Elder Gate Original Soundtrack
Elder Gate Original Soundtrack
Konami Music Entertainment
June 21, 2000
Buy Used Copy
Note: This review was originally written for our affiliate Chudah’s Corner, where Ongakusei is a staff member. Please visit their site some time if you enjoyed this review and want to read more from the Ongakusei, who kindly allowed us to share this review.
With the classic score to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane seemed to have launched herself into the premiere rank of game music composers. Having pushed the envelope of sophistication for action adventure scores, I had high hopes she would do no less for the traditional RPG genre in Konami’s Elder Gate. But amazingly, possibly owing to production mandated creative straitjacketing, major concussive injuries, or aliens, she failed entirely. Sadly, the music on this startlingly substandard disc is scarcely identifiable as anything more than an amateur’s ramblings, much less the work of a talented and accomplished composer.
All the usual hallmarks of the “B-movie” RPG soundtrack are here: empty, inflated orchestral pomp and fanfare; anemic, simplified pseudo-folk arrangements; and limp, desultory efforts at symphonic rock. We get glimpses of the genius that produced Symphony of the Night only in tiny fossilized fragments: stray passages and moments that briefly recall the grandeur of Dracula before dissolving back into mediocre murk.
The overworld theme, “Holy Field” sounds like it was pieced together from 2 second phrase samples of every other RPG overworld theme ever written, and lined up to deliver a seamless flow of depressingly predictable fantasy music clichés. You can safely and easily hum along with this one the first time you hear it without missing a note. The same sense of Déjà vu pervades the rest of the album. Everything here is so uninspired and clumsily generic it all sounds like it was generated by a Turing machine.
Not only can you neatly spot every turn the music takes from a mile back, every stylistic tone conventionally associated with the usual RPG locales is eagerly invoked. Snow village theme with crystal synth and wind effects: that’s a check. Desert village theme with Disneyland tourist’s idea of middle-eastern percussion, scales and instrumentation: free with every purchase. Castle theme written in mock-Baroque kindergarten counterpoint: we have a winner. Each cue seems to wear a bright orange day-glo stamp on its forehead, proudly proclaiming the stereotype it cleaves to. Maybe that helps some people sleep at night, but I call this painting by numbers a disappointing cop-out. At least we get a cave theme with aimless, “atmospheric” string chords, pizzicato plucking and a waterfall sound in the background. I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been done before.
Even where Yamane isn’t copying straight from the textbook, the results come out poorly. The battle theme “Holy Tactics” is an embarrassment, its somewhat novel techno-funk rhythm unable to salvage an obnoxious, screechy, and poorly thought out strings melody. And Yamane saves the very best for the grand denouement. If it takes the proverbial thousand monkeys with typewriters a thousand years to write the complete works of Shakespeare, I’d give 2 monkeys with keyboards 5 minutes to come up with the dismally prosaic ending theme, “Screen Credit”. Give them 10 and a banana and they’d come up with something better. You don’t even need to hum along with this one, you know exactly where it’s going as soon as the first note sounds. It’s all ground we’ve walked many, many… many times before, with nary an original idea in sight.
There are but two things that prevent this album from being a total waste of money (upgrading it all the way to just a rather large one). One is portions of co-composer Sota Fujimori’s contribution. The only memorable highlight of the CD for me is Fujimori’s “End of the World”, an ambient, futuristic dungeon theme teeming with rich, mechanical samples, layers of peristaltic synth and a powerful, evocative strings climax reminiscent of Brad Fiedel’s theme to The Terminator. A couple other Fujimori tracks deliver positive, though less indelible impressions, like “The Light of Hope”, another dungeon theme with a martial Celtic flavor, and “A Peaceful View”, an acoustic guitar and strings based village theme that sounds like a Chrono Cross b-side. But with only 8 out of 36 tracks to his credit, half of which don’t rise above average, he can hardly rescue the score. Hidenori Onishi *does* almost save the day with his sole track contribution, “Return to the Gate Hole”: 30 seconds of sparkly whooshing sound FX. If only it was 10 seconds longer.
The other notable aspect is the exceptional sound quality, the same rich streamed XA sound as Symphony of the Night had. Unfortunately, the music doesn’t deserve it. Nor, unless married to the quotidian RPG sound, does it deserve your time and money. Yamane was not one I would ever have expected to toe the line, and the wonderful RPG soundtrack that could have resulted from an application of the exceptional style and craft displayed in Dracula X is simply not what we got. Hopefully this is just a misstep, and not the first symptoms of a one-hit wonder.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by James McCawley. Last modified on August 1, 2012.