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Death Smiles for iPhone / iPod Touch Original Soundtrack :: Review by Don

Death Smiles for iPhone / iPod Touch Original Soundtrack Album Title: Death Smiles for iPhone / iPod Touch Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Cave
Catalog No.: CVIS-0003
Release Date: December 22, 2011
Purchase: Buy at eBay


With each iPhone port of a Cave shmup, there is usually a new soundtrack featured for a bonus mode and this was recently the case for DeathSmiles. Rather than hire external composers, as previously done with the DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu iPhone port, Cave turned to Takeshi Miyamoto, otherwise known as KIZAKURA, to create the soundtrack. Given that the original had a rock focus, I read that for the iPhone version, any style was on the table except for rock. So how does Miyamoto's soundtrack compare to the original?


The album opens up with the main screen music, "Welcome to the Unreal World." It's a mysterious strings based piece that really captures the gothic atmosphere of the game with its romantic and darker tones. In addition, there are also three other themes that are only present on the iPhone version of the game. The first, "Garden of Secrets," serves as the game demo music, and is one of the most beautiful things on the album. I love the romantic strings and woodwind that interpret the melody, not to mention the elegant strings harmonies throughout the track. The "Shop Screen" music, unique to the iPhone's unique game mode, is a dark and mysterious theme featuring choir, glockenspiel, and foreboding yet elegant strings work. It definitely fits in with the gothic nature of the game and also has a bit of a waltz feel to it. Lastly, the "Settings" music is one of the weaker themes on the album. It features some interesting aspects, however, such as clock ticks, pop beats, and some playful percussion. The strings harmony is also quite beautiful, but it doesn't manage to save the track in the long run.

Of course, the meat of the soundtrack is the various stage themes present in the game. The stage A-1 theme, "The Timid Yet Noble Warrior," has the hard task of competing with Namiki's extremely well crafted and catchy "Burning Halloween Town," and while it doesn't quite live up to Namiki's theme, it is a well-crafted theme of its own. It's a theme that features a fantastic and heroic melody focusing on a driving electronic beat and wonderful brass and strings components. It really does manage to give off a feeling of adventure and is definitely one of the best stage themes on the album. There is also a bonus remix of this theme featured at the end of the soundtrack that does incorporate some rock aspects. I really like this version as well, as the slick bass guitar grooves, updated electronic components, and the replacement of the brass and strings components with synthesizer all work well to give the theme a unique identity, compared to the original, and make it more in tune with Namiki's original DeathSmiles soundtrack. The stage A-2 theme, "Party in the Graveyard," combines electronic elements and orchestral elements once again to create a theme that, in some ways, is similar to "The Timid Yet Nobel Warrior," however, the overall tone is a bit more mysterious and ominous, due to the organ work and plucked strings. It really does give off that sense of a party in a rather unusual place.

The stage B-1 theme, "Mad Chase through the Forest," is an extremely stunning theme that focuses on a trance soundscape. The soft electronic tones really combine quite nicely with the hypnotic piano melody. In many ways, this theme would also be quite fitting for a game like ESPGaluda II. The stage B-2 theme, "A Courage Overshadowed by Mist," also focuses on some trance influence and piano. However, at the same time, Miyamoto includes some beautiful strings passages as well. The piano and strings help give off a darker tone than the B-1 counterpart and, in the end, really manage to showcase Miyamoto's softer side to electronic music, given that many only know of his more intense boss themes from the PinkSweets and Muchi Muchi Pork! soundtracks.

With "Aerial Battle," the C-1 stage theme, the combination of orchestra and electronic elements returns. While not as successful as "The Timid Yet Noble Warrior," I do find that the brass focus of this theme gives the track a more heroic feeling overall. At the same time, the strings work provides a nice, subtle contrast to the theme, offering a bit more of a personal touch. The stage C-2 theme, "Counterattack to the Bellowing Hot Earth," also focuses on electronic and brass tones, offering a much more sinister tone, with its industrial electronic accompaniment, sharp brass hits, and mysterious strings work. It's quite an intense theme and I really enjoy the contrast that each of the normal stage themes have with one another when comparing their related counterparts. Similar to the first game, "Sky High" is the music featured in the iPhone's extra stage. This is also a theme that would work wonderfully in a game like ESPGaluda II. It offers an extremely upbeat and almost joyous melody with its piano passages, uplifting choral samples, and catchy trance accompaniment. I also like how Miyamoto also mirrored Namiki's work on the original, as the extra stage theme in that game was also quite different from the gothic nature of his soundtrack.

There are also two normal boss themes featured on the album, similar to the way it was handled in Namiki's version of the soundtrack. Both themes, "Nightmare of the Screaming Demon" and "Demon Dance (The Chosen One)," retain the gothic feel. Yet they are also the first real examples that this is truly KIZAKURA's work, as they feature some of his signature electronic rhythms. The former offers a very sinister, industrial tone that works quite nicely. The frenetic strings work, combined with the more melancholy strings work and choral tones, works quite nicely in giving off a sense of urgency. The latter is much more chaotic, reminiscent at times of some of the more chaotic themes in Symphony of the Night soundtrack, featuring plenty of pounding brass and percussion work, combined with frenetic strings and an intense electronic accompaniment.

While Miyamoto had a daunting task of having to compare to Namiki's "Burning Halloween Town," I think he has an even more difficult time having to compare with "Hades Castle", the first final stage theme of the original game. Miyamoto's "Castle of Rage -Dies Irae-" is an extremely dark and epic orchestral theme that manages to give off that playful, yet mysterious nature of game's setting. The choral work is quite impressive, helping to exude a lot of power in the theme. The strings and brass elements of the theme offer moments of romance and force, rounding out the overall theme quite nicely. The second part of the final stage theme, "Death Waltz," is more successful than Namiki's "Waltz for the Aristocratic Ghosts" as it gives the motif heard in "The Timid Yet Noble Warrior" an even more romantic vibe. In addition, there are some beautiful woodwind passages that really help tie the theme together. The final boss theme, "Metamorphosis," similar to the two normal boss themes, has an orchestral/electronic fusion. Miyamoto's intense electronic accompaniment works quite well with the ominous, striking brass tones in addition to the sinister strings work. In the end, I think it really sums up the intensity of the final battle quite well.

Considering the remainder of the soundtrack, "Down the Rabbit Hole," serves as the character select screen, and in the same vein as Namiki's "Invitation from Another World," it it focuses on catchy electronic beats and mysterious piano tones that manage to give off a gothic vibe. The stage clear theme, "Of Course!," also is reminiscent of Namiki's work on the original. It has that initial upbeat, congratulatory tone, followed by a more solemn and peaceful melody to follow. The ending theme, "Dream's End," features a very mysterious take on the stage A-1 theme, "The Timid Yet Noble Warrior" and "Sky High" with its music box and mysterious strings and woodwind work. It's an extremely beautiful take on the theme and really manages to capture the atmosphere of the game. Lastly, the name entry theme, "After the Party, features an electronic backing that has a bit of an R&B rhythm that combines nicely with the melancholy strings work. While it doesn't develop much, it does manage to satisfy atmospherically. The album also has an image song composed by Miyamoto and sung by myu called "A Magic to Dream of Magic." As with most image songs, it doesn't fit the overall nature of the soundtrack, but it is quite a catchy tune with some beautiful strings harmony and an overall pop sound. When compared to Miyamoto's image songs for the Mushihimesama Bug Panic soundtrack, I find this one to be much more successful overall.


In the end, I think that the DeathSmiles for iPhone/iPod Touch Original Soundtrack is definitely the best soundtrack release to date for the mobile versions of CAVE's popular arcade games. Takeshi Miyamoto is able to craft a variety of moods for the game through a variety of styles. While I don't find it as strong as the original DeathSmiles soundtrack, it is definitely a worthy entry in CAVE's catalog and Miyamoto should be proud. Before this, I had only known him as KIZAKURA, known for his intense boss themes, but there is definitely a more complex and more skillful side to him based on his work for this soundtrack.

Overall Score: 8/10