Gungriffon II Original Soundtrack
Gungriffon II Original Soundtrack
May 21, 1998
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After Motoaki Takenouchi exited the industry following Gungriffon, Game Arts hired sound production company T’s Music to score its sequel. Shinichiro Sato (Record of Lodoss War, Dragon Knight) was asked to create the orchestral tracks, while Yasutaka Hatade (Hyper Wars, Sentimental Graffiti) took on the rock parts. The two aimed to create a soundtrack that was impressive, both compositionally and technologically, but didn’t quite manage to succeed…
For the opening theme, Shinichiro Sato clearly aspired to create a bold and memorable overture on par with film scores. The first part of the composition captures the military feel of the game with a succession of slow brass fanfares, while the section from 1:44 shifts gamers into actions with fast-paced string passages. Both sections complement the visuals effectively and the cinematic shift between them is well done. However, neither is particularly appealing on a stand-alone level for several reasons: the absence of memorable melodies, the presence of repetitive bass lines, and the fairly dated synthesis. Likewise, “Search of Snowfield” features a large-scale buildup from its minimalistic sci-fi introduction towards its booming climax; while the peak of the composition satisfies, it’s a pity that the first 70 seconds are a little tedious due to excessive repetition. These tracks were acceptable emulations for their time, but it doesn’t stand up well all these years laters.
The other orchestral tracks have a rousing effect in the game. “We Assault An Airbase”, “The Rival”, and “The Powerful Enemy” achieve the desired mood with their robust militaristic orchestrations. Their stylings and melodies are a little generic, but these tracks have enough meat to still appeal — the 0:38 mark in the latter is especially inspiring. “Single Combat” is a little more experimental with its percussive focus and modernist flourishes, showing that Sato had a wide array of influences when writing the score. Once again, the composition would have been better if Sato waited ten years to explore his style more and get some new equipment. Probably the most epic track on the entire soundtrack, “Tragic Valentine” pulls out all the stops with its piercing brass and chanting chorus. There are even some highly dissonant and percussive sections that sound like Dino Crisis done right.
In addition to the orchestral components, there are plenty of rock-flavoured tracks courtesy of Yasutaka Hatade such as “In the Beginning” and “The Recapture”. Even for their time, these so-called contemporary tracks nevertheless sounded pretty dated with their funk licks and retro guitars, and pale to the likes of Takenouchi’s “Do or Die”. Certainly, the extravagant guitar solos in tracks such as “Be Go Over” and “The Rescue” — performed by Hatade himself — are a break from the generic sampled orchestrations. However, many will find them a cringe-worthy alternative given they sound like they’re from the early 80s. The slightly more cutting-edge “The Recapture” features a rhythmically compelling blend of electronic and funk elements, as do the five menu themes clustered towards the end of the soundtrack. But they taste a too much like generic arcade themes to have a widespread appeal. “Plan of Operations” is especially obnoxious.
A peculiarity of the soundtrack is that the contributions by the two composers are completely different in style and approach, perhaps to fill the void left by the more versatile Motoaki Takenouchi. There are only really two types of tracks here — the bold military orchestrations and the extravagant rock improvisations — and there isn’t much to integrate them. About the closest the soundtrack comes to achieving cohesion is with the concluding tracks. “Theme of Gungriffon” is an arrangement of Takenouchi’s main theme, combining a triumphant brass melody with an ambient backing part; it stays true to the image of the original track and, thanks to its more considered melody, satisfies quite well on a stand-alone basis. “Ending Title” thereafter combines moody sci-fi electronics with rich string reprises to emotional effect. It’s a warm unifier, but perhaps too little too late.
T’s Music were responsible for some of the best produced soundtracks in video games during the era of the PC Engine and Sega CD. But by 1998, when lavish productions were becoming the standard, they became eclipsed by artists with more cutting-edge technology and creative stylings. Gungriffon II reflects this, as two of its composers attempted to produce great orchestral and rock music, but ended up creating a score that sounded dated in style and implementation even for 1998. There are some enjoyable tracks here, as well as plenty of promising attempts, but the final soundtrack falls short of the standard needed to parallel Gungriffon and stand among the best of the era.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.