Dragon Ball Z -Super Butouden- (EU Edition)
Dragon Ball Z -Super Butouden- (EU Edition)
October 1, 1996
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Dragon Ball Z: Super Butouden is a fighting game released for the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo only in Japan and Europe respectively. The gameplay was pretty common for the time, but more impressively, the DB feel and style were translated decently into the 16-bit console, pleasing many fans. Unfortunately, the quality of the music was very awkward. While the compositions themselves were fine, the poor programming made many instruments unlistenable. This led to a trend of releasing fully arranged albums to the point that they didn’t sample from the source material. Super Butouden marked the first time that composer Kenji Yamamoto created a Dragon Ball game soundtrack, establishing a musical legacy separated by the anime, complete with its unique style, flavor and intensity. GIven his contribution to the Dragon Ball games became better with each passing entry, his first arranged album is pretty subpar compared to future releases. Following the release of the Japanese album, an expanded release was made available in Europe.
Starting the album is quite a surprising opening track. “Theme of Super Butouden” offers an interesting mix of nice melodies, quirky synth sounds, techno beats, and the occasional 80’s electric guitars. The track is pretty catchy even though the melody starts to get old really fast. Most of the musical elements found on this track are fundamentals of the rest of the album, but nevertheless there is an abundance of substantial variety to be heard. For example, the next track “Theme of Piccolo” uses the same techno sounds previously heard, but features a very punk-ish and catchy rhythm guitar along with some simple but contagious synth melodies. The track is very enjoyable and sounds like the opening theme to a classic anime. Similarly, “Theme of Freeza” fuses bizarre synth sounds, electronic percussion and vocal samples to create a confusing but awkwardly catchy theme that ironically is very upbeat and quirky despite representing one of series most fearsome antagonists.
While the focus of the album is definitely synth-pop music, there are a few pleasing jazz implementations worthy of attention. “Theme of Android #20” is a synth-jazz theme that refuses to leave your head once you hear it. It’s colorful, catchy, and has a very cartoonish and underground vibe to it. “Theme of Android #18” follows the same formula and feel. Both tracks feature catchy melodies and addictive percussion while sounding very fitting for a funny video game world, like a comical scene in a sewer or a bar. That is, they don’t have anything to do with Dragon Ball in general, but that doesn’t stop them from being highly entertaining.
Other tracks are even more unconventional in terms of mixed elements. “Theme of Vegeta” is unlike anything you might have ever heard. While in game music most of us are used at experimental and unique fusion of musical elements, somehow this theme manages to stand out with its funky percussion, gothic organ solos, trumpet melodies and the occasional electric guitar solos. The main motifs try too hard to sound heroic while ending up cheesy here. However, the final track still simply manages to be enjoyable and memorable. On the other hand, “Theme of Cell” and “Theme of Android #16” share almost identical motifs but they still differ in terms of arrangement. The former features a generic but catchy techno beat, electronic sounds, and synthetic horn melodies, but ends up sounding slightly bland due to lack of depth. The latter starts ominously with some eerie string sections and mechanical sound effects, later upping the tempo with an electronic percussion, rhythm guitars, and synth melodies. Halfway through the track there are some amazing and experimental guitar solos that despite slightly interrupting the pace of the theme, are still very enjoyable.
The last track is the only one that comes close to the music of DB with its anthemic horn melodies. However, it later it shifts into a quirky and upbeat theme that ruins the excitement. Unfortunately, this seems to be quite a problem with the album. While departing from DB’s musical identity is not a major issue per se, some of the tracks are way too much quirky and funny to be taken seriously. While they are few, they can be troublesome due to the short playtime of the album, which leads me to even bigger issues. Featuring only 13 tracks, two of which are 12 second jingles, might not a dramatic problem, but most tracks clock around the 4 minutes mark and have a very repetitive formula. While there are some nice ideas and experimental mixes to be heard, some of which I highly enjoyed, there isn’t much substantial depth to be found, with some unused potential in the arrangements.
The French releases features two completely different tracks substituting the short jingles in this album. It was an excellent decision from the album producers to remove the interruptions in favour of two substantial contemporary arrangements, “Kameha Mea” and “Maohashi”. However, note that these are original compositions and have no relation to the original material. While there are slight modifications to other tracks here, it is these tracks that provide the primary difference and highlight. While they might be worthy to hardcore collectors, everyone else isn’t missing anything.
Dragon Ball Z: Super Butouden is a fun, entertaining and interesting album to listen. It features a varied and unique mix of styles, a charming aural vibe, and some tasteful guitar jams, albeit sparsely used. Unfortunately, there is a lack of depth and substance in the arrangements, and certain artistic choices like the quirky instrumentation and the undeniable dated synth (which is not actually the album’s fault) make it hard to fully appreciate, especially for a modern audience. Also, the divisive nature of the music might be a problem, since this is more of an experimental pop album rather than a Dragon Ball soundtrack. Nevertheless, if approached with an open mind, this album can be quite enjoyable, especially with highlights like the two jazzy tracks and Vegeta’s theme. The additions to the French release ensure that the album is a step-up from the Japanese addition, even if it is further removed from the tradition DB sound. Just don’t expect an earth-shattering experience.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by George Capi. Last modified on August 1, 2012.