Game Music, Reviews

Just in Time for Christmas: The Horrific 3rd Birthday Soundtrack (Review)

December 20, 2010 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Just in Time for Christmas: The Horrific 3rd Birthday Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Yeah, a new entry into the Parasite Eve franchise seems more suited for a Halloween release than a Christmas one, but apparently Square Enix thinks otherwise.  Just two days away from release in Japan (alongside the soundtrack), events in the game apparently take place around the holiday season, with even a few surprise Christmas songs making their way into the soundtrack.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Series composer Yoko Shimomura returns with composers Tsuyoshi Sekito and Mitsuto Suzuki to provide a pretty sizable 3-disc soundtrack for the third chapter of Parasite Eve on the PSP.  Are they able to maintain the quality music that the series was known for in the past?

Find out in our review of The 3rd Birthday Original Soundtrack after the jump!

As noted, there are 3 composers involved this time around.  Most are familiar with Yoko Shimomura’s past contributions to the series, and she once again joins the team, although not as primary composer.  That distinction belongs to Mitsuto Suzuki, which I couldn’t be more excited about.  We’re huge fans of his past work, so it’s about time that he was given a game to lead.  Tsuyoshi Sekito  also joins in, assisting with his guitar work and providing a few pieces here and there.

So, what does the score sound like?  Well, I mentioned that there are 3 discs of music.  What you have are mostly darker ambient cues mixed in with some heavier electronic drum ‘n’ bass tracks that act as battle themes.  Not too unlike past Parasite Eve scores, actually.  There is also a smattering of other genres found on the album, as well as the Christmas surprises I mentioned above.

Let’s start with Tsuyoshi Sekito since he’s responsible for the album’s opening track, “From the End -The 3rd Birthday-,” featuring a familiar piano progression that quickly takes a turn for the more synthetic, swapping piano for bell synths as a fat bass synth and an otherworldly choir pad is added to the mix.  It’s a great introduction that sets the stage for the highly synthesized and industrial sounds that follow.

Later, Sekito returns with intertwined and chaotically fluttering synth lines in “Bloody Back” and even jumps into some Gothic orchestral music (which is honestly a bit out of place) with “Worm,” complete with orchestral instrumentation and a powerful choir.  He gets more electronic with the pumping “Triumph of Wing” and the Gothic “Ray of Hope,” working in organ and piano, seemingly intent on using choral elements in each of his tracks.  Finally, his whimsical bell tolls and crashing orchestral percussion in “Crimson Eyes” are quite nice, reminding me of Danny Elfman’s work.

Moving on to the star of the show, Mitsuto Suzuki makes his debut with “Investigation of the Past” with retro synth pads, slamming percussion, and melancholy choir pads that call out from the heavy electronic foundation of the piece.  This style is continued into one of my favorite tracks on the album, “Beginning of Breeding,” which features a familiar Parasite Eve piano melody with a phasing synth sweep in the background before intense violin chops and piercing piano notes carry the piece through to its conclusion.

Suziki gets emotional and cinematic in “Dive into Myself” with live piano and strings, while “Equinox of Insanity” features a repetitive piano progression that fades in and out of the mix while an ominous ambient patch encroaches on the soundscape.  “Moment of Silence” also takes the listener to another plane of existence, albeit a rather peaceful and relaxing one.  “Queen” is elegant yet unsettling with a regal choir and stray piano notes.

“Fright Night” is another of my favorites, building up with a fusion of electronic bass synths and jazzy electric piano.  The percussion, while electronic, is subdued and smooth, bringing the two elements together.  Another fantastic piece, “Terminus Zero,” opens with an ominously descending pad progression as a highly reverberating solo violin fades in and out of the mix, creating a sense of elegance among the chaos.  The melody constantly reminds me of the “Dungeon” theme from The Legend of Zelda.  “Cloud of Aureolin” should also catch your attention with its blood-pumping bassline and percussion.  It sports piano arpeggios, glassy pads, and even some electric guitar, sounding like something out of a racing game.  A scary racing game.

Jumping into other genres, we get some smooth jazz with Suzuki’s “Arriving Home” and Sekito’s “dayDreamer” and peaceful “Angel’s Time.”  “Brave New World” is a rocking guitar track that you would think was Sekito, but is actually Suzuki.  He also rocks out with “Reaper,” and brings in the Castlevania-esque “Moment of Humanity.”  “Into the Babel” is an important piece, building slowly with powerful orchestral percussion and a repeated, guttural chant from a choir.  This last one I’ll mention for the track title alone: “Dr. Maeda (or How I Learned to Start Loving DNA)” (a reference to Dr. Strangelove, one of the best movies of all time).  It sports some strange synth lines, odd sound effects, and is generally a weird track all around.

But I’m sure you’re wondering if this soundtrack features remixes of past Parasite Eve material.  It does!  “Memory II -for The 3rd Birthday” is a Suzuki arrangement of Shimomura’s music from the original Parasite Eve.  The familiar piano melody is buried under evolving atmospheres, taking a more new age approach that works really well.  He also arranges “Out of Phase” with raggae-esque synths on the up beats, and “Escape from UB,” which takes listeners to the dance floor with driving 4/4 beats.  Shimomura herself tackles “Arise within You,” adding a layer of dreamy synths to the trancey percussion along with “A Piece of Remain” with its distorted electric piano and clock ticking sounds.  She later reworks “Primal Eyes,” one of my favorite themes from the original Parasite Eve, adding wailing electric guitars and creating a pretty cool new age soundscape.

And about those Christmas tunes.  It’s finally the moment you’ve been waiting for: the Square Enix sound team’s own recording of “Joy to the World!”  With Sekito on guitar, Suzuki on piano, bells, and vocals, and a slew of other live session artists, this is a classic radio version of the iconic song, recorded in mono as if it were being played through an old radio in your living room.  About midway through, however, it does fade into stereo, letting you hear the Square Enix members in all their Christmas glory.  Similarly, “Come Again to Christmas” towards the end of the album sports a loungey Christmas sound complete with jingle bells and smooth guitar performance by Sekito.

Oh, and how could we forget Yoko Shimomura?  From comments she’s made to Famitsu, it sounds as though she wasn’t directly involved with the game from the standpoint of its development, but was rather asked to blindly write some battle themes and some “Aya Brea-esque” music.  It then makes sense that she ends up being the heavy electronic presence on the album, taking on a number of drum ‘n’ bass tracks.

She starts with “Contact, Freeze, Explode” and “Unknown Unknown,” each with buzzing synth lines, wailing guitar, and steady drum ‘n’ bass percussion, sounding pretty battle-like.  “Pain of Assault” takes on the same drum ‘n’ bass sound and adds dissonant pads and sharp piano chords to add tension.

Shimomura also closes out the album with a number of key pieces.  “The End -Back to the Beginning-” comes in at nearly 10 minutes in length, opening with emotional strings and piano before moving into a sweet and beautiful piano ballad that is the first joyful experience on the album.  When strings are added to the mix, they’re not the most convincing, but it’s still a lovely composition.  “Brea the Brave,” on the other hand, features the delicate piano that Shimomura has used to represent the classy side of Aya Brea, while using decisive bass and percussion to represent her strength.  The final track, “Theme of Aya -The 3rd Birthday Early Essence Arrange-,” is short but sweet, featuring the memorable piano melody along with an explosive dnb backing.  It’s unfortunate that it’s less than a minute and a half long.

And that’s all they wrote.   I have to say that I’m really impressed with this soundtrack, and am incredibly happy to see Mitsuto Suzuki getting some time in the spotlight.  There is a ton of great music here, including some Christmas tunes and even new music from Yoko Shimomura. What more could you ask for?  Yes, even the packaging is snazzy, with a nice white slipcase over the front and a fold-out cardboard casing for the discs themselves.  We may even have an unpacking video for your later this week if you’d like.  The album is available at CD Japan with a ship date of December 22, 2010.

Let us know what you think of the revival of the Parasite Eve franchise with Mitsuto Suzuki’s music at the helm.  Are you still wishing Shimomura had been brought in for more music?

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