ivan/Olga set goes for a spooky vibe with twangy guitars and layered bells. Some of tracks in this final set, including the mysterious and magical “Once Beyond the Darkness” which contains a cool reference to the main theme and the pop rock, Castlevania-esque “The Woven Era,” are some of my favorites as well. The album ends with a silly and comical vocal theme arranged in various ways.
In all, these soundtrack presents some solid and very familiar themes. You’ll feel like you’re in the heyday of the 16-bit era once again. The variations offer upgrades and different takes, all of which have their own merit, and are a treat to hear. I particularly enjoyed the Final Fantasy Tactics references.
I highly recommend picking this one up at CD Japan if you’re a fan of 16-bit RPG music!
This album has likely been on a lot of people’s most-wanted list. Protect Me Knight was released in North America in the Xbox Live Indie Arcade, developed by the studio of renowned game music composer Yuzo Koshiro, with 8-bit-style tunes written by Koshiro himself. There was never an official soundtrack release, but with the development and launch of Protect Me Knight 2 in Japan, there’s finally a soundtrack release featuring Koshiro with legends from across the shmup and 8-bit scenes, including SuperSweep’s Shinji Hosoe, OGR, Motoaki Furukawa, and Hiro. It’s an impressive line-up, and the album comes courtesy of SuperSweep.
The catchy main theme and the upbeat “Retro-Nitro-Girl” are sure to be fan favorites. The album includes the 8-bit soundtrack, some up-tempo versions, and original versions of songs before they were created in 8-bit style. It can be purchased at CD Japan.
Fans of SuperSweep head and Scarlet Moon Artists composer Shinji Hosoe may consider looking into last year’s release of the Dragon Saber soundtrack from SuperSweep Records. Following in the style of his more widely known Dragon Spirit soundtrack, Dragon Saber is also one of his earlier works, containing a mix of fantasy and epic shmup soundscapes.
Those who know his work on Dragon Spirit will be right at home with the energetic and upbeat 80s synth work along with the dark and ominous atmospheres that dominate the later areas in the game. With a gritty rock-based final battle theme, a funky piece to accompany the continue screen, and pop to go with the name entry screen, the score is classic Hosoe. The second disc includes selections from the Dragon Spirit soundtrack recreated using the Dragon Saber sound chip. There are also guest arrangements by SuperSweep’s Yousuke Yasui with a bumping retro sound, and by Ancient Corp’s Yuzo Koshiro with powerful electronics and classy brass.
The album also includes artwork from the series and comments in the booklet. It’s currently available on CD Japan.
I never had the pleasure of playing many of the games that Chris Huelsbeck became world renowned for during my childhood. Most of my experience with his work has been through his original compositions, all of which I’ve loved. That’s why the Turrican Soundtrack Anthology was such a great opportunity for me to go back and enjoy all the Turrican classics that I missed as a young gamer, and I now understand why people have always been so enamored with these soundtracks.
The Turrican Soundtrack Anthology takes music from across the Turrican series and re-imagines it with upgraded sounds. But don’t let that scare tried and true fans of the classic Turrican scores, as these new renditions are still retro to the core with their catchy melodies intact, fantastic bass synths, and rocking electronic hybrids that are a retro game music fan’s dream.
I’m a huge fan of MagicalTimeBean. SoulCaster and Escape Goat have been a lot of fun both in gameplay and music. What used to be a one man show with Ian Stocker expanded this time around, but he still handles the majority of the soundtrack, with one appearance by Disasterpeace.
Nintendo of Japan’s Kenji Yamamoto and Retro Studios’s Scott Petersen did a great job with the audio on Donkey Kong Country Returns, but everyone was wondering if we’d ever hear the original voice of Donkey Kong Country, David Wise, again. Well, he’s back in action, working alongside the established duo to bring his own unique flavor to the score for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and we’ve caught some words with him about the project.