Majin Tensei Excellence Sound Collection
Majin Tensei Excellence Sound Collection
March 18, 1994
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Majin Tensei was a tactical RPG spinoff of the gigantic Megami Tensei series released for the Super Nintendo back in 1994. It featured an ambient score crafted by the late Hidehito Aoki, who went on to also score its sequel and Persona. Aoki deviated from the norm of ambient music by hybridising more typical elements with sound effects, funk elements, and electronic distortion. The result has a fascinating effect in both the game and on a stand-alone basis. The Majin Tensei Excellence Sound Collection compiles the original tracks and two arranged pieces into an album release. Is there enough featured for it to be worth purchasing?
One of the most distinctive features of the soundtrack is its extensive integration of funk influences. “Devil Dance” creates a particularly surreal and eerie mood with its ambient soundscaping using the relatively humble SPC synth. However, it also compels one to move with its catchy, smoothly integrated bass riffs. It’s quite bizarre to hear the dark tone of the series be maintained in such a groovy manner. Other tracks present further twists on the format, such as oriental panpipe infusions in “Immortality Shop Rag”, jazzy piano punctuation in “Chaotic Law”, and orch hits in “Bicarbonate of Face” and “Pallid Tears”. Away from the funk music, “Neo Jakyou” features some of the most competent and intricate organ writing in the series, even if it sometimes uses material too close to Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”. “Scene of Carnage”, on the other hand, proves a big hit at the end of the soundtrack for the way it blends intense organ chords with rocking beats and choral chants.
Hidehito Aoki is also a master at creating ambience using a mixture of sound effects and instruments. “Heavy Wind”, for instance, opens with wind sound effects before introducing some ambient synth chords and a drum beat. It’s very simple in theory, but the combination is so well-integrated both musically and technologically that it creates a wonderful atmosphere. “The Wrath of God” takes a more eccentric approach, blending electrical noise, techno beats, and orch hits, to surreal effect. Towards the end of the soundtrack, “D.D.F.” and “Keepsake” feature even more prominent use of electronic distortions and atmospheric noise. Moving to the end of the soundtrack, “Judex” brings together the funk, orchestral, and noise elements of the soundtrack into one highly experimental and compelling action theme. “Omega” homages earlier final boss themes in the franchise with its gradual increase in intensity and rock influence. It’s a fantastic way to end the game.
The album release is boostered by flanking arrangements by prolific duo Yoshiyuki Ito and Masumi Ito. “The Wrath of God” is an effective way to open the album since it features most of the stylistic features found elsewhere. The sound effects use is even more eccentric than the original track, perhaps inspired by Ryo Yonemitsu’s “Prediction” arrangement in Megami Tensei I & II arrangement, and the rhythmically compelling funk and rock influences are also strong. However, the remix is structured much like an electronic remix, with forces being added and dissipated all the while building the atmosphere and intensity. Based on a 30 second original theme, “Actual Feeling… You” takes an appropriately retrospective approach with its soft piano focus. New age synth pads, bells, and female vocals appear transiently over the course of the arrangement, creating some sublime soundscapes. Both remixes are superbly done — they engross listeners throughout their six minute playtimes and add much to the album.
Majin Tensei easily features one of the most individualistic and accomplished ambient scores on the Super Nintendo. It’s fascinating how Hidehito Aoki was able to so effectively blend conventional orchestral ambience with funk influences, random sound effects, and quite a bit more. He manages to simultaneously entrance and entertain listeners on a stand-alone basis while subtly enhancing the mood of the game. As an album release, the Majin Tensei Excellence Sound Collection will be something of a select taste due to its ambient focus and experimental features, though many will be endeared to it. It’s a little on the short side, but has sufficient highlights and two excellent arrangements to sustain many relistens. A fantastic achievement on a limited console.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.