Game Music, Reviews

Two Classics, One Package: Sword of Vermilion / Rent-a-Hero! (Review)

October 12, 2009 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Two Classics, One Package: Sword of Vermilion / Rent-a-Hero! (Review)on Twitter

I’ve always loved Sword of Vermilion. In one of OSV’s introductory posts, I used the game’s title screen as a play on Uematsu’s Lord of Vermilion score, but it’s a huge pleasure to finally be able to write about the music of Sword of Vermilion. SEGA has been spoiling fans recently with its Sound Shock Series, tackling franchises like Daytona USA, Fantasy Zone, and two standalone games with this album, Sword of Vermilion and Rent-a-Hero.

Interestingly, despite the difference in game genres, they sound strikingly alike thanks to similar sound sets and the same composer, hiro (Hiroshi Kawaguchi), working on both titles. But don’t think you’re just getting a dump of the music from these Genesis titles; there are also some added bonuses on the album.

Take a trip back in time to see what Nintendon’t after the jump!

Well, about that additional bonus content. The first disc is dedicated to Sword of Vermilion, and the first track is actually a live rock arrangement of a number of themes from the game titled “Sword of VERMILION -Mickey Arrange Ver.-.” It’s arranged and performed by Koichi “Mickey” Namiki and comes in at just over 7 minutes in length, starting with an amazingly epic version of the “TITLE” followed by a chill version of “STATTS.” Unfortunately they miss out on some of my other favorite themes from the game, but it’s still a great bonus for fans of the game.

It’s then on to the official soundtrack composed mostly by hiro with a few contributions from Yasuhiro Takagi, starting with hiro’s lovely FM orchestra work on “TITLE.” “SHOP (VILLAGE)” is a nice change of pace, sounding more like a lullaby, and Takagi’s “CHURCH” is a nice solo organ piece. Takagi continues with the funktacular “BATTLE” with some groovy bass and crazy arpeggiated leads that make for one of the coolest battle tracks ever. It’s then back to hiro’s with “JIJI THEME,” a simple yet frightening dungeon theme that makes use of belltones. He continues with “ERIAS,” a town theme that sounds like the perfect accompaniment to an evil carnival with its rhythmic emphasis on the upbeats.

“DUNGEON” sounds absolutely disgusting with its gutteral bass and pesky bug-like randomized synth leads that bounce around all over the place. This definitely sounds like a bad place to be. “DUNGEON 2” on the other hand sports a really cool bassline that hits on every quarter note with some crazy rapid percussion that works in a fat snare drum, hats, and claps to create a badass ambiance. “LAST CITY” is another amazing track with its funky bass and upbeat melody, sounding like some crazy futuristic city as imagined through the looking glass of the 1980s.

The last track I’ll mention is another bonus arrangement titled “Light Song -[H.] Arrange Ver.-.” I have no idea why they selected this track, as it’s pretty upbeat and generic, and doesn’t really represent the rest of the score. Plus, the arrangements inclusion of toy percussion and a chanting group of dudes doesn’t really make any sense at all.

The second disc is dedicated to Rent-a-Hero, and features a pretty eclectic mix of music, composed mostly by hiro. However, the first track is once again a bonus arrangement. Titled “Can You Become Rent-a-Hero for Mankind’s Sake? (Fighters Megamix Version),” it’s a male vocal theme featuring none other than Takenobu Mitsuyoshi! Pretty awesome, and the arrangement itself is energetic and upbeat. There’s even a karaoke version at the end of the disc so you can sing it yourself!

Getting into the score itself, it uses the same sound set as Sword of Vermilion, so there are lots of heavy 80s percussion and guitar stuff. “Only a Drama…” is a groovy percussion-only track, while “Fight Rent-a-Hero!!” is the in-game version of the arrangement I described earlier. It’s a really cool track, so it makes sense that it was given this treatment. One thing to note is that a lot of these songs are pretty simplistic, repetitive loops. I still love the groovy 80s atmosphere generated by tracks like the fast-paced “Town Music 2” and the slower and more funky “Town Music 1.” “It’s Just That OIRA is ZAKOKYARA!,” on the other hand, sounds like it could have been a battle theme from Sword of Vermilion. “Doctor Hentai’s Sorrow” is the best title for a song ever, and the music itself is equally strange with its random synth leads and crazy electronic sounds in the background. I need to play this game! Afterwards, there is a series of snippets from other classic SEGA titles that appear in the game’s arcade, as well as another version of the vocal theme that appeared on the Dreamcast version of the game with vocals by Hironobu Kageyama. An upgraded Dreamcast version of “Descendant of Rent-a-Hero” is also included with vocals by Kako, with a much more soothing atmosphere, working in acoustic guitars and bongos to give it a lighter feel.

The booklet contains liner notes from most of the artists involved, and also gives extensive credits for all the tracks on both discs, which is always much appreciated. There is also some wacky artwork that combines scenes from Sword of Vermilion with Rent-a-Hero which is quite interesting. Mainly, however, you’re going to want this music, especially if you dig this funky 80s FM stuff. While Sword of Vermilion is near and dear to my heart, Rent-a-Hero is pretty damn cool as well, and you can’t deny that Takenobu Mitsuyoshi singing just about anything is probably worth having on CD. I recommend picking it up at VGM World so you can start practicing that Rent-a-Hero karaoke version!

Are you fond of either of these classic SEGA titles from the Genesis days? What do you think of this Sound Shock Series that SEGA has been pouring lots of energy into lately?

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