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Game Sound Collection Vol. 6 Soukyuugurentai :: Review by Chris

Game Sound Collection Vol. 6 Soukyuugurentai Album Title: Game Sound Collection Vol. 6 Soukyuugurentai
Record Label: MEM
Catalog No.: VOCR-5018
Release Date: December 18, 1996
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Game Sound Collection Vol. 6 Soukyuugurentai, huh? It's likely few are attracted to this soundtrack, given that it is immensely rare, has a crazy name, and is made for a game that, while a highly acclaimed old-school vertical-scrolling shooter and one of a string of excellent creations from Raizing/Eighting, hasn't received much international attention. If the fact it comes from Raizing/Eighting isn't enough to convince the average shooter fan that the music is excellent, two words — Hitoshi Sakimoto — might just change that and also make this release appeal to some non-shooter fans. Yes, one of the Gradius V and Radiant Silvergun's composer's earliest shooters, succeeding Quest's Magical Chase and Raizing/Eighting's own Shippu Mahou Daisakusen, Sakimoto creates a powerful and dynamic electronic and symphonic fusion soundtrack of consistently high quality. The soundtrack stands out exceptionally technically, emotionally, and musically for its time. Hardcore game music fans might also note that this is the sixth and last in a line of 'Game Sound Collection' releases from MEM, previous titles featuring Astronoka's Naoaki Jinbo in Time~Sky Investigation DD, and music from the games Megatudo 2096, Idol Mahjong Final Romance R, Shadow Struggle, and Harukaze Sentai V-Force.


Though the introductory tracks are mostly brief, collectively they form a strong first impression of the album, successively adding to the pace as each track seamlessly yet urgently transitions into the next one. "Crimson Squad Picture Scroll" opens with a single triangle against an impressive array of low-pitched drums, immediately reflecting the soundtrack's rhythmical edge, percussive emphasis, and oppressive feel from the very start. The theme undergoes an impressive metamorphosis from sounding primitive to eventually boasting a rich and sinister sound following the introduction of an electronic line, which initially emulates the percussive effects before growing thicker and undergoing a number of startling ascending chromatic progressions. "Individual Selection" follows and reflects more of the stylistic subtlety of the soundtrack, a violin motif leading that provides cross-rhythms with the thick timpani-led percussion line to create something reminiscent of a jazz fusion. The feeling of ascension is reinforced in "Ignition, Start Shooting," which features a succession of ascending synth glissandos that directly represent the vertical-scrolling nature of the game and sounds simply awe-inspiring stand-alone before directly leading into the first major theme, "Otaku Sky." With playing times of 0:57, 0:29, and 0:25 respectively, these three themes may not appear to be worthy of a mention in such detail, but are crafted in such a remarkable way that they provide a microcosm of the stylistic features to expect from the entire soundtrack. The only way is up from here.

The more fleshed-out themes usually live up to the expectation that the previous themes founded, often integrating some fantastic use of fusions. "Otaku Sky" is marvellously crafted, combining the shooter genre's trademark synth arpeggios and this soundtrack's distinct percussion use with jazzy melodies and a highly syncopated bass line to create an amazingly colourful 'block of sound' and jazz-electronica fusion. "The Unfathomable Volume" employs techno-related layering techniques and all sorts of electronic effects, yet principally uses synthetic acoustic instruments for interpretations of melodic fragments, a feature consistent with other electro-acoustic themes on the soundtrack. A techno approach is also very evident in "Asteroid Belt Region" and the way it undergoes a transformation into a principally symphonic theme demonstrates even more of Sakimoto's power. The use of novelty synth sounds, bouncy harmonic lines, and some wonderfully over the top timpani runs in "Arctic Oil Field Base" gives a refreshing sense of goofiness all the while creating a fabulous lightness. "Autumn Asssault" also has that refreshing 'it's only a game' feel, though discordant orchestral hits, intense synth glissandos, and, of course, timpani madness provide an impressive exterior nonetheless. On the other end of the spectrum, "The Appearance of Darkness" features delicious use of dissonance through an ascension of discords against a static bass line, while its counterpart, "Darkness Repeated," takes a very similar approach, but has much heavier percussion.

As with many of Hitoshi Sakimoto's soundtracks, Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story included, the composer integrates a familiar melodic fragment throughout in all sorts of interesting ways. Though the largely pentatonic melody itself is rather simple, the soundtrack's aggressive and unpredictable feel is principally reinforced by its highly unusual rhythmic features. Unsurprisingly, given the emphasis is more on rhythm than pitch, the fragment is often treated in a percussive way, which often creates highly interesting timbres. "The Great Hurricane Dragon" and "Shield of Earth's Surface" involve synthetic timpanis ferociously handling the fragment sparsely accompanied by sporadically placed string and synth vocal suspensions and subdued synth effects; the traditionally supportive role of timpanis is reversed in a highly effective way. The most rousing manifestation of the theme is "Descent Into the Sea of Clouds"; here, low strings introduce the fragment in the final stage of the electronically-oriented theme's layering after timpanis are already pounding away and fast-paced ascending synth arpeggios are rampantly repeating, creating amazing intensity before the fragmented later undergoes augmentation. Also featured in "On a Satellite's Orbit" and "Mars Thrust," the theme is treated within the framework of a symphonic ending theme in its final interpretation, "The Beginning of the End." Though brief, it a suitably powerful conclusion to the game that sustains the use of the highly familiar melodic fragment as part of a well-developed and touching melody very well.


All shooter and Sakimoto fans should seriously considering giving this album a try, as its diversity, creativity, and dynamism places it very high in the Shmup Hall of Fame and makes it emotionally and intellectually captivating. A considerable contrast to Sakimoto's score to Radiant Silvergun, Soukyuugurentai is more comparable to Gradius V, though its greater emphasis on fusions means its accessibility and originality is somewhat greater. With inspiring fusions, powerful percussion use, a superbly integrated main theme, and plenty of pace, ferocity, and impact, the soundtrack is satisfying from start to finish. If there is any area this soundtrack is weak, it's development; while most themes feel sufficiently developed and are never underwhelmingly short, the majority of the tracks are under two minutes long, and there are only 20 of them in the first place. With a playing time of just over 40 minutes, this album is bound to be quite an expensive purchase for something quite brief, though its overall quality should mean that it nonetheless appeals to some eBay goers and game music auction participants with a leaning towards this type of release. As Sakimoto's most innovative shmup soundtrack, it is a highly recommended listen and a conditionally recommended purchase.

Overall Score: 8/10