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Masamichi Amano Meets Sega - Best & Wind Orchestra Version :: Review by Chris

Masamichi Amano Meets Sega - Best & Wind Orchestra Version Album Title: Masamichi Amano Meets Sega - Best & Wind Orchestra Version
Record Label: Wavemaster
Catalog No.: WWCE-31178
Release Date: April 23, 2008
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Masamichi Amano Meets Sega - Best & Wind Orchestra Version was a promising conception that didn't turn out quite as expected. Rather than dedicate the album to a wide range of games or a single series, Sega chose to commemorate two totally unrelated franchises on one release. Several parts of the album commemorate Phantasy Star Universe, an expansive space RPG released to worldwide audiences, whereas other parts commemorate Mushiking: King of Battles, an anime adaptation of a beetle battling card game released exclusively in Japan. The two focuses are united by arranger Masamichi Amano and the performers of the Shobi Wind Orchestra.


The album opens with a rendition of Phantasy Star Online's main theme "Save This World" performed by the Shobi Wind Orchestra. Amano brings out the charming qualities of Hideaki Kobayashi's original melody while appropriately capturing the personal emotions yet alien atmosphere of the game. As with the rest of the album, the track is certainly a rather derivative orchestration, yet it makes up for this with boundless development and contrasting sections. Bizarrely, the theme receives a near-identical rendition at the end of the soundtrack by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. This is identical to the rendition featured in the Phantasy Star Universe reinforcing the redundancy of the series' discography.

Tracks 2 to 6 feature the 15 minute suite for Mushiking: King of Beetles performed by the Shobi Wind Orchestra. The suite's orchestration is very much in accord with the Japanese school of the 1950s, and thus comparable with Koichi Sugiyama, but it will depend on personal listeners whether this sound feels welcome or dated. On "Preface", Amano demonstrates his command over each section of the orchestra. Whether the wistful flute-based opening, the highly percussive action section, or the triumphant brass-led conclusion, Amano sticks quite closely to cinematic but yields rousing results. Following a whimsical jazz-based miniature, the third movement teases listeners with its sudden transitions from intense and light sections, while the fourth movement demonstrates Ricky's Recollections through some sublime orchestral soundscaping. The conclusion, "Mori's Team of Peace", resolves things on a mostly light and serene note. While fairly derivative and unfamiliar, the suite is a pleasant listen since it packs quite a few thematic moments and emotional sections nevertheless.

An added disappointment is that the Phantasy Star Universe suite is rather brief. The opening movement "S.E.E.D" is little more than 23 seconds of ominous brass work and string runs. The second and third movements, "Neudaiz" and "Moatoob", are a little more expansive and nicely homage their source material. Whereas the former is a soft wind-based orchestration written in the style of a waltz, the latter builds into a more rousing composition with Arabian influences and drum kit. The fifth suite is an eight minute selection dedicated to the original movie Mushiking: Road to the Greatest Championship. It is a thematic and contrasting as the sequel's suite, although sometimes the medley formula can be clumsy. Listeners are also presented with two previously recorded Mushiking suites at the end of the album. They're very nice listens as original music, but again not very Western-targeted and totally overwhelm the Phantasy Star Universe material in terms of length and references.


As a musical experience, Masamichi Amano Meets Sega - Best & Wind Orchestra Version isn't bad. It features essentially competent orchestrations and performances, some memorable melodies, and both peaceful and bombastic sections. As a marketable album, however, this release falls down. It is almost certainly the result of the incomplete and cancelled Phantasy Star Universe Symphonic Sketches album being combined with the Mushiking compilation demanded in Japan. For Mushiking fans, this album will be quite satisfactory with four expansive symphonic suites, even if there are a few random interruptions along the way. However, there are few of those in the West and most won't find the brief or rehashed Phantasy Star Universe material worth their time.

Overall Score: 6/10