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Winning Eleven Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Winning Eleven Original Soundtrack Album Title: Winning Eleven Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Catalog No.: TOCP-65986
Release Date: April 26, 2002
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Soccer games aren't obvious source material for a video game album. Their soundtracks tend to be rather small since most of the gameplay features commentators rather than music. In addition, the music that does feature tends to serve as background music rather than anything more personal or elaborate. Nonetheless, Konami has put quite a bit of effort into creating appropriate and interesting music for the Winning Eleven series (adapted overseas in the International Superstar Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer games). Having spanned numerous instalments, famous composers such as Akira Yamaoka, Michiru Yamane, and Norikazu Miura have all contributed. The Winning Eleven Original Soundtrack is a 35 track compilation of the best music from nine games created between 1997 and 2002. It demonstrates the evolution of the series' music from International Superstar Soccer Pro '98 to the smash hit Pro Evolution Soccer 2. Let's take a closer look at what's on offer...


The album initially focuses on the music for the two versions of Winning Eleven 3. The J-league version features light-hearted compositions by the series' original composer Kosuke Soeda. He tends to go against preconceptions about football music to offer quirky and interesting tunes. However, the calypso grooves on "Result" or chorale elements of "Ovation" seem out-of-place in context and more appropriate for an adventure game. In addition, the beat-boxing and funk elements of "Staff Roll" are never really developed leaving it sound more like a mishmash. Fortunately, Akira Yamaoka managed to create a sound popular with mainstream audiences for the international version. "Play Demo" features the oppressive guitar-driven grunge sound one might from his Contra: Shattered Soldier work. His "Ovation" theme captures a sense of elation in a more subtle and original way by blending various warm electronic sounds. In contrast, "Staff Roll" gives him a chance to go complete wild with heavy beats and electronic distortion.

The music for each instalment of Winning Eleven tends to be different due to both the high composer turnover rate and the freedom to experiment. Though he returned to Winning Eleven 4, Yamaoka makes the most out of the freedom available to him to develop his electronica; he offers everything from hardcore electronica in "Play Demo" to playful improvisations on "Select Normal" and "Select Master League" to disrupted chillout loops on "Result 1". His "Staff Roll" is a utterly charming rock anthem this time that captures his hard rock spirit. Tokimeki Memorial's Atsushi Sato demonstrates his liberation on the J-league version of Winning Eleven 2000 by offering some saxophone solos for the opening and staff rolls themes. His menu themes are suitably linear and the ovation theme is once again uplifting, but they are still rich with his characteristic jazz fusion goodness. In contrast, he opts to offer smooth jazz for the ending theme of the J-league version of Winning Eleven 5.

Shoichiro Hirata handled the music for the international versions of Winning Eleven 2000 and Winning Eleven 5. For the former, he injects a pleasing funk sound with the jagged "Select 2" and the soothing "Result 1". He also created an experimental staff roll theme mixing rock riffs, disco overtones, and electropop vocals that arguably served as a precursor to Sota Fujimori's recent music to the series. There isn't that much stylistic evolution in his soundtrack to Pro Evolution Soccer, but a rock and electronic focus predominates over funk. Most notably, his staff roll theme is a marvelously implemented blend of slick piano work, trumpet solos, and shakuhachi infusions. Though he makes the fewest contributions on the disc, Norikazu Miura still makes a solid contribution to Winning Eleven 5 Final Evolution reminiscent of his Gradius Gaiden work. "Play Demo" blends his techno-pop style with amusing voice samples while "Ovation" is a pleasant new age effort containing a few surprises.

The Winning Eleven series has tended to feature a few popular songs such as England's football anthems or Queen's classics. At least until recently, however, the series' music wasn't consumed by the licensed music associated with American equivalents. Winning Eleven 6, better known as Pro Evolution Soccer 2, is an example where such songs feature comfortably alongside instrumental background music. The soundtrack actually opens with Queen's "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" — regarding classics in sports stadiums and beyond across the world. Though they work well in the game, they are quite strange choices for introductions when the first Winning Eleven games weren't even included. Nonetheless, the original ending themes for the game are a nice way to end the soundtrack; the choice to use fantasy orchestrations is surprising for a football game, but these are nevertheless some of Yamane's most colourful and interesting works. If only she offered similar material in Suikoden III...


Most would expect that a football game would yield only functional background music and nothing worth listening to on album form. In actuality, the series' music is all about change and experimentation. The composers were liberated from their normally restrictive duties to do almost whatever they wanted on these games. They each offer something novel the series and, while they still create broadly fitting music, they do so in so many different styles. This is a chance to hear Akira Yamaoka looping without restrictions, Atsushi Sato going wild on his saxophone without having to be all sentimental, or Michiru Yamane creating orchestral music before she got burned out. Avoid this if you're looking for especially developed compositions or a coherent overall soundtrack. Given it's a soccer soundtrack compilation, it would have been pretty hard for this soundtrack to fulfil your expectations. Try it out if you're after little packets of experimental joy (no, not cocaine) from your Konami favourites.

Overall Score: 7/10