Game Music, Reviews

SuperSweep, or SuperSWEET? Shinji Hosoe’s IBARA Original Soundtrack (Review)

August 23, 2010 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook SuperSweep, or SuperSWEET? Shinji Hosoe’s IBARA Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

If you like scrolling shooters (also referred to as “shmups”), you should be well acquainted with the company CAVE. They’ve made some incredible games in the past few years.

Their games also tend to have awesome fusion rock- and dance-inspired soundtracks. One of their first self-published albums, in January of 2006, was the IBARA Original Sound Track (catalog number CVST-0003). The single disc soundtrack, which also includes a few arranged tracks and a voice collection, is a special little gem in my ever-changing collection of VGM. And that’s why I wanted to tell you, dear reader, all about it.

After the jump, check out our review of Shinji Hosoe’s score for IBARA!

Shmup soundtracks usually have their tracklists ordered by stage, with boss themes and stage clear themes inserted in-between. Taking a look at this tracklist, you can see its simplicity.

01 Show Time – Stage1
02 Guardian Angel – Boss
03 Like a Rolling Stone – Stage2
04 Endress Train – Stage3
05 Sky High – Stage4
06 Robot No.28 – Stage5
07 Rose Garden – Stage6
08 Bonds of Steel – Stage1(Round2)&StaffRoll
09 Air Pollution – Stage4(Round2)
10 The Family’s Work – Stage5(Round2)
11 Rose of Zeal – LastBoss
12 Mother Teresa – TrueLastBoss
13 GameOver – GameOver
14 NameEntry – NameEntry
15 Ending – Ending
16 Unused Tune – Unused
17 Show Time – Stage1
18 Sky High – Stage4
19 Rose Garden – Stage6
20 Voice Collection – Voice Collection

Things to take note of: stages 1, 4, and 5 have a “second round” (probably a replay or hidden stage mechanism), and thus, they get different music. There are three boss themes, a Game Over theme, an Ending theme (not to be confused with Staff Roll, which is shared with Stage 1 Round 2), and the short Name Entry music. Other than that, three of the stage themes are arranged, and we get a 4 minute collection of voice clips at the end. All told, the disc runs at about 45 minutes in length, which is a bit disappointing compared to, say, Deathsmiles or DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou Black Label, which have more substance to them.

Then again, short (1 to 3 minute) tracks don’t necessarily mean the soundtrack is lacking in quality. It just means each individual melodic theme is limited and may not be fleshed out to the extent people want it to be. But a 3 minute track can pack a lot of punch. For example, the Last Boss music “Rose of Zeal” has all of the bells and whistles of a great Hosoe track, and it’s sure to get stuck in your head. Though the song generally runs in 4/4, there are polyrhythmic sections to get lost in. There are unique samples, reversed loops, a simple but effective guitar part, and some incredible percussion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Like all shmups, the music that sets the mood is the opening stage music. “Show Time” is a personal favorite of mine on this OST. Hosoe lays out a catchy, rhythmic melody, not unlike a Megaman stage theme. The song remains entirely in a minor key, and a synth voice whose origins rest somewhere between electric guitar and synth lead holds the melody. A clever mix of instruments popular centuries ago and those popular in our current generation keep the song interesting, and the driving percussion keeps the song intense.

All of the stage themes are fun to listen to, but I’m especially fond of the three “Round 2” tracks. “Bonds of Steel” is a decidedly happier melody, though again, I have to make the Megaman reference. Were this music to a stage from that game, instead of IBARA, let’s just say that a) I wouldn’t be surprised, and b) everyone would remember it fondly. “The Family’s Work” is a super-fast, presto-paced piece of music that helps you keep your eyes open and your head steady. The high-pitched melody and descant harmony on this track are especially enjoyable.

The arranged tracks are great as well. I love the violin performance on the arranged version of “Show Time” — it reminds me of the Disgaea 2 arranged album.

There are no lyrical vocal tracks on this OST, and I’m happy about that. I think that, truly, Hosoe does his best when he’s left to his own devices and can just create whatever comes to mind. That’s what happened with IBARA, and I am definitely pleased with the end result. It may not be the best soundtrack in CAVE’s lineup, but it’s definitely a top five item among Hosoe’s discography, at least in my opinion.

Has Shinji Hosoe done far better than this soundtrack? Is there something I’m missing? Or is this really one of his more enjoyable, accessible works? Feel free to leave a comment so we at OSV can be set straight by the VGM community, whom we should all revere as experts in their own right! After all, were it not for them, I may have never discovered the excellent CAVE discography (and gameography)!

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