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Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 14 - Ridge Racer 2 :: Review by Chris

Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 14 - Ridge Racer 2 Album Title: Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 14 - Ridge Racer 2
Record Label: Victor Entertainment
Catalog No.: VICL-15031
Release Date: September 21, 1994
Purchase: Buy at eBay


With less than a year having passed, Namco followed up on the success of Ridge Racer with a major update called Ridge Racer 2. After the solid reception to the Ridge Racer soundtrack, Shinji Hosoe returned to create a soundtrack intended to be bigger and better than before. This time, his Sampling Masters partners Ayako Saso, Nobuyoshi Sano, and Takayuki Aihara took a considerably larger role resulting in a more diverse and refined score. The final work featured a mixture of new compositions and straightforward remixes of content from Ridge Racer. The soundtrack for the title was released in Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 14 - Ridge Racer 2 during 1994. Let's look at the results...


Ridge Racer 2's album release opens in much the same way as the predecessor — with American voice-overs against simply funk riffs. Fortunately, this time it's clear that the composer knows he is working with utter cheese and chooses to really emphasise the announcer for comedic effect. Ayako Saso's subsequent stage theme "Drive U 2 Dancing" is also reminiscent of her Ridge Racer contribution with its industrial beats and crazy voice samples. However, this time the voice samples are much better chosen and the core ideas are more catchy and compelling too. The composer demonstrates yet more of her surprising attitude back in 1994 with "Lords of Techno", a commanding anthem that works equally well on the road as it does in a club. In one of several remixes on the soundtrack, she also brings back "Feeling Over" from the Ridge Racer soundtrack and it sounds better than ever. Evidently increasing Saso's role on the score has yielded good results.

Given Ridge Racer 2 is a multi-composer score, there is quite an increase in diversity too. Some will find it hard to initially comprhened Nobuyoshi Sano's distinctive riffs and layering in "Grip". By the 1:10 mark, it's likely that he will have won you over with his surreal soundscapes, but note that the piece runs for a phenomenal, if arguably unnecessary, 8:15. The composer also remixes "Rare Hero" from the Ridge Racer soundtrack; it isn't radically different from the original, but has a relatively bouncy feel and, given Hosoe is no longer arranging, Sano is able to reflect his individual musicality a little more. Takayuki Aihara's sole contribution "Maximum Zone" is a relative slow-burner, but like his other works in the past, does a good job of hybridising and unifying other musical ideas found on the soundtrack. I'm not convinced that he ever felt the appeal of Ridge Racer like his contemporaries, but he still did a good job fitting music to the game.

This time around, Hosoe seems to focus a little more on his efforts. "Over the Highway" certainly incorporates quite a bit over its playtime, but its core ideas still seem to revolve around a pounding distorted riff. "...Dat Dan Day... A" declares from the start that it's going to be a random and tangential composition, but the similar pacing and rhythms throughout ensure it doesn't completely outrun itself. Worryingly, Hosoe also contributes three remixes from the Ridge Racer soundtrack. "Rotterdam Nation '94" takes no prisoners with its accelerating beats and hyperactive vocals, though is a bit more enjoyable than the first incarnation, yet the improved instrumentation of "Speedster Overheat" doesn't really compensate for the nonsensical voice samples. At least "Rhythm Shift" remix is a solid rendition of the original with a slightly more dreamy feel. The ending theme "Winning Turn" reinstates the funk focus of the series and is more substantial than its Ridge Racer equivalent. Hosoe's contribution is a little inconsistent, but better than Ridge Racer.


Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 14 - Ridge Racer 2 is a much more worthwhile album than its predecessor. The ideas are more refined and elaborate this time round after the free-for-all experimentation before. In addition, the co-composers each assert their individuality and ensure that the score is a relatively diverse work. What's more, its playtime is almost double that of Ridge Racer and it features so many remixes that it makes all but the main theme of the former score pretty much redundant. There are still inaccessible pieces and other problems, but most fans of the in-game music should enjoy its album release a lot.

Overall Score: 7/10