Denpa Ningen no RPG Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
While Hitoshi Sakimoto's Basiscape are traditionally known for dense orchestral RPG scores and blistering shooter soundtracks, they have produced a number of light-hearted works over the years. Foremost among them are Opoona, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance,, and Kumatanchi all quite delightful for different reasons. Their latest deviant work is Denpa Ninpen no RPG (aka Electromagnetic Men's RPG) a bizarre downloadable RPG that has emerged as a best-seller on the 3DS. Having previous collaborated with developer Genius Sonority on 100 Classic Book Collection and Battle & Get! Pokémon Typing DS, the team knew what sorts of cutesy sounds to aim for. Yet while their score works in context, it struggles somewhat as a stand-alone soundtrack release...
Hitoshi Sakimoto's sole contribution to the soundtrack, "Denpa Ningen Theme", suitably sets the light-hearted tone for the soundtrack. It's more similar to the tunes featured on Touch! Generations, than Sakimoto's usual works, though plenty of the composer's eccentricities are still evident here. The track is totally dominated by a silly, unconventional, somewhat squealing melody presented on warped synthpads. The backing comprises little more than a few xylophone motifs, while the loop sounds premature compared to the composer's usual works. It's bound to be divisive: some will find it catchy and endearing, while many others will find it superficial and annoying. Whatever the case, it's a pretty good fit for the miniature electro-magnetic men featured on the game.
Another central track, Azusa Chiba's "Denpa Island" conveys the tone of island life with its organic palette and bumbling progressions. It's much more developed and less obtrusive than the main theme, yet just as hummable. Tracks such as "Ferry Wharf", "Shop", and "Denpa Ningen's Theme" present the same melody in different moods and styles; while the first fills the track with danceable beats, the latter curiously synchronises the theme with Sakimoto's own. These track can grow repetitious on the soundtrack release and may have benefited from a more polished synthesis. Nevertheless, the thematic continuity certainly helps to bring the game to life. The ending theme, too, nicely integrates the soundtrack together: though the release was composed by six people, plenty of attention was given to establishing a cohesive sound.
Indeed, the other composers of the soundtrack generally build on the stylistic approach of the main themes to colour the various scenes in Denpa Ninpen no RPG. Once it gets going, Kimihiro Abe's "Theme of the Forest" proves one of the most detailed and interesting of all the tracks here; it nicely combines the familiar theme and light-hearted mood of the soundtrack with dreamy impressionistic elements. Other spell-binding scene-setters include "Ice World" and "Remains of the Darkness", both of them gradated by the company's most subtle composer Mitsuhiro Kaneda. And while the overall tone of the soundtrack is light, tracks such as Masaharu Iwata's "Scorching Land" and "Wilderness" certainly introduce some darkness and drama to the soundtrack, without ever losing the underlying cutesy tone.
The main problem with the soundtrack is that it walks a thin line between being charming and being annoying. The in-your-face melodies of the main theme aren't the only divisive features to confront the audience here. There's also the warbling synth lines of "Antenna Tower", persistent timpani rolls of "Tower of the Demon King", and devilish arpeggios of "Scorching Land" to put up with. Though many will come to love such unusual additions, quite a few others will find them hideous. Even "Battle" and "Boss Battle" are spectacularly deviant, taking the upbeat circus-style approach of Opoona to the extreme; they certainly brighten up the game, but again will be too much for others. For those that last long enough, "Great Demon King" might well induce seizures revisiting the main theme in a hyperactive, extra-screechy version.
Love it or hate it, there's nothing quite like the Denpa Ninpen no RPG Original Soundtrack out there. The composers all used the novel scenario and light-hearted mood as an opportunity to experiment. Many of the pieces they produced are quite 'out there' and many ideas come across haphazard. The result will either be intolerable or delightful, depending on the listen; there won't be much of a middle ground here. Regardless, listeners should be very cautious about purchasing this soundtrack at 2200 JPY, it is priced excessively for a 80 minute digital album. Check out samples first and, if you like it enough to spend this sort of money, take the plunge.
Overall Score: 5/10