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Hanjuku Hero VS 3D Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dave

Hanjuku Hero VS 3D Original Soundtrack Album Title: Hanjuku Hero VS 3D Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube
Catalog No.: SSCX-10095/6
Release Date: June 25, 2003
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


The Hanjuku Hero VS 3D Original Soundtrack was Nobuo Uematsu's first solo non-Final Fantasy work since DynamiTracer, composed a whole eight years previously. Though the tracks sound like SNES sound quality due to Hirosato Noda's synthesizer operating, this was his intention, as the score is meant to sound light and have a pastiche feel to it that makes it reminiscent to the previous two Hanjuku Hero scores. The album contains a bonus disc, which features the Hanjuku Hero Original Soundtrack, composed in 1988 by Uematsu, but this is only available in the limited addition album. As this was only a promotional album, it is near impossible to get hold of it, but since it is a noteworthy score historically, I have made a separate review of it. Like the Hanjuku Hero Original Soundtrack, the Hanjuku Hero VS 3D Original Soundtrack is a blast from the past, but it is actually very new!


The first track on the album, "Fight! Hanjuku Hero," is a wonderful vocal melody composed by Nobuo Uematsu and arranged by Michio Okamiya. The track is action-filled, and despite its repeated melody, it can certainly be classed as a classic. The great thing about the track is that it contains a section of child vocalists too. Not only does this give the track a unique feel, it also creates the required light-hearted and cute effect too. Tracks as jolly as this aren't hard too find on the album, and this isn't surprising when Uematsu is the man behind it. "Peaceful Kingdom" is yet another extremely fun track to listen to, and this is due to its simple melody, harmony, and development. SNES-like bleeps litter this track to give it an even more authentic feel. "Kingdom Conditions Monthly" and "Byebye Party" also bring us joy, but the best tracks for this effect have to be "Honkey Tonkey Fantasy" and "Barrage Ring Battle." "Barrage Ring Battle" is extremely fast paced, and its melody slides up and down in pitch. Although the track is short, it is an interesting addition to the soundtrack nonetheless. "Honkey Tonkey Fantasy" begins with a two second phrase cut from Uematsu's standard bass line for his battle tracks in the Final Fantasy series. The track then bursts into an extremely well-written piano melody which has been written in a straight jazz style. The accompaniment livens up around the 0:22 mark where there is a rising descant and an organ suddenly comes in to give us suspended chords. The track is near the end of the album, and it is a perfectly written theme which has a beautiful second section added to it.

Jazz proves to be a main influence on this album. "44 Rock" contains a typical 12-bar blues bass line, and everything builds up nicely around it too. Screaming vocals come in at some points, and again we are faced with some originality. "Sad Egg" is another jazz fuelled track, which isn't really centred around the upbeat part of the genre, but rather the evocative Bluesy side. Trills, chromaticism, glissandos, and raw piano emotion are all key features of the track, and the sad melody is given a wonderful edge through this. Another expressive track is Michio Okamiya and Uematsu's "Without Yolk...," which is a wonderful vocal track sung by Kazuko Hamano, one of the few male vocalists to have worked on a VGM album. The piano in this track is filled with powerful chords and plenty of acciaccaturas too. The best part has to be the improvised guitar section, which just seems to bring out the beauty of Hamano and his backing singers without any flaws. The title still remains an unexplained mystery, however, although there seems to be an egg-like theme running (pardon the pun) through the album. The overall effect of these tracks is one of pride, beauty, elegance, and variety, which in essence is what the jazz genre is all about.

Battle tracks are easy to come by on this album, and there are plenty of good ones too. "Battle in a Distant Land" is a simple, yet awe-inspiring battle track, which seems very jolly at first, but as the accompaniment turns more industrial, we can just see that this is Uematsu's way of representing an important battle. "Digital Predator" is the next obvious instalment, and the melody is just as classic as the previous track. The accompaniment makes the track seem almost joyous, but we know it isn't through the title and the ominous organ introduction to the track. The main melody is played on an extremely distorted keyboard, which gives it a somewhat shaken edge. The pace of this track gives the image of a battle perfectly, and it's certainly a track that easily entices any Uematsu fan. It is amazing how Uematsu manages to give off scents of hope, fumes of danger, and clouds of pride through such a simple melody. The peppy "Bad Egg Battle" and the industrialised "Alien Tribe Song" are each contrasting battle themes; although "Bad Egg Battle" is upbeat and jolly, "Alien Tribe Song" is dark, mysterious, and threatening. Again, this shows Uematsu's skills in creating similar images, but with entirely different techniques.

The more extreme battle tracks come later on in the album, and the earliest of which is "Conquest Prelude ~This Boss Music is Ritardando~." It is filled with suspense, and the agonising melodic rises just make the track seem all the more threatening. Minor chords strike every now and give a perfect image of the surroundings. However, this track is nothing in comparison to "Unreasonable Battle," which is a fast-paced, apprehensive track played when you fight the Emperor from the Fourth Dimension. There is nothing better than the jazz organ in this track, and with a simple repeated bass line added, this becomes one of the most effective battle tracks on the disc. The track which immediately follows this is "Fight ~From Anger to Courage~." This battle track is composed in the style of a march, and it features a grand version of the melody from the epic "Battle in a Distant Land." Not only does this create nostalgia for the listener, but it also gives them a vibe for success. This track is grandiose in every manner, so one knows that the battle is going to be won, or has at least been won. There are no upsets in these themes, and this is no surprise, as Uematsu is a master when it comes to battle themes.

Despite the album's light and cheesy exterior, dark tracks are plentiful, and this doesn't consider battle themes either. "Beyond the Quality" is a great example of this, and it contains a melody from the aforementioned "Digital Predator." The march-like bass line gives a feeling of suspense to the track, and this is further increased by tremolo strings above it. Although the tremolo strings aren't as impressive as in "Dangerous Dirty Drive -3D-," the overall effect is still a good one. "Dangerous Dirty Drive -3D-" is yet another dark track, which again uses the melody from "Digital Predator." This time the moody feel of the track is portrayed by the aggressive organ part which plays, and this sounds extremely ominous against a usually jolly 3/4 beat. "Fourth Dimension Emperor" is another atmospheric track, and it comes just before "Unreasonable Battle," which we have discussed already. The good thing that this track holds, which none of the others contain, is the element of surprise. Sudden orchestral hits make the situation seem a lot more tense than it may really be.

The album ends with five superb tracks. "Fina~le DE Battle" has to be among the better tracks on the album. Not only does it contain a wonderful saxophone part, but it also features a nice rasping trumpet too. The track is only short, and it fades away nicely into the "Hanjuku Marching Song." This is an extremely fun march, which has plenty of solo vocal passages and a mass of development. The end of the track is so much more action-filled than the start of it, yet we don't notice the build up as we listen to the track, as the gradation is so subtle. It ends in a very strange fashion, with a collection of voices shouting out in success. The next track "Next Week's Hanjuku Hero" gives the impression that the Hanjuku Hero series was written for the cinema, as the organ used is typically cinematic. This track is simple, but it acts as a wonderful end to this impressing album. The last track "On the Line..." is an arrangement of Uematsu's "Memoro de la S^tono" from the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack. Again, it is a simple rendition, yet it suggests that the story will carry on, and perhaps another game will come out.


This is perhaps one of the most interesting soundtracks that I have heard for a while. Even the filler tracks are enjoyable and there are also two surprising reprises from famous classical works. The first, "Symphony of Despair," is a rendition of the the 1st Movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony in "Symphony of Despair," while Chopin's Funeral March has been arranged rather nicely in "I Hear a Voice Telling Me to Relax." No tracks lack substance on this album, and with there being epics on both discs, we can see that it is evenly spread as well. The best tracks are "Digital Predator," "Without Yolk...," and "Hanjuku Marching Song," though there are plenty of other tracks that range from 'above average' to 'very good'. Although a lot of the tracks seem simple and cheesy, this is a style which is totally unique to the game, as is the use of SNES style synth, which Noda has done an extremely good job recreating. While this album is not recommended for anyone who is looking for an orchestral masterpiece or is looking for a mostly dark and serious score, for those who are looking for a lot of variety and quite a bit of light-heartedness along the way, it is recommended. While Uematsu's compositions are extremely different to most of his Final Fantasy compositions, meaning it probably won't appeal to many people accustomed to those scores, it shows he is certainly no one-trick pony and succeeds in showing Uematsu can do non-Final Fantasy music very well, too.

Overall Score: 9/10