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Tenchu Kurenai Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Tenchu Kurenai Original Soundtrack Album Title: Tenchu Kurenai Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Aniplex
Catalog No.: SVWC-7207; SVWC-7310
Release Date: July 22, 2004; October 26, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Co-developed by K2 and From Software, Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (aka Tenchu Kurenai) took the series in a new direction with its focus on two female protagonists, rather than Rikimaru, though still featured the same ninja stealth gameplay. The soundtrack for the series is also somewhat different from its predecessors since it was primarily composed by From Software's internal team, though Asian music maestro Noriyuki Asakura still makes a headlining contribution. The final soundtrack is a respectable if unspectacular effort.


Noriyuki Asakura's sole contribution to the soundtrack is the opener "The Crimson Flower". The composition features similar elements to his other theme songs for the series with its rich female vocals and dense hybridised instrumentation. However, there are some novel aspects featured here to represent the change of protagonists, including a more mild feminine melody and gorgeous interplay with the violin. Another multifaceted works, the instrumental passage at the centre of the theme is particularly dark and abstract, giving way to an elating recapitulation of the melody at the conclusion. Overall, a good way to represent the game and inspire the co-composers of the soundtrack.

There is considerable continuity between the opening vocal track and the instrumental pieces contributed by Koichi Suenaga and others. The composers maintain a blend of traditional Japanese instruments and contemporary styles throughout the soundtrack, from "Marking Flags" to "The Unchallenged", in line with Asakura's legacy of the series. Both forces are treated in an authentic way in terms of composition and implementation. The various shakuhachi and koto parts, in particular, are written in a suitable mood and tonality by clearly experienced composers and benefit from the performances of solo instrumentalists. These are carefully mixed with the various rock and electronic elements in the backing.

Such fusions certainly offer a convincing backdrop to game's landscapes. "Cheapskate", for instance, is one of the game's moodier tracks, representing the dark journeys of a ninja with lonely guitar wanderings and fateful taiko bellows. "Echoing Strings" meanwhile is reminiscent of Asakura's more wild compositions, representing a tense encounter with a combination of obsessively repeating string motifs and sporadic interjections from orchestral and gritty rock riffs. The highly percussive "Rescue", melancholic yet groovy "Chasing Forward", and liberating jam-like "Visions" are also incredibly inspired examples of scoring that reflect the creativity of each member of the multi-composer team.

However, while the compositions are usually authentic and creative, they do have some shortcomings. Compared with Asakura's compositions, the works here are more linear and often derivative. The reliance on simplistic textures throughout — usually an Eastern melody presented against moody rock riffs — grows tiresome and reduces the artistic integrity of the music. Even compositions that aspire to be different, such as "Flaming Heart" with its inspired layering and bizarre didgeridoo backing, still adhere to Western convention with its heterophonic texture and thin harmonies. Still, within these textures, there are profound stylings to be found — ranging from the minimalistic electronic backdrop to "Evening in Hakone", to the passionate guitar leads of "Fingers Stained by Crimson" — so the compositions are still enjoyable.


The Tenchu: Fatal Shadows score lacks the textural and harmonic exuberance of earlier soundtracks in the series, but it makes up for it with great diversity and surprising creativity elsewhere. The large team at From Software ensured that each of the compositions here is both effective in the game and enjoyable outside of it, partly modelling their creations on Asakura's inspired opening theme. Note that the two prints of the soundtrack are near identical, though the second lacks copy-protection.

Overall Score: 8/10