Game Music, Reviews

Zuntata RayForces Its Way Into My Ears (Review)

June 23, 2010 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Zuntata RayForces Its Way Into My Ears (Review)on Twitter

RayForce, known as Layer Section to some of us, Gunlock to others, and Galactic Attack to yet more, is an arcade title released in 1994. What made it special was a two-layered approach, requiring one to keep track of the ground and the air.

I suppose you’re here to read about the music, though. Hit the jump to check it out.

As many of our readers are aware, Taito’s Zuntata tends to be on the outer fringe of the soundtrack world. They lean towards heavy synth usage with a dance/electronic sound, but with seemingly very random elements thrown in, including liberal use of dissonance, strange chord structures, or an opera singer to give it a really strange, otherworldly sound. It’s not always the most listenable experience, but it is unique and expressive, and it’s usually worth the tradeoff.

RayForce follows this style, though I find it less experimental and more cheesy than, for example, the Darius games. Where Darius titles tend to leave a haunting impression on me, RayForce engages me less. Perhaps it’s partially the PCB-based synth, which is what this particular recording is taken from. That means it’s a straight up recording from the arcade board. Usually that’s great if you like vintage synth, but I found it to be lacking that Zuntata shimmer. By the time this was created, many developers had backed away from FM synth and chiptune styles of music. Instead, this aims for a more pop-driven electronic sound, resulting in a very dated early 90’s sound. It lacks the grit of much of Zuntata’s other work, offering a smoother sound, but one that has simply aged poorly in my opinion.

That’s not to say all this is bad though. Some ears will find the stylistic change a welcome one. “Penetration” and “G” are the game’s star tracks, and for good reason, as they set the mood for the rest of the soundtrack and get you pumped for some shmupping action. But many of the tracks seem to ramble and wander, all sounding very similar to each other, and many of the lead synth patches have a whiny timbre to them. From “Vision” to “The Plot Thickens” – about half the soundtrack – all feature a very similar, if not identical bass line and drum pattern. “Quartz” changes things up with a welcome change of pace and better arrangement. From there on the OST really picks up and starts to explore different soundscapes.

This is a tough review. I appreciate what Zuntata usually tries to do. In this case, though, the style doesn’t captivate me. It feels a little bland and generic, which is one of the last things I tend to associate with Zuntata. I’d reserve it for the hardest of hardcore Taito fans to pick up. It’s currently available on iTunes.

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