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Onimusha 3 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Onimusha 3 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Onimusha 3 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer
Catalog No.: CPCA-1085/6
Release Date: March 24, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Onimusha 3 continued Capcom's line of samurai action games to considerable critical and commercial success. The score for the game was this time provided by Capcom's in-house employees Akari Kaida (Okami), Hideki Okugawa (Dead Rising), and Kota Suzuki (Resident Evil 5). The trio aimed to continue the Onimusha series' tradition of blending orchestral music with traditional Japanese elements, though this time they drew their main inspirations from existing game music, not wider art music. The result is one of the most effective scores in the series, yet also one of the least inspiring...


Whereas previous Onimusha soundtracks have been dominated by major composers outside of Capcom, only one theme for Onimusha 3 was outsourced to another composer. The opening theme, composed by Masamichi Amano, is a multilayered six minute composition featuring the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. The composition maintains a very cinematic feel throughout and, while not as thematic as some past entries of the series, it nevertheless captures the scope of the epic about to unfold. Passages for orchestra, chorus, shakuhachi, and taiko drums are offered, sometimes separately, other times in unison, culminating in a splendid tutti at the four minute mark. Given the in-game context, the composition actually continues beyond this point, but sadly ends rather abruptly. Nevertheless, it's a fine complement to a stunning succession of scenes and suffices as a stand-alone experience.

Moving to the bulk of the soundtrack, Akari Kaida leads the way with the main theme. It captures the heroic quality of Samanosuke's character with its bold brass melodies and dynamic string runs. The orchestral forces this time don't benefit from the might of the Warsaw Philharmonic and have a distinctly artificial quality to them, but they still succeed in conveying the desired emotions. Furthermore, some traditional Japanese instruments are skilfully, if subtly, incorporated throughout, particularly the flutes in the retrospective interlude. The theme makes several reappearances during the soundtrack, most notably in the "Route to Deliverance", a straightforward but effective action arrangement used during some of the more memorable encounters in the game. It appears this theme was used as a model for most of the protagonist-centred battle themes in the game.

The other character portrayals are of mixed quality. The use of Mozart's requiem to portray the villanous Guildenstern sounds desperate, especially given its tacky arrangement in its main and battle theme versions. At least Nobunaga and Ranmaru receive deliciously dark portrayals, the former with another demanding orchestration, the latter with more of a beat-heavy anthem. There are also more sentimental themes, such as Henri's and Michelle's, that are bound to split listeners. The former suffers from schmaltzy piano and string writing, though is bound to evoke emotions in some, while the latter is a genuinely charismatic effort featuring gorgeous string leads and rousing arpeggiations. Both sound more like typical pop-influenced game music than highbrow art music; this isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on the listener, though is certainly contrary to the series' origins.

The in-house trio also handle the various setting themes for the soundtrack. For the most part, they take an ambient 'bottoms up' approach comparable to the Devil May Cry soundtracks. Compositions such as "Let the Eternal Light Shine On Me", "Raining in Hell", "Echo", and the gorgeous "Sakai Village" don't necessarily go anywhere in the conventional sense, but are marvels of ambient soundscaping and elegantly incorporate forces from a range of cultures and periods. There are also curious contrasts between the 'future' and 'past' versions of several themes, such as "Underwater Shrine" and "Mount Saint Michelle", that are subtly thematically linked. It's a little disappointing that some tracks, such as "Twisted Space" and "Demon Forest", seem to be based on assembling samples from overused libraries though and this will somewhat detract from perceptions of artistry to observant listeners.

There is certainly an increase in volume of the Onimusha 3 soundtrack compared to its predecessor, though listeners should be forewarned that there are numerous filler compositions here. For the most part, the cinematic cues are actually serviceable efforts, featuring functional use of orchestral and traditional instruments alike. Nonetheless, the majority fail to exceed the one minute mark, due to the in-game limitations, and generally lack pulling power. Even the more action-packed ones sound too much like the too samey orchestral battle themes to be of novelty value. The major exceptions are the expansive ending theme "Return to the Future" and the staff roll medley "Traces of the Soul", both of which round off the experience as impressively as it began.


The Onimusha 3 soundtrack was, at the time of its release, the most embellished score for the series. However, what it offers in quantity isn't fully backed up with quality or artistry. All the character, setting, battle, and cinematic themes on this soundtrack are entirely effective in context and usually enjoyable outside it. However, the majority seem to be built using existing models of game music, unlike earlier Onimusha soundtracks that aimed to break the mould and aspire to art music, leaving most of the soundtrack sounding derivative or even superficial. Still, those looking for fairly conventional game music with a Sengoku touch won't go wrong here and there are many highlights to make up for the filler and disappointments.

Overall Score: 7/10