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Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dave

Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: DigiCube
Catalog No.: SSCX-10007
Release Date: April 21, 1997
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack was composed by Takayuki Nakamura, one of Dream Factory's talents. Dream Factory were responsible for a number of games, including Tobal No. 1, Ehrgeiz, and Tobal 2, which were all published by Square. Although Nakamura wasn't one of the many collaborators and composers on the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack, he was considered to be a prime choice out of the huge selection, some of which were (and still are) extremely talented, namely Masashi Hamauzu and Noriko Matsueda. The great thing about this album is that it bares no relevance to the compositions on the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack at all. Nakamura went for a more original approach, and although pressurised to keep with the themes on the first game, he used his distinct own style to give it a bit more flavour. This flavour was much needed as Tobal. No.1 was flowing with diversity, a feat reached by eight Squaresoft composers. Despite a lack in diversity, this album was a strong one, and for such an early age in the history of game music, it is an impressive one, too.

Nakamura is now a freelance artist. His first known work came with the release of Grappler Baki: Baki Saidai no Tournament in 2000, later released in Europe as Fighting Fury. The Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack is considered to be one of his best solo works, and despite little activity recently, one hopes to hear more from him. Nakamura was blessed with having the opportunity to have worked on the first few Virtua Fighter games along with Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, as this experience was vital for his inspiration for this album.


Although Nakamura never directly copied a track from the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack or even took a single melody from the original, one thing he did do was to copy the styles of the composers involved. The first track for instance is almost a fusion of Mitsuda's and Hamauzu's style — each composer concentrates on having an effective bass line to let the melody flow over, with Hamauzu's more mechanical style easy to spot. Not all of the tracks are done in the style of Mitsuda or Hamauzu, as in fact most of the tracks fall into a selection of genres, with the most prominent being fusion, jazz, funk, and rock. This was a main feature on the original album, so effectively, Nakamura explores the whole variety of styles given to us from the original composers. However, this not all, as electronica is the main key. You won't find a track on the album which doesn't have an electronica style, much like in the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack. It's intriguing to see how each of the genres come together as one in a few tracks, especially ones where the melody is grossly developed. There are a great number of tracks like this throughout the album, and they will receive their justice later on in the review.

Takayuki Nakamura aims to show some impressive use of instruments on this album, as well as writing strong and exciting fighting themes, too. The first track which makes you think of a fight is "Beating Hard," not because of its name, but because of its rock style. It starts off with a distorted guitar riff to which a drum kit is added. Instantly, just through this, we can see how this is a dark situation, with the power of the riff giving the track an aura of importance. An overpowering electric guitar line is played over the riff, and its integration with the style of the track is perfect. This rock style is typical of most modern day battle themes, and as this album came out in 1997, it means that Nakamura was one of the first to introduce the style in its purest form to game music.

Nakamura uses the rock genre to his advantage on many occasions throughout this soundtrack, with "Beating Hard," "Hero's Looking Glass," and "A Crying Son" leading the way. The most effective however, is "Knee Drop," which is a fusion of rock and techno. It begins with an unforgettable synthesiser and drum introduction which leads us into an active guitar part. The synthesiser continues to jump around whilst chords are built up in the guitar parts. Development is an important feature in this track, and standing at 3:22 long, there is a lot of it, too. The first half of the track represents a fight growing, leading into the bowels of combat in the middle. The track grows superbly, leaking with pride, suspense, and need for success. I have to say, that the rock tracks on this album are amongst the most enhanced in the earlier days of the video game music world. The sound limitations had only just got better with the release of the PlayStation, and naturally the Tobal series was the first to flaunt its capabilities. The Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack was the first game score to feature live recorded sounds, and consequently, the Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack was one of its many followers — the solo in "Beating Hard" for example, is actually played by man, not computer. In comparison to the Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack, which was released at the same time, we can see that the Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack dominates over the ambiguous synth, and excels with its clear cut melodies.

Purity isn't hard to come by on an electronica album, as with the clear cut synthesiser melodies, straight bass guitar chords, and easy to hear solos, there is no disjunction in the track at all. The idea of purity links directly to the idea of ambience, which is another feature that the album does not lack. Hidden within the fusion, jazz, funk, and rock genres are some clear cut relaxing tracks which are great to chill out to. The first track "Tobal 2" is a great representation of this. It starts off with hydraulic pistons, soon to be played over by a high pitched fire wire synth instrument. Overall, the effect given out by the track is one of ambience and pride. This style is unique to Nakamura, yet it features a blend of other styles, too, with Mitsuda's later compositions being remarkably similar in places. "Amethyst" is another remarkably relaxing track, yet it features a less electronica based set of instruments. This adds a bit of diversity, also.

Moving on, there are a number of tracks which are certainly worth a mention, with the jazz genre being a lesser, yet important genre on the album. "H.N" is a fusion of jazz and electronica, and it features one of the most effective accompaniments on the soundtrack. The track is mainly built up around a selection of solos, yet a piano bass accompanied by other synth instruments and a drum kit, give it a great sense of structure. Similar to this is "The Origin No.5," which is more funk orientated than anything else. It has a rich bass, syncopation, and a dominance of 'on the beat' notes, too. However, although I find this piece to be harmonically interesting, I don't really see a lot coming from the melody. This is a track which lacks development, yet seems to get across the scene well, too. A final mention goes to the two ending tracks; "Tobal 2 1st Ending" and "Tobal 2 2nd Ending," the first of which is a passionate track, and the second a darker, more inspired track. They both hold a melody which has been passed throughout the album from "Tobal 2," the first track on the album.


This is one of those soundtracks which turns out to be better than the game itself. Naturally, the album tells a journey of success, but not just of the character in the game, but of Takayuki Nakamura, too. Although he doesn't quite reach the diversity reached by the eight composers who worked on the Tobal No.1 Original Soundtrack, Nakamura excels with his vast knowledge of rock, jazz, and fusion influences. Not only this, but he works these into an electronica genre, too, which is certainly a great feat. Doing this has meant that the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack and the Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack have that one thing in common; an electronica basis.

Electronica is still a developing style in the game music world, and unfortunately it has not yet received the respect it deserves. By definition, electronica is modern electronic music which is not necessarily designed for the dance-floor, but rather for home listening. That is perfect for a game, and a game music album. Certainly, this album proves to be a great listen, and although some tracks are a bit short of development, there aren't any tracks which drag out the main melody to a stupid limit. Due to this, I can really say that Nakamura impresses here, especially as he doesn't really set a foot wrong anywhere. The most admirable thing is how he chose to create his own melodies for the soundtrack, yet still managed to capture the essence of the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack.

On the whole, in comparison to the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack, I have to say I appreciate this score so much more. The diversity of the first seemed to ruin the impact it gave. Nakamura does well here by imitating the styles of only a few composers, namely Hamauzu and Mitsuda, enabling him to integrate his own distinct styles, too. He keeps his cool here to create one of the most influential electronica albums to date.

Overall Score: 10/10