Pound For Pound & Kengo
Pound For Pound & Kengo
December 15, 1990
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Irem was still pumping out arcade games on a regular basis in 1990, but few of these enjoyed the same success as R-Type. Among their releases were a boxing simulator Pound For Pound and a samurai beat ’em up Kengo, neither of which became internationally recognised. The scores for both titles were created by Takushi Hiyamuta (aka HIYA!) and were compiled into a single album release.
The first part of the album is dedicated to the score for Pound For Pound. In contrast to his other scores for Irem, Takushi Hiyamuta sticks quite firmly to the funk-rock sound of the series’ earlier titles on tracks such as “Heavy Corner” and “Deadly Fight”. They’re a little more exuberant in development and synthesis than Vigilante or Ninja Spirit, reflecting Hiyamuta’s individuality and befitting the boxing gameplay. However, they’re still not quite memorable or commanded enough to pounch out the various game music greats of the day.
The main problem with the score for Pound For Pound is its brevity. Of the eleven tracks here, only two exceed the two minute track and a few are mere jingles. Tracks such as “Move and Move”, “Heat Step”, and “Loose Loser” do their job in the game, but are simply too brief and mundane to be worth listening to on their own. After releasing soundtracks of this length separately in the past, Irem thankfully decided to package this release with the more expansive soundtrack to Kengo. The brevity isn’t such a detriment to the album as a result.
Moving to the score of Kengo, this soundtrack tends to fuse Irem’s funk sound with the instruments and tonalities of ancient Japan. This is immediately evident by “Master Fencer”, a dense and expansive composition that remains interesting during the first stage. The track isn’t as expressive or authentic as more modern fusions, due to the limitations of the arcade synth. However, it still sets the scene well by complementing the visual style and action-packed gameplay. Due to its abstract nature and limited synthesis, it’ll require quite a select taste for stand-alone listening though.
These foundations are elaborated upon in subsequent tracks on the soundtrack. For example, “Crushed Rock” is somewhat more formidable than its predecessor, while the woodwinds on “Wind Wave” give a subtle sense of being on the sea. However, these tracks lack the melodic or rhythmic hooks to compare to other samurai scores of the day. At least “Fire Blanket” has a personal effect through its wailing woodwind line, but still seems a little conflicted due to its synth limitations. Many listeners will have turned off by the time they come to “Lightning Group”, which is a little more rewarding with its dramatic expansion.
By compiling two mediocre soundtracks on to a single album, Pony Canyon produced a rather unsatisfying release here. The music for Kengo is definitely more unique and extensive than that of Pound For Pound. However, neither score is particularly remarkable and msot can skip this release in favour of Irem’s shooter scores.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.