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Shin Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Shin Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Original Soundtrack Album Title: Shin Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Suleputer
Catalog No.: CPCA-10157
Release Date: March 30, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams is the latest instalment of Capcom's series of Sengoku period action games and, despite selling disappointingly, it was still an incredible well-designed game. One way that Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams excelled upon its predecessors was its music. Capcom let Hideyuki Fukasawa take the lead, a disciple of Onimusha 2's Taro Iwashiro who earlier produced an impacting fusion score for Chaos Legions. He was supported by Jamie Christopherson, who orchestrated the main theme and created several cinematic cues. One of two soundtrack releases for the game, Shin Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Original Soundtrack is a one disc release packaged within an official artbook that compiles some of the best themes from both artists.


When it comes to epic tracks in game music, few are quite as enjoyable as Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams' main theme. In many ways, this main theme adheres strongly to cinematic tradition with its brassy dominance, militaristic rhythms, and choral interludes. However, Hideyuki Fukasawa sets it apart with his phrasing, the main melody itself having incredible drive and vigour, especially during the fast-paced sections. The ascending string runs from the 1:32 mark and the masterful development sections thereafter serve to accentuate the drama. The final result is incredibly satisfying and addictive. The theme makes its final major appearance in the final battle theme and, though not quite as differentiated as hoped, it still provides much of the motivation needed for the ultimate conquest. Sadly, the Asian-inspired arrangement of the theme on the three disc soundtrack is not present here.

One way the soundtrack differs from earlier Onimusha soundtracks is through its free use of contemporary elements, such as electric guitars or electronic beats. The resultant score therefore sounds considerably less authentic than its predecessors, yet the fusions are nevertheless well done and will be an appealing aspect of the score to many listeners. The theme of the new main character Soki is a wonderful example of Fukasawa's capacity to blend Asian, orchestral, and rock elements on the score. The melody is another incredible one and the electric guitars — whether used as a supporting force or a lead instrumentation — make it all the more iconic. Indeed, their composition isn't overly cheesy or jarring and the mixing of the various elements, owing to Fukasawa's background as Taro Iwashiro's orchestrator, is excellent. It is certainly the series' most memorable character theme.

There are plenty of other character themes featured on the one disc release, some more memorable and significant than others. The likes of the heroine's theme "Jubei Yagyu Red Theme" is an excellent example of how Fukasawa is able to integrate techno beats into an otherwise organic composition. Those familiar with the original character themes on Street Fighter IV will see many similarities in Fukasawa's approach between the two scores. The final result has a very punchy feel to it, yet also sounds appropriately feminine. Fukasawa's portrayal of the face of evil, Fortinbras, meanwhile is highly thematic and features many familiar elements such as string anacrusi. Yet contrary to his portrayals of characters such as Soki, Fukasawa this time creates a sense of fate rather than hope, without excessively relying on Hollywood clichés.

Whether portraying good or evil, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams' score is ultimately an action-packed one. In addition to the main character themes, there are numerous special battle themes and they all have several things in common: rhythmic drive, timbral richness, and developmental contrasts. For instance, "Black Oni vs Hideyoshi" creates the feeling of duelling characters, each portrayed with different moods and thematic threads. The juxtaposition of the main theme with a chord progression oddly reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean is a particularly good way to keep the score sounding familiar yet fresh and edgy. Fukasawa also always impresses with his ferocious use of percussion. Another delightful composition that is emphasised on the one disc release is "Hideyoshi's Decisive Battle Theme," which is given particular edge through its use of a distorted electronic bass line.

This one disc release is the only one that gives some insight into Jamie Christopherson's contributions for the game's cinematics. In addition to contributing the headline orchestration of the main theme, Christopherson also offers a heartrending variation for soft strings on "Ohatsu's Rescue" and six evocative cues at the end of the soundtrack. The composer recorded these cues with a 60 piece orchestra supplemented with several soloists to achieve their full depth. Features such as the wailing shakuhachi in "Red Samurai" or the momentous tutti at the start of "Birth of the Ultimate Oni Warrior" are all the more evocative thanks to the performers. However, the compositions themselves certainly have less individuality and 'oomph' than Fukasawa's own work, resembling more a high quality Hollywood score. This certainly isn't a bad thing, but it's clear from the placement of the cues on the album that Fukasawa's contributions are the main ones intended for stand-alone listening.


If there's any word that describes the Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams soundtrack, it would be 'wholesome'. As emphasised throughout this review, Fukasawa's approach to thematic, rhythmical, and timbral development is almost always satisfying and essentially every minute of this score has that 'oomph' earlier scores in the Onimusha series lacked. The choice to integrate rock and electronic elements into the score was a daring one, but it is skilfully achieved and pays off at least in terms of entertainment factor. Jamie Christopherson's contribution is less special, but exhibits high production values and considerable emotional range. This particularly disc is the only one that , though the full three disc release is certainly still the definitive version of Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams' score, due to its emphasis on Fukasawa's outstanding work.

Overall Score: 8/10