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Metal Slug 3D Complete Box Soundtrack :: Review by George

Metal Slug 3D Complete Box Soundtrack Album Title: Metal Slug 3D Complete Box Soundtrack
Record Label: Scitron Digital Contents
Catalog No.: SCDC-00549
Release Date: September 6, 2006
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Metal Slug 3D was the first (and possibly last) venture of the Metal Slug franchise in the over-crowded "modern" three-dimensional video game realm. It was not a terrible game, but subpar in many aspects, primarily because of the year it was released. Fortunately, the game sticks to the typical Metal Slug fashion of having an amazing soundtrack, regardless of gameplay quality. Toshikazu Tanaka once again returns to score the music, and biblically improves over his stylistic orchestral approach from Metal Slug 4. This soundtrack was featured on the final disc of the Metal Slug Complete Sound Box, together with a bonus arrangement and an unused track.


I must address some of the issues before I start. First of all, there are 38 original tracks featured on the disc and, due to the cinematic approach to the score, it's predictable that there is going to be a lot of skippable material, or possibly filler, due to the in-context focus of most of the compositions. While none of the tracks I listened were bad or boring, they simply end up sounding slightly generic, and are easily overshadowed by the fantastic stage themes, clearly the most important bulk of the score... Which leads to the second problem: The tracks are often too short to be worthwhile stand-alone listening. There are some truly amazing composition here that would have benefited from a chance to develop and captivate even further the listener, but apparently contextual limitations prevent this. Still, despite these minor shortcomings, the soundtrack is a blast, no doubt about that. Now, on to the real deal...

"Start from Mountain Village" is the most jaw-breaking and awesome example of how Tanaka is versatile and capable of creating adrenaline-inducing, bombastic and energetic compositions regardless of musical genre or style. The man has showed in numerous occasions his capability to score with an orchestral palette, and fans should remember his good contribution to Metal Slug 4, but with this particular track, he manages to kick all amounts of ass. Simply put, the track is comprised of intense electronic percussion, electric guitars used for rhythm, and incredibly catchy and heroic orchestral motifs. The composition strikes from the go, and leaves a big impact since from the first listen. The track is also used as the first stage music, something that guarantees to ban the game for hazardous reasons, due to players' heads exploding from the sheer awesomeness of it all.

Speaking of awesome orchestral themes, "Desert Town" should ring familiar bells to Falcom fans. It starts with an intense blast of strings and electric guitars, and then it turns into a beautiful Spaghetti Western orchestral anthem that later surprises even more with a beautiful Jindo-esque (circa The Oath in Felghana) violin solo that gives to the theme a more melodramatic feel. Ultimately the track is very memorable, inspiring adventure and heroism while emotionally moving the listener. "Atmospheric Discharge" is stylistically similar, borrowing even the same anthemic Spaghetti Western motifs, but falls slightly short due to a generic and slightly predictable formula. It's still a great orchestral theme, nevertheless. Both tracks could have very well stood out in a Wild Arms score, and if you are not familiar with that series, that's definitely a compliment. Also, one of the most impressive compositions is without a doubt "Coal Mine Mark" with its fast and radiant string melodies and the fantastic adventure-inspiring trumpet melodies. Clearly, Tanaka can pull off some great orchestral action themes.

Still, the soundtrack features its fare share of rocking tunes too. "The South Pole" could have been very well used in Metal Slug 5, because of its focus on heavy guitars and stylistic similarities of Tanaka's own work for that game. The track is energetic and fast paced, featuring Tanaka's trademark guitar work but with a repetitive melodic pattern. "Out of Control" is much more intense due to its frantic guitar riffs and dramatic orchestral motifs. The composition is further developed with burning guitar solos and some cool synth leads, making the track really stand out despite its minimalistic approach. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the score. Even more interesting is "Be Headquartered in the City" that continues where Tanaka left with Metal Slug 4's best rock compositions. Keeping the militaristic orchestral motifs, rhythmic guitar riffs and electric percussion is a surefire key to enjoyment at least for once, but Tanaka makes the composition intricate enough to satisfy on each consecutive listen due to the fantastic and catchy melodies.

There are also some more ambient tracks featured in the score. "Coal Underground Ruins" is comprised of lyrical chorus chants, exotic percussion and various orchestral layers that are fantastic in-context and totally adequate for exploring underground marvels. Needless to say, it's less melodic in its approach, but still captivating due to the great instrumentation and atmosphere it creates. "Sink Under the Waves" falls into the same orchestral/ambience category, but it's much more slower, and features echoing piano notes and various synths to create an appropriate atmosphere for underwater exploration. Both tracks are fantastic in-game, but are less effective as stand-alone listens. Lastly, I feel the need to mention "Shout of Sadness" which is an hyper-epic final dungeon theme, full of chaotic choruses, swinging strings, heavy bass, organ melodies, and even some operatic female vocals in later sections. While it's not the best-executed of it's kind, it's still a unique and great contribution by our dear "Dencyu".


In the end, despite a slow and redundant start, the Metal Slug 3D soundtrack surprisingly "attacks" the listeners and heavily "damages" them when they least expect it. Fooling everyone that it would be just another generic orchestral video game score, the soundtrack manages to be very good in-context, and awesome out-of-context. Simply put, the stage themes are a real delight. While I would have preferred that most of the "demo" tracks were put at the bottom of the tracklist to guarantee a more satisfying listening experience, I can't complain much because of Tanaka's effective and enjoyable execution. In the end, the Metal Slug 3D soundtrack deserves to be enjoyed by every VGM lover. It's energetic, colorful, catchy, and even emotionally moving at times. A worthy end to the series' sound box.

Overall Score: 8/10