Game Music, Reviews

A Sakimoto to the Past: Soukyugurentai (Terra Diver) Soundtrack (Review)

April 13, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Sakimoto to the Past: Soukyugurentai (Terra Diver) Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

My first experience with Hitoshi Sakimoto was back in the late 1990s with Final Fantasy Tactics. Yeah, I didn’t play Ogre Battle or Tactics Ogre, both of which were released before then, so let’s say to this day that I still have a lot of catching up to do. Through Basiscape Records, Sakimoto has made that task a lot easier by re-releasing the soundtrack to his 1996 arcade/Sega Saturn title Terra Diver (Soukyugurentai).

Get ready to take a trip back in time to when Sakimoto was mainly concerned with electronic soundtracks. To this day, Sakimoto still thinks of himself as an electronic composer despite the fact that many of his recent games have featured sweeping orchestral scores, so this is a rare treat to get another chance to hear some of his early game music.

Hit the jump for our review.

Starting with what’s on the CD, the entire score is maintained from its original 1996 release, but has been remastered by Sakimoto himself. He also includes a track that was added to the game for the Sega Saturn port as well as 3 arrangements from Basiscape members (this is somewhat of a standard on Basiscape Records releases), and a live performance from the EXTRA Hyper Game Music Event 2007 concert. All in all, even if you’d already heard this music and perhaps owned the original release, there is still stuff here to add value.

The score itself is edgy and dark, opening with ominous synth swells in the opening screen and getting into a cooler jazz sound for the player select screen. The first stage of the game, “Above Ota City,” is majestic yet powerful with its high-speed synth lines running up and down scales before electric piano and percussion lend the track a jazzier edge. For some reason, it seems that every shooter title of this era features a track like this for the first stage, reminding me immediately of the Raystorm soundtrack, which was coincidentally released the same year.

It’s funny to think about this being Sakimoto’s work, because from time to time you’ll hear his characteristic orchestral progressions come through. This is particularly noticeable during the catchy chorus section in the first stage’s boss theme and in the third stage, “Descent Into the Clouds,” where timpani drums and string pads push the piece forward like a medieval march. These are both easily my favorite tracks on the album, and the latter actually becomes somewhat of a main theme for the score.

Back into the synthesized stuff, I love the third stage boss theme, “Hurricane Donryu,” which is a huge tank. The musical backing features a heavy bassline that reminds me of Vince DiCola while the heavy percussion retains the the “Descent into the Clouds” melody with the use of the timpani drum, which is a nice touch. The second stage theme, “On the Satellite’s Orbit,” sports a similar emphasis on bass, although chirpy synth accents and belltones give the piece an airy atmosphere.

Later, “Intense Cold Oil Fields Base” is interesting for the lengths that Sakimoto goes to bring out that cold soundscape. While the track is a hip-hop inspired electronic track, there are in fact jingle bells used in the percussion section during the chorus, which is a curious combination that I would never have expected.

The final stage is simply epic, going back to Sakimoto’s orchestral style, reprising “Descent Into the Clouds” with intense string stabs and percussion all around. I was surprised to hear this theme again, but delighted as it’s such a powerful and memorable theme. It’s again featured in the timpani section of the mini-boss theme before it’s on to the final showdown with a somewhat mysterious and foreboding theme that doesn’t sound like a final battle at all. That’s exactly the feeling that Sakimoto probably intended to impart, as there is a second boss lurking after the first one, and without spoiling what it is, the final boss will be familiar both in name and in sound.

The emotional ending theme, “Finale and Retirement,” is quite lovely despite the broad synth strings used. It again reprises the “Descending Into the Clouds,” showing that, even early on, Sakimoto was a master at recrafting his melodies to suit different emotions.

It’s then on to bonus material. “Inside the Jinsei Office” is a track that was featured in the Sega Saturn version of the game and was never previously released. It’s a pretty minimalistic track that’s more about atmosphere than memorable melody.

Kimihiro Abe’s arrangement of “On the Satellite’s Orbit” is essentially an upgraded version with higher quality synths and the addition of some nice acoustic guitar work that lends the arrangement an organic edge. Mitsuhiro Kaneda’s “Descent Into the Clouds 10118 Mix” brings a monstrous synth bass and drum ‘n’ bass-style percussion and pairs it with orchestral strings and brass, creating an epic orchestral/electronic hybrid arrangement that will easily have you bopping your head. Yoshimi Kudo follows with “Above Ota City micro-cynic mix,” an eclectic combination of live jazz piano and bass with explosive drum ‘n’ bass percussion. The final track is a live set of “On the Satellite’s Orbit” from the EXTRA Hyper Game Music Event 2007. Don’t be confused by the fact that there was a track by the same name on the EXTRA – Official Compilation album released some years back; that track was a sequenced backing track while this track is the actual recording from the live event.

The included booklet features some artwork from the game along with lengthy notes from Hitoshi “Ymoh.S” Sakimoto. Also included are brief notes from the arrangers about their various tracks. I also dig the ‘caution’ coloring scheme features on the obi. All in all, the release of this album by Basiscape Records is a welcome surprise, allowing me and others out there to catch up on some of Sakimoto’s past work. I’m sure fans are hoping that this paves the way for a re-issue of the incredibly rare Radiant Silvergun soundtrack. Here’s hoping!

What do you think of Basiscape’s reissue of the Terra Diver soundtrack? Will you be picking it up, and are there other Sakimoto titles that you’d like to see republished?

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