Dragon Ball Z Game Music Birth Chapter -Ultimate Battle 22-
Dragon Ball Z Game Music Birth Chapter -Ultimate Battle 22-
Forte Music Entertainment
July 21, 1995
Buy Used Copy
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 is a 2D fighting game released for the PlayStation in 1995. Although the game itself was very average, it exceeded with incredible sprites and animation that were incredibly faithful to Akira Toriyama’s art for the anime show. Even more impressively, the soundtrack manages to be even better than its anime equivalent, by fusing the much-beloved “Dragon Ball feel” with memorable hooks and melodies that match the characters and style. In fact, the veteran composer for the Dragon Ball video game series, Kenji Yamamoto, took all the best musical elements from his past work and merged them together to create an incredible and unique score. Also, he took the best themes primarily from the Butouden series and established some of the best character-based themes in the entire Dragon Ball universe.
Fortunately, the official release of the album called Dragon Ball Z – Ultimate Battle 22 Game Music Birth Chapter includes unique and sophisticated arrangements alongside remastered tracks from the original game. Although this is not a purist’s soundtrack — something that DB albums are famous for — the overall experience is, quite frankly, astounding and can be possibly considered one of the best PlayStation soundtracks ever. On top of it all, the various arrangements exceed due to the team of talented performers, including the Filipino saxophonist Jake H. Concepcion, who is proudly considered in Asia as “The King of Jazz” and has worked on many game-related projects, including the Dragon Ball Z: Super Butouden 2 arrange album. As a result, the entire package manages to be an incredible VGM album that is capable of entertaining all sorts of audiences. As a side note, the vastly improved and revised version of the game called Dragon Ball Z: Shin Butouden released for the Sega Saturn, shares an almost identical soundtrack. In that regard, this album can be considered as an original soundtrack/arrangement album for both games.
The best aspect of the score is that it combines the signature sound that Yamamoto evolved for the DB games with the best themes throughout his past work (alongside with great new material) to create his “Ultimate” Dragon Ball game soundtrack. To put it simply, the music fuses ethnic elements with futuristic/synthetic sounds, offering a truly unique aural experience that fits the world of Dragon Ball perfectly. Most tracks reflect this aspect which is made stronger by the synthethic nature of the music itself. The album opens on a calm, relaxing note with “Eternal Promise – Overture”, a simple yet very beautiful piano piece that mixes a few synth elements to create an almost ethereal atmosphere. Nevertheless, the soothing atmosphere is soon broken by the awesome “Ultimate Battle 22 Opening #1 ~ #2”. Starting with a quiet brass intro that builds anticipation, the track later blasts with memorable synth melodies that provide a great opening to the album and the game, and as well introduce to many musical elements scattered throughout the album. Also, the track includes both themes used for the two different opening animations on the game, with the first being the unmatched superior, and the second having its great moments too despite its lesser impact.
Most tracks of the album are direct versions from the game, offering remastered sound quality and appropriate fades. “Running onto the Battlefield” is an exuberant and wicked jazzy composition, offering quite a punch with its catchy melodies. On the contrary, “The Super-Warriors Gather” is similar in many ways, but despite featuring primarily trumpet melodies, it sets itself apart due to the synth elements. It’s very catchy and upbeat, and is also one of the more DB-like themes of the soundtrack. “You can Do It! Hero of Justice” is very similar to it, but is much more quirky and ridiculous, boasting even a fun exotic percussion. “Royal Guard” shares most of the same elements with the previous tracks, but it relies mostly on a jazzy chord-based melody and catchy, punchy rhythms. Overall, the unique synth used makes the music much more memorable and special.
One of the absolute best new compositions for UB22 is without a doubt “Trunks”. Starting with an incredibly beautiful, heart-shattering piano intro, the track later blasts off with very memorable synth melodies and a fast percussion. The theme underlies the tragic nature of Future Trunks’ character, reflecting his noble and heroic struggle to save his world in a beautiful, passionate way. Needless to say, I consider this one of the underdogs of game music and a noteworthy listen for everyone. My only complaint is that the remastered version featured in the album has a slightly lower impact than the original who had even a much more full bass sound. “Gambling on the Worst Luck” showcases Yamamoto’s versatility in classical music with its varied and complex passages, but admittedly, it could have been much better in some aspects. On the other hand, “The Birth of the God of Death” is a fantastic and terrifying piece that combines electronic layers with choral motifs, inspiring dread and creating an atmospheric but also melodic soundscape. On the other hand, “Stalemate” is slightly similar in style, but it’s got a much more orchestral and action-oriented motif and also has a much more technoish vibe to it. It’s probably the most memorable villain theme of the bunch.
Another of the best tracks of the album is the suite “The 5 Super-Warriors”, which fuses perhaps the best individual character themes from the game, who happen to originate from past DB games. The track starts off in an upbeat note with Chibi Goku’s catchy theme originally from the Dragon Ball Super Gokuden. It’s colorful, funny and childish, fitting for the little Son Goku. Despite that opening, Gohan’s theme from Super Butouden 2 soon follows and immediately changes the mood. Gohan’s theme is a beautiful, complex and sorrowful piano sonata, managing to be one of the most interesting piano pieces I have heard in a video game. Once again, the mood drastically shifts again. It just keeps getting more badass after this: Piccolo’s theme assaults the listener’s eardrums with a bombastic and powerful opening, later followed by an insanely catchy percussion and a wicked trumpet melody. This one is a personal favorite of mine, as it never fails to entertain with its crazy mix of jazz, funk and punk elements. Simply put, another brilliant piece from Super Butouden 2. What follows are Goku’s and Vegeta’s themes from Super Butouden 3, with the former being an upbeat and heroic action orchestral theme with a catchy rock rhythm accompaniment and the latter being awe-inspiring and percussive. Needless to say, all of the themes are very memorable and have something substantial to offer over their source versions. The only bad thing to be said is that the tracks should have been separated and not presented as a whole.
Despite the synth-boost to some of the tracks from the game, there are some intricate and great arrangements. Tracks like Gogeta’s theme “The Strongest Challenger” and Mr. Satans theme “Savior of the Earth” fuse funk, jazz, rock and orchestral elements to create highly entertaining and catchy music that is extremely difficult to forget. The phenomenal performance and musicianship renders the whole deal even more irresistible. Still, if I had to choose a favorite, most definitely that would be SS3 Goku’s theme “The Limit”. A completely radical contrast to his previous upbeat theme from Super Butouden 3, this new piece is quite a bittersweet deal, with motifs signifying struggle and might. The arrangement featured in the album ups the ante to epic proportions, fusing the unique synth elements with electric guitars and tribal percussion. The simple but memorable drum rhythm creates awe-inspiring anticipation while the various electronic layers offer an overall unique mix of ethnic and surreal moods. After that, the electric guitars blast off the main wailing melodies that are engrossing from the first listen. Also notable are the intricate and complex guitar solos halfway through, offering a much-welcomed layer of depth to the already incredible composition. The album closes with a decent ballad based on the opening piano composition “Eternal Promise” and performed by Hironobu Kageyama and the female singer Kuko.
Ultimately, Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 features the best soundtrack of the pre-Budokai Dragon Ball games. It combines the best themes from the Butouden games with incredible new compositions. Almost all the best elements from Yamamoto’s past work are fused together create one of his best scores that manages to keep the Dragon Ball feel while offering something new and fresh to the franchise’s music. The compositions are perfectly structured for a fighting game, representing their respective characters amazingly well, while being very entertaining outside of context. Simply put, if you want a great fighting game soundtrack, or even just a memorable and unique experience, Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 Birth Chapter is highly recommended. Otherwise, if you are not familiar with the older signature sound of the Dragon Ball games, this might be the best album to start from. Whichever the case, it’s hard not to get impressed by this album.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by George Capi. Last modified on August 1, 2012.