Okami Classics Soundtrack
Okami Classics Soundtrack
October 15, 2009
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While the critically acclaimed Okami was one of the last offerings from Capcom’s ill-fated Clover Studio. Nevertheless, the franchise has lived on through the work of Capcom’s in-house developments teams on its Wii remake and DS sequel. A bonus with the Wii remake in Japan was a soundtrack disc featuring 42 pieces from the five disc soundtrack release selected by the new Capcom Sound Team and a bonus piano arrangement. The release reflects how the now-outcasted Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, and Rei Kondo drew upon classic Eastern musical traditions to accompany the game’s colourful visuals and godly atmosphere. However, can new composers for the series really do service to their score with their selections?
The promotional album focuses on many of the score’s most lyrical compositions and these tend to be among the best of Masami Ueda’s offerings. Okami‘s lyrical style is unique, particularly within the realm of video game music. Most video games rely on pop and folk styled melodies, with quick harmonic rhythms, and memorable rhythmic patterns to create memorable and emotionally evocative melodies. While Okami certainly has its popular roots, there is more emphasis on simple textures with small ensembles and slow moving melodies than on other soundtracks.
There are many lyrical pieces on the album that express a variety of emotions, and carry the mystic qualities that make the mythic atmosphere of Okami convincing. They range in styles from the very direct harmonically driven, and almost rock ‘n’ roll character themes to more subtle, but undeniably magical tracks such as “Kamiki Village”, and tracks like “Kamiki Village’s Sorrowful Custom” that fall somewhere inbetween. But it almost always works. Rarely does Okami descend into obnoxious sentimentality.
Of course, the soundtrack is not entirely defined by its expressive and slow-paced lyrical side. There is a lot to enjoy on the soundtrack in the form of character and action pieces. “Shinshu Plains”, in particular, is an energetic track that gets me ready to adventure. I was delighted it was included here, despite the absence of its partner “Cursed Shinshu Plains”. The character themes such as for Ushiwaka and Sakuya use a musical language quite similar to Koji Kondo, and while I don’t find myself quite as charmed by Okami‘s offerings as I do with some of the themes in Zelda, the material here is still high quality. Fortunately most of the obnoxious ones from the five disc soundtrack were omitted.
The battle music is featured here is a mixed bag. Almost all of the battle tracks on the album, such as the Battle of Orochi set, suffer from an overdose of reverb. This can make some of the more complex rhythms blur over each other, and can frequently cause the percussion to vastly overpower the melodies. For the most part though, they manage to overcome their overdose of reverb to make for interesting listening. “Yamato-no-Orochi’s Extermination II” is a particular delight for the ears. Aside from the convincing dramatic percussion, the track boasts one of the best battle melodies that I have ever heard.
While the best selection does capture the spirit and range of Okami, the actual track selection is insufficient. Many highlight pieces from the original score were omitted, such as “Dragon Palace”, “Cursed Shinshu Plains”, and even the vocal theme “Reset”. This seems counterintuitive given their popularity and perhaps Capcom also marketed the disc to sell the full five disc soundtrack. Unfortunately, in their place is a comparable amount of filler to the main soundtrack. Material such as “The Beginning”, “Ushiwaka’s Appearance”, and “Boss Battle Clear” are acceptable fanfares in context, but are interruptive and pointless on a stand-alone level. The point of best compilations is to remove tracks like this to provide a more cohesive and fulfilling listening experience.
The disc ends with the piano arrangement of “The Tribe of Heavenly Gods’ Theme” from the Okami Piano Arrange album. For the first half of the piece the track develops in a very engaging way. However, as Matsuura gets to the end of the B section, which had been growing continuously, she opts to completely stall the piece’s momentum and repeat the main theme almost exactly as it had been played the first time. Issues with form aside, this arrangement is still one of my favourite tracks on that otherwise underwhelming album. However, its inclusion here is not justified in the absence of certain highlight original tracks, particularly fan favourite “Reset”.
Okami was a flawed soundtrack, yet also truly beautiful. I have not heard a soundtrack that has a celestial sound as convincing as this one, nor one that can infuse the earth with spirit as this one. However, the five disc soundtrack is a more comprehensive and fulfilling listening experience for those with a little patience and the ruthlessness to skip those tracks that lag behind. The one disc compilation often captures the spirit of the soundtrack, but omits many highlights, incorporates a lot of filler, and does not achieve the same narrative flow overall. It reflects the flaws of creating a compilation album without the involvement of the original album and the added complication of a record label’s commercial interests. Regardless, it is good to know that Masami Ueda’s music for the score is continuing to reach those that play the special game.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Richard Walls. Last modified on August 1, 2012.