Baroque Original Soundtrack (1st Edition)
Baroque Original Soundtrack
May 21, 1998
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In 1996, Squaresoft collaborated with Sting to creates Treasure Hunter G, which was the last game Squaresoft published on the Super Nintendo. While THG sported exceptional graphics, an innovative battle system, and a captivating story, it also featured one of the richest scores ever on the console. This was done thanks to the work of several composers. Seven, to be exact. The four whom had done the most work were John Pee, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, and Toshiaki Sakoda. Pee and Sakoda were from Sting while Sakimoto and Iwata were freelance composers hired to help out on the ambitious project. In 1998, Sting decided to call in Iwata to compose for one of their high profile games, Baroque.
Baroque is classified as a hybrid, which is a mix of two genres. These genres are First Person Shooter and RPG. It is rather merciless in its execution, given the random dungeons and constant race against eventual death. The music amplified the feel of desolation and despair, representing a barren wasteland where no common life forms exists anymore. That was the harsh atmosphere Baroque was aiming for. Iwata managed to flesh out this eerie atmosphere by mixing electronic elements with abstract ambience, while having a few tips for handling the electronic elements from Shinji Hosoe.
The soundtrack opens up with “Great Heat 20320514”. It initially offers ominous strings, but they’re put as a backup sound when the ‘grundgy’ electronic sound comes up, making up the main melody. This eventually builds up to a slight orchestral motif on which the track ends. Having played the game, this theme fitted the gruesome opening FMV to perfection, as it truly captures the drama and weirdness of the cinematic sequences. Moving on, “Into our Trespasses” features a choir getting louder and louder until a loud orchestral hit shows up; the choir soon dies away with the sounds of the freezing winds closing up the track. “Iraiza” appears to be one of the key characters in the story; the theme is peppered by loud drum beats along with depressing strings. Fitting for a mysterious angel that offers clues in the forms of cryptic phrases.
Baroque is mostly comprised of dungeon exploration, so many of these themes have their own way to stand out and put the listener/player on the edge of his chair, awaiting the next frightful encounter. “Sanctuary”, for instancem is one of the more ambient tracks. Virtually no melody exists, but rather a collage of sounds ranging from echoing breath, rats, leaking water, bats, bubbling water, and more. These sounds are effective for creating fear, and they do their part by distracting the player as monsters are closing in from the dark corners of a room. “Confusion” is the most abstract track. It features wind effects, thunderclaps which sound from far away, along with monstrous grunts and alienating sounds. It is soon covered up by metallic clanks which sounds louder and louder as it progresses. I’ve heard this piece once in the game, and my fate was soon sealed as I let my paranoia drive me into an ambush.
And now on the eccentricities presented here that aren’t quite ‘noise music’… “Namu Ami” is certainly another oddity. It starts with wavy sound effects and some devilish laughing, and soon the electronic effect shows up and drones as the laughing continues. By the end, we hear a synchronized effect which creates the illusion of wicked, evil laughter, which works as the game is literally mocking you. “Little” is by far the most frightening track. It borrows thunderclaps and eerie bits of music from old horror movies, but its biggest effect is the child-like mumbling, which sounds they come from your worst nightmares. Actually, it’s a very bad idea to listen to this track while attempting to fall asleep, as it is quite disturbing. “Alice In” is another of the ambient themes; it has flowing synths and an eerie choir which strengthens the darkness of various dungeons.
There’s some relief… “One Foot in the Grave” is one of the more ‘optimistic’ tracks; the electronic melody coupled with the orchestral overtones fitted the Training Dungeon nicely as it is barely troublesome and there were no random generators except the occurrence of different monsters. “One” is theme which plays when one encounters a holy being, such as the angels or Baroque‘s own vision of God. The theme carries a hint of hope but remains in the depressive vein as these encounters are often illusions. “Multiplex” is filled with choirs at first, but soon gives way to some orchestral elements but the piano soon takes the lead and plays the theme of “Iraiza”, which moves on to a passage with choir which continues the same theme. The ending theme, “Hold Baroque Inside”, has all the main themes attached to it. At first, a gentle piano solo evolves to a short version of “Great Heat 20350514”, complete with the ‘grundgy’ electronic effects. The piece then moves forward with a reprise of the last section of “Multiplex”.
While Masaharu Iwata is credited for this soundtrack, he was accompanied by John Pee and Toshiaki Sakoda. Pee’s “Deep Interludium” is basically a rhythmic choir/beat piece, which flourishes with the sudden electronic pulse and vocal effects, but it merely repeats afterwards. Sakoda has the honor of finishing the album on three noteworthy tracks. “Baroque 204 Forest” is the most orchestra-based and features strings, bells and brass parts, but alas it ends at barely a minute of play. “Baroque 205 Blue” sounds like a battle theme to me; the electric guitar, odd electronic effects, sudden accordion, and vocal effects all contribute into making it ‘epic’ if such a term can be used. “Baroque 206 Black” seems to simulate the eventual death scene — the rapid heartbeat, the painful breathing, the maniac’s laughter, and whatnot all come into a crash — literally!
Baroque ends up being Masaharu Iwata’s most original score thus far and demonstrates his affinity for the dark and dreary. People who are just getting into video game music will likely not be able to get the most out of this album due to the lack of experience with horror soundtracks, but those who already know and love the genre will certainly find lots to enjoy. Having being published by DigiCube, Baroque has become out of print and is unfortunately scarce. It may appear occasionally on eBay, but Yahoo! Japan Auctions seems to be a better bet. While not being as ‘scary’ as Silent Hill or ‘haunting’ as American McGee’s Alice, Baroque still remains one of the freshest entries into the Horror VGM genre.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Luc Nadeau. Last modified on January 22, 2016.