Dragon Ball Z -Budokai 1 & 2- Original Soundtrack
Dragon Ball Z -Budokai 1 & 2- Original Soundtrack
January 18, 2005
Buy at CDJapan
I followed the Dragon Ball series during its mega-popular run in the US and I largely enjoyed it, but by the time the Budokai games were released my interest in the series had gone the way of the Ginyu Force. Still, as a game music fan, I was curious how the music was going to be handled. Afterall, Dimps was primarily a developer for the Japanese audience (they made the Rumblefish games) and I wasn’t sure how Nihonjins would take to Bruce Faulconer’s US score for the Dragonball Z series, which was the material I was expecting to be used for the soundtrack. Upon firing up the game, I braced myself for Faulconer’s screechy, whiny synthesized score by balling myself up in a fetal position with my hands firmly covering my ears. From my balled-up position I could hear the echoes of sound waves as the rip for the first Budokai started playing. It was now the moment of truth… with brave release, I allowed the sound to enter my ears. Instead of music fit for a bad Genesis game, I was greeted with the sound of an electric guitar attempting to shake the heavens with the power of melody… and succeeding! My fetal position quickly adjusted to that of a rabid Dragon Ball Z fanboy about to witness the Cell Games for the first time as I gave the computer my full, undivided attention for the next four hours.
This wasn’t heavy metal like the Guilty Gear series. Rather, this was crisp, light rock mixed with techno elements to create some of the most powerfully epic melodies I had heard in a long time. At times it would just be chugging along, only to be picked up by a series of electronic samples and frantic drumbeats before going into a wonderful climactic interlude. At other times, it would be an all-out hellfest that gave even the best Guilty Gear piece a run for its money. And just for good measure, some tracks made the funk meter go through the roof with crazy techno rhythms and awesome psychadelic melodies. To be perfectly honest, these were two of the greatest scores I had heard in my life. The most interesting part was that composer Kenji Yamamoto had played an active role in composing the music for Dragon Ball Z games on the Super Famicom, back when the series was all the rage in Japan, and had spawned some excellent arranged albums from the original scores. I hadn’t heard from him since, but here he was just like he never left and at least three times as good as he was before.
Then Team Entertainment released the official soundtrack for the games and managed to completely and utterly ruin everything. They decided to squeeze the soundtracks for two different games onto a single disc, give the majority of tracks only a single playthrough and still be stupid enough to omit seemingly every good piece of music from both scores.
There’s no need for gory details; I have the statistics for how badly this soundtrack is put together right here in front of me. The in-game soundtrack for Dragon Ball Z: Budokai clocks in at about an hour and a half, while the in-game soundtrack for Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 clocks in at about two hours. This is every piece, looped. The official Dragon Ball Z -Budokai 1 & 2 Original Soundtrack clocks in at a miserable 68 minutes. This includes four “arranged” tracks and almost everything else not looping. It incorporates half of the scores for each game (and in any case, very few of the pieces that grabbed my attention originally). Has Team Entertainment never heard of “Disc 2”, or possibly even “Disc 3”? Or how about giving each game its own release apart from each other? My genius would be killing me if I didn’t consider it common sense!
The content on the disc itself isn’t bad. In fact, I applaud Team Entertainment for getting a few of the best tracks on there. “Challengers” is Yamamoto at his finest, applying light organ to a guitar to build the mood for battle and then going into complete overdrive mode for the main melody. It’s not the looped version from the rip, but at least it’s here. That’s more than I can say for many of the similarly awesome tracks that were axed in the making of this soundtrack. “Thrilling Time” is a powerful groove-guitar track that absolutely gives the impression of impending danger. “Like a Burning Wind”, “Move Forward Fearlessly”, “Wild Soul” and “Do It All Risks” never quite reach the brilliance of “Challengers”, but they are still awesome synth rock that shines on this album, isolated from many tracks that tower over them on the rip. The same can be said for “Big Opportunity”, “Running to Victory” and “The Battle With All My Force”, which have been arranged (or extended, rather) from their straightforward original selves.
The remaining selections fall somewhere between ‘above average’ and ‘filler’. A lot of the music comes from Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2, where Yamamoto attempted quite a few tracks that had a distinct funk feeling to them. These are pretty good, but if you can hear what they were up against in competing for time, there is simply no way they should have been granted access to this disc.
Hironobu Kageyama, the vocalist for the majority of DB-related songs, makes a nice return to the series for a game-sized version of “Kusuburu Heart Ni Hi o Tsukero!!”. Not bad, considering it’s been 16 years since the show launched with his classic “Head Cha La” theme as the opening. Both “Flash Run Across the Universe” and “BUDO Asian Spirit” are some of Yamamoto’s more dance-oriented pieces and are highly enjoyable. On the downside, “Full of Tears ~ In the Abyss of Sorrow” is an arrangement of the ending theme for Budokai 2. It’s certainly a pretty little piece, with classical violins pumping out sad note after sad note and sounding like something out of a tragic romance movie. But what happened to the awesome arrangement of the longtime DBZ opening theme “Head Cha La” and the one ending theme that should be required listening for anyone even remotely familiar with the franchise? There’s room… put both of them on there!
I won’t dispute that the disc itself is enjoyable. Yamamoto outshined his previous efforts by a considerable margin and managed to establish himself as an elite composer that deserves recognition from people outside of Budokai fans. However, this is simply the most insidiously crappy presentation I have seen for any game soundtrack, let alone two massive soundtracks crammed onto a single disc. I highly recommend checking out both games, even if just for the soundtracks, but if you then purchase the album you’ll see why I felt compelled to write this review this way first-hand.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andy Byus. Last modified on August 1, 2012.