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Bullet Soul Original Soundtrack :: Review by Don

Bullet Soul Original Soundtrack Album Title: Bullet Soul Original Soundtrack
Record Label: 5pb.
Catalog No.: FPBD-0177
Release Date: April 7, 2011
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Although 5pb have ported Cave shmups to the Xbox 360, Bullet Soul is their first original shmup. Released as a bonus with the game, the soundtrack features composer Kenji Ito and arrangers Kohta Takahashi and Noriyuki Kamikura. It is a rock driven soundtrack that definitely showcases Kenji Ito's ability to craft strong melodies. How does it compare to some of the classic shmup games in today's market?


Approximately half the soundtrack's substantial themes are arranged by RESONATOR, the duo of Kenji Ito and Kohta Takahashi. The opening theme, "Cold Blue Pendulum," featuring Akiko Hasegawa on vocals, introduces the overall soundscape of the soundtrack. Her voice goes quite well with the synth rock focus of the underlying music, and although short, the theme manages to leave a pretty strong impression.

The stage one theme, "Relentless Force," is an intoxicating blend of synthesizer and electric guitar with an extremely catchy melody, one of Kenji Ito's strongest points. The A section is comprised primarily of synthesizer work while the B section intensifies with the introduction of an electric guitar melody. Although not as strong as the other stage themes, it manages to cast an aura of battle. The boss theme, "Rampant Militarism," features a very militaristic approach, especially with the orchestral accompaniment. However, the key factor of this theme is the electric guitar at times. At times, it's used as an accompanying device, providing heavy guitar riffs, while during others, it's providing piercing leads and strong melodies. Overall, it's a wonderful blend of synthesizer, orchestra, and rock soundscapes.

The second stage theme, "Dreadful Atmosphere," opens up quite ominously with intense percussion, but quickly transforms into an upbeat theme dominated by catchy synth leads with orchestral harmonies and subtle rock accompaniment. It definitely screams Romancing Saga to me, especially once the B section hits and the electric guitar comes into the forefront of the melody line. This is definitely one of my favorite RESONATOR stage themes. Lastly, "Three Opposers," the third stage theme, also has an RPG inspired sound, particularly in the accompanying bass line. The melody is quite strong, pulling some motifs from "Relentless Force," and, as always, the B section that introduces the electric guitar into the mix is a powerful show of force and really elevates the music quite well. Of course, the A section, which is more orchestral and synthesizer focused manages to set up the soundscape quite well. In the end, this is another stunning theme by Kenji Ito and Kohta Takahashi.

The other portion of the substantial themes is handled by Noriyuki Kamikura, of Basiscape, as the primary arranger. Whereas the themes arranged by RESONATOR focus on a blend of synthesizer and electric guitar, Kamikura's remixes are dominated heavily by the use of electric guitar. The main menu theme, "Stirring Movement," showcases this from the start. It's an extremely catchy theme that focuses on some slick electric guitar work with some beautiful orchestral harmonies. Despite being a main menu theme, it manages to create a powerful atmosphere throughout its entire length.

The fourth stage theme, "Dusted Battlefield," is an exhilarating ride full of intense guitar work, beautiful orchestral harmonies, and slick synthesizer work. There is definitely a feeling of heroism felt in this theme, particularly during the synthesizer sections, while the guitar leads and solos are reminiscent of a Romancing SaGa battle theme combined with Kamikura's arrangement style on Lord of Vermilion II. The best stage theme, in my opinion, is the last one, "Impregnable Fortress." This combines Kenji Ito's infectious melody with soundscapes reminiscent of both Lord of Vermilion games. The guitar shreds kick ass and lead into some of Kamikura's most exhilarating melodic solos to date. The synthesizer sections also have a sinister nature to them, reminding me of an updated Castlevania sound at times. In the end, it's an intense ride that easily caters to the strengths of both Kamikura and Ito.

In addition to the last two stage themes, the two final boss themes are also given the Kamikura treatment. Although the stage themes were reminiscent of Kenji Ito battle themes, "Wicked One," the first final boss theme, is definitely an Ito battle theme. It's sinister, exhilarating, intoxicatingly catchy, and really manages to capture the air of battle through its use of orchestral, synthesizer, and electric guitar soundscapes. While it isn't as intense as some of the last boss themes from other games in this genre, it manages to impress with its beautiful harmonies and complexity. The true final boss, "Fierce Fighting," is similar in approach, however, it's definitely a much more intense affair. Powerful guitar work, speed metal percussion, a slight gothic air heard in the organ, and an intense tempo and, while not as complex as "Wicked One," it manages to capture the tense air of a final battle.

The end of the soundtrack also features a bonus remix by chiptune artist, KPLECRAFT, entitled "Bullet Soul 8bit arrange." In essence, it's a medley of a variety of themes, though the focus is definitely put on "Relentless Force," essentially the main theme of the game. KPLECRAFT manages to create some wonderful 8bit harmonies and rhythms that really cater to the original themes strengths. Overall, it's a slick and sexy tribute to Kenji Ito's soundtrack and really manages to showcase why KPLECRAFT is considered one of Japan's renowned chiptune artists, even if I've heard better arrangements from him on other albums.


When this game was first announced, I was honestly quite surprised to hear that Kenji Ito would be responsible for the game's core music. This isn't because I don't think he is an accomplished composer, because he is — especially when it comes to creating exquisite and catchy melodies — but because I don't imagine Kenji Ito as a shmup composer. With the help of Kohta Takahashi and Noriyuki Kamikura, the soundtrack manages to impress, especially on the melodic side, due to their unique interpretations of Kenji Ito's base music. While it isn't as strong a listening experience as some of the other shmup soundtracks in today's market, it does manage to stand out due to the Kenji Ito's compositional style. It's definitely worth a listen and an exhilarating one at that. For his first shmup soundtrack, I think he did a very good job and if it leads to future shmup scores, I'll be looking forward to seeing how Kenji Ito manages to refine and evolve his sound.

Overall Score: 8/10