Mushihimesama Perfect Soundtrack
Mushihimesama Perfect Soundtrack
February 14, 2006
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 Mushihimesama soundtrack uses a distinct electronica style created through a collaboration by Basiscape members Manabu Namiki and Masaharu Iwata. Its official soundtrack released by the Cave record label went out-of-print several years ago, but INH decided to commemorate the title with a DVD-CD box set. The CD features the complete soundtrack to the game, a bonus vocal track, and four new arrangements by Basiscape members. The DVD contains 120 minutes of recording of gameplay featuring the original mode, manic mode, ultra mode, and an out take, as well as some soundtrack movies and an optional commentary. It also features a 70 page booklet featuring original game illustrations. Is it worth the expensive pricetag?
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. The third stage theme “Walking on the Land of Flame” starts off with a tense introduction to represent the havoc of the situation, but later incorporates a very catchy upbeat synth melody and, before the loop, a climactic percussive fest. It is a little unfortunate that Ayako Saso’s bonus arrangement of the theme in the Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack wasn’t carried over in favour of new arrangements of other stage themes. The fourth stage theme “Like the Night of the Falling Stars” incorporates numerous atmospheres and moods during its comprehensive introduction. From a hypnotic new age introduction, it gradually intensifies into a rhythmically complex and colourfully soundscaped masterpiece. 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. The vocal theme “Kono Mori no Dokokade…” is exclusive to the Mushihimesama Perfect Soundtrack. Yui Yoshii, the voice actor of Princess Reko, sings the theme; though her voice represents the character well, she is definitely not a good singer so not all will be endeared by this song. Nevertheless, the mixture of ethereal and exotic instrumentals ensures the composition is still accomplished. For those who don’t enjoy the vocals, there is also a karaoke version that is quite enjoyable despite the lack of the main melody. Unlike the Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack, the Mobile Gaiden background music “Princess Reko’s Adventure” and Hitoshi Sakimoto’s “Location Test Song” are not included here.
The main exclusives to this release are the four arranged versions by members of Basiscape. Mitsuhiro Kaneda’s sensuous blend of jazz and electronic sounds in “Shinji Heading to the Forest” is reminiscent of Opoona‘s score; it is also very refreshing to hear the strong melodies of the original presented in such a calm manner. Iwata returned to this production to arrange his own stage theme “Furthermore, The Desert Must Be Crossed”. It’s another slow soothing remix with old-school tones reminiscent of some of his Nintendo Entertainment System shooters. Namiki also returned to a breathtaking remix “The One Who is Always in the Forest”; classic Namiki, he blends his characteristic dense fast-paced electronica style with well pronounced melodies, oriental influences, and even vocoder samples. Finally, Kimihiro Abe’s “Requiem of the Sky” is an accomplished if inaccessible techno remix individualised by the arranger’s love for unconventional layering techniques and complex polyrhythms. The arranged version of the Mushihimesama Perfect Soundtrack is much stronger than the one in the Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack shining with stylistic creativity and lots of character.
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. Compared with the Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack, there are unfortunate omissions such as Ayako Saso’s arrangement and Hitoshi Sakimoto’s test piece. However, the excellent new arranged section and charming vocal theme compensate for this. However, this set will cost around $100 taking into account shipping, so it is not worth the price for the music alone. If you’re a big fan of Mushihimesama and would like the DVD as well, then this is a more reasonable purchase.
“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
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.