November 1, 1996
Buy at Otaku.com
Policenauts: one of the greatest games that most have never played. Due to a lack of localization, the name Policenauts means virtually nothing to gamers outside of Japan apart from the most hardcore Hideo Kojima fans. A sliver of hope finally came through when an unofficial fan translation was released in 2009 for the PS1 version and a more expansive update in 2016 for the superior Sega Saturn port. After playing through the game for the first time, I was enthralled with the title’s captivating story, expertly delivered voice acting, and wonderfully atmospheric music. When I started going through the series’ various albums, I knew that I was in for a treat when I discovered Policenauts F/N. Arranged by veteran composers Motoaki Furukawa and Koichi Namiki (hence the name F/N), this album remixes classic songs from the game performed on actual guitars. What more could a fan want?
The overall format for this album is as follows: The background track will be composed with synth with either Furukawa or Namiki performing the main melody as a solo. Each song is expertly synchronized and neither part feels out of place with each other. Furukawa’s performances are inspired by rock and jazz fusion, while Namiki’s are acoustic. Although their takes on the melodies differ in style, they complement each other perfectly.
We get things started with “Just Who I Needed to See.” After a brief intro with crowd chattering and a female voice hauntingly asking, “Do you love me, too?” the synth leads into the melody performed on electric guitar by Furukawa. This excellent theme is accompanied by rousing chorus and synth. Furukawa’s performance is splendidly done, as is the overall mixing of the piece. “My Love” has a jazzy theme performed by Namiki, backed by some great bass and percussion. While the main theme is played prominently, much focus is also given to improvisation with the electric guitar. In contrast to the previous two tracks, “Ana’s Theme” is a mellow BGM with the electric guitar being traded in for an acoustic one. Furukawa delivers a performance that’s laid back but still inspired.
“Theme From News Order” is the theme for the in-game television channel BBC News (Beyond Coast Broadcasting Company). While the track starts off like a typical news theme, the middle section adds in a more rock-driven focus that makes it really stand out. “Lavendor,” a BGM track used during Beyond Coast Central Hospital, once again returns to the style of being laid-back and chilled with a performance that reminds me of something I’d hear at a beach or spa. The only oddity here is the cinematic track “The Movement of the Clouds” which is probably the weakest on this disc. The synth and percussion feel out place from the more lounge-like nature established by the rest of the album, although Namiki’s performance on electric guitar in part makes up for it. Although not a bad track per se, its appearance on the Snatcher / Policenauts Hideo Kojima Music Collection Black Disc is a better way to experience it thematically.
Moving forward, “Girls” is an upbeat and happy theme used during scenes with female characters. Much like previous tracks, Furukawa gives this piece a hard rock edge that makes it all the more enjoyable. The best track on this album for me was undoubtedly “Karen.” As the theme for the main female character in the game, it’s a romantic piece backed by masterful acoustics provided by Namiki. The electric guitar gets its chance to shine towards the latter part. “Living in the Real World” is strongly influenced by techno. Here, Namiki changes his regular style and allows room for a rock-driven section in addition to the acoustic one. The overall vibe feels somewhat experimental, but pays off well in the end with a stellar soundscape.
We wrap things up with “Policenauts End Title.” The 14-note motif heavily featured in the original game starts off this piece. By the one minute mark, Furukawa responds with a second melody on electric guitar. At 1:40, he changes into improvisation while the 14-note theme continues to play in the background. Each section is coherent and fluid, with the different melodies working together splendidly. Furukawa returns with his section at 3:06 before going back into improvisation. After playing the main theme once more, the piece fades out into the same audience chatter that opened the album. It makes me think of a crowd leaving, while band members pack up their instruments. Not a bad way to finish things, wouldn’t you say?
Without a doubt, this is the best arranged album in the series. Furukawa and Namiki give exceptionally strong performances, the mixing is excellent, and the new arrangements are splendidly composed. What made the original pieces so great is still here, and the use of live instruments only makes them better. With the out-of-place exception of “The Movement of the Clouds,” I’ve got nothing but praise for this album. The only downside is its availability. All CDs in the Snatcher/Policenauts series are rare, fetching high prices on auction sites. If you can find it, pick it up if you’re able to afford cost. Assuming that you are a fan of arranged video game music, rock/jazz styles, and jamming guitars, give this one a listen.
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Posted on February 20, 2015 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on October 21, 2017.