Ghouls n Ghosts Original Soundtrack / Ultimate
Ultimate Ghouls n Ghosts Original Soundtrack
September 30, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
In 2006, Capcom decided to revive the Makaimura / Ghosts ‘n Goblins series once more following the disbandment of the US-based development team of the Maximo mini-series. The PSP’s Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins (aka Gokumakaimura) revisited the challenging side-scrolling action of the classic series and combined it with beautiful graphics, gameplay innovations, and a dramatic orchestral score. The Gokumakaimura Original Soundtrack is composed by Masaya Tsunemoto and Kazuhiro Kotani of the prolific yet secretive game developer Tose. It successfully modernised and diversified the sound of the series to produce a rich and compelling accompaniment to the game. As a stand-alone soundtrack, is it just as successful?
“Opening Demo” doesn’t attempt to offer any musical innovations with its cinematic use of orchestra, chorus, and organ as the princess is kidnapped yet again. However, by successfully departing from the cheesy qualities of the classic series and the blatantly derivative musicality of the Maximo series, it offers a valuable innovation for the series. The dark, mature, and fantastical sound is almost reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands — a score that Tsunemoto is likely exquisitely familiar with given he previously created the award-nominated score for The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge. It also sounds fantastic despite the PSP’s limitations emphasising that the audio is the most technologically accomplished in the series. Following the first of several well done orchestral fanfares, the “Makaimura Theme Song” introduces the first stage of the game. The most recent of several dozen official arrangements of Ayako Mori’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins first stage theme, it’s also one of the best. This orchestration achieves the correct balance of exuberance and restraint to emphasise the multifaceted and often contradictory components of the original melody — darkness, humour, melancholy, mockery, contemplation, and triumph are all convincingly expressed.
Continuing with the stage themes, “An Evil Forest Bathed in Blood and Covered in Cobwebs” fantastically intensifies the latter half of the first stage. It blends Arabian-inspired melodies, tribal instrumentation, and more dark orchestration in a similar but more fluid way to Maximo‘s “The Great Dank Part 1”. “The Ferocious Winds Blow on the Path to the Old Castle” achieves a duality of moods with fantastic use of the clarinet, viola, and piano (incidentally three of my favourite instruments to perform with). The frivolous and mischievious first section focuses on a jazz-tinged melody on the clarinet given impetus by brisk string punctuation and colour by elegant flute decoration. In contrast, the second section takes a deliciously dark turn with the introduction of a arpeggiated piano chords and an expressive descending viola melody influenced by gypsy dances. Beautiful in context, “Time is Warped in This Crumbling Frozen Old Castle” is a dark fantasy waltz marked by expressive interplay of woodwinds and violin shadowed by ghostly choruses. The third stage themes are probably the most eerie additions to the score — “The Collapsing Plank Road on the Hill” is marked by disorientating use of chromatic motifs while “A Dead Valley Where the Dust Dances” is a vocal-led blend of ethnic and ambient sounds.
With each of the stages, there is an accompanying boss theme. “Arthur” and “Death Curse” are rather exciting combinations of anthemic and percussive components, whereas “Entering Boss Area” and “Vermillus” are typical slow string-based themes appropriate for building tension. “A Putrid Swamp That is Home of the Dead” is an excellent motivating militaristic theme for the penultimate lavaland level. The encounter with its climactic boss is documented by three themes on the soundtrack, including the bombastic orchestral and chorus theme “Boss Battle”. The soundtrack doesn’t end there, however. There are a few decent Arabian and orchestral themes to represent the witches’ sidequest and the final battles still await… Following a divine organ and chorus theme to represent entering the final dungeon, the “Dark Astaroth” and “Hades” battle themes provides the most bombastic piece on the soundtrack with heavy orchestration, chorus use, and percussion. “Hades Ver. 2” is especially special for its incorporation of some epic slower passages. The two ending themes are competent orchestrations brimming with a sense of triumph and nobility despite taking plenty of emotional turns. The soundtrack eventually ends with five collections of Kengo Hagiwara’s sound effects.
Overall, the Gokumakaimura Original Soundtrack is everything a modern Makaimura / Ghosts ‘n Goblins score should be. It stays true to the dark orchestral sound and melodic focus of the series, but also offers massive stylistic diversification and technmological refinement. With each of the stage themes, Masaya Tsunemoto and Kazuhiro Kotani demonnstrate flair for creating unique and appropriate moods and soundscape by creatively using individual instruments and developing melodic and harmonic ideas. The boss themes and other subsidiary pieces are not as uniquely characterised, but considerably enhance the game and are enjoyable on a stand-alone basis. A recommended purchase.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 19, 2016.