Darius II Original Soundtrack
Darius II Original Soundtrack
December 23, 2009
Download on iTunes
With 1989’s Darius II, Hisayoshi Ogura built on the foundations of the original game to offer a rich new score. The soundtrack is significantly shorter than the original, but also more focused and accomplished in many ways. Though released just two years after the original game, the soundtrack sounds much more musically and technologically polished. The game’s soundtrack was first released on the album Darius II -G.S.M. Taito 4- together with several arrangements and the entire score for Night Striker. Twenty years later, it was finally released as a stand-alone digital album by Zuntata Records.
After “Opening” and “Coin” set up the desired atmosphere, the first stage theme “Olga Breeze” enters. It starts off rather strangely with a woman speaking random things, such as “I’ve always wanted a thing called Tuna Sashimi!” Once the music gets going, it has a really bouncy and jazzy flavor to it; this is probably the biggest difference between the first game and this one. In addition, there are some great engaging development sections, such as a synth electric guitar solo that really gives it that edge. Another of the most charismatic stage themes is “Jamming”. It provides an upbeat rollercoaster ride throughout space with a bit of craziness added for good measure. These two are easily one among my favourites in this soundtrack.
Nevertheless, there is still an experimental component in Darius II. This is perhaps best reflected by “Muse Valley”, which fuses an almost oriental-inspired melody with edgy industrial sections, jazz-influenced passages, and synth vocal components. The result is bizarre yet beautiful; indeed, it seems to capture that surreal Zuntata sound perfect. “Cynthia” maintains a certain feminity, but also features a very militaristic feel due to the snare accompaniment. The serious sound of the accompaniment, coupled with the bubbly melodic line, really work quite well together. “Planet Blue” takes things one step further with a host of spacey and watery sound effects, but this time to a cutesy rather than intense or atmospheric effect. It’s arguably a misfit in context, but it’s full of brilliant ideas nevertheless. I never fail to be impressed by what Hisayoshi Ogura managed to do with chiptunes!
There are actually just two boss themes on the soundtrack this time, in contrast to the original Darius which had a boss theme for every single stage. In fact, most won’t notice they’re boss themes at all. Aside the opening alert sound effect, “War Oh” barely sounds like a boss theme. Instead it’s more of a samba theme with steel drum melodies, groovy piano rhythms, and funky improvisations. Like the Darius boss themes of old, however, it retains a rhythmical impetus and slightly repetitive feeling, but that’s about all. It’s another dubious track in context, though enjoyable at least out of context. “Boss 2”, meanwhile, is a very ambient theme reminiscent of “The Sea” from the original Darius. There are occasionally hard drum parts or sinister chord twists, but, for the most part, this track is very soothing and ethereal. The boss themes in Darius II are certainly enigmatic.
Moving to the final stage themes, “To Nari” continues the mellow approach elsewhere in the soundtrack. It’s wonderful how this particularly entry brings back the jazz focus to the series, though it feels more of a transient rather than core component of the score overall. Far more impressive and encompassing is the final stage theme “Say PaPa”, which gradually builds up from its soft watery introduction into a happy-go-lucky action theme. The melodic section from 1:05 is exactly the type of music needed to motivate listeners late in the game. However, it still retains a little of the series’ quirk with the choral parts. After a reprised stage clear theme and a heroic name entry theme, Ogura rounds off the soundtrack with the serene and futuristic “Ending” theme. Along with “Say PaPa”, “Muse Valley”, and “Olga Breeze”, this is certainly among the score’s classics.
Whereas Darius‘ soundtrack was revolutionary for its time, Darius II‘s soundtrack is more of a refinement of its concepts and is probably the least innovative instalment of the series. It’s nevertheless a delightful listen thanks to its numerous centrepieces and the way it blends experimental styling with catchy hooks. Available for 10 USD from iTunes, this album is worth picking up. However, hardcore fans of the series would be even better off tracking down the series’ box set.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on November 8, 2015 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on November 7, 2015.