Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack
Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack
April 19, 2005
Buy Used Copy
Mushihimesama is a “bullet-hell shooter” from Cave and, along with Battle Garegga, the epitome of twitch games, in which you have to navigate a small ship through narrow walls of enemy fire. Some players will see an endless procession of bullets blossoming out in hypnotic patterns, some will freak out at the impossible bullet patterns of the bosses, while a fair few may be left listening to the music rather than concentrating on the action. The music of the games from Cave has always been one of their best features, and with the same set of composers featuring on many of the albums, each track follows a distinct genre too. The Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack uses a distinct electronica style and, with Hitoshi Sakimoto’s company Basiscape being behind the work, the score is generally successful. On this album, Manabu Namiki and Masaharu Iwata produce most of the tracks — a whole thirteen in fact — and seem to complement each other with their respective contributions. Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, and two other composers contribute to the album as well. Let’s take a closer look…
The first thing that should strike one about this album is its overall tension-filled atmosphere and electronic instrumentation. This idea originates from the album trying to interpret the graphical and technological nature of the game and is best exemplified by the boss themes. The third track, “Levi-Sense” for instance, takes a rhythmically congruent role, with its beats being very exact and announcing, so the track almost booms with fear. Namiki impressively creates the desired futuristic effect, but he achieves this with a few flaws left standing; it is probably the least successful boss battle on the soundtrack, as after a long listen, it is far too easy to get familiar with that all too grating bass line. A similar theme is “Is This How You Are?” for thr last boss. Gamers may certainly feel disappointed when their journey through one of the hardest levels in the game results in being greeted by a horrifically underdeveloped track like this. Nonetheless, everything works in-game perfectly, as the repetition has an almost hypnotic stimulating effect. These themes may be considered poor if they were part of an RPG score, but they just do the job just right for shooters. The boss themes are the only real problem with the album, but in all fairness there is a good one too. The true last boss theme “Requiem of the Sky” uses an excellent synth vocal harmony line and continually develops rhythmically and harmonically, proving to be a great track to listen to.
The rest of the album is a notch up from this. The first couple of themes, for instance, emit a strangely fun feel, allowing one to almost forget about the failing boss battle themes. The select theme “Mushihimesama, Age 15” is certainly amongst the most enjoyable themes with its pleasing bass beats and almost airy synth melody. The most enjoyable aspect of the track comes from its poppish style, which gives an image of the fifteen year old Mushihime given the modern musical tastes of most young girls. This youthful and upbeat feel is radiated in several places on the album and is one of the principle ways that it becomes stylistically distinctive. It is themes like Namiki’s first stage theme “Shinju Heading to the Forest” that provide the most fulfilling melodies for the soundtrack. This theme takes a fast-paced yet somewhat laidback approach, putting the player at ease with its soft vibes while still feeling appropriate for a shooter. The track is a great listen to and it is hard not to feel addicted to its fun melodic line. Arguably, “The One Who Is Always in the Forest” steals the show, however. With its wonderfully developed melodic lines and thick, buoyant, and individualistic harmonies, it is both accessible and intellectually compelling. Sometimes the simpler gems in the album are satisfying too after all the action. “Starfall Village – Name Entry,” for instance, provides a lucid feel and amazing imagery with its ethereal and incredibly smooth synth pads. This is what Namiki said when asked about these tracks:
I guess you can’t erase an image of a game that’s been so ingrained. But I think the significance of how you make music changes whether you knowingly make a melody that resembles that image, or go the complete opposite direction and make a track with your own “nourishment”. – Manabu Namiki
The soundtrack conveys quite a variety of emotions. Tracks like Iwata’s second stage theme “Furthermore, The Desert Must Also be Crossed” represent an almost fatigued state of mind; although it also creates a voyaging vibe, it becomes all too easy to linger on the exhausting falling notes offered by the track. In similar kin is the arranged version of the third stage theme “Walking on the Land of Flame”. This track starts off with a tense introduction to represent the havoc of the situation, but soon moves on to a gentler flute and piano section. The havoc eventually returns as the theme plunges into a barrage of trumpet roars and timpani rolls before the track conludes grandly after the entrance of a drum kit. This is one of three arrangements featured at the end of the album, coming straight from electronica mastermind Ayako Saso. It’s the best on the album and the others are sadly quite disappointing in some way. Shoichiro Sakamoto’s fourth stage arrangement “Like the Night of the Falling Stars” takes a minimalistic approach that fails to capture the image of the original theme or even expand in terms of development. In contrast, the original is an inspiring and creative gem that features one of the best development sections on the album. Over the four minutes and a half that it plays, the track explores a number of distinct atmospheres; with the first having ‘new age’ vibes, it is easy to settle down to it. Moving on, another quote, this time from Iwata:
“The hardest track for me was the ending. In the story, the village is saved, but something very sad has also happened. Considering Pricess Reko’s frame of mind, it was hard expressing something that wasn’t too sad.” — Masaharu Iwata
“I Have a Favor To Ask” isn’t one of the most compelling ending tracks that game music fans will come to experience in their lifetime, but instead provides satisfaction through deeper means. The theme is made up from airy and twinkling instruments alike playing a cutesy melody, showing how Mushihime’s innocence is at the heart of the game. Nonetheless, the backing synth pads and occasional descending progressions create a certain sadness here and there. Another notable addition to the end of the end of the album is “Location Test Song” coming straight from Hitoshi Sakimoto. Though not used in the game, it’s a great track that hybridises many of his styles. With novelty sound effects reminiscent of Breath of Fire V, pumping Gradius V style electronica, grand Radiant Silvergun-esque trumpet fanfares, and Mushihimesama‘s own childish vibe, it’sa very creative bonus addition to the album.
Mushihimesama combines Namiki’s typical hard-hitting electronic goodness with innocent and endearing melodies offered by his collaborator Iwata. It works very well in the game to reflect the near-impossible reflexes required and the sense of success at conquering each stage, even though it can be difficult hearing the actual music in the game given the barrage of shooting noises. Some say that all Cave releases should come with a health warning and, indeed, with its complex electronic sounds and cutesy melodies, some will find it oppressive, others will find it superficial. For most, it should be a nice hybrid of abstract complexity and melodic accessibility though. Hitoshi Sakimoto’s contribution and the three arranged tracks should only add to its charm. The result is a worthy and individual addition to Cave’s discography that has a little something for everybody. To conclude, a quote from Namiki-san:
“Since the backgrounds aren’t mecha, but rather filled with nature, we were able to make some very interesting melodies. Please enjoy the medley of the story, visuals, and music of Mushihimesama. Let’s go liven up those arcades!” — Manabu Namiki
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.