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Gyakuten Kenji Original Soundtrack :: Review by Angela Liu

Gyakuten Kenji Original Soundtrack Album Title: Gyakuten Kenji Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer
Catalog No.: CPCA-10204/5
Release Date: June 24, 2009
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


Gyakuten Kenji, or Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, as it will be known outside of Japan, marks a significant deviation on Capcom's part. It's the company's first game-based title in their successful lawyer visual novel adventure series to break away from the main formula set forth by its "Saiban" predecessors. Along with a shift in profession, where we're now placed in the classy, wing tipped shoes of prosecutor Miles Edgeworth (Reiji Mitsurugi in his native land), gameplay changes include a greater emphasis on investigation phases, while court proceedings are for the most part dropped for on-the-scene "Confrontations", the newly-christened term for what's fundamentally the cross examinations. With these radical departures, just how far does this extend to the game's musical spectrum?


To begin, one very transparent change is the choice of composer. Capcom has elected, at least partially, to throw out their once traditional practice of introducing a new composer to each successive title, opting instead to bring back someone from prior. Noriyuki Iwadare may, to some degree, claim veteran status, having contributed to Gyakuten Saiban 3, as well as penning arranger credits for the bulk of the Orchestra and Jazz albums. In many ways, he has become the public face of the Ace Attorney music series, having entered in and out of the realm more than anyone else. It might prove a feasible choice, then, to have him return for Kenji; he brings along familiarity, crucial for connecting longtime listeners to this new endeavor. Which isn't to say he's alone; Iwadare is joined by a newcomer, Yasuko Yamada, whose prior works include Taito developed games such as Bubble Symphony and Don Doko Don. Being able to accurately credit each individual track becomes difficult however, as the CD booklet makes no attempt to do so, instead leaving it up to the listener to make out the 'isms' of each composer for themselves. Those with good ears will undoubtedly be able to make out the distinction; as for myself, I hear Iwadare's inner workings more often than not, but the collaboration is still so tightly knit that the pair manages a fine, cohesive whole.

Kenji rides on a wave of jazz sensibilities, stronger still than what the series is usually known for. A heavier emphasis on piano is prevalent, a sound conceivably chosen to portray the elegance of main protagonist Miles Edgeworth. It's a choice instrument, serving as both lead and harmony in equal measure, keeping the soundtrack's identity steeply grounded. The music itself has instant magnetism on its side — highly melodic, generally upbeat, and thematically catchy, all traits I commonly attribute to Iwadare's own Gyakuten Saiban 3, than, say, the more eccentric trappings of GS2 or the darker, dismal tonality of GS4.

Structurally, Kenji shares a lot in common with its musical predecessors. We run the gamut of staple pieces that has always been featured in the original Saiban series, including the Turnabout chapter intros, Investigations, Tricks/Logic, and Victory and Save Jingles. Despite the sparse presence of a courtroom setting, the entire suite of 'battle' themes are also covered, which includes Examination (again dubbed Confrontation), Confess the Truth, Objection!, and Pursuit. They're all contextually befitting, and frankly, makes me even more anxious to lay the verbal smackdown in the game itself.

Character themes, like in Gyakuten Saiban 3, are plentiful, lending further texture to an already colorful score. There are several instances where Akemi Kimura's "Great Revival" piece from Gyakuten Saiban 2 is reprised, the theme long since designated for Edgeworth. Understandably, this serves as the thematic foundation for much of the soundtrack, its melodic strains showing up in numerous themes, including the self-titled "Great Revival 2009" and "Objection! 2009". Some are interwoven more subtly, often to great effect, such as in "Reproducing the Scene ~ The Gentleman Thief's Secret Weapon". Everyone's favorite bumbling detective, Dick Gumshoe, gets a long overdue arrangement in "Keisuke Itonokogiri ~ I Can Do It When It Counts, Pal!", and he is truly dashing in his slick new jazz coat. And then there's the return of the Blue Badger in "Taiho-kun March ~ Bando Land Theme", an arrangement so relentlessly triumphant when compared to its simplistically humble beginnings that it almost comes off as a farce piece.

"Mikumo Ichijo ~ The Great Truth Burglar" is the first of many new standout themes. Kay Faraday, as she will be known in the West, carries a hopelessly infectious tune, heavily drenched in traditional Japanese sound, but also laced with an equally modernized styling. Parallels drawn to the legendary Oo-edo Soldier Tonosaman (that's Steel Samurai to you and me) are inevitable, as they share the same catchy hooks and bombastic anime tonality. Immediately following is "Shiryu Rou ~ Speak up, Pup!", a theme designated for one of the new prosecutor rivals in the game. This one lays a coolly played blues syncopation on top of thick jazz, offering shades of Godot's Fragrance of Dark Coffee, but with an extra sheen of danger — quite appropriate for the character's badboy image. Conversely, "Ittetsu Badou ~ The Truth Isn't Sweet" drops in with a heavier funk flavor, lending credible weight to this new homicide detective. "Zinc White ~ Time is Money" has a decidedly Arabic flair, apt perhaps, for the artsy nature of the character - while "Wakana Shiraoto ~ Good Niiight", fluffy and flighty sounding as it is, fits the bill for a flight attendant's theme.


As the first entry in the Gyakuten series to boast two discs, this set appears to be a solid representation of the game's music. I've yet to play the game myself (my calendar is doubly-marked for the upcoming localized release), but spanning two discs, I'm assuming this is about as complete a score as one could hope. It's well mastered and loops appropriately too — points always worth mentioning. The sound quality, though I would conclude is a notch below the top-tier DS sound programming of Gyakuten Saiban 4 (particularly when it comes to the low fidelity in the bass channels), still impresses with a rich variety of instrumentation. All told, Gyakuten Kenji doesn't stray nearly as far from the formula as one suspects. It has all of the key ingredients for a comfortably familiar Ace Attorney score, yet it forges its own path in order to leave its own distinguished mark. A consistently enjoyable soundtrack, worthy of standing tall amongst its Saiban brethren.

Overall Score: 9/10