Kamiwaza Original Audio Collection
Kamiwaza Original Audio Collection
September 22, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
In 2006, Acquire released the PlayStation 2 title Kamiwaza to audiences throughout Japan. Featuring an Edo period setting and stealth gameplay, the title had much in common with the Tenchu series, though focused on a Japanese thief rather than a ninja. Noriyuki Asakura returned to score the soundtrack for the developer, combining his trademark pan-Asian approach with rocking action themes and ambient setting themes.
Much like the Tenchu soundtracks, Kamiwaza opens with an emotional vocal theme, simply entitled “Cruel”. The theme has a considerable amount in common with its cousin with its blend of passionate female vocals and pan-Asian instrumentation. However, the track takes a much darker direction from the 0:38 with hard rhythm guitar riffs and drum beats. It’s an effective way to uniquely define the franchise while still retaining Asakura’s trademark sound. Due to the limitations of the opening cinematic, however, it is tragically short in its original rendition. Soundtrack consumers may nevertheless enjoy the extended introspective bonus remix of the track at the end of the album.
The rock fusions featured in the opening theme are pretty representative of what to expect from the instrumental tracks. Asakura somewhat shamelessly lets the electric guitars go wild on tracks such as “Crimson Heaven Musical Performance”, “Righteous Persons”, and “Fuchigusa” to entertain listeners; it’s certainly not an authentic representation of the Edo era, though still has a dated sound of a different kind. He also uses the instrument to overpower the climactic action themes “Karma”, “Vibration of Feelings”, and “Washing Currents of Pillow Stones” in a slightly more individualistic manner. With spell-binding writing, copious distortion, and excellent performances, these tracks are clearly well-produced and make a big impact during the final missions. They are also bound to have more of a mainstream pull than the more abstract action tracks on the Way of the Samurai series.
Between these big roaring rock tracks, there is a lot of ambient scene-setting music featured throughout the soundtrack. A lot of the music seems inspired by horror music with different, often prepared, forces entering in an aleatoric manner above dark minimalistic soundscapes. It’s an effective way to keep listeners in suspense, but is better in context than on a stand-alone listen. There are nevertheless some welcome surprises to be found, for example the gorgeous vocal references to the main theme on “Taking Advantage of the Shades Night” or the Albéniz-inspired Spanish guitar solos on “Modest Feelings”. Perhaps the most enjoyable of the more ambient themes is “Pessimism Dim” and “Deduction Repeated”, which present a traditional Japanese twist on the jazz-meets-Hollywood soundscapes of the Metal Gear Solid series. Like a lot of the compositions, they labour certain ideas a little, but overall create a pleasant groove and soundscape.
There are still times when Asakura reminds listeners of his more personal approach for the Tenchu and Way of the Samurai soundtracks. “Even After Overflowing”, in particular, is a fine depiction of the rugged yet beautiful environments of ancient Japan. The track is almost entirely dedicated to acoustic guitar wanderings, but they are so well-written and performed that they more than suffice. The little dabs of earthy percussion, flute ululations, or cinematic strings nevertheless reflect the diversity of the environments and the depth of the scenario. It is the crowning achievement of the album.
The soundtrack for Kamiwaza successfully combines the classic Asakura sound with new mainstream and cinematic influences. The resultant score is quite effective in the game, whether putting players in alert with ever-changing ambience or getting them pumped up for action with overdriven guitars. That said, the score isn’t quite as satisfying on a stand-alone level as Asakura’s Tenchu soundtracks due to its slightly shallower stylings and more divergent approach. It’s nevertheless a decent supplement for fans of the composer and the game.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.