Game Music

Soundtrack of the Month 08/2009: BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger-

August 1, 2009 | | 7 Comments Share thison Facebook Soundtrack of the Month 08/2009: BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger-on Twitter

Aksys Games made some big waves with their recent Limited Edition run of BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger-, a fantastic 2D fighter for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For the same price as the regular edition release, they included 3 bonus discs: a two-disc soundtrack, and a tutorial DVD. The hype around the game is well-warranted, and the love most people are showing for the music is also entirely justified.

After all, BlazBlue is the most recent game from Arc System Works, creators of the Guilty Gear series. And that series’ same music composer, Daisuke Ishiwatari, makes a fantastic return with this new soundtrack.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of published music floating around for BlazBlue, and there are some duplicate tracks between the different albums available. It’s hard to figure out “which is which” with these albums. The earliest soundtrack dates back to the end of 2008, when the arcade version of BlazBlue was released. For August’s Soundtrack of the Month, we won’t just delve into the music–we’ll let you know what you’ll find on each of the albums available, and help you decide where your best bet is in terms of finding good music.

If you’re ready to be smacked in the face with some of the greatest electric guitar licks in VGM today, you’ll get exactly what you’re begging for…after the jump.

The first BlazBlue soundtrack released, for the arcade cabinet, was simply titled BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger- Original Soundtrack. Team Entertainment published this two disc set of music in December 2008; this album carries the catalog number KDSD-00253~54. With the console release of the game, Team Entertainment published another disc, catalog number KDSD-00285, named BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger- Original Soundtrack ~Consumer Edition~. Daisuke Ishiwatari wrote seventeen new songs for the console version, primarily because of the game’s new Story Mode. The Consumer Edition OST also featured vocal tracks based on the melodies of the theme songs for Bang Shishigami and Noel Vermillion.

Now, there are the Americans, who were blessed by Aksys Games with an awesome BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger- Limited Edition Soundtrack. The set was technically released one day before Japan’s Consumer Edition CD. The American two disc set contains almost every track from the arcade version OST (there is only one missing track, and it’s only 40 seconds long). it also has about five tracks pulled from the Consumer Edition soundtrack, a jingle that isn’t found on the other discs, and six bonus tracks from “DJ Oh-No.” Confused? Here’s a spreadsheet to confuse you even more. Or, it might actually help you figure things out. Either way, you can thank me for making it. It helped me sort out the version differences.

Side note: sadly, none of these three soundtracks have the opening vocal track for the console version of BlazBlue. The song, “Ao-iconoclast,” performed by KOTOKO, can only be found published on the vocalist’s single, which carries the catalog number GNCA-0129. It’s a shame Aksys couldn’t get the rights to throw this track on the Limited Edition soundtrack as well, because then we’d have a nearly complete set of music all to ourselves.

In any case, if you’re looking to be a completionist, there’s no question that, *if* you can get your hands on the North American limited edition of the game for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, you’ve basically covered your bases. With that album in your grasp, the arcade OST import from Team Entertainment becomes entirely redundant. And the Consumer Edition, while it holds a fair number of unique tracks (including the two aforementioned vocal tracks), also exists to demonstrate Ishiwatari’s softer side. The consumer edition tracks play during story sequences, not battle sequences, so it is mostly lighter fare. However, there’s some surprising electronica to be found on that disc as well.

I must note, unfortunately, that the American soundtrack does have some flaws. To date, fans have found one for sure, and there may be one or two others that exist on all copies. Ragna’s theme song, “Rebellion,” has a skip in it (at 2:17). I’ve heard it on my own copy, and other people with the disc have confirmed that the same skip exists on their disc. So it (the skip) was part of the master version of the soundtrack that got pressed, which is a real shame. You’ll be able to avoid this if you import.

The meat of the BlazBlue score is in the character themes. Outside the context of the characters, the music already sounds great. I had listened to this album once before ever touching the game, and I thought to myself: “yeah, this is really good music, definitely on-par with the Guilty Gear series.” After sinking my teeth into the game itself, and getting to know the strange and diverse cast of playable characters, it struck me just how fitting each song was for each character. This is to be expected, of course. Ishiwatari-san has been working with Arc Systems Works creative director/producer Toshimichi Mori for many years. Given each character’s basic context, background, and some concept art, I’m sure that’s all it takes for Ishiwatari to craft the perfect theme song for this character going into battle. And these tracks are truly amazing.

For the sake of making examples, let me pick a few to describe to you. “Marionette Purple” is the theme song for Carl Clover, the oft-maligned “useless” character in the game. Indeed, Carl is little more than a kid with a crazy metal puppet, but his theme song is perfect for him. It opens with a jazz setup: slap bass, drums, piano, and some light guitar. Suddenly, as if we should have expected it all along, Ishiwatari’s guitar-shredding knocks most of the other instruments aside, though the drums keep going. After a few measures, the piano *rejoins* the ensemble, with its own melodic solo lines juxtaposed against the guitar. I’ve heard of jazz/rock fusions, but never anything like this. It’s so perfect, it hurts my brain.

“Queen of rose,” the theme song for my favorite character (Rachel Alucard), also plays the “let’s trick the listener” game. The first fifteen seconds sound like chamber music: bowed and plucked strings, no percussion, just a simple Baroque melody. Suddenly, the drums and electric guitar take center stage, but the strings don’t stop! Yet again, we see a fusion of Ishiwatari’s in-your-face rock fused with a completely contrary style of music. Yet, it works. The furiously-fast harpsichord performance that appears from time to time to try and keep up with the guitar is exactly what you’d expect when this calm, enlightened vampire-girl decides she needs to get ferocious to move forward.

Then of course, there’s the trifecta of perfection: the character themes for the game’s three main characters Ragna the Bloodedge, Jin Kisaragi, and Noel Vermillion. Ragna’s piece, “Rebellion,” is exactly what you’d expect for this guy’s character theme. No punches pulled, no holds barred, straight-up fast-tempo 4/4 rock. The drums on this track are fantastic, some of the fills tend to take me by surprise. But it’s the solo guitar part that stands out most. Jin’s track, “Lust SIN,” opens with ten seconds of just piano, laying the groundwork with a series of sixteenth-note patterns. The entire band kicks in shortly thereafter, and we’re immediately thrust into a piece that sounds something not unlike a really good Mega Man track. The chord progression is smooth, and definitely not pop-radio common I IV vi V stuff. The continued usage of piano (both acoustic and electric) really helps this piece stand out from Ragna’s, and it really helps to set up the fire vs ice thing going on between them. Noel’s track, “Bullet Dance,” has one of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard from Ishiwatari. You have to listen for it, because the song starts out a little less strong than the others. But give it time, and Noel Vermillion’s song (like the character, after a brief warm-up) is IN YOUR FRICKIN’ FACE!

Some special tracks were written for important, story-driven pairings of characters in battle. Among them, my favorite are “Under Heaven Destruction” (Ragna VS Jin) and “Weak Executioner” (Litchi VS Arakune). Again, just incredible musicianship is happening all over the place.

Which brings me to a point I’d like to make about the BlazBlue soundtrack. Will there ever be an arranged album? I, for one, do not see the point in having one. Indeed, this OST is of a higher quality than many guitar/rock-centric arranged albums in the world of VGM. Seriously, I like The Black Mages as much as the next Final Fantasy fans, but The Black Mages have nothing on the BlazBlue soundtrack. Considering, among a lot of synthesized instruments, there were real recorded tracks for guitar, bass, piano, drums, and a few other instruments, it’s clear that Arc System Works puts high value on the music in their game. And Ishiwatari has been doing this for awhile, and he’s refined his craft so well that it seems like he can do no wrong. Not to mention, each track is well over 3 minutes (some into the 4 and 5 minute mark, without looping!). In other words, don’t think you’re hearing the whole song written in-game, because with rounds of the battle passing by as quickly as they do, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever hear a song in its entirety.

But of course, there are a few bland tracks. I already mentioned the Consumer Edition tracks, which are intentionally slower and less noteworthy; but there are a few tracks on here that, despite the great production values, do not hold my interest. “SUSANOOH,” the theme song for Hakumen (my least favorite character in the game) attempts to merge hard rock with traditional Japanese sounds, including a shakuhachi flute. It’s a cool sound, sure, but the melody itself doesn’t stick with me.

BlazBlue -Calamity Trigger earns our August soundtrack of the month. I loved the game, and I certainly love the soundtrack. Now, time for some reader feedback. I’m waiting for someone to call me out and tell me that BlazBlue is grossly inferior to some older Guilty Gear soundtrack, one with which I am most likely quite unfamiliar. So let’s have it, people! What am I missing? Is BlazBlue not Ishiwatari’s best work? Because I haven’t found anything else to draw me in quite like this soundtrack.  You can pick up the arcade version at CD Japan and Play Asia.

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