August 7, 1994
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Released on the same day as TOURS, Game Over continued Troubadour’s series of game-inspired original albums. This time the contributors were asked to compose a series of stage themes for a hypothetical game rather than anything more specific like Great Wall or G.T.R. As such, the various pieces on the album have the quality of sounding like game music, but are even less confined before in terms of style and experimentation. That said, the artists focused more on emulating existing game music rather than really offering a progressive take on the industry. How does it fare compare to earlier Troubadour efforts?
Katsuhiro Hayashi opens the album with “Stage 1”. It features a funk style like many past Troubadour styles, but is nonetheless distinguished with its focus on a bold synth melody with extravagant pitch bends and glissandi. While a decent composition, it’s not exactly an ideal opener. “Stage 2” demonstrates how Yasuhisa Watanabe’s light jazz style can endear to a wide range of audience; whether people are looking for catchy melodies, soothing soundscapes, or elaborate improvisation, the composer is able to blend the features together into one solid composition. The subsequent track is a little innovative with its use of vocals on a hypothetical stage theme. However, it’s actually a pretty cheap work with weak vocals and a cheesy voice sample throughout; it’s more appropriate for a bishoujo game than an original album or action game.
The reliable Takayuki Aihara brings some much-needed energy to the album with “Stage 4”. It’s a mixture of catchy synth melodies, bold brass accompaniment, hard techno beats, and even some spacey interludes at a racing tempo. Overall, a very fun and vibrant addition to the collection. Seiichi Hamada creates a sense of infiltration on “Stage 5” by gently layering jazzy forces upon tense subdued electronic beats; once again, however, the individual elements are too cheesy and derivative to create any serious impact at all. With the album’s direction clearly lost, at least Shinji Hosoe and Hiroaki Yoshida step up to create two relatively dynamic contributions. “Stage 6” is very much a synthy action track filled with the youthful exuberance of shooter music whereas “Stage 7” provides something different yet still compelling with its boogie rhythms.
Does the conclusion redeem a mediocre album? Ayako Saso’s “Stage 8” offers a medley of themes that would each suit a scenario on a shooter such as Gradius; though stylistically convincing, the melodies are decidedly average throughout and the whole track has a slightly rambling quality to it. Perhaps it is a compilation of rejected themes from one of her Namco games, but it doesn’t really belong here. Likewise, Jouji Iijima’s “Stage 9” is a jazzy track with lots of rhythm but very little substance and creativity. Hiroshi Kawaguchi offers a pretty stimulating final stage theme that revisits the big band jazz and synthy melodies heard earlier in the album. However, it is far more average than it is spectacular. At least Shinji Hosoe is able to tantalise listener’s ears with his ambient electronic soundscapes on “Game Over”. It’s a little repetitive with its repeating chime motif, but there are enough nuances during its playtime for it to conclude the album on a positive note.
Did the game end because the composers were victorious or did they fall at too many hurdles? Unfortunately, it seems the second case applies here. Right from the start, the album seems to lack a clear direction and often has a rambling quality to it that wouldn’t be acceptable in a real action game. Whereas previous Troubadour releases seem to be rich with creativity, this one seems to focus on recreating the clichés of old-school game music rather than pushing the boundaries. As a result, a lot of the tracks sound like rejected efforts from each contributors’ day jobs. There are no absolutely terrible contributions, but with the exceptions of the contributions from Yasuhisa Watanabe, Takayuki Aihara, and Shinji Hosoe, most tracks can be safely skipped. In fact, this album could probably be safely skipped altogether, especially given its high pricetag now it has become so rare. Gaaaame over!
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.