Game Music, Reviews

Contra ReBirth: Basiscape’s Manabu Namiki Goes Retro (Review)

November 9, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Contra ReBirth: Basiscape’s Manabu Namiki Goes Retro (Review)on Twitter

I somehow continue to be surprised by each successive “ReBirth” title that Konami announces. First it was Gradius, now it’s Contra, and there’s even a Castlevania title coming up in the near future. All three of these franchises are legendary in their own right, but what we care about here is the music. The music from Contra needs no introduction, and the music for Contra ReBirth won’t either, as a lot of it is arranged music from the original!

As the title suggests, Manabu Namiki of Basiscape was the man behind the Contra ReBirth soundtrack, just as he was responsible for Gradius ReBirth (maybe he’ll be on Castlevania as well?). This is good news, as Namiki has built himself quite a fan base with his work on deathsmiles and a number of projects with Basiscape. While I’ll say there’s nothing groundbreaking here, I think series fans will be pleased not only with the intense and challenging gameplay, but also the retro soundtrack.

Our review of the Contra ReBirth soundtrack can be found after the jump!

Let’s start with the introductory track, a tough in-your-face track with siren-like synths, slamming percussion, and a chugging bassline. It’ll get you into the mood to blow stuff up even though there isn’t much of a melody. This is followed by an equally heavy-hitting but more contemplative character select theme. The ascending progression is pretty epic, letting you know that you’re in for a hell of a fight ahead.

With that, it’s on to the first area, which is a nice throwback to the original Contra with a remix of the legendary first stage track. Namiki takes a 16-bit approach to the score, relying on what sounds to be an FM sound set, complete with the amazing bass sounds that come with it. The arrangement stays pretty close to the original, but works in some different note progressions to keep things interesting, while not changing the melody so much as to upset fans. A worthy arrangement for sure.

The next area takes place inside of a base, just like the first game. It features more espionage-esque drum work with lots of hats, and the driving bassline and electric guitars add a sense of urgency to the piece that is quite effective in the game. The third area of the game completely rocks out with fast-paced synth work that almost sounds like xylophone paired with lightning-fast guitars and percussion that I listened to a whole lot when I was playing through, as I continuously died in this area. It’s almost difficult to listen to as it’s so intense!

It’s then on to a more epic track that plods along at a steady pace, featuring these synth chords that seemingly cry out with lots of pitch bends at the end of each note. This is followed by another deadly serious track with some funky bass and a distinctly industrial sound. The final area features a track that is appropriately foreboding with a bassline that jumps back and forth between two notes, creating lots of tension with repetition. It’s a killer track.

Let’s talk boss themes. The first boss theme has an improvised feel with some great synth work and awesome drum and synth fills. It’s very synthy, reminding me of some of Kenichiro Fukui’s parts from The Black Mages. There’s a second boss theme that features crazy-fast guitar shredding and explosive percussion with a progressive rock-like vibe to it with its descending progression. The final battle is accompanied by an epic rock tune that chugs along at a more measured pace than the previous boss themes.

The final track I’ll mention is the ending theme, which is the only upbeat track in the game. It’s very synthy and sweet. There are these awesome portions where it works in the intro notes from the first stage music, but puts a nice little spin on it to make it surprisingly triumphant and catchy. This is one of my favorite tracks here, as it’s the most memorable.

While Gradius ReBirth got an official soundtrack release, we haven’t heard anything about Contra ReBirth yet. It may be due to the fact that there isn’t really all that much music in the game (probably less than 30 minutes), which didn’t warrant a full CD release. It’s a shame, because fans of Contra would probably really dig it. Perhaps we’ll see a dual release with the Castlevania ReBirth soundtrack, but only time will tell! In the meantime, check out Contra ReBirth on WiiWare and look forward to Castlevania ReBirth in the coming months.

Are you a fan of Manabu Namiki’s arrangement work on the ReBirth titles? Would you like to see an official soundtrack release for Contra ReBirth?

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