Chunsoft Game Music Greatest Collection
Chunsoft Game Music Greatest Collection
December 15, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
Chunsoft, founded in 1984 by Koichi Nakamura, celebrated the musical side of its 20th anniversary with a duo of commemorative album releases. One of them was a collection of music from their flagship series, Shiren the Wanderer. The other was this two disc set. The two discs have different focuses: the first collects music from their successful line of “sound novels” from the 90s (Kamaitachi no Yoru, Otogirisou, Machi), and the second features music from their very oldest and very newest (as of the album’s release) games. All of them are, the obi claims, presented in their original sound (with the exception of Door Door, as the booklet reveals).
The title claims that this is the “Greatest Collection” of Chunsoft’s music, and its cover, with its transformation of the Chunsoft logo into an eighth note (quaver), implies the musical essence of the company’s work. But the booklet is bereft of any liner notes or commentary of any kind, and it even lacks technical and, worse yet, composer credits.
All three of the games represented on disc one have received full soundtrack releases (Otogirisou through its Playstation remake), although these are quite rare. Of course, each of the scores here is represented only by a selection, as the full soundtracks to Otogirisou and Kamaitachi no Yoru take up an entire CD each, and Machi two. The selections have no thematic correlation to each other, and are not ordered to create any impression of a dramatic arch, either within the game-specific sections or in the disc as a whole, giving the impression of a fan’s playlist instead of a cohesive album of any kind.
Of the three, Chiyoko Mitsumata’s music for Otogirisou is the most impressive. “Legend of the Yellow Flower” begins with a slightly off-kilter music box playing in fits and starts with two simple lines that clash in unexpected dissonances. Then the main body of the piece, a lilting requiem, first by the music box alone, then adding a synth choir, high voices the second time, and low voices the third. “Closed Mystery” opens with eerie dissonances on the harp, which proceeds to play simple arpeggios to accompany a sad melody on oboe. The harp takes this role throughout the next few pieces as well, but the glockenspiel and string pads in “The Other Side of Sadness” give it a different color that supports its merely functional melodic material.
The score for Kamaitachi no Yoru, composed by Kouta Kato and Kojiro Nakashima, has fewer highlights. Nakashima’s title track ends just as it begins to develop, and “Lovers on Ski Run”, also by Nakashima, is a plodding waltz with dull instrumentation that does no favors for its lack of musical substance. Kato’s “Requiem” also develops very slowly, with constant ostinato patterns that vary little until over half of the track’s length has elapsed, although once it finally develops, it is more interesting than the aforementioned tracks. “Pension Spur” is a dull piece of lounge music, and “Legendary Spy” is uninteresting light jazz. The best piece here is Kato’s “Beginning of a Long Night”, which unfolds a sad melody in marimba-like synth pads.
Machi, a Sega Saturn sound novel, was composed by Mitsumata, Kato, Hiroyuki Nanba, and others. Nanba’s “Run, Otaku Detective” opens the section with a marginally interesting, rhythmically repetitive piece of light jazz. The rest of the selections continue in this vein, and none of them are more than slightly interesting. Kato’s “Panic Dance” fails to develop much farther beyond its initial funk-influenced groove and “Weekly Meeting” is apparently composed by someone who thinks that a piece in the lydian mode is inherently comical. Likewise, “Go for it, Yoshiko!” uses the cliches of comedic music (even the cuica) as a substitute for actual comedic or musical value. “To my Far-away Hometown” and “Fleeting, Distant, Beloved”, both by Kato, are dull and sentimental, the latter pouring out an aching melody over string pads. The melody is trite and the counterpoint clumsy, and the harder it tries to evoke emotion, the more uninteresting it seems.
The second disc opens with selections from Chunsoft’s (at the time) latest sound novel, 3-B Kinpachi Sensei, composed by Akifumi Tada. The music is recorded with high quality samples, but the compositions are so bland that it feels like a waste. The “Everyday” tracks, all four of them, are versions of the same piece with different instrumentation — barely altered, with none of them making even the slightest positive impression. The music indulges in every cliché of poor anime music. “Letter” opens up with a solo violin playing against piano, playing simple scales and fragments, and we are supposed to accept that because piano and violin duets are beautiful, this music is beautiful. But it is not, and so feels manipulative instead. It is not surprising that no soundtrack for the game has been released.
The score for Shiren Monsters Netsal, a soccer spin-off of the popular Mystery Dungeon series for the Game Boy Advance, was composed by Mitsumata, Nakajima, and Yasufumi Fukuda. Likewise, it has not received any soundtrack release, although the fifteen minutes of selections featured here may amount to the entire score as is. The whole is light fluff, from the ersatz cool of the opening track, culminating in a stunningly inept and foursquare guitar solo, to the cloying “Cheerful Tune”, which gets no deeper than its title indicates. The only excitement generated by the march in “Epilogue” is the sense that the section is coming to an end.
Unfortunately, two tracks remain, from Chunsoft’s earliest games, Door Door and Newtron. Both were composed by Koichi Nakamura, and he proves himself unfit for the job. The music from Door Door is the kind of vapid confection that people at one time thought representative of game music as a whole — mindless and repetitive. One’s perception may be colored by feelings of nostalgia, but the same cannot be said of Newtron, which is almost literally painful to listen to, with its pre-NES synth sounding more like a modem than music. Its tones only barely resemble the equal-tempered scale, and even if it were tuned correctly, it would still be uninteresting.
As a summary of Chunsoft’s music, outside of the Shiren series, the set is lackluster. The best of the music here is shallow and the worst insulting. In their 20 years as a company, they must have produced games with better music than this. The selections, particularly on disc two, are so poor that one wonders why a collection was released at all. The first disc of the set is decent, but the music therein is available elsewhere, and in more complete form. The second disc, on the other hand, merits no praise whatsoever and deserves the lowest score possible. The set as a whole is not worth anyone’s time or money. Given the poor presentation, it seems that the publishers felt the same way.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Ben Schweitzer. Last modified on August 1, 2012.