January 25, 1989
Buy Used Copy
Inspired by the success of R-Type, Irem produced a number of sequels and similar titles during the late 80s. One of them was Image Fight, a space shooter featuring a familiar human vs. aliens scenario. Masahiko Ishida (aka OH!GI) created the score for the title and exceeded his predecessor’s offerings on R-Type in a number of ways. The resultant score was released as a stand-alone album, though is also available in the compilations Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1 and Irem Retro Game Music Collection.
The first stage theme “Introduction” is a fine demonstration of the hard funk sound that Ishida has developed for Image Fight. The track tries a little too hard to entertain listeners with its contrived shifting riffs, but makes up for it with its complex and edgy synth leads. The track instantly demonstrates that the score has a fuller sound than R-Type and Ninja Spirit with its richer synthpads and hard punctuation. The samples still sounds quite primitive, given they are from a 1980s arcade game, but rarely are a detriment to the composer’s intentions and are entirely tolerable.
Ishida offers a range of sounds to portray the other stages in the game. “Organic Zone” mixes aseptic and expressive sounds to create a very unique ambience befitting the stage. In fact, this moody funk-tinged track is somewhat reminiscent of the early Tekken sound. In contrast, “Flight Over the City” and “Theme from Factory” places the focus on rhythmic elements and quickly entertains listeners with its piercing licks and hard beats. Also of note is “Loose, Loose, Loose” with its more pop-influenced melody, though it is a little too superficial for my tastes.
The most exciting track on the entire soundtrack is “Final Mission”. Combining compelling techno beats, unforgettable synth melodies, and plenty of development, it’s a classic old-school anthem that deserves more recognition among game music followers. A number of menu, event, and boss tracks round off the release. While a lot of these tracks are too short to be of interest, most are serviceable in the game and a few are worthwhile otherwise. In fact, the boss themes are quite reminiscent of the Darius series with their dissonant harmonies and edgy rhythms, which is no bad thing.
Overall, the music for Image Fight is certainly worthwhile for fans of old-school game music. With its accessible melodies and exuberant experimentation, it ranks alongside Gradius III, Galaxy Force, and Darius II as one of the best classic arcade shooter scores out there. That said, it will be better value if you pick up the score as part of the Irem Retro Game Music Collection rather than seek its brief out-of-print initial release.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.