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Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 11 - Ridge Racer :: Review by Chris

Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 11 - Ridge Racer Album Title: Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 11 - Ridge Racer
Record Label: Victor Entertainment
Catalog No.: VICL-15025
Release Date: January 21, 1994
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Back in 1993, Shinji Hosoe led the score for one of Namco's most successful Arcade titles, Ridge Racer. He created a cutting edge score for the game by blending hardcore electronica, voice samples, and funk references. It also attracted a new league of raving fans to Hosoe's work and he hasn't hesitated to pump out the heavy beats since. The game's score was initially commemorated with a 30 minute arranged album featured in Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 11 - Ridge Racer. The overall album is an interesting listen, but rather difficult to recommend...


"Welcome Racer" is certainly a memorable introduction to the soundtrack, though perhaps for wrong reasons. There is little music to speak of except a few funk riffs, since the series' infamous announcer takes the lead with classic lines such as "Riiiiidge Racer!" and "Alright everyone, one minute to go!". It'll certainly inspire some nostalgia, though some will prefer to forget those memories of the cheesy games of ol'. The subsequent remix of the game's main theme reinforces the funk element. In the simple but effective body of the remix, Hosoe offers lots of stimulating bass riffs and offers some breezy synth melodies on top. Afterwards, he elaborates quite a bit on the context with emotional interludes, funky improvisations, and elaborations on the original ideas. This ensures the 6:25 playtime is quite varied and interesting.

Two tracks on the soundtrack were composed by other members of the Sampling Masters team, although Hosoe nevertheless arranges them. "Rare Hero" features Nobuyoshi Sano's distinctive riffs and tendencies towards creating surreal and dissonant sounds. However, his characteristic layering isn't as obvious, since Hosoe has remixed the tune to adopt a more segmented structure. Together the two artists create some rather interesting and compelling sounds. "Feeling Over" is Shinji Hosoe's take on Ayako Saso's more eccentric side. The core of the piece features a blend of experimental voice samples, chiptune references, and hardcore beats. However, Hosoe doesn't quite end it there, introducing a softer melodic section at 2:09 before making things more oppressive and dissonant from 2:27. With all its contrast, such a theme seems ideal for racing through changing urban landscapes.

Probably the most distinctive composition on the soundtrack is "Rotterdam Nation". Anyone who has played Ridge Racer or listened to the Sampling Masters album will be very familiar with the blend of crazy vocal samples and hardcore beats featured here. Hosoe is actually even more experimental with his beats than usual here, accelerating to them a disturbing tempo. Another select taste is "Speedster" with its focus on voice samples taken from voice sample libraries. Most will look back and find these samples random and cheap, though it was relatively unprecedented for game artists to use libraries in such a way back then. "Rhythm Shift" blends both electronic beats and voice samples, but is a little more accessible than preceding tracks given both features are toned down a little and there are a few more catchy features. It leads to the hideous closing track "Win Win Win" where the most infamous things about this album — cheesy announcers, ridiculous voice samples, and hyperactive beats — return for a thankfully short romp.


Historically, the Ridge Racer score can be regarded as a daring and pioneering one. Very few game composers before 1994 had offered heavy electronic beats or voice samples in any game score, never mind a racing game. Hosoe certainly changed that and now electronic music has become a norm for racing games. That said, this arranged album is a difficult stand-alone listen given the inaccessible beats, random voice-overs, and ridiculous announcer. There are some more accessible entries towards the start of the album, but most of the other material is potentially unpleasant. What's more, it's only 30 minutes music and has been surpassed by later entries in the series, several of which have also remixed material from the Ridge Racer score. This will be worthwhile for hardcore Hosoe fans nonetheless, but others can safely skip it.

Overall Score: 5/10