EHRGEIZ Original Soundtrack
EHRGEIZ Original Soundtrack
November 21, 1998
Buy Used Copy
Ehrgeiz (German for “ambition”) is a fighting video game developed by Dream Factory for the PlayStation that was also released by Namco as an arcade game in 1998. The gameplay consists of two modes: an arcade mode and an RPG mode. Nakamura’s music for the soundtrack shows a significant difference, too; the arcade mode features many dance and techno tracks, whereas the RPG mode features some orchestral gems. This album comes one and a half years after his efforts on the Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack, and one can easily see that he gained some knowledge along the way. As well as a large number of original themes, “EHRGEIZ” features arrangements of some Final Fantasy VII themes, too, namely Uematsu’s main battle theme and the “Prelude.” Added to this is a whole disc of tracks which are arranged versions of the themes used in the arcade game. All in all, the EHRGEIZ Original Soundtrack is just as ambitious as the game title suggests, but as you will find out, there are a few flaws along the way. Read on.
The arcade section of the game takes the distinct electronica style that Nakamura is renowned for. He proves to be more diverse than ever with this soundtrack by fusing a number of distinct genres as well. But still, diversity can be a bad thing, and when it isn’t concentrated on the right things, it can become even worse. This section of the album also proves to be his weakest, with a majority of the themes lacking any rational development at all. “The Tale of Ehrgeiz” is the first opening track, and with its interesting rhythm appearing alongside a repeated synthesiser passage, it is an interesting one, too. Interesting, though, is not good enough, as repeated synthesiser passage lacks any real rhythmic cnetre. The next theme on the album is “Victory,” which is a track that takes a set of mechanical synth sounds and develops them into something rhythmic and fun to listen to. Nonetheless, this is a brief encounter, so the album moves on to provide the listener with two escape themes. “Escape” is the first of these, and admittedly, it is neither inspirational nor original. Nonetheless, the track is still a good listen, and the melody is surprisingly fulfilling, too. The next escape theme is “Escape by Airship,” and it takes a failed progressive rock style that just doesn’t seem as effective as it should be. There is far too little going on in the bass of the track for it to be tension inducing at all.
The arcade section features many other tracks, but there are only a few that are worth listening to, as a majority of the others are just overdone with overly diverse rhythms and pathetic bass lines. Perhaps the most noteworthy asset of this part of the album is that it features arrangements of “Those Who Fight,” and “Prelude,” from the Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack. Nakamura adds a back beat to the themes, and this turns out to be a great addition. The game itself includes characters from Final Fantasy VII, hence why these arrangements appear on the disc. Nonetheless, the better tracks from arcade section of the album are the original ones which contain a good melody. Even so, the arrangements on the final disc of the album provide the listener with a better recapulation of these themes. “Hong Kong Reggae” is the first most notable track in the section, but unfortunately, its funky bass line just can’t save the overall underdevelopment of the track. Therefore, with “Hong Kong Reggae” gaining an early dismissal, the first good track after the opening theme is “A Song for the Man of the Future.” The title of the track says it all, as it takes the use of synth noises to the max. Nakamura decides to add in a series of electronic pitch bends into the track, which truly adds that all intended futuristic effect. Nonetheless, although this track is good in comparison to the ones that precede it, it fails with an utter lack of harmonic development.
The track times of the themes from the arcade section tell the whole story as plain as it is — Nakamura hardly ever develops his tracks here, and when he does, he developes the wrong parts. There isn’t a theme on the soundtrack that doesn’t feature some amount of potential, and to see so many tracks’ wasted potential is just painful. Rest assured, however, that this is only a problem that Nakamura faces with his arcade tracks. There is some regained hope in that the arcade section ends with a recapulation of an earlier theme in the soundtrack. “Opening (Short Version)” is an interesting orchestral gem that proves to be the most suited theme to end the arcade section of the game. Nakamura adopts this style for the RPG section of the album, so don’t turn your head now, as this is where some groundbreaking tracks finally begin to appear. All in all, the arcade section is a severe disappoint, as following his works on the Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack one would expect Nakamura to have treated us to much more of the same. A key issue here is definitely the lack of any development in the track, and although the music fits the arcade version of the game extremely well, one could have hoped for it to have been so much better. Even so, this problem could be the doings of Namco, so read on to find out more.
Despite the completely shameful arcade section on the soundtrack, the EHRGEIZ Original Soundtrack regains some respect with its RPG section. There are significantly less themes on this part of the album, but when the melodic, harmonic, and dynamic variety is added up from each section and compared, one can easily see that this half of the first disc is dominant. The opening theme of the RPG section, “Brand New Quest,” is far more memorable than the arcade section’s “The Tale of Ehrgeiz.” “Brand New Quest” opens with a brass section and some awe-inspiring strings, and this reflects upon the genre of the RPG section, which is made solely from orchestral tracks. The violins emit a certain aura into the track when they receive their own melody, and unlike the electronica section of the album, there is a harmony to support everything, too. It is all too easy to denounce the electronica era, but the arcade tracks are specifically bad examples. Harmony is the key to many of these tracks, and with such an example immediately following “Brand New Quest,” Nakamura seems to have set out on a quest to please. “Ruined Town” is a lovely and subtle track that tells of the sorrows of the destroyed village. There are so many string parts in this track that each one forms a harmony for the other, and every chord formed adds a bit more agony to the atmosphere. The development of this track results in the violins playing a grand melody that suggests to the listener that the community of the town is going to rise and fight against such wrong-doings.
Next up are the dungeon themes, which all succeed in adding their own sense of mysticality to the soundtrack. The tension brought about in each of the dungeon themes increases as they go up number, so this represents how the player is coming closer to the ultimate destination every time that a dungeon is passed. The amount of instrumentation used also increases through the dungeons; “Dungeon 1” relies mainly upon a repeated harp motif in the background to create its suspense, whereas “Dungeon 7” relies upon both its melodic instruments and accompanying sections. Manipulating the timbre has always been a key feature in game music, and it proves to be perfectly fitting here, too. “Dungeon 4” is the best of these themes, as its atmosphere is much more enhanced than the rest. The main difference is that “Dungeon 7” is composed in a higher octave than “Dungeon 4,” so it has nowhere near the same amount of power in the bass. Still, although “Dungeon 4” is definitely the best out of the selection, “Dungeon 6” is an extremely enhanced track, too. The poor synth quality of the vocals let this track down, but all in all, its development is profound. In comparison to the arcade map theme series, the dungeon themes are a much better group of tracks.
With some impressive themes behind him, Nakamura produces four battle tracks for the RPG section of the game, too. “Battle in a Trap” is the first of these, and with all things considered, it is quite a good track. It takes a while for the listener to warm to the heavy atmosphere created by the beating percussion, but once the track gets into a section of flowing melodies and string harmonies, there is no stopping what Nakamura can do. The track that follows this is called “Boss,” and with a selection of the finest instrumentation, Nakamura creates another solid atmosphere here. “Boss” takes a more melodic approach than the heavy, percussion orientated “Battle in a Trap” does, and admittedly, it is slightly more effective, too. The next theme is “Master Boss,” a slightly more baroque styled battle theme that features a typical use of flowing string melodies. A really impressive gothic image is created by this track, as with the interweaving melodies and an organ in the background, an image of a church is easily formed. With this track representing the penultimate battle, Nakamura really goes to town with the dynamics and suspense creating rhythms, so all in all, the track becomes one of the best on the album. Nonetheless, we are soon greeted by “Phoenix,” which is the final battle theme on the soundtrack. It begins with some intense, choral vocals who sing an agonising melody above some orchestral hits. All in all, this awesome track lasts for three minutes, and not one moment of this is wasted.
The RPG section of the soundtrack is definitely the best asset of the album, as with the themes’ development here exceeding that of the arcade section, Nakamura truly impresses. These tracks should blanket the opinions generated by the arcade section, thus making this a good album after all. Nakamura proves that his origins lie with electronica in this soundtrack, but in all honesty, the orchestral themes that we hear here are as good as any of his others. He intricately uses the technique of increasing the amount of instrumentation to create feelings of tension and awe here, and when this it looked at further, it is easy to see that he does it almost unnoticeably, too. Nakamura has a hidden talent in this area, thus making the RPG section to best part of the first disc. Even so, after redeeming himself here, he carries on to create a whole discs worth of arranged tracks of the arcade themes. Many fans will be put off by the similarities in track titles after hearing the arcade section, but on the whole, this proves to be a silly mistake to make.
The arranged section of this album is sure to impress many fans, as with these being arrangements of those dire arcade themes Nakamura does a really good job in revitalising them. There are so many great themes in this section that it is impossible to list them all, but nonetheless, this part of the review should give you the best flavour possible. The first track on the disc is a short, but fantastic arranged version of “The Tale of EHRGEIZ.” Nakamura simply changes the pace of the track and he also adds a bit of dynamic seasoning to the bass line, too. Pieces which explore a similar style to “The Tale of EHRGEIZ” are the likes of “Escape,” “Continental Train,” and “Fate.” Each of these tracks are just as upbeat as one another, but on a wider scope, the atmosphere created in each is extremely different ’— “Continental Train,” for instance, takes a more relaxed and ambient style, whereas “Escape,” takes a much more pulsating stance. Nakamura shows that he doesn’t just rely on pace in his tracks, but a solid melody, too.
Once again, as in the arcade section, tracks from the Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack are arranged here. “Those Who Fight” and “Prelude” go through a metamorphosis to be completely transformed into something a lot more fun to listen to. Uematsu was impressed with Nakamura’s efforts, and in comparison to the other arrangements on the disc, they rate quite high. Another very good arrangement is “Elevator,” which is an ambient gem. The development of this techno styled track is brilliant, and it just reinstates Nakamura’s Tobal 2-esque quality again. One of the best arrangements is “Door of Truth,” and this is simply due to the instrumentation that is involved. The track features a darker style than originally, and this time round, Nakamura makes sure that those ear-piercing screams are even more ear-splitting than ever. This track plays for a whole four and a half minutes, and seeing as though it develops the whole way through, it becomes one of the most atmospheric tracks on the album. Nonetheless, it isn’t the best arrangement, as it is the wonderful “Der EHRGEIZ (Long Version)” that takes this title. The sound effects used in the track are entirely futuristic, and with a few electric guitar solos here and there, it is inspirational track, too. Guitar solos are abundant on this final disc, and with each one of them being entirely unique, a real sense of flavour is added to the album.
The arranged tracks easily surpass their originals, and the only reason why they were not included in the game instead of the current arcade themes is most likely down to Namco. This disc is a critical one for Nakamura, as it is one which totally redeems him of his sins with the arcade tracks. Nearly every original theme that we hear from the arcade section is transformed here into something very special. The critical thing to note about the tracks is that they each maintain a similar style to their original, so, it almost becomes a nostalgic journey, too. Nonetheless, with the likes of “Der EHRGEIZ (Long Version)” and “Elevator,” this arranged disc is a total fulfilment of any of the desires of post-Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack Nakamura fans.
The EHRGEIZ Original Soundtrack gets off to an extremely poor start with its arcade section, and unfortunately, this will probably deter many game music fans. The easiest culprit to blame for the quality of the arcade section is Nakamura, but when one looks at the standard of composition on the arranged section of the album, it all suddenly becomes clear. In the liner notes of the album, it states that Namco and Nakamura met up to discuss sound quality issues, so in reality, the real problem doesn’t lie with the composer, but with a lack of sound control on Namco’s part, instead. Nonetheless, as long as any prospective buyers of the album notice that there is a fabulous arranged section of the original arcade themes, there shouldn’t really be any reason not to buy the album.
Nakamura really opens up his heart in this soundtrack, as with his electronica themes being spoilt by the arcade machine, he fights back to create an inspirational orchestral score. One really memorable track from the RPG section of the soundtrack is “Master Boss,” and it is solely tracks like this that reveal the hidden skill of Nakamura’s orchestral composing abilities. Nonetheless, he stays true to his fans, too, by sticking to a very Tobal 2 Original Soundtrack-esque electronica stance on the last disc. The metamorphosis that the original tracks go through is amazing, and it acquires great skill from the composer, too. All in all, Nakamura succeeds in both areas of his composition, and it would be a shame to see a good album fall due to the likes of some poorly created arcade themes. Still, Namco can’t take all of the blame, especially seeing as though it was Nakamura who composed the themes. Nonetheless, whether you are an electronica fan, an orchestral fan, or neither, this album proves to be a fun experience for anyone (after crossing the slippery steeping stones of the arcade section, of course).
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.