Maken X Original Soundtrack
Maken X Original Soundtrack
December 23, 1999
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The Dreamcast’s Maken X shares a similar development team to most titles in the Megami Tensei series, but is generally regarded as outside the franchise. For one thing, it is a slasher action game rather than an RPG and this is reflected by its score. Composers Shoji Meguro and Takahiro Ogata take listeners on a ride with fast-paced and aggressive music composed principally in hard rock and hard techno styles. At the time, it was one of Atlus’ most musically creative and technically accomplished soundtracks, but has it stood the test of time?
While the majority of the soundtrack is composed by Shoji Meguro, sound director Takahiro Ogata sets the scene with some interesting contributions. Both the “Image” and “Title Back” themes offer a dark and alien ambience with their respective focuses on ethnic female vocals and a distorted didgeridoo. Although these tracks are relatively short, his later contributions to the soundtrack are substantial and high quality. “Kei” creates so much mood in the game with its blend of piano passages and warm synth pads while “Mist” captures a sense of the transition from stillness to action with its gradually building timbres. “The Forbidden City” impresses in a similar regard, but focuses more on blending electronic, industrial, and ethnic elements in a hostile way. Ogata also contributes several more aggressive pieces, namely the short industrial rock theme “Risky” and the hard techno boss theme. While his contributions are few, they’re essential for establishing the atmosphere of the game and the style of the soundtrack.
Shoji Meguro definitely provides the soundtrack with a hard edge. His first contribution, “Option”, might sound like a generic collection of rock riffs on first listen. However, there’s such a great attitude and dynamism throughout that it surely works in an action game. It’s not quite as individualistic as the rock themes from Digital Devil Saga, but it is still filled with Meguro’s flair. The composer maintains a similar approach with later rock-based themes on the soundtrack while adding some novel electronic elements, for example sweeping synth in “Airborne” or hardcore beats on “Power Up”. “World Map” is relatively surprising with its drum ‘n bass emphasis, but strangely enough is just right in context, given it is stimulating without being obtrusive. “Research Institute” is also filled with rapid beats, contrasting a relatively smooth and ambient body with a development section dominated by wild distorted synth work.
Indeed, an electronic focus is most obvious throughout the soundtrack and this is particularly apparent in the various setting themes. “Moscow” and “Instanbul” are clearly inspired by underground techno artists from Russia and Turkey respectively while “Amsterdam” channels its inspirations from chillout approaches. “Brazil” and “India”, on the other hand, blend modern electronic and rock styles with each country’s traditional instrumentation and polyrhythms. Other highlights are “Sicily” with its heavy fusions of rock and techno or “Lisbon” with its flashy guitar work. Also check out “Kunlun Mountains” given its mesmerising blend of jazz and drum ‘n bass styles or “Research Institute Event” for its beautiful electro-acoustic wanderings. Those looking to here more of Meguro’s electronic side are advised to start here given bth the density and quality of these contributions.
There are also numerous other action themes on the score. “Research Institute Battle” certainly brings some tension to the score with its militaristic strings and percussion use. It’s underwhelmingly short and underdeveloped on a stand-alone basis, but actually works pretty well in context to represent transient action. There are also numerous hard-edged cinematic action themes like “Andre’s Infiltration”, “The Hero Arrives…”, “Conversation…”, and “Situation Explanation…”. The final battle theme is a high-powered fusion of the techno beats, rocking guitar work, and ethnic vocals featured elsewhere in the soundtrack, bringing things round full circle. The album ends with two impressive staff roll themes, the first a cool jazz track with the quality of an old vinyl recording, the second a nationalistic orchestration with occasional electronic twists. However, listeners will be disappointed that the game’s vocal theme was not included in the soundtrack release.
The Maken X Original Soundtrack is a solid achievement, but certainly not for everyone. Many will find the electronic and rock focuses oppressive and some will struggle with the lack of particularly melodic or memorable tunes. Still, the music really adds to the energy of the action-packed game and will be enjoyable on a stand-alone basis for those who like to listen to hard and edgy styles. It’s a pity that the vocal theme didn’t make it and the score for its remake Maken Shao remains unreleased. Still, Maken X will be an interesting journey for those looking for more insight into Shoji Meguro’s versatility.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.