August 19, 1995
Buy Used Copy
During the Sega Saturn’s early years, many games had been produced. While many of them remained in Japan, Gran Chaser received an overseas release. However, due to executives not being impressed by the music in the original Japanese version, they chose to replace the already excellent soundtrack by some music done by a band called “The Bygone Dogs”. The original music, composed by Koji Hayama, simply has all the right ingredients to classify the score as “classic” game music. Catchy melodies, well placed instrumental solos, and more. Let’s look at the album to see why…
The first track to greet listeners, “Gran 01” has everything identifiable with Hayama’s particular stylings. It features the signature synth-guitar he has been using in all his works since Cho Aniki. He also uses some saxophone, which definitely makes the track stand out. Everything is raw synth, and there’s no arrangement or additional sampling whatsoever, which may make the music sound “dated” or downright awesome, depending on the listeners’ point of view. For this reviewer, it’s obviously the latter. Moving on to “Zaxess”, we get some industrial percussions, Hayama’s ever present synth-guitar, and what’s this…? A segment in the music that sounds ripped straight out of Cho Aniki. Hayama clearly has no shame in referencing his earlier works here. But what does it matter, as long as it sounds great?
Moving on to one of the best tracks on the album, “Knight Gear” really gets us in the competitive mood. The opening guitar riff and ongoing synth melody are simply perfect in conveying an epic and challenging mood, while the guitar solo that comes about halfway never fails to make me smile. “Volcano Heat” is even more “epic” with a catchy melody and fast pace. Of course, no Hayama “action” track is complete without his synth guitar. Its appearance here really elevates the track’s mood further. Also in typical Hayama fashion, he inserts some random English phrases right at the end to get us off guard.
“Jazzy Station” is a nice break of pace with its smooth piano work, but boy, that saxophone tends to be on the annoying side in this track… it’s too loud! “Black Market” is an ever better example of Hayama doing Jazz since the overbearing saxophone is absent. Gotta love the slick bass and guitar here. Another stylistic deviation, “Potential Safari Course” presents the obvious atmosphere with some steel drums and other tribal sounding percussions, while the synth and guitar do their part in order to make the theme quite unique. Yeah, I can see myself racing in a futuristic racetrack located at the middle of an African Safari area.
Moving on to more action-packed themes, “Ice Wall” wastes no time into referencing the cold with some chilly wind sound effects and the synth and guitar take over from there. The synth solo is especially pleasant! “Sand Wilds” sounds right off the ’80s with its awesome synth and dowringht awesome melody. I could have sworn I have heard a similar melody in some ’80s album. “Cloud Gate” is another of Hayama’s really good action themes; it has a hopeful feel to it that is present in all of his works. The synth solo halfway is awesome as usual. The last action theme, “Burning Heat”, tends to be too noisy for my liking. That percussion instrument ruins the piece, which is unfortunate as the melody is quite decent.
There are some shorter tracks here. The “Starting Grid A” and B”, for instance, are short jingle variations when the race track is presented to get listeners pumped up for the coming race. He also shows his sense of humour when he tells us in English that we are GoodDrivers! The ending tracks are short too, but rather sweet. “Alicia’s Release” has an innocent quality to it with piano passages but doesn’t last long enough to develop. It all ends well, though, with “Happy End”. Here we get a typically happy melody which also reminds me of Cho Aniki for some reason or other.
Hayama himself refers to this album as his “masterpiece” amongst his game soundtracks. I can agree for the most part, given almost all of the action themes are spot on, while the various event themes display some variety of emotions and moods. Fans of Hayama should definitely try to obtain this album. Unfortunately given its long out of print, it may be fairly difficult to obtain given its not exactly popular. I can’t even provide a price expectation given I was given my copy when I contributed to a site years ago. The definite reason to obtain the album is for the action themes; they are easily amongst the best that Hayama has ever done.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Luc Nadeau. Last modified on August 1, 2012.