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Maximo Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Maximo Original Soundtrack Album Title: Maximo Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer
Catalog No.: CPCA-1058
Release Date: March 6, 2002
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


In 2002, the late American-based subsidiary Capcom Studio 8 successfully revived the classic Makaimura / Ghosts 'n Goblins series with the PlayStation 2's Maximo: Ghosts of Glory. Lacking in-house composers, they decided to hire experienced video game composer Tommy Tallarico to lead the music production. Tallarico opted to arrange and orchestrate Ayako Mori's iconic Ghosts 'n Goblins first stage theme in a variety of methods rather than produce entirely new music. Assisting Tallarico were orchestrators Todd Dennis, Shane Kneip, and Chris Rickwood, though none of them were keen on scoring the cinematic music for the game. Instead Capcom turned Taito employee Tamayo Kawamoto returned to the series after a 15 year absence to create five cutscene tracks. Capcom's record label released the complete score a few months after the game's release and, as an added bonus, the original score to the Arcade's Ghouls 'n Ghosts was included in an 8cm second disc. How did the release turn out?


"Opening Theme" sets the sinister yet goofy tone for the game with a mixture of ghostly orchestration and laid-back jazz work. The track firmly engraves the main theme into unfamiliar listener's minds with repetition of its component motifs at slow tempo. "The Boneyard Part 1" is even more clumsy than intended. The main section features descending trumpet renditions of the initial main theme and shallow flute trills against a repeating four note ascending scale on low strings. It goes on to repeat a five second jazz motif on brass despite the continued elephantine bass drum and low strings before finally moving into an underdeveloped passage bridging to the abrupt loop. "The Boneyard Part 2" is uniquely characterised by superficial changes such as an increased tempo, a constant timpani roll, and the transition into a poorly balanced quiet section featuring unexpressive synth vocals. As for the boss theme "Ghastly Gus ~ The Gravedigger", it's a prime example of clichéd and lifeless horror orchestration: yet more timpani rolls and punctuated strings repeat throughout, suspended vocals and strings dab in and out in the background, and the descending motif of the main theme is relied upon more and more in the relatively climactic sections.

Not all the themes here fall into the realms of silly horror orchestration. "The Great Dank Part 1" blends poignant melodies created with an electronic Arabian instrument with brisk Hollywood-influenced percussion and intermittent ethnic sounds such as the didgeridoo. "Graveyard of Ships Part 1" is reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean's action tracks with its gliding wind melodies and spine-chilling soprano vocals. Despite their respective strengths, neither of the themes are successfully arranged for their second parts; the increased focus on abrupt string motifs and the main theme make the alternative versions less fitting in the game and poorly individually characterised on a musical level. Even more disappointing are the boss themes — generic assemblies of slow and fast motifs that fail to evoke emotions in listeners despite their gloss. "Realms of Spirits Part 1" is the final unique addition to the score. It features an assembly of electronic and industrial percussion to suitably portray warped emptiness. Unfortunately, its lifespan is limited given its extremely repetitious qualities and completely unnecessary use of a dampened version of the main theme.

Moving to the climax of the score, "Realms of Spirits Part 2" is probably the most outwardly captivating entry. Its bombastic orchestation and chorus use show that Tallarico and co. are still capable of acceptable Hollywood emulations despite the disappointing initial themes. Unfortunately, it makes the final stage themes for Castle Maximo feel anticlimactic. With more comic horror scoring in Part 1, gliding action-packed orchestration in Part 2, and slow foreboding assemblies in the final boss theme, the drama has dissipated. By the time we reach the "Ending Credits" — a sickeningly cheesy jazz orchestration of the no longer charming main theme — it's difficult to care anymore. Tamayo Kawamoto's six movie themes follow. "Opening" sets the dark orchestral tone for the game quite well, but the four event themes are a little less impressive — all under a minute long and mainly dedicated to layering of horror motifs in a predictable manner. Nevertheless, "Event 2" and "Event 4" introduce some strong original melodies. With the "Ending" music, sincere emotion is portrayed for one of the few times in the score — a melancholic introduction convincingly segueing into passages expressing relief and later triumph.

For the bonus 8cm disc, Tamayo Kawamoto's complete original score for the Arcade's Daimakaimura (aka Ghouls 'n Ghosts) is also present. It's ordered in a slightly strange way opening with most of the superficial themes featured at the end of other releases, including the ranking and display themes labelled as 'sound test' themes here. After that, there's plenty to be enjoyed — the light arrangement of the all-too-familiar first stage theme, the frivolous dance-like tune for the village stage, and the minimalistic and crystalline forest stage theme are among the highlights. Radical for its time, American avant-garde influence is demonstrated with many of the boss themes and the third stage theme. Of course, the final stage theme returns to the cliché of organ use and lots of suspended chord progressions, but nevertheless is very enjoyable, while the final boss theme is again pioneering with its use of ambience. Overall, this accomplished score was a great addition to the Maximo Original Soundtrack at the time of its release — when Daimakaimura ~ G.S.M. Capcom 1 was long out-of-print and the Makaimura Music Collection wasn't even in the planning stages. A less appealing bonus is the voice collection at the end of Disc One.


The Maximo Original Soundtrack falls short of its great potential. The majority of the score features surprisingly amateurish arrangements of the overused Makaimura first stage theme in the style of action or horror films. Most themes do not inspire interest or emotions within the context of the game and are highly uninspiring on a stand-alone basis. There are several pieces that shine with creativity and finesse, but the vast majority of the music is sloppy musically and technologically. Kawamoto's cutscene music and Daimakaimura score are decent bonuses, though the Makaimura Music Collection is a more appropriate purchase for those looking for the superior music of past titles in the series. Overall, the concept of a Western tribute to Makaimura was a fantastic one, but the four arrangers clearly struggled to bring the goods.

Overall Score: 5/10