Back in 2005, the Japanese doujin game group FLAT created a bullet-hell game called eXceed: Gun Bullet Children in the same vein as Touhou Project. It covered a lot of the typical bases – cute girls, vampires vs. the church, and lots and lots of shooting and bright colors. While primarily underground, the game spawned two sequels that became much more popular – eXceed 2nd – VAMPIRE in 2006 and eXceed 3rd – JADE PENETRATE in 2007. However FLAT eventually decided to pass the torch and handed its copyrights over to Tennen-Sozai.
Now you’re up to date with exactly what the eXceed series is and where it came from. However, that’s just one portion of the tale. Tennen-Sozai eventually made remakes of both eXceed 2nd and 3rd, making improvements and expanding the lengths of the original games. Thus were rebirthed the titles eXceed 2nd – VAMPIRE REX and eXceed 3rd – JADE PENETRATE – BLACK PACKAGE, and with these re-released and updated games came recomposed soundtracks that featured re-tooled tunes taken from their original version.
Find out more about the soundtracks after the jump!
The first of the remakes, VAMPIRE REX, features tracks by Shibayan, cranky and a special arrangement by Saitama Saisyu Heiki (also known widely as S.S.H. – whose works include composing for Lost Child as well as several stand-alone arrangements of songs from games such as Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania ). Originally released in Japan only on August 16th 2008, the soundtrack covers arranged versions of all 16 tracks from the original game. As with many bullet hell games, the music of REX is fast-paced and leans heavily on very excited synths and electronic rhythms. The 3rd track “Bestrafung” and 5th track, “Shock!” are a good examples of the high intensity the music wants the player to feel as they dodge the storm of projectile in-game, prepping your heart for the continuous onslaught. These are tunes that you would expect to be hearing in a game of this caliber, yet is much more intense sound than that Ikaruga, though the music of either game plays to its own respective atmosphere. However, there’s some diversity amongst the fast paced tunes and a handful of more mellow beats, such as the more subdued 8th track “Drunkenness, with its use of bells and synth choir, and track 12’s “Prays for Death”, ripe with deeper bass and a slightly darker tone with it’s use of organ synths. The final big track, “CONQUEST” is a very interesting and appropriate mix of ambiance and catchy trumpet work coupled with bells and interesting rhythm changes that hooks you in for the last stretch and makes way for your triumphant victory dance in “Another Surroundings”.
Certainly, VAMPIRE REX relies more on ambient rhythm and tone that is well mixed in with the electronica. You find yourself switching between the subdued and the heart-racing as you scroll through the droves of enemies that overtake your screen. REX is catchy and you’ll most likely find yourself nodding your head in beat with the pop-like melodies, especially by the end of the soundtrack.
However, if you’re looking for something consistently fast-paced an even a bit harsher-sounding, you needn’t look much further than the next game.
JADE PENETRATE – BLACK PACKAGE takes a slightly different direction with its soundtrack. Completely composed by Saitama Saisyu Heiki this time around, the music is still heavily synth-oriented, but as opposed to VAMPIRE REX, is flavored with rock and metal notes. This combination is somewhat reminiscent to Daisuke Ishiwatari’s work on the Guilty Gear series in both intensity and style, though still remains very much it’s own animal. The fast beats along with the blaring guitar chords give the listener the feeling of being in a real dog-fight, as is exemplified very well in the heavier tunes such as the 2nd track, “White Beelzebub” and the 8th track “Fierce Fight”. It’s not all heavy rifts, though, and there is plenty of more paced tracks, with track 7’s “Maid to Order” being lighter on the guitars and going back to the electronic melodies of REX and more of a feeling of floating through gameplay rather than rapidly attacking and dodging for your life. Track 11’s “The Fate Of” was one of my personal favorites, as it starts ambient like a few of the tracks from it’s predecessor, and rolls right into intensity with crashing drums and ramped up rhythm that has hints of Devil May Cry 3‘s melodic styling just bubbling beneath the surface. The OST finishes up with the haunting “Hymnus”, which upon your listening of the first 30 seconds might very well scream to you “Oh boy, it’s final boss time!” as it did with me, as the chilling choir and bell work that eventually couples with low bass is a fitting way to ramp up the last battle.
BLACK PACKAGE is a soundtrack you’d expect to be in an action-adventure game, with it’s powerful guitar work and fervent harmony that lends itself to more fierce gameplay, but it works well to bring out the game’s undertones of constant battle with swarms of enemies and survival amongst near-impenetrable walls of flying death. It certainly helps take an already fantastic lineup that the original JADE PENETRATE had and proceeds to polish and even dial-up the tracks to pop out even better for the listener to enjoy.
Both soundtracks were released to North American audiences on March 21st and 22nd respectively, in anticipated release of the eXceed games finally making it to consoles on this side of the ocean. Both can be streamed for free on Bandcamp and purchased for your own listening pleasure for under $10 each – a worthwhile investment for these underground gems.Tags: Dōjin, eXceed, Reviews, Saitama Saisyu Heiki, Soundtracks, Tennen-Sozai