Ninja Gaiden 2 Official Soundtrack
Ninja Gaiden 2 Official Soundtrack
October 1, 2009
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Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 brings back one of the composers from the original soundtrack — Ryo Koike, whose work on the first was arguably the most creative and refined, and unites him with Hiroyuki Akiyama and Takumi Saito. Despite the return of the original composer, the score for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is almost entirely westernized apart from the “Main Theme”. There are few references to traditional Japanese instruments that the first Ninja Gaiden soundtrack incorporated to add flair. In a way, it is good that they gave up those pretenses.
Again, we return to a high-energy environment where nearly every track must have that brooding sense of urgency and intensity that fuels the same atmosphere in-game. Tracks like “Foul Power”, in particular, will not disappoint Ninja Gaiden fans. The level of detail in the way the high-hat flutters alongside these grungy synth patches and a female vocal sample amounts to a work of art. As with previous efforts, there are a host of synthesized sounds that provide an “art of noise” aspect to this track and similar ones, and give it that eerie depth that shows time and effort were clearly put into these tracks.
This time, the brass and string samples are significantly improved and used in a more integral manner. The majority of the tracks are not purely industrial or hardcore techno, but feature a blend of orchestral elements and electronic percussion. Having an orchestral palette does give a more epic feel to the score, but it also demonstrates the composers’ weaknesses in scoring and melodic composition. Tracks like “Fluttering Danger”, for instance, are almost painfully amateurish as we clearly see the composers venturing into new territory here. At least the series’ recurring theme, “Vengeance”, comes across in a familiar yet bold way that reminds you of the game’s epic legacy.
As with the original Ninja Gaiden soundtrack, the composers tend to pick a drone and stay on that note for the majority of the track. The brass and strings that now are a part of most tracks simply play within that narrow framework. This is a useful, albeit common, way of keeping the music in the background, but it also prevents tracks from being easily distinguishable. A majority of the songs can be described in similar, simple terms, as they really only present one or two compositional phrases and roll with them. Only a few tracks, such as “Fuga”, dare to venture outside a simple I-V-I chord pattern. Some would argue that this is fine for short-track composition, especially in anticipation of the tracks looping numerous times per level.
While the tracks may be simplistic in their use of the orchestral elements, at least we have a higher production value than in previous attempts. The slick, polished feel of each track helps drive the point home: this game is relentless in its intensity. “Twisted Shadows”, in particular, is incredibly tight, and features a bit of that shakuhachi-esque over blowing and expressivity set to a wonderfully driven backbeat; the orchestral elements and pads that give a sense of underlying harmony remain subtle and effectively placed within the mix.
Ultimately, I wish more of the tracks could stand out as well as “Twisted Shadows” or “Foul Power” do. I am concerned that the composers abandoned the game’s roots and compromised with orchestral elements, instead of sticking to their guns. One can see examples of their great drum programming in tracks like “Seeds of Life”, marred by mediocre brass parts. While the music still has much to offer fans, there is something lost in merging styles where a composer just doesn’t have a comfortable grasp of its potential. There are still plenty of gems to be found on this soundtrack, but this is a typical example of game composers being cornered into a particular style and not coming up with their greatest results.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jay Semerad. Last modified on January 16, 2016.