Game Music, Reviews

Before the Saturn: Sega’s SUPER 32X 15th Anniversary Album (Review)

April 25, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Before the Saturn: Sega’s SUPER 32X 15th Anniversary Album (Review)on Twitter

Yep, it’s one of those SEGA collections again. I’ve mentioned in past reviews of these kinds of “anniversary” albums including the SEGA Motorcycle Music History album, that I was always more of a Nintendo guy than a SEGA guy growing up, so I love that these albums give me the chance to catch up on the classic music I missed from SEGA’s various systems.

This time we’re looking at SEGA’s ill-fated 32X add on for the Genesis. While there weren’t many games released for the system, and it was rather short-lived due to the impending release of the SEGA Saturn, the music from some of the games is in line with classic SEGA greats, and you may be surprised by which SEGA artists appear on the album.

Hit the jump for our review of SEGA’s Super 32X 15th Anniversary Album!

First off, the games featured. There are 3-discs here, each with two games, which appear in the following order:

Space Harrier
Stellar Assault
Virtua Racing Deluxe
Parasquad
Metal Head
Virtua Fighter

Starting from the top with Space Harrier, we get a fun vocal snippet, “WELCOME TO THE FANTASY ZONE. GET READY!” before the upbeat main theme comes in. This soundtrack is provided by Hiro, and you’ll notice right away that all the music on this album sounds like SEGA Genesis music. “Theme” in particular encapsulated his sound and that of the upbeat schmup soundtrack with its octave-jumping bass, incredibly catchy melody, and an awesome breakdown in the chorus. “WIWI JUMBO” stands out for its downright weirdness with odd white noise and phasing sound effects triggering at random while a lone synth arpeggio plays over and over for nearly 3 minutes. The credits theme, however, “LAKE SIDE MEMORY” is a slow pop ballad of sorts with a bell-like melody and rich chords, providing a serene soundscape to close out the game.

For Stellar Assault we get more action from Masaru Setsumaru, Naofumi Hataya, and Teruhiko Nakagawa. “Intro, Fighter Select” is one of my favorites from Naofumi Hataya with its funky synth bass and percussion and impressive synth lead work. I was surprised to see Naofumi Hataya’s name on this album, and this isn’t the last time we hear from him. Nakagawa treats us to “Mission 1,” your typical opening stage for a shooter with its easy breezy atmosphere and catchy melody. “Mission 5,” however, really gets its groove going with some jazzy percussion and synth lines along with dreamy arpeggios. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. You’ll also want to check out the bonus tracks including “Ending (Not Use),” an awesome piece of music that would have been a shame to never had released and “Mission 4 Original” which is a much slower and bassier version of the original. I love the addition of these extra tracks, which adds more value to the collection.

Next up is Virtua Racing Deluxe featuring none other than Naofumi Hataya and Tomoko Sasaki together with original tunes and arrangements of Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s work. There are unfortunately a lot of short jingles on this section, but “DEMONSTRATION,” an original short by Hataya, is a super funky jazz track with lightning-fast arpeggios, starting us off on a good note. He also provides the 6:31 long “REPLAY,” and upbeat electronic track. “ENDING” is a Mitsuyoshi original arranged by Hataya with some impressive synth work, while “ENDING (OVERSEA)” is composed by Hataya, and almost sounds like something out of NiGHTS with its swaggering bass and sticky sweet arrangement.

Parasquad (also known as Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000) is an eclectic soundtrack by Naoshi Kunisawa and Masami Yitsuse. The title track features electric guitar and twinkling bell sounds, while the rest of the soundtrack is all over the place. “Stage 1” almost sounds like a Ninja Gaiden track with its fast-pace and octave-jumping ninja bass, but the crazy vocal snippets and screams, distorted sound effects, and dissonant progressions make it rather chaotic. “Stage 3 Boss,” on the other hand, approaches JDK band’s rock territory while “Stage 6” is a chirpy and bright, but it isn’t long before we’re back to screams as percussive elements and the weird sounds of cats and ear-deafening fireballs in other tracks to make you wonder what the hell is going on here.

So, now on to the reason you’ll want to buy this album. The Metal Head soundtrack is composed by Teruhiko Nakagawa and Jun Senoue, and seriously rocks out. It almost makes me think of what would have happened if Ryuji Sasai had worked on the SEGA Genesis. The first track, “EMERGENCY,” opens on a contemplative note, but it’s quickly on to shredding guitars and a bombardment of percussion in “MAIN THEME” and “BRIEFING,” with the latter featuring a funky edge. “RD1 BOSS” is a lightning-fast shred fest with blazing synth lines, while “RD3 STG1 2” (yes, these track names are terrible) is a true heavy metal track. “RD5 BOSS” sounds like the work of Megadeth, and is one of my favorites. The two-part final stage and final boss themes are as epic and amazing as you’d expect from the rest of this soundtrack.

The last soundtrack here, Virtua Fighter, is largely ignorable, which is a shame given that it appears on the same disc as Metal Head. There are some hip-hop inspired tracks here along with some forgettable character themes, but I do like the short-but-sweet “NAME ENTRY.”

And there you have it. Unfortunately it looks like SEGA dropped the “Sound Shock Series” label for this album, which is a shame, because I loved the idea of a specific series dedicated to classic gaming music. Still, it doesn’t seem like SEGA is letting up on these collections. While there are fantastic pieces scattered throughout, you’ll definitely be interested in the Metal Head soundtrack and Naofumi Hataya’s tracks.

The album comes housed in a single two-sided case. The booklet features track-by-track credits along with commentary from each of the composers involved, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately the album is hard to come by outside of Japan, but get your buddy in Japan to buy it on Amazon Japan for you!

What did you think of the SEGA 32X add-on? Are you happy to at least see SEGA finally publishing the music from the games on the system?

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