Game Music, Reviews

A Hosoe to the Past: UNDER DEFEAT DC Edition (Review)

April 24, 2012 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook A Hosoe to the Past: UNDER DEFEAT DC Edition (Review)on Twitter

This is an album that’s sure to confuse. UNDER DEFEAT was a top down shmup title released on both arcade and ported over to Dreamcast in 2006, and even recently was ported to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as UNDER DEFEAT HD in 2011. Here we are in 2012, and this album is being released a re-issue of a past SuperSweep album that contained music from the arcade version and apparently contains the ‘DC Edition,’ although I don’t know what the differences may be.

Still, Shinji Hosoe has become a household name over the years for his mastery of electronic music, and UNDER DEFEAT is no exception. Interestingly, what really turned me on to Hosoe’s work was a remix he prepared for the Phantasy Star Online Premium Arrange album sporting a cool blend of electronics and rock instrumentation complete with a funky slap bass that I hadn’t heard from Hosoe in a long time, until now.

Hit the jump for our review.

The album encompasses a slick jazz fusion style with the aforementioned funky bass paired with equally groovy percussion. Electric guitar solos (with live performers) and sexy synth leads trade off the melodies, and there are rich, smooth jazz flavored chords in the background of every track. I’d say it’s jazz fusion not too unlike the Rockman X Alph Lyla album (one of my favorite albums of all time), but without the brass.

The intro track, “Dispatch Preparations (Select),” comes out swinging with all of these elements, setting the tone for the rest of the album. I can’t say the melody is particularly memorable, but it will let you know that it’s time to get down with this album.

Delving into the stage themes, “Can’t Come Back (Stage1)” gives off that cool synthetic future vibe with some nice arpeggios, cool belltones, and a great electric guitar solo. Next, “Toward a Mistake (Stage2),” opens with a warning message in English coming over an intercom before an immediate sense of danger is created with churning bass and wailing synth and electric guitar. The percussion on this one sticks out in particular with a constant ride cymbal that pushes the piece forward and the lightning-fast snare work. “The Way That Was Shut (Stage3)” reminds me most of that favorite Phantasy Star Online Premium Arrange track with its powerful snare and its heavily flanged synth lead with lots of vibrato that is amazingly cool. “Storm of Fine Weather (Stage4)” is another heavy hitter with explosive percussion and laser-like synth chords. It’s appropriately tumultuous, has a great melody, and I love the dreamy reverberating belltone accents. Finally, “Tears Which Died (Stage5)” had me turning up the volume with its amazing Falcom-esque rock style with a super catchy synth melody against a cool rock backdrop, making for what’s easily the best track on the album.

The boss themes on the other hand tend to be a little on the shorter side, but still have a lot to offer. The first theme, “Death Valley (Boss1),” is admittedly a bit underwhelming, but “Blue Wall (Boss2)” really gets things going with tribal percussion and an ascending melody that elevates the intensity over the course of the track. “Farthest Wasteland (Boss3)” sports pounding bass and screeching razor-like sounds, falling into the heavy funk category while the explosive “Distance of Jet Black (Boss4)” matches the tone of its corresponding stage theme with thumping bass drum, snare that will smack you in the face, otherworldly pads, and a storm of electronics. Finally, “Huge Dead End (Boss 5)” features a dark and distorted piano progression that is foreboding yet smooth, in line with the rest of the soundtrack.

The ending theme, “To the Far-Off Sky (Ending),” takes a different turn as a bleak trip-hop flavored track with a bittersweet piano melody, while “Delusion that Lived (*Unused)” is a super fun synth pop track with belltones, arpeggios, classy piano, and cool percussion, reminding me of soundTeMP at moments.

I went into this album not knowing much about it and expecting nothing and came out very impressed. There’s some great music here for fusion fans, and I never really associated Hosoe’s name with this kind of music. In terms of the packaging, there’s not much to look at in the DVD-sized case with a booklet containing some commentary, but the 2,000 Yen asking price from SuperSweep records is certainly fair.

Let us know what you think of Shinji Hosoe’s UNDER DEFEAT soundtrack. Did anyone play the game, and does anyone have recommendations for other Hosoe soundtracks that sport a similar sound?

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