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Game Music

Xak is Back: Xak II, An Action Game Without The Action Music (Review)

Xak is Back: Xak II, An Action Game Without The Action Music (Review)

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Here we are, looking Xak in the face once again. What is Xak? I still don’t know, but I enjoyed the original Xak’s soundtrack a whole lot last month. If you recall, it was released in a number of different formats, including FM, PSG, X68000 and PC-8801. Not to be outdone, Xak II is also available in a number of formats for your listening pleasure, including FM, PGS, and PC-9801, although my favorite X68000 is strangely absent!

Ryuji Sasai and Tadahiro Nitta both return for round two, but don’t expect more of the same thing. In fact, instead of the high-energy rockin’ approach found on the original Xak soundtrack, it seems that the two went for a more subdued, atmospheric approach this time around. Is this a good or bad thing? I guess it depends on what your preference is, but I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

Hit the jump for our review of the Xak II soundtrack.

Similar to how the original Xak was presented on EGG MUSIC, fans can purchase the Xak II MSX Original Soundtracks that includes both the FM and PSG versions, or the standalone Xak II PC-9801 Remastered Soundtracks, each of which will set you back $20. You get twice as much music in the MSX version, so this is the one I’d recommend since it doesn’t look like a X68000 version is available.

So, about style. The rock edge that had me at hello is strangely absent here, replaced with rapidly shifting ethnic-influenced melodies. Unfortunately, this approach makes the music somewhat unpredictable, and I didn’t find myself getting overly attached to any of the tracks from Xak II. There are a few exceptions, of course, and even a few returning themes from the original Xak, but for the most part, the two scores sound like they’re from completely different universes.

Most of the opening tracks are pretty soft, including “Prosperity,” which offers a sweet melody for an opening track instead of the guttural percussion sounds that left quite an impression from the opening of Xak. From here, “Borouzo’s Forest” launches into what sounds like a song out of Solstice. Flute melodies flutter around beating percussion and some strange synth effects. It’s upbeat and playful, and not something I would have expected from my experience with Xak.

“Holy Doctrine” is a great piece that combines a repetitive arpeggio in the background with a hard-hitting bass and lead that often double up on the same notes, driving the melody home. Taking another change in direction, “Sleeping Princess Myun” adopts a pop-like sound with rich chords and a groovy bass that is interesting to hear done on these sound sources.

A repeat theme from the original Xak, “Sky Bridge” is one of my favorites, as it takes up the old metal style I had been missing up until now. While the sounds are primitive, it’s easy to distinguish between intended guitar and synth parts, and the bassdrum-heavy percussion is appreciated. Both ” TA・KA・MI・NI・TE” and “Final Duel” both feature intense percussion, with “Final Duel” sporting a rhythmic progression along with unique drum sounds that make it one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“Trap” and “Confrontation! Captain Gospel,” on the other hand, emphasize the bass, each with its own fat bassline that reminds me of Vince DiCola’s work. As most Western gamers probably think of Falcom when they hear music created on these old sound sources, “Flight” doesn’t disappoint with it’s fast-paced, energetic progression that I swear I’ve heard in the Ys series.

Lastly, “Ending 1” drives home the differences one last time, taking a contemplative, somewhat subdued style that hints that there are more struggles to come. Indeed there are, as there were a few Xak titles released after Xak II. I appreciated the approach, as it lends the score a mature tone.

There you have it. Xak II is quite a surprise, but isn’t bad by any means. I think that the $20 price tag may be a little steep for what you’re going to get, as the majority of the tracks failed to keep my attention, but it’s still awesome to hear Ryuji Sasai’s early work in games. I’m looking forward to checking out the other Xak soundtracks offered on EGG MUSIC, so this isn’t the last you’ll hear from the series, although this is the last time we’ll hear Ryuji Sasai’s music in the series.

Is there anything on EGG MUSIC that you’d like us to tell you about? Are you a fan of these classic action games?

[Special thanks to Brandon Robison for helping with translation of the track titles]

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