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Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack :: Review by GoldfishX

Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack Album Title: Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-00036
Release Date: March 21, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


I have a hard time trying to figure out how to rate Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack. On one hand, it's some damn fine guitar rock, in the spirit of previous entries in the series, and probably one of the best available hard rock soundtracks on the market. On the other hand, it's really short and it lacks a lot of the personality that drew me to become such a diehard fan of the Guilty Gear series in the first place. It's one of those soundtracks that's not bad and I'm happy I purchased, but it could have been so much better.

You have to look at the game itself in order to understand why the soundtrack turned out the way it has. The game is essentially a version of Guilty Gear XX with four characters fighting onscreen at the same time. Given that battles with only two fighters in XX don't take much effort to light up the screen with pyrotechnics, one can only imagine the carnage with two additional characters. In essence, it's more of an experiment and not the next big game in the Guilty Gear series. Response from the Japanese fighting game tournament scene seems to support this, as XX is still played on a tournament level and Isuka is more of a sideshow and generally ignored at tournament-level play, despite being the newer release. More importantly, the level of effort that has been put into the Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack seems to reflect this as well, as it is clearly not series composer Daisuke Ishiwatari's best effort.


With four characters onscreen, this meant we wouldn't be getting character themes, but rather just stage themes for the different backgrounds. Generally, when fighting games take the approach of only composing music for the background areas, the results are disastrous because the music tends to lack focus and there is never enough of it. One needs to look no farther than the abysmal Marvel VS Capcom 2 and Capcom VS SNK 1 & 2 soundtracks for an example of what can go wrong, where you have a small set of tracks that actually go against what is going on during the fighting (yes, this is yet another direct bashing of Capcom's half-assed fighting game soundtrack efforts of late and it certainly will not be the last). Both of these flaws hold true for Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack, though not to the same disastrous extent. While Guilty Gear XX Original Soundtrack and Guilty Gear X Heavy Rock Tracks were both filled to the brim with pure hard-rock VGM bliss, this one barely manages to hit the 40-minute mark. On top of that, most of these tracks lack the same dangerously addictive melodies which previous entries showed. They're good when they're on, but instantly forgettable. It seems like each piece has one or two memorable parts, with everything else being fairly generic.

That said, the overall structure is similar to previous entries in the series. The major tracks run about three minutes apiece and then there are a bunch of shorter tracks. Instrumentation is sharp and clear, sounding very similar to the original Guilty Gear Original Sound Collection. Even though it lacks the full band from Guilty Gear XX Original Soundtrack (only two guitarists are credited in the liners), the sound set-up is probably my favorite in the series. It doesn't quite suffer from the harshness of the bass guitar from XX and the synth sounds much better this time around as well.

Without a doubt, my favorite track is "Drunkard Does Make Wise Remarks". It's exceptionally bright and cheerful, reminiscent of the themes for May in the past Guilty Gear soundtracks ("Unidentified Child" and, of course, "Blue Water Blue Sky"). Both guitars come out blazing and intertwine throughout the piece, even synching up around two minutes in, to deliver a truly satisfying experience. The piece most worthy of praise is probably "The Cat Attached to the Rust", the ending theme. It opens with a soft organ, then brings in an acoustic guitar and a whistler (sounding like something from Wild Arms), before an electric guitar joins in to reiterate the melody from the other instruments. The organ comes back again and overall, it's probably the most memorable piece on this soundtrack.

As for the other tracks, "Lady Fascination" features some cool riffs from the rhythm guitar, which manage to sustain a dynamic, but somewhat dull melody. "Home Sweet Grave" succeeds in alternating repetitions to blend a rhythm guitar, a techno beat and a lead synth together nicely. Again, not much can be said for the overall tune once it's over, but it's catchy while it's on. The final boss theme, "Kill DOG As A Sacrifice To DOG" features an instrument that sounds like some kind of wacked-out guitar. Someone on a message board pointed out that it's probably a distorted voice being used as an instrument. After careful listening on better speakers and headphones, I'm starting to agree. The piece is worth hearing just for this rather disturbing effect, but it doesn't put the tune in the same league as "Meet Again" and "The Midnight Carnival", both previous classic final battle themes in the series. Other pieces, like "Push a Bush" and "Sheep Will Sleep (if you become fatigued)" lack the directness that made the tunes in previous games so addictive. They sound like they could be so much better if the melodies were ironed out more.

One cool thing to listen for are the references to past tracks in the series. "Drumhead Pulsation" for example, has a rhythm that should immediately remind people of Zato/Eddie's "Feel a Fear". "The Irony of a Chaste" bears a similar chord progression to "Writhe in Pain," and "Riches in Me" sounds like it wants to go in the same direction that "Existence" did from Guilty Gear XX did before it turns into something completely new. If you've noticed the way Nobuo Uematsu used several parts that sounded like his previous works in later Final Fantasy games, you'll find Ishiwatari did the same thing here. While somewhat derivative, it's like having the composer's seal of approval on the soundtrack.


Overall, the best way to look at this is just a sleeper hit to tide fans of the series over until the next big thing. It's great while it's on, making for nice driving music or even something for concentration (since the melodies aren't overwhelming), but it lacks the depth of previous entries in the series to recommend wholeheartedly. I certainly don't recommend this to people who are new to the series, because I don't think it has that "pull" to draw people in, like the Guilty Gear XX Original Soundtrack and Guilty Gear X Heavy Rock Tracks do. Still, you're not going to do much better if you're in the market for a good rock soundtrack (again, outside of the rest of the Guilty Gear series), so if you like your music loud, be sure to look into this. The Guilty Gear Isuka Original Soundtrack should be available at most major game music retailers.

Overall Score: 7/10