Dragon Saber -Shinji Hosoe Works Vol. 3-
Dragon Saber -Shinji Hosoe Works Vol. 3-
December 13, 2013
Buy at CDJapan
The Shinji Hosoe Works Vol. 3 -Dragon Saber- album features the music from the arcade game Dragon Saber, which is a retro shooter in the same vein of Dragon Spirit, and is the part of Supersweep’s Game Music Discovery series. In addition to the Dragon Saber soundtrack, it also features an updated version of the Dragon Spirit soundtrack as well as two bonus arrangements by Yousuke Yasui and Yuzo Koshiro. How does this album end up sounding?
The first stage theme “Underwater City” sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s an energetic track featuring an upbeat and quite memorable melody. It definitely gives off the feeling of flight and makes the most out of the arcade synth board. “Fire Mountain” is an incredible fit for the volcanic environment. It has a progressive rock feel, particularly in the B section, which is definitely the stronger of the two sections. While the beginning of the tune takes a while to get going, it definitely helps give it an airy feel. “Fossil” is a very atmospheric piece that boasts a mysterious melody and really manages to bring a darker side to the stage themes. It’s a strong piece and stands out among the stage themes.
The fourth stage theme, “Center of the Earth,” is a bright and upbeat stage theme that definitely gives off this very airy feel. The melody is quite strong and the instrumentation really helps accentuate the entire atmosphere. Both “Canyon” and “Hell” are shorter stage themes that focus on atmosphere rather than melody. The former features a ton of slap bass and features a more intense atmosphere compared to other stage themes. The latter is a darker strings-led piece that gives off a tense and mysterious atmosphere. Fitting for the stage, “Ice Cave” definitely gives off a nice crystalline vibe due to its instrumentation that really complements the bubbly nature of the melody. I also like how it throws in some of the melody of “Underwater City” as well at a slower tempo. Lastly, “Ultima” features a very mysterious atmosphere that really manages to instil a nice sense of dread. It works as a final stage theme thanks to its strong melody and overall tone.
The boss themes, while they work in game, aren’t the strongest aspects of the soundtrack on a stand-alone listen. “Boss A” is quite tense but doesn’t really engage all that much while “Boss B” is very dark and ominous with lots of frenetic strings work that help give it a sense of urgency. “Alien King” suffers the same as “Boss A” in terms of engagement, while “Dragon Zombie” is a dark and ominous tune with tons of atmosphere. Lastly, “Chaos,” while not necessarily ominous, it does manage to create a rather heroic soundscape and is much more progressive rock in nature and matches the tone of the stage themes in terms of atmosphere. The ending theme features a very peaceful tone focusing on piano and strings. It’s quite a beautiful piece and is definitely one of the highlights on the soundtrack.
The two bonus arrangements on the album both come from this section of the soundtrack release. Yousuke Yasui’s arrangement of “Underwater City” transforms the original into a fairly straightforward arrangement in the vein of FM synth. Of course, there is an amazing synth solo that really manages to elevate it from the original. Yuzo Koshiro’s arrangement of “Center of the Earth” is very reminiscent of his recent Etrian Odyssey soundtracks in the fact that it uses live instrumentation and is done in a jazz rock style. It’s a really fun take on the original and features a pretty killer electric guitar solo and a ton of focus on saxophone, played by Norihiko Hibino.
In addition to the two bonus arrangements, the second disc also features the Dragon Spirit II soundtrack. There was no actual game entitled Dragon Spirit II; this soundtrack instead features new interpretations of the original Dragon Spirit soundtrack as if a sequel were made. It features new versions of the stage themes, name entry themes, and ending theme complete with enhanced synth and stylistic elaborations. The original tracks were released on Shinji Hosoe Works Vol. 1 -Dragon Spirit-.
In the end, the Shinji Hosoe Works Vol. 3 Dragon Saber album is quite strong. While some of the themes, primarily the boss themes, don’t work well out of context, the stage themes for the most part are quite engaging. The addition of the Dragon Spirit II soundtrack is also a nice bonus, especially for those who may not be familiar with the music of Dragon Spirit and the two bonus arrangements play to the strengths of the arrangers. This is definitely worth a purchase for fans of Hosoe’s retro arcade scores.
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Posted on March 28, 2014 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 19, 2016.