August 7, 1986
Buy Used Copy
Nobuo Uematsu’s earliest solo soundtrack release, Alpha, is dedicated to one of the earliest Square games before the company became successful with Final Fantasy. This vinyl features just two tracks, both of which are fascinating.
It opens atmospherically with a female narrator who describes the game’s basic story against eerie and effective synthetic backing. Despite impeccable pronunciation and a lyrical flow, there are peculiar grammatical errors with the script, perhaps making it the first example of Engrish in a game music album, a whole five years before Zero Wing.
After the 1:30 mark, a flute carries a melody that leads to the transition from the prologue to an upbeat main theme, against arpeggios that resemble the foundations of the “Prelude.” Combining an action-oriented bass line with the eventual recurrence and development of the flute melody, buoyancy and beauty combine in one. It is here that the progressive rock roots of the arrangement become most evident, demonstrating some parallels with the nature of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s work, cited as a major influence for Uematsu’s compositions.
The second theme, “CHRIS,” likely a celebration of my conception, sees the return of the flute as a leading instrument, against further light arpeggiation until simple yet rich backing from further forces become apparent. Though it is brief and feels isolated on the album, the rich melancholic melody and pleasant instrumental use make the theme enjoyable to revisit and fitting.
Overall, this is a brief collector’s set that is immensely rare, but almost certain to increase in value. The prologue ranks as one of Uematsu’s most multifaceted arrangements and progresses really admirably, while “CHRIS” is a poignant and brief ambient theme. Both are demonstrations of Uematsu’s ability to fit scenes and produce powerful melodies. As everything about it feels special, precious, and nostalgic, and it is the origins of certain themes, this vinyl, together with Cruise Chaser Blassty, is recommended for rich game music historians, assuming any exist. Still, only the most hardcore of Uematsu fans should seriously consider paying out potentially a lot of money for a product with just two tracks and fairly low quality synth.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 18, 2016.