Dragon Ball -Final Bout- Original Soundtrack
Dragon Ball -Final Bout- Original Soundtrack
September 12, 1997
Buy at CDJapan
Dragon Ball: Final Bout was a 3D fighting game released only for the PlayStation in 1997. Although many Dragon Ball fighting games existed prior to Final Bout, what separated this entry from all others were the inclusion of the characters and transformations from the anime-only Dragon Ball GT and, even more notably, the ability to execute aerial attacks and fight while levitating like in the series. Unfortunately, Final Bout fell into the same trap that many games of that generation were infamous for. The limited technology combined with a poor art design made for some really unappealing graphics full of ugly polygonal characters that just couldn’t live up to the detailed and beautiful 2D sprites seen in other DB fighting games. Even worse, the gameplay was slow, clunky and tragically underdeveloped, ultimately making for a dull 2D fighting game that tried to appeal only with its implementation of modern 3D graphics and fan service.
Nevertheless, veteran DB game music composer Kenji Yamamoto came back to create the soundtrack for Final Bout, resulting in the only good element of the game. Despite composing some strong and memorable pieces, the audio technology limited greatly the potential of Yamamoto’s work. The synth wasn’t that pleasing to listen, sometimes bordering even on irritating. Still, the compositions, which feature an orchestral palette right at home with a RPG score, were catchy and inspiring, full of melodic motifs fitting for the world and characters of Dragon Ball. Also, quite possibly the best feature of the soundtrack were the vocal themes sung by the beloved Hironobu Kageyama, with the most prominent of them all being the opening track “The Biggest Fight” which was used in the exclusive opening animation of the game. Without further introduction, let’s see how the official release fares…
Dragon Ball -Final Bout- Original Soundtrack is kind of a paradox of a title, being both correct and incorrect at the same time. All of the tracks sound different from their in-game counterparts. Technically, the music and structure are the same, but the mastering is different, with many tracks being extended and enhanced. The vocal tracks are particularly different, and while the in-game variations are sometimes slightly better, not much is lost anyway. Still, hardcore purists mind find problems with something like this. In the end, this is both an original soundtrack and an arranged album,
In past Dragon Ball games, Yamamoto has approached the music with a distinct orchestral palette, showing at times some really versatility in classical music. In Final Bout, he sorely concentrated on this style, creating a score that impressively resembles RPG soundtracks. The synth used and the highly melodic structure emphasize this fact. For example, tracks like “Journey of Adventure” and “Son Goku’s Fighting Routine Waltz” are string-heavy and very melodic, focusing on playful and fast motifs that convey a sense of wander and adventure. On the contrast, “Son Goku’s New Flight! ~ Powerful Arrange Version” inspires more of a sense of danger, with a vague resemblance melodically to the previously-mentioned tracks. The most interesting part comes halfway through, when additional drum beats and synth lines are added. Unfortunately, all three tracks are terribly repetitive and sometimes even sound identical. They seem to loop forever, with no substantial development whatsoever. It wouldn’t have been a problem if this was a chiptune soundtrack, since the melodies are actually quite nice and the compositions are short and catchy, but the long playtime combined with the lack of depth and irritating synth, make them quite pathetic.
“The Golden Warrior ~ Symphony Classic Version” follows the previous formula. It’s a nice composition full of heroic motifs and a very joyful vibe. Also, it’s much better than the previous tracks since it is more developed and isn’t that tiring to listen. “Symphonic Poem: Revenge” is actually quite impressive. Unlike the focus on string instruments heard before, the horn instruments steal the show this time. The theme is a combination of pseudo-militaristic melodies and percussive elements along with some haunting choral chants. Combined with a slow tempo, it conveys a sense of drama and danger, appropriately fitting for a climatic battle. Even more impressively, “Symphony in D minor: Majin” has an incredibly eerie intro full of slow, quiet strings and non-lyrical chants that convey a sense of dread and destruction. Later the theme develops into a more fast-paced, tragic and awe-inspiring classical piece. I must note that the melodic passages here are excellent and easily portray the nihilism and chaos that characterize the antagonist, Majin Buu. If it wasn’t for the limited synth and if a real orchestra was actually used, this track would have truly deserved the title of “symphony”.
The only truly arranged tracks of the album are “Wish of Pan ~ Piano Ballad Version” and “The Gleaming Potara! ~ Techno House Version”. The former has a deceptive title, since it sounds like a music box tune, and it’s not a memorable one either, being short and unimpressive. The latter is actually quite entertaining, full of quirky electronic sounds, catchy techno beats and… This too has a deceptive title, since it doesn’t have anything to do with “techno house” besides some electronic percussion elements thrown in. The track features primarily aggressive electric guitar jams in conjunction with orchestral elements. Nevertheless, it’s a quite a cool and trippy track, albeit disruptive and out of place in this album.
Without a doubt, the real deal of the disc are the vocal themes. The main theme and opener “The Biggest Fight Clash ~ Clash” is a fantastic rock song, full of catchy hooks and crannies along with Kageyama’s incredible voice and performance. The chorus is highly infective and it will stay in your head for a long time. It’s easily one of the best highlights in the entire Dragon Ball discography. “Thank You!” features a very happy vibe that inspires a sense of accomplishment, resulting in yet another cool and catchy pop/rock song. On the other hand, “I Won’t Forget You” is the true piano ballad of the album, with Kageyama’s warm voice fitting with the solo piano accompaniment, creating a calm, relaxing and mellow theme. Although I am not into these kind of songs, I must admit that the melody is pretty good and the song is overall quite enjoyable. Perhaps, the most unique track of the album is “Hero of Heroes” which combines both the orchestral and vocal elements together. Dramatic orchestral motifs accompany Kageyama’s lyrical chants, along with the more impressive female vocal chants of Kuko, ultimately creating a very original and heroic anime-inspired anthem. The structure and composition are terrific, and despite the lack of a better execution and underdeveloped arrangement, the theme lives up to its title by gloriously representing the much-beloved hero, Goku.
The Dragon Ball -Final Bout- Original Soundtrack is very tough to recommend. There is a lot of potential to be found here. The vocal themes are great, and it also doesn’t hurt that they rank among some of the best Dragon Ball vocal themes ever, with “The Biggest Fight” being truly remarkable. The inclusion of these songs results in quite a cool feature that pleases many fans and also helps the game in staying true to the spirit of the animated series. Also, most of the compositions are promising and are melodically enjoyable, especially the awe-inspiring “Symphony in D minor: Majin”. Unfortunately, the synth hasn’t received an upgrade despite the extended and remastered elements of the album. Even worse, there is quite a lazy approach to the production and presentation. The soundtrack is not complete, most tracks are repetitive and overlong, and still most of it feels very short and underdeveloped. It’s actually quite disappointing since this album could have been much more, especially considering the past high-quality Dragon Ball game music albums. In the end, Final Bout is a dangerous purchase, but not totally unrecommended.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by George Capi. Last modified on August 1, 2012.