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Wangan Midnight Soundtrack :: Review by Dave

Wangan Midnight Soundtrack Album Title: Wangan Midnight Soundtrack
Record Label: Scitron Digital Contents
Catalog No.: SCDC-00188
Release Date: September 4, 2002
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


While also ported to the PlayStation 2, Wangan Midnight was originally designed to be played on an arcade machine; with the playing booth mimicking the insides of a car and the playing screen looking larger than life, the music had to be fairly impressive to at least complement the gameplay. The game's producers therefore did no wrong in hiring of Yuzo Koshiro.

Ever since his involvement in the game music industry, Koshiro has dabbled in a multitude of composing styles. This soundtrack graces many of these favoured styles, while taking the form of a bass-driven, yet melodically profound and carefully tailored, musical journey. Out with the old and in with the new? Why not have both?


The soundtrack opens with a perfect example of Koshiro's fusions throughout the album. Starting off as a graceful and melancholy piano melody, "Opening" soon blossoms into an impressive upbeat rock section. The best part comes in at the 1:18 mark, where listeners are greeted with a catchy bass and a Gothic choir, which both seem to glide together to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere. The other main example on the album that shows such a great blending of styles is "Ending." Starting off with dominant strings and a slow-building orchestral background, the piece slowly gains in power before leading into a piano concertino section. Soon enough, though, Koshiro adds rampant horns and brass to lead the piece to an emphatic close. Clearly, the ideas of development, movement, and transitional phases are the key reasons as to why these tracks work, and the further the album progresses, it becomes apparent that these aren't cases in isolation, either.

"Hiramoto Tokita's Theme" marks the start of a number of cases where development of the melody really makes or breaks the track. This is certainly amongst the best themes on the album, and this is due to how far the track is actually allowed to transform. Starting off as a bass-driven euphoric piece, the main melody first appears at the ten second mark, playing without any real bass accompaniment. The melody is high-pitched and mechanical in nature, and when the harmonies finally come in, everything seems to work, as if they were meant to be together like driver and car. The final product is profound, and will probably give you the extra push to select Hiramoto Tokita as your driver.

The following track, "Keiichi Aizawa's Theme," however, is a perfect candidate for when a theme is breaks down at a wrong turn. Forgive the pun. This theme, in all seriousness, could have been the best theme on the album, if it weren't for the hideous transitional phase that jumps out at the 0:50 mark. After fifty seconds of blissful piano and electric guitar development, Koshiro attempts to create a bridge section with nothing other than a rock organ and a tambourine. Although a lot is actually made out of this diversion from the original theme in the end, I doubt that many fans will appreciate the uncomfortable lack of substance that is at first offered. The tambourine hardly complements the rock organ, which, in turn, actually only plays two or three chords. At least Koshiro didn't let the tank run totally dry though, since the organ finally gains a melody and more instruments are eventually added to raise the roofrack.

The majority of the other character themes are pretty impressive, and they can often be grouped in pairs in terms of structure and atmosphere. "Reina Akikawa's Theme" and "Jojima Tokita's Theme," for instance, each use a similar formula by focusing more on creating a passive atmosphere through minimal change in both style and instrumental variety. It's interesting to note, however, that the same atmosphere is created in each through this technique, despite the fact that the former is classically-oriented and the latter is rock-centred. "Masaki's Theme" and "Takayuki Kurogi's Theme" are the next two pieces that can be twinned — each theme is upbeat and joyous in nature, and, to add to the atmosphere, the melodies are each allowed to run riot. These two pieces highlight how important bass structure is, and perhaps how this helps to give the album its unique character. The last 'character' themes to be paired together are "Akio Assakura's Theme" and "R200CLUB Theme." These differ from the others, since they are two of the more ominous tracks on the album. Koshiro creates this effect by creating an almost march-like rhythm, while ensuring that the entirety of the piece remains in the minor key. Not every racer's a nice chap — Dick Dastardly, anyone?!

The majority of the darker themes on the album represent the background music to either cut scenes or loading screens within the game. "Car Selection" and "Intrusion Waiting Mode BGM" each have a similar feel. Each theme is fairly daunting and slow-paced, which may come as a surprise since selecting the car should perhaps seem to be a fun activity. Both of these themes seem a little out of place on the album, but the chances are that they will work pretty well in the context of the game. Even so, the two "Enemy Car Theme..." tracks, both just as daunting as the two previous tracks, work very well within the album. I feel that the blend of techniques already used in the more upbeat tracks on the album (e.g. the pumping bass rhythms and rocketing melodies) with an original atmosphere are the main reasons why these two themes excel over "Car Selection" and "Intrusion Waiting Mode BGM," despite offering a similar atmosphere overall.


Overall, this is a fairly impressive album. Yuzo Koshiro uses a wide variety of musical styles and techniques to ensure that the ride is worth the money. There are very few problems that can be pointed out about the album, and hence it actually lies with your own judgement as to whether or not you like the sounds of a soundtrack that explores both rock and classicism, with a touch of bass prominence. The likelihood is that if you enjoyed the trance and electronica tracks on the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2 Original Soundtrack, then you will love the majority of the bass driven themes on this album. I'd probably rank this album as average in comparison to what Koshiro has composed in recent, and past, years, but don't let that stop you from picking up this gem.

Overall Score: 7/10