Enemy Zero Original Soundtrack
Enemy Zero Original Soundtrack
First Smile Entertainment
April 18, 1997
Buy Used Copy
Enemy Zero is a survival horror game developed by Kenji Eno and WARP that acts as a pseudo sequel to D, using the same digital character of Laura as the protagonist. Just like D, it utilizes interactive full motion video and has some unique gameplay ideas. Enemies during the real time, free roaming sections are invisible and you have to listen to the pitch and speed of a repeating piano chime to identify the location of enemies before taking them out. The full motion video sections are where the stories and dialogue happens, and both sections, along with a plot reminiscent of Alien, work well together to create tension, a sense of isolation and a chilling atmosphere. This came at a price — several aspects of the game are very frustrating and unforgiving. The game also has an interesting history with regard to it’s release. After Sony failed to manufacture enough copies of the PlayStation port of D to meet demand, Kenji Eno — out of spite of Sony — released a trailer for Enemy Zer that showed the PlayStation logo at the end, which faded out to reveal a Sega Saturn logo. This shocked many people, as the Saturn was thought to not have the 3D capabilities of the Playstation.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about this game is the music. Designer Kenji Eno started out as a musician, and he usually writes the music for his games. Yet this time he managed to get celebrated British composer Michael Nyman, most famous for his film score The Piano, on board with the project. This is extraordinary in so many ways, partly because it is extremely rare for non-Japanese composers to be commissioned for Japanese games. And I think it marks the first time that a celebrated Western film and classical music composer delved into doing music for a video game. The story of how Nyman got involved in the project is brilliant. After an earthquake in Kobe in 1995, Nyman donated several pianos to the city’s schools, and travelled to the city later on in the year to check out how they were doing. After Eno heard that Nyman was traveling to Japan, he jumped at the opportunity to meet the man. This ended up with Eno inviting Nyman back to his hotel room and attempting to convince him to do the music for Enemy Zero for six hours. After that, Nyman said he’d do it out of sheer exhaustion. The resulting soundtrack features simple piano pieces and unique chamber orchestra pieces which stylistically resemble and feature elements of contemporary classical music and minimalism, which Michael Nyman is well known for.
The soundtrack opens with the piano solo “Laura’s Theme”. This simple piece rarely moves away from its simple backing line — thirds using the notes of a D major 7 chord. While this is going on, the right hand is able to play a slow and simple melody over the top. This simplicity really gives the impression of the shy kind of character that Laura is, and really drives home the feeling of isolation that this game does so well. There are two other solo piano pieces in the soundtrack, all of which introduce the main musical motifs of the soundtrack. The first, “Digital Tragedy” just uses octaves at the beginning but is played with such conviction that it’s really effective. This transitions into a creepy chromatic melody in the top line with interesting bass and harmonies underneath. Again this piece is simple yet really effective. The same can be said about “Love Theme”, which will be revisited in more detail later. These piano pieces exemplify what Michael Nyman does best, creating dramatic and effective music using very little, which is what minimalism is all about, and makes for fantastic stand alone listens. These three pieces were released in their own EP Enemy Zero Piano Sketches months before this soundtrack came out. They’re very simple when compared to some of The Piano soundtrack, but incredibly effective for the game.
The rest of the pieces on the soundtrack are performed by the Michael Nyman Orchestra — his own personal chamber orchestra that he uses for his scoring projects among other things. The sound and style of this music is completely unique, I can’t think of any other video game with music that sounds like this. “Confusion” opens with a staccato baritone saxophone playing a spiky bass line and a drone in the strings, which is followed by a weird melody played by the brass and then the woodwinds. After this is repeated with a bass line on the bass guitar, the melody is passed onto the strings, with some of the woodwinds harmonizing and the brass on the drone. When the bass guitar re-enters more moving lines join the texture, creating some very unconventional harmonies. This unconventional sound can also be found in the title track “Enemy Zero”. This piece starts with fast paced strings and piano with a simple bass line underneath, creating a really intense first 35 seconds. Then other instruments join the fray with longer melody and drone lines such as the two saxophones.
The main orchestral hook of the soundtrack is introduced in “Aspects of Love”. The melody line is played on the piano while the accompaniment just features chords in the strings. The violins then take the tune in the next bit, which is followed by an entirely new section featuring the lower strings and piano. It’s great that Nyman included some of the romantic side to his music in this soundtrack, giving the music some emotional weight to go with the unconventional harmonies and textures. “Love Theme” is a piano-only version of the music heard in “Aspects of Love”. There’s not much going on, just chords in the left hand and the simple yet creative melody in the right hand. This is carried over into the next section more elaborately but it never gets overly dramatic. There’s a brief B section before the main melodic hook comes back in, which works well.
The dramatic arrangements of this music is saved for “Agony” and “The Last Movement”. “Agony” starts off with very intense strings, before making way for a solo female singer, who sings the melody over the top of some weird harmonies. The strings then come in playing very dramatically in conjunction with the singer, building up the texture very gradually towards the end. The way this piece is arranged, it actually can sound like she’s out of tune, but this just adds to the effect. “The Last Movement”, which was recently performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Video Game Heroes, is the climatic piece of the soundtrack, and sounds appropriately like a climax too. It features moving strings, while the melody starts off in the woodwinds, and then is passed on to the upper strings. After a short B section, the main melody re-enters, with some support from the brass right up until the end. It may seem like an abrupt ending, but that’s how minimalism works, and the textural build up makes this track a brilliant listen.
The next few tracks are more elaborate arrangements of previous musical motifs. “Lamentation” is a more texturally rich arrangement of “Laura’s Theme” featuring a solo female singer, strings on the accompanying lines, and a piano countermelody. While “Digital Complex” brings back some of the music heard in “Digital Tragedy”, adding some eerie strings and a more moving bass line. We get a faster version of the title track in “Invisible Enemy”, which with it’s fast paced strings, which almost sound like tremolos, creates a real feeling of intensity. It may take a while to get used to saxophones playing these kinds of melodies, but once you get used to it, it’s actually quite effective. “Laura’s Dream” is a more traditional orchestration of “Laura’s Theme”, featuring the strings and the piano most prominently. This is the best track to get a feel for the style of music in this game. “Malfunction” is a fast paced track featuring some of the “Digital” motif. The high trumpet towards the end of this piece works particularly well. Then next up is the penultimate track “Battle”, featuring some of the harmonies and fast paced strings heard before underneath some interlocking melody lines including both new melodies and familiar ones. Some of the clashing harmonies and chords help to keep the intensity up. It’s important to note that a lot of this music is very repetitive, and although I’ve criticised some soundtracks for being this way, here it works in this soundtracks favour because it’s minimalism.
I really enjoyed Enemy Zero‘s soundtrack. It’s different, unconventional, and in many ways unique, all in a good way. It’s surprising that more people don’t know about this soundtrack, given how popular and well known Michael Nyman is both in classical music and in film music. The music here won’t be to everyone’s taste, due to the nature of the minimalism genre as a whole, but there’s not another soundtrack like it, and those looking for something different from the norm should get a kick out of this soundtrack. It’s also a good history lesson, one of the first video game soundtracks to be recorded by live musicians, and I think the first time a famous composer from a different field of composition delved into video game music, and the result is fantastic, although not for everyone. I will close by saying that if you’re up for experimenting then give this album a shot.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on August 1, 2012.