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Hototogisu Ran Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Hototogisu Ran Original Soundtrack Album Title: Hototogisu Ran Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Yellow Tune Tracks
Catalog No.: YTTA-1003
Release Date: October 22, 2008
Purchase: Download at iTunes


The long-awaited follow-up to a cult favourite on the NES, Hototogisu Ran is a samurai card game released on the PSP in Japan. The soundtrack for the title was composed using a blend of orchestral and traditional instruments by Kennosuke Suemura and Saori Kobayashi. The Hototogisu Ran Original Soundtrack features all music from the PSP game and, as a bonus, the NES game too.


The main artistic highlights of the soundtrack are the original compositions created by Saori Kobayashi. The composer creates four compositions to reflect the changing townscape in the different soundscapes. In each case, she blends world and orchestral instrumentation in a scenic and thought-provoking manner. Particular highlights include the dancelike woodwind frolics of spring's "Cherry Blossom Brilliance" and the moody timbral explorations of autumn's "Moonlit Autumn Night". Each of these compositions is as colourfully shaped and extensively developed as the next, demonstrating that Kobayashi wants her compositions to be as artistic as they are functional.

While much of the soundtrack is soft, there are plenty of action-packed pieces on the soundtrack. The three tracks used during the battle screen are full-blown orchestral works featuring a leaning towards modernist composers. It's interesting how these tracks shift in mood from the 'even match' status to 'disadvantage' or 'advantage' in an interactive manner. The various compositions used in the simulation screen are also effective, whether representing a heroic drive or an incoming army. However, they at times rely too much on military clichés to be as individual as the other highlights. There are also a few brief functional tracks used during certain events, most of which are unnotable with the exception of "Party by the Meandering Stream".

Kennosuke Suemera actually opens the soundtrack with an arrangement of the original Hototogisu main theme. He brings out the elegant shape and dramatic qualities of the melody with a cinematic orchestration. Yet while serviceable, the orchestration is let down somewhat by its somewhat heavy-handed treatment and brass samples. Another centrepiece of the score is "Wings", the ending theme featuring Mai Iida. Quite predictably, it is a pop ballad intended to appeal to the sentimental and reflective out there. However, it's certainly better than most of its sort with its expressive melody, beautiful performance, and robust instrumentation. The wails of Koichi Hiroki's are an especially welcome touch.

The album also exclusively features the complete soundtrack for the NES' Hototogisu by Ikuko Mori. The main highlight is the aforementioned "Opening", a very enchanting dance-like tune between the distracting sound effects. The elegance of the composition still comes across in its 8-bit form here, though some still may wish to stick to the orchestral version. The three municipal compositions are also enjoyable with their stately classical influence, though lack the richness of Koichi Sugiyama and Kentaro Haneda's equivalents from the same era. There are a few stinkers, including "Siege" with its awkward dissonances and "Battle" with its plodding bass line, but the rest are serviceable enough.


Thanks to Saori Kobayashi, the majority of the music on Hototogisu Ran proves interesting and emotional. The biggest flaw with the soundtrack is its segmented presentation. The soundtrack shifts from worldly meanderings to full-throttle action to sentimental singing to cutesy chiptunes rather suddenly. However, this diversity is also an advantage and ensures there is plenty to explore in this 50 minute release.

Overall Score: 8/10