Power Drift / Yu Suzuki Produce
Yu Suzuki Produce Power Drift
January 21, 1998
Buy Used Copy
Power Drift was a Sega racing game that debuted on Arcades during 1988. Released after both OutRun and Super Hang-On, its score was significantly more technologically accomplished than its pioneering predecessors. Composer Hiroshi Kawaguchi also gave the score a firmer sense of stylistic identity with his mainstream-targeted jazz fusion and rock emphasis, thus adding to the grit and attitude of the racing game. After appearances in several compilation albums, Yu-Suzuki Produces Power Drift finally allowed the soundtrack to stand by itself. There was technically a release before it, but it was incomplete and for an archaic format, the CD Video. The new release also featured a complete arranged version by Kawaguchi and two bonus arrangements by Kazuhiko Iwami. Is it another must-have Sega score?
Starting with the original version, the opening theme immediately establishes the upbeat tone of the game. Synthesized brass and saxophones confidently present a funky melody backed with the edgy rhythms of slapped basses. While suitable for a title theme, it’s with the course themes that Kawaguchi really starts to offer memorable and developed themes. “Side Street” captures the varied emotions of going on a drive; it initially reflects the sounds of the engines with some rhythm guitar riffs before demonstrating the curious yet cautious set-off with a mild synth melody. As the driver begins to feel liberated, a much bolder melody is presented. The sense of freedom is embellished by some decent jazz improvisations from the 2:55 mark. It’s clear Kawaguchi really knows how to cruise!
There is quite a bit of diversity in the other racing themes. “Like the Wind” motivates drivers in the desert with its incredibly upbeat synth lead and rock backing. Meanwhile the beach theme “Silent Desert” has a surprisingly gritty feel to it, especially in its B section, due to the use of a more abrasive guitar lead. “Adjustment Mind” is probably the most rhythmically punctuated of the set, although it is also much more chord progression rather than melody driven, so old-school gamers might find it potentially less appealing. The last course track, “Artistic Traps”, features a rather uninteresting introduction. However, it makes up for it with some expansive and nostalgic keyboard work during the development. “Diversity” certainly ends the game on a colourful note, even if it is very brief.
The arranged version is initially a mixed bag. “Poker Face” often sounds little more than a resynthing of the original, but the leads are synthesized in a way that really enhances the funk elements. There are some original elements too, most notably some soulful semi-acoustic guitar solos, that helps to extend the pice by two minutes. The remix of “Side Street” doesn’t develop as fittingly, but offers a more dynamic texture overall, thanks to the seamless blend of jazz and rock elements featured throughout. The piano, whether offering bouncy accompaniment or starting the improvisations, is an especially welcome addition. Most of the rest of the tracks adhere to the format of their originals, except with fleshed-out timbres or a greater jazz fusion emphasis. An exception is “Diversity”, which is massively elaborated upon in a simultaneously moody yet quirky nu jazz mix.
Kazuhiko Iwami also offers two arrangements to the soundtrack. The description of ‘slow version’ seems apt in both cases. “Side Street” retains a funk feel, but in an altogether different mood, almost suitable for nighttime driving (although not for those inclined to fall asleep at the wheel). The guitar lead takes a much softer tone while lulling synth pads and ethereal string backing adds to the reflective mood. The piece maintains a similar set-up through its 5:37 duration although there are a few unobtrusive solos to break things a little. Meanwhile “Like the Wind” sounds better than ever — albeit completely different — in its new age remix. An acoustic guitar introduces the piece before warm synth pads take over. However, the lead is synthesized with the quality of a recorder and is quite a novelty indeed. The album ends with a sound effects and voice collection.
Yu-Suzuki Produce Power Drift is certainly the definitive version of the Power Drift score. After all, it features the original score in its complete elaborate form, as well as an extensive arranged section. The question is whether the original score deserves attention in the first place. It’s certainly not as fondly remembered as other Sega classics such as OutRun, Sega Rally, or Daytona USA, yet it was a big progression for its time both technologically and musically. Hiroshi Kawaguchi did a great job integrating so many emotional and elaborate course themes into one game while emphasising the jazz fusion and rock qualities of many of Sega’s early works. That said, there have been better similarly styled racing scores since, so only those who played the game or major collectors might consider it worthwhile. The straightforward yet high quality arranged section should be the icing on the cake.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.