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Devil Crash / Alien Crush :: Review by Dave and Don

Devil Crash / Alien Crush Album Title: Devil Crash / Alien Crush
Record Label: Tokukan Japan
Catalog No.: TKCA-30097
Release Date: June 25, 1990
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Devil Crash / Alien Crush consists of 11 tracks and 53 minutes of arranged goodness from the Devil Crash and Alien Crush games published for the TurboGrafx-16. The fact such an album was made to commemorate pinball games seems bizarre, although its composer Toshiaki Sakoda did go on to achieve fame with projects on behalf of Sting and Compile. No less than five arrangers worked on this project, the most notable of which is Noriyuki Iwadare who composed for the Grandia series and much more. Considering the age of the CD, you may be surprised at how great the quality of the music is. This track-by-track review should hopefully give you some insight into what styles to expect in the album.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Opening Theme

Tetsuya Yoshikawa's "Opening Theme" is definitely amongst the best progressive rock pieces that I've heard in a video game album. The theme opens with a slowly moving choir which relaxes the listener before stirring them with a delicate acoustic guitar melody; each string is fingered to perfection, helping to create a picturesque aura enhanced by underlying instruments. Tranquility ensues as the theme proceeds, and at this moment one would assume that these subtleties and laid-back instruments would make up its entirety.

Assumptions should be placed to one side however, since the vivacious Devil Crash leitmotif used throughout the albumis soon introduced on some brasher instruments. The instrument that exposes this motif is a joyfully played keyboard, but it is mainly the guitar development which follows that inspires what happens later in the track. With a heavy drum kit in the background, the electric guitar undergoes an impressive amount of development as it rips out a solo based upon the main melody. A subsequent short solo on the keyboard occurs before all of the instruments come together to create a climax at the 4:20 mark, which is mid-way through the theme. When I first heard this climax, I wondered what could possibly come next — could there really be more development on top of this theme? Surely it must end or reprise the first section? Not just yet!

With an angelic glockenspiel sequence playing quietly in the background and a light drum beat reinforcing the metre, the track moves into a much smoother section. I find it akin to a section you would expect to find on a Pink Floyd album; a bold statement perhaps, but the same focus on the slow addition of instruments which underlie an airy electric guitar melody that we see here is one of the highlights of their music. This section represents the apex of the theme to me; although the Devil Crash leitmotif doesn't feature here, what we are presented with is melodic excellence at its finest, and the best thing is that it doesn't betray the rest of the theme. There's something about the electric guitar, its wailing melody, its transcendence, and its inspiring freeness which adds another level to the whole theme.

As this bridge section ends with a dramatic uplift, the 6:16 mark sees the rebirth of the Devil Crash leitmotif. The transition here works perfectly, even though the section sees a complete deviation in the atmosphere created. A synth instrument receives a vast amount of solo lines in this recapitulation and plays alongside the now heavier instrumentation. Accompanying this is the keyboard which was revealed earlier on in the track, and upon its return the track starts to reach its intended climax. This is, sadly, the worst part of the theme, since it creates an awful anti-climax. The ending sees a superfluous bass riff interact with what is now a skeleton of the original theme before ending on a suspended note. It's sad to see the track go wrong at such a late stage, but it's not bad enough to rid me of my own opinions of the excellence which preceded the fault. This is a near-perfect opening theme for the album, and it really raises expectations of what is to come later on. (9/10)

2) Devil Disco Crash

After the exhilarating "Opening Theme," the listener is treated to another audible delicacy, "Devil Disco Crash." Hiroshi Fujioka is able to blend so much into this one track that any more may cause brain haemorrhaging. As a whole, it is quite funky. The prominent percussion beat really emulates the disco feel, but doesn't detract from the piece at all. While it may seem dull to some, the initial section in which this plays helps to build up the track's true offerings. Mixtures of melodies are often intertwined and intermingled between the use of electric guitar and glockenspiel (or vibraphone, I'm not too sure). The electric guitar sections really help tie together the progressive rock theme this album adopted, while the use of the glockenspiel accounts for the semi-evil aura this track exudes. This track also features the "Devil" motif seen in "Opening Theme." While it does offer extended periods of just the bass line beat, which after a while can become quite repetitive, it is catchy enough to keep interest. On the whole, this track is a splendid addition to the soundtrack and is definitely worthy of a listen. (9/10)

3) Wizard

Chuji Nagaoka's "Wizard" is a track that offers quite a magical melody. While the main melody is definitely used often, there is enough variation to prevent it from fizzling out like a failed spell. This track is much more progressive rock oriented than "Devil Disco Crash" and it shows. The electric guitar, which in and of itself is an extremely strong addition to the track, serves as both the main melodic instrumentation as well as an accompaniment. To prevent the track from becoming too repetitive, the track also adopts a jazzy style for certain portions. The role of the electric piano plays this section and also creates a nice countermelody that adds a bit of contrast and development to the mainly rock atmosphere this track gives off. In the end, despite its semi-repetitive nature, "Wizard" casts quite a mesmeric spell. (9/10)

4) Dragon

"Dragon" is a track that starts off with promise, but in the end, can be compared to a dragon without wings. Tetsuya Yoshikawa's arrangement really fails to take off in any direction and is essentially a musical experiment gone awry. While the instrumentation is consistent with keeping the progressive rock theme of the album, it is implemented horrendously. It garners very little melodic development and can ultimately be described as a series of electric piano scales in the first half of the track, while distorted guitar riffs litter the latter half of the track. The only thing to which I give any commendable credit to for this track is the percussion beat. It manages to stay fresh, while the rest of the track couldn't produce the fire seen in the first three tracks. (5/10)

5) Devil

Following an awful track comes Hiroshi Fujioka's "Devil," an energetic wonder which ranks as one of my favourites on the album. The theme is built up mostly of guitars and drums, thus creating a splendid heavy metal environment. Ripping solos, dramatic phrases, and an awesome melody all come together to create what could be described as the most enjoyable theme on the album. It's not so much the melody which makes this track what it is, but rather the development and the interaction between the instruments; the bass riff provides an anchor for the melody, the second guitar whips around the main melody, and the head guitar creates the theme which keeps it all together. Don't get me wrong though: this track isn't just guitars, since there is a huge keyboard solo midway through it too! This change in instrumentation for the melody really brings it out so much more and makes the track a lot more creative through this. This is certainly a welcome theme on the album, and adds the fire which "Dragon" apparently didn't have. (10/10)

6) Skeleton

Despite boasting the second longest track time on the album, Chuji Nagaoka's "Skeleton" is a sleeper track. It lacks development, it doesn't inspire interest, and, ultimately, fails to offer anything unique. That said, the theme does see a dramatic turn in instrumentation; starting off with strings and written in a classical style, there is a change in direction as rock instruments are added. At their time of addition, this seems like an effective bit of development, but in reality it was what caused the death of the track. At first the funky bass and quirky running melody is a welcome, but by the end of the track it gets old due to a complete lack of development. I was disappointed with this theme, since I was hoping for something which was similar to "Opening Theme" in terms of development, originality, and style. (6/10)

7) Game Over

Also by Nagaoka, "Game Over" sees a bizarre mix between a slow rock beat and Hindustani flair. A resonating sitar line is the main carrier of the melody throughout the theme, yet it's interesting to see that the bass line is very funk-based. Unlike the majority of the themes on this album, "Game Over" actually loops halfway through, so in fact it is a relatively short piece. In this time, a fair bit happens, namely the interaction between the melody and the bass line. Through this quite a freakish atmosphere is created; the reverberating sitar creates a relaxed atmosphere, but the bass adds a touch of death to the scenario, thus creating a surreal image. The theme is enjoyable and certainly brings its own flair to the album, though it is unfortunately far from being one of the standout tracks on the album. (7/10)

8) Devil Crash Symphony

"Devil Crash Symphony" really diverges from the norm this soundtrack has established. A purely orchestral work, this track is the sole addition to the album from Noriyuki Iwadare. It is essentially split into an extremely upbeat section and a slow paced section, bridged together by the introduction of a keyboard solo. As such, the duality of this track prevents it from reaching its full potential. The first half of the track is really the more exciting and noteworthy of the two halves. By introducing the Devil Crash motif, it helps to tie the album together, despite its extreme shift in style. The instrumentation used here is effective at keeping the pace with its strong percussion, brass, and string usage. There is a nice transition involving the keyboard, as mentioned above, that really helps to convey an evil atmosphere. Sadly, the slower section detracts from the entire piece. While it was short-lived, it wasn't a wise decision to include it. By just utilizing the keyboard as a tension breaker between the two fast paced sections, the track as a whole would have benefited much greater. (8/10)

9) Lunar Eclipse

Mitsuhiro Saito's "Lunar Eclipse" is another favourite of mine on the album: it's energetic, holds a fantastic melody, and has an effective development. The melody is really taken places throughout the track and, once more, this is achieved by each separate instrument receiving its own development section. At the forefront of the theme, stunning guitars let the melody rip and flow, and later on in the theme there is an appearance by the same keyboard which opened the theme. Overall, it is the way that the instruments interlink which make this such a good theme. The buoyancy of the transitions between the parts wonderfully maintains the energy. (9/10)

10) Demon's Undulate

Tetsuya Yoshikawa's final contribution, this track has its strength and weaknesses, both of which lie in the use of its instrumentation. The introductory organ motif is a fantastic way to start the track, and really sets the atmosphere for the remainder of the track. However, the beat that comes afterwards, to complement the mysterious natural sound of the woodwinds, is extremely dull and even manages to rip off the "Jaws" theme. Once this hurdle is overcome, the track really gets interesting. It is able to maintain the mysterious aura seen in the first part of the track but also manages to emphasize a sense of sinisterness. This section is also where the track name really comes into play. As the name implies, this track undulates between the high pitch of the violin, piano, and guitar and the low pitched bass line accompaniment. Because of this, the track is very well developed and becomes quite an interesting listen, even if not for everyone. (8/10)

11) Devil Crash Heavy Metal

Mitsuhiro Saito's "Devil Crash Heavy Metal" concludes this album with another incorporation of the Devil Crash motif. The instrumentation used is reminiscent of heavy metal, but by implementing some non-typical instruments, such as the synth piano and vibraphone, it really helps add a hint of originality to the track. The basic guitar riffs and percussion help to push the track along while the use of an electric piano really helps to speed up the melody of the track. The use of the vibraphone really helps to add the originality aforementioned. What I like the most about this track is how all the instruments are able to blend together so cohesively that there really aren't any flaws to be heard. This track makes for a stunning concluding track that really ties together the main theme of this album, as well as concludes the album on a high note. (9/10)


Devil Crash / Alien Crush is an extremely interesting album as a whole. While mainly progressive rock, it does offer a few tidbits into other styles, such as orchestral- and Egyptian based themes. In the end, what does this album have that would warrant a purchase? It's extremely effective at developing a theme and introducing it throughout the album, it offers an old school feel to the compositions, and most importantly, it is quite unique. While there is the occasional bad egg, this album is a nice listen.

Overall Score: 8/10