Game Music, Reviews

Doujin Shmup Revival! Gundemonium Collection Soundtracks (Review)

August 3, 2012 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Doujin Shmup Revival! Gundemonium Collection Soundtracks (Review)on Twitter

And it’s not Touhou!

About a decade ago, one-man studio Aeju Murasame created a trilogy of shmups. They were Gundemonium, GundeadliGne, and Hitogata Happa. The first two were horizontal (side-scrolling) shmups that took place in chronological sequence. The last was a very interesting prequel that was a vertical scrolling shmup and also featured a unique system that required kamikaze attacks, sacrificing precious (limited) lives for your dolls to move forward.

I’d have never played these games had it not been for localization firm / publisher Rockin’ Android, who released the trilogy as the Gundemonium Collection in 2011. To make the deal even sweeter, purchasing this trilogy on Steam will bring the customer a free bonus: full soundtracks for all three games, both in their original forms (from Murasame himself), and the new remixes from DM Ashura and Woofle.

I’m going to do a little compare ‘n’ contrast after the jump. Won’t you join me?

Okay, let me just come out and say it: while I appreciate that the soundtracks released include the “original” mode (the music crafted by the game’s creator, Aeju Murasame) both in-game and bundled with the soundtracks, I don’t like them very much. There are some good ideas in the music, and they had good potential, but in their original form, they’re just so … boring. So droning and washed out and forgetful.

Which is why it pleases me to say that Bill Shillito (aka DM Ashura) and “Woofle” did a fantastic job on their “remixes.” Truly, they’re more than just remixes. They’re upgrades. They’re what I had hoped the DS soundtracks for SaGa 2 and 3 would have been. Remaking a soundtrack is not easy work, but these two chaps did a fantastic job.

Let’s start by examining Woofle’s work. While DM Ashura did the two “G” games, Woofle did “Hitogata Happa,” the vertical scroller with the kamikaze dolls you control. Woofle’s style is very much in line with some of my favorite CAVE shmup soundtracks, like Mushihimesama and Deathsmiles. Dance/electronic meets synth orchestra pop, and maybe throw in a guitar solo for good measure. Almost every song has this, and there are such vast improvements over the original, it’s hard to believe Woofle even had source material to get him started. My favorite track is the stage 4 theme, “Cieligne 1757,” but I also adore the shop music “KRUETZER” (awesome violin solo, very Falcom-esque), and the stage 2 theme “Steel Blue” is also wonderful.

Woofle also has five tracks released on a third “virtual disc” with the complete Hitogata Happa soundtrack. I don’t know if these were done just to please fans, or if perhaps these were Woofle’s first arrangements, and when she realized they weren’t working well within the context of the game, she made the versions we know from the game and then saved these as alternate versions. The alternate arrangements of “Steel Blue” and “Echoes, the first” are my favorites. They are slow and weighty. They carry an air of gravity, and they’re just really nice to listen to after all that commotion!

Gundemonium Re:collection (the version of the first game in the trilogy that we get is actually a remake as well, hence the name “Re:collection”) sports a killer remade soundtrack from DM Ashura. This guy has been on the scene for some time doing work on DDR and other Bemani games. His style is fairly different from Woofle’s, yet it is still very much in the vein of CAVE soundtracks. If Woofle is like, say, Yoshimi Kudo, then DM Ashura is more like Manabu Namiki (note: both Namiki and DM Ashura have appeared on beatmania IIDX — If I have my info right, Namiki was on 15, Ashura on 16).

Skipping the title screen music, the Gundemonium Re:collection soundtrack is a shmup powerhouse. And, after playing through the game a few times, I’ve really gotten into this one. The opening stage, “Tuxedo*Knight,” has these absolutely frantic arpeggiated runs going at all times, and the song is mostly built around synths, bells, chimes, and a whole lot of percussion. The song runs 4 minutes, and then is abruptly interrupted by the boss music “GaGa de BonGa” (no relation to Lady Gaga). The original composition wasn’t much to admire, but this remix really makes it stand up and stand out. In the context of the game it’s really good as well! Before moving to the next stage, we get this awesome intermission track that I have to credit Murasame-san for the clever title and concept. The song title is “Pippipiipiipii,” and there is this sort of morse-code beeping happening behind the song. Very catchy, very cool, very “this just in CABLE NEWS!”-style.

In stage 2, “Storm Raiders,” DM Ashura adds a nice rhythm guitar part that never even existed in the original. Then the melody is carried by a whistle. It’s like a super-techno Wild Arms spaghetti Western VGM track. Then there are the sound effects (gun shots and explosions) behind the B section, which features a ridiculously fast-paced banjo line. OH MAN, I love this song.

The other stage and boss themes in Re:collection are good, but I want to quickly comment on “4,005,920 Magic Bullet Departure” (the stage 4 music). The first non-Japanese shmup composer I really came to admire was Francisco Cerda for his work on Jamestown. The style I heard in that game I hear again here. Mixed with a bit of Daisuke Ishiwatari’s Guilty Gear / Blazblue stylings. Orchestral dance-rock, totally epic.

For those not fully sated, wanting some more music in this style, DM Ashura’s work on GundeadliGne is sure to hit the spot. Ten tracks in all, this soundtrack isn’t quite as memorable as Gundemonium, but it still has some great stage themes. I absolutely adore the short, simple stage 5 theme, “Jorde Amphitryon.” I also love what happens in that stage, for the record. If you haven’t gotten the hint yet, I’m trying to sell you on the games as well.

And, considering these soundtracks all come bundled with the games themselves on Steam, your best bet is to pick it all up there. The games themselves, and their soundtracks, aren’t quite up to the high bar set by CAVE. Okay, the games definitely aren’t, and even DM Ashura and Woofle can’t get the music there with their solid remixes. But for the price ($4 per game, or $10 for the trilogy with frequent sales knocking the price even lower), this is certainly worth the price of entry, and I’ll say it was also worth the time I invested in playing and listening. Much better than shelling out $80 for soundtracks that CAVE announces as limited runs and they instantly run out of…

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