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Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 1 & 2 Soundtrack :: Review by Inthesto

Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 1 & 2 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 1 & 2 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1361/2
Release Date: April 6, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Note: This review was originally written for our affiliate Chudah's Corner, where Inthesto is a staff member. Please visit their site some time if you enjoyed this review and want to read more from the Inthesto, who kindly allowed us to share this review.

There's something to be said about a genre of video games that really just consists of doing loops for minutes at a time. No, I'm not talking about Guilty Gear — that's not a genre in and of itself. Rather, I refer to racing games (as you may have guessed from the review page you're reading), probably the one thing I never figured out beyond the gimmicky Mario Kart games. You're in a car, you accelerate, and you try to maintain maximum velocity so you can run around the track faster than your competitors. Sure, there are all the nuances such as banking curves, shifting gears, and staying on the road (something difficult enough for me out of simulation, I assure you), but I can't honestly say it's ever clicked with me. The only thing that really has managed to ever catch my attention are the soundtracks. Both Ridge Racer 4 and Gran Turismo 4 caught my ears, so when I saw this racing game with the name Yuzo Koshiro of Streets of Rage fame on it, I was caught dead. "Hook, line, and sinker," one might say.

When I listened to the very first track of this soundtrack, I think I nearly had a heart attack. I imagine I was going through my trance phase of listening to electronica, and the first track, "Entry (Maxi1 Version)", was about as typical as trance could get. It starts off with a kind of aimless hum of synthesizers and a very faint harmonic loop in the background. The melody starts a few seconds in with a simple bassline, and then the four-on-the-floor beat begins, entering the main body of the song. The music progresses as a normal trance track does, with two different styles of melody weaving in and out of each other and a short, beatless interlude somewhere in the middle. At this point, it would be natural for me to write about my initial reactions after hearing the first track, but this is where the first (and only, really) issue arises.

Remember how I was talking about racing games being just a continuous loop? Of course you do, that was only two paragraphs ago. If the racing game is just going down the same path three times in a row, then this soundtrack must be "the" racing soundtrack, because I felt like I was listening to the same track thirty-four times in a row, with a slight intermission to switch CDs. The reason why I didn't have an initial reaction after the first track ended was because I hadn't realized that the first track ended. It was roughly fifteen minutes before I temporarily snapped out of my IRC daze and said to myself, "Gee, this has been going on for awfully long now." I decided to backtrack and actively listen to each song I had missed, only to realize I didn't really miss anything.

Allow me to illustrate. Anybody familiar with the genre of trance ought to be familiar with the basic formula, to which I alluded previously. First, you have the beat, which is generally recognized as the "un-ss-un-ss-un-ss" that people imitate. Next are the synthesizers, which almost always sound like a multi-vocal chorus of tiny electric children. It's tough to describe, but once you're heard it, you can't mistake it for anything else. Then you have everything else inbetween, which is going to vary from piece to piece, but is hardly ever the focus of the song itself. Part of the reason why I stopped listening to trance so often is the partially-true accusation that it all sounds the same. Unfortunately, the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2 Original Soundtrack is especially guilty of this.

When writing a review like this, one of the best ways to get a point across is to use hyperbole. However, I only exaggerate slightly when I say that the only difference between two randomly selected tracks on this soundtrack is the first thirty seconds, if even that. Each track will open slightly different, although they nearly all follow the formulaic "start with harmonic and ambient buzz, introduce melody and beat slightly later." Once you're a minute into any given track, the difference is negligible. Sure, the actual composition of the melody of each track is different, and that is supposed to be the focus of trance in the first place, but I fail to see any sort of stylistic differences. Yes, some tracks such as "Fun-Loving Spirit" are more upbeat and happy, while tracks like "Highway Obsession" are slightly on the somber side, they still feel and sound like the same theme.

I suppose there would be two minor exceptions to the rule would be the tracks "This Is My Destiny" and "Nothing Can Live Forever," both suspiciously found towards the end of Disc Two, making me wonder what their functions in the actual game were. The difference between these wondertwins and the rest of the soundtrack is that they feature full-length vocals. Although I have a minor annoyance with the trend of a staple vocal track on every soundtrack, I can put it aside in this case. Vocal trance tends to be a beast entirely different from its instrumental cousin, as the melody is carried by a voice half the time, and the composition of the theme must be able to work around this. Due to this, both song demonstrate some more composing ability and ingenuity than the rest of the soundtrack, showcasing Koshiro's ability to build curious progressions around the voices. In spite of this, two tracks really don't carry two discs, which is something of a disappointment from Koshiro.

Very often, I have heard this soundtrack described as great "driving music." The trick here is that you really cannot actively listen to music while driving; doing so generally ends up with a car wrapped around a guard rail. As such, I'm inclined to wholly agree with such an assessment: this soundtrack really is just something you passively listen to, to let all the pretty synthesizers and cute melodies flow into one ear and out the other. After you start listening to the soundtrack, not once will you do a double-take where you go "Wow, that section was really awesome," or "Gee, this track is really lacking." It will all become one giant blur, because the style only changes twice. Individuals with little appreciation of trance will want to stay away from this soundtrack, as nothing else is to be found at all. Hardcore fans of trance, on the other hand, will probably eat this soundtrack up. I imagine DJs might be able to find something interesting to play with, and those of you who like to cruise for hours on end will have a new pair of CDs to add to your car's middle compartment. But really, unless you absolutely know you love the genre, hold reservations before buying this soundtrack. Hell, hold three.

Overall Score: 5/10