Muramasa Rebirth -Genroku Legends- Original Soundtrack
Muramasa Rebirth -Genroku Legends- Original Soundtrack
November 30, 2015
Buy at CDJapan
In 2013, Vanillaware ported their cult favourite action RPG Muramasa: The Demon Blade to the PlayStation Vita, complete with a four-part expansion pack called Muramasa Rebirth: Genroku Legends. Having established a strong Asian fusion sound for the original game, Hitoshi Sakimoto’s production company were asked to create all-new music for the DLC chapters. Each of Basiscape’s secondary composers, Yoshimi Kudo, Azusa Chiba, Mitsuhiro Kaneda, and Masaharu Iwata, were asked to score a chapter each. Some 22 brand new tracks were created for the game altogether, which were finally released on a two-disc set by Basiscape Records in November 2015.
Following a brief recapitulation of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s main theme from the original game on the biwa, listeners are thrown straight into Yoshimi Kudo’s ten tracks for the Nekomata DLC. Through these ten pieces, Kudo hybridises elaborate traditional Japanese instrumentation with features more typical of rock music to create tracks that are both fitting yet accessible. The battle anthems “Weak Control Strong” and “Sworn Enemy” particularly stand out for their elating melodies and driving riffs, while the two-part scene-setters “Mountains and Rivers” and “Perseverance” are rich encompassing listens. While Kudo cut above his weight in the original game, these compositions are even more commanded both compositionally and technologically. Along the way, he also offers other tracks such as “Bitter Experiences” and “Capitalize on Strength” that are much darker and minimalistic, but stand out for their authentic styles. He concludes his selection with a six minute medley that, while note-for-note, at least offers a reprise of the game’s spectacular main theme.
Azusa Chiba generally shifts away from the rich traditional stylings in favour of organic tracks typical of those featured on other RPGs. Whether the meditative “A Friend Indeed”, invigorating “Fierce Battle”, or the humorous ”Never Giving Up”, her tracks tend to have a focus on simple melodies above unobtrusive accompaniment. They’re broadly likeable, but lack the depth most have come to expect from Muramasa. She nicely contrasts the A and B arrangements of her two-parters, “High-Rise Buildings” and “Fight for a Good Cause”, but doesn’t fully develop on the promising core material in either case. Likewise, her nod to the original soundtrack with “Simple Meal” seems more like a lazy retread than a fully-developed arrangement. She brings a new dimension to Muramasa with a vocal theme, “Rice Flower”, but once again avoids immersing herself into the game’s Genroku setting in favour of clichéd pop structures and arrangements. Like most of her contributions, it is inoffensive but bland.
Moving to the third disc, Mitsuhiro Kaneda shifts away from Kudo’s rock and Chiba’s pop flavours in favour of more modernist-flavoured timbres. For example, his two-parter “Solid Fortress” is a fairly abstract timbral affair while “Extreme Danger” is a slow-builder inspired by classic horror themes. Though perhaps not as accessible as some tracks, these approaches are still artistically fascinating and effectively complement the game. Where Kaneda draws in the listeners is through his use of a recurring melody throughout his themes. With its grandiose scope yet bittersweet undertones, this melody and its incarnation seems to encompass the emotions typical of portrayals of feudal Japan. He subtly introduces a melody in the gorgeous opener “Astonishing Sight” before recapitulating it with the climactic orchestration and koto strikes of “Strong Will”. He also skilfully incorporates this melody into easily the most emotional two-parter on the soundtrack, “Pursuit”. His six-minute closer, “Eternal Traveler”, is also highly appealing for the way it hybridises the main game’s theme with this original theme.
Finally, we come to the most experienced and least utilised member of Basiscape’s team: Masaharu Iwata. With “Vivid Sight of Spring A”, Iwata immerses listeners with a warm soundscape blending traditional Japanese tonalities with ethereal new age undertones. Rather than lazily retread the same ideas, the B arrangement of the theme is a fast-paced action track placing a strong focus on experimental vocals. His other two-parter is equally impressive. Timbrally rich, melodically strong, and stylistically distinctive, the composition seems to blend the best of Kudo, Chiba, and Kaneda. The hits continue with action themes such as “Seduction”, a fiery blend of tribal percussion and vocals, or “Clouds Always Follow the Sun”, a punchy march somewhat reminiscent of his SoulCalibur works. He also produces more such as “Extraordinary Incident”, “Graceful Wife”, and “Seven Travelers” that, while hardly as melodically-striking, are quite beautiful with their low-key soundscapes. He was given the honour of closest the soundtrack with “Dear Wife”, which retreads several themes from the soundtrack in a satisfying way.
To summarise, the soundtrack for Muramasa Rebirth: Genroku Legends is just as rich and broad as the original. Each of the four composers maintained the core traditional sound of the game while exploring their own musicality and emotions to mostly satisfying effect. The score and its soundtrack release were well-organised, with setting and action themes nicely complemented with six-minute closers that give that epic quality to the Muramasa experience. In fact, it feels more like a sequel soundtrack instead of the typically, short underdeveloped soundtracks most would expect from DLC. If you enjoyed the Muramasa: The Demon Blade soundtrack, then this one will not disappoint.
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Posted on February 21, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on February 21, 2016.