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Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1 :: Review by Chris

Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1 Album Title: Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1
Record Label: Pony Canyon
Catalog No.: D28B-0012 (CD); 25P5-0012 (Tape)
Release Date: January 21, 1989
Purchase: Buy at eBay


During the late 1980s, Irem released a large number of albums of variable worth. One of the most significant of these is Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1, which features the scores for three arcade games released in 1988 and a bonus arranged medley. The album features music from the ninja action title Ninja Spirit, the New York beat 'em up Vigilante, and the alien space shooter Image Fight. While a fine compilation, not all the featured music is worth one's time or money.


Masahiko Ishida's score for Ninja Spirit offers some interesting twists on Irem's typical sound. For example, the first stage theme "Theme from Butsuzo" is largely dominated by the punchy bass-heavy stylings typical of the soundtracks from the R-Type series. However, the tonalities are inspired more by traditional Japanese music and add a distinctive ninja feeling. Among other additions, "Forest" presents an extensive ethereal melody above the typical funk riffs, while "Behind The Wind" is quite climactic with its urgent riffs. However, easily the most enjoyable addition to the entire soundtrack is "Dark Blue", an old-school rock anthem more reminiscent of the battle themes of Square's RPGs. Despite these strengths, the soundtrack generally isn't elaborate enough to be an especially pleasing listen, lasting less than 20 minutes and featuring many brief tracks, including the boss and ending themes.

While the score for Ninja Spirit is brief yet decent, Masato Ishizaki's music for Vigilante is mostly a dud. The first stage theme "Bad Company" captures the urban setting and cool character of the game with its funk licks, but features too dated synth and incohesive development to be enjoyable. The likes of "High Time" and "Last Mission" are a little more catchy, but still lack that special quality of other Irem hits. Perhaps the main problem with the score is its brevity, however, even compared with Ninja Spirit. There are no boss themes here, leaving just a few menu and storyline loops — all of which are dull and short — to pad out the final soundtrack. "Final Story" and "Enter Your Name" are a slightly more elaborate, but still superficial and underwhelming. Put simply, the score for Vigilante is simply too short, mundane, and at times unpleasant to be worth listening to.

After two mediocre releases, the score is redeemed by Masahiko Ishida's soundtrack for Image Fight. Tracks such as the first stage theme "Introduction" offer a much richer sound than Ninja Spirit and Vigilante with their improved synthpads and elaborate stylings. The samples still sounds quite primitive, given they are from a 1980s arcade game, but rarely are a detriment to the composer's intentions. Other tracks range from "Organic Zone" with its atmospheric blend of aseptic and expressive sounds, to "Theme from Factory" with its piercing licks and hard beats, or "Loose, Loose, Loose" with its more superficial pop-influenced melodies. However, easily the most exciting track is the beat-heavy final stage anthem. A number of menu, event, and boss tracks round off the release. While a lot of these tracks are too short to be of interest, most are serviceable in the game and the boss themes are particularly experimental.

There is a bonus arranged medley at the start of the release, spanning a whole 15 minutes. It revisits several iconic themes from the soundtracks for Ninja Spirit, Vigilante, and Image Fight in a pleasing manner. It also provides a wider tribute to Irem's music with its punchy opening based on R-Type's first stage theme, a portion dedicated to Moon Patrol, and even a few obscurities like Mr. Heli. In line with the originals, each theme is typically treated with blues guitar performances above funky bass lines and moody sound effects. While pleasant at first, the consistent and superficial stylings soon drag during the extended playtime. In addition, most tracks are presented in succession without really building towards anything, meaning parts of the medley drag, and the drum loop repeated throughout becomes especially irritating. Overall, a decent bonus but hardly remarkable.


Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1 does a good job consolidating three short separate soundtrack releases into a single album and includes an arranged track as an additional bonus. However, only one of the featured scores on the album is a must-listen and the others are relatively mundane. While excellent for its time, it may be better to avoid this album in favour of the more recently released Irem Retro Game Music Collection.

Overall Score: 7/10