Progear Sound & Art Collection
Progear Sound & Art Collection (Progear no Arashi Sound & Art Collection)
March 20, 2014
Buy at Sweep Record
Cave’s first horizontally scoring shooter Progear acquired more widespread popularity than the company’s previous works thanks to the publisher Capcom’s localisation efforts. The score was handled by Yukinori Kikuchi, whose other work includes Blue Stinger, Sister Princess, and Macross VF-X2. He mixed rock and orchestral elements to create thick textures and compelling rhythms that fitted the action. However, many were disappointed by the superficial approach taken and found sustained listening uninspired or downright grating. The soundtrack was released by Suleputer two years after the game; it includes the looped downgraded sound version in the first half and the unlooped original sound version in the second half. The soundtrack has also recently been reissued, complete with an excellent art collection, by SuperSweep. Is the re-edition a worthwhile purchase?
The first stage theme tends to be the best judge of a shooter score, since most composers put a lot of effort into underscoring the stage gamers will be playing most. Progear‘s “To the Blue Sky” is quite a catchy theme featuring interplay between piano and woodwind synth, as well as an emotional development section. However, the instrumental writing is quite amateurish and the implementation sounds terrible for its time. Supporting them is a hard drum beat and repeating power chords that give a cheesy rock influence that doesn’t effectively complement the treble parts. This superficial and heavy-handed approach is maintained throughout the soundtrack, and sadly there fewer good melodies to make the approach tolerable. “Children’s Oath”, for instance, simply features a two guitar riff repeating against drum beats and static bass. With the two chord-approach to “Blood-Stained Success”, one is left wondering whether Kikuchi is setting out to be a less catchy version of Status Quo.
He made some effort to ensure the remaining stage themes fitted the game context appropriately. The rhythmical riff-based emphasis on “White Tragedy” fits a second stage demanding concentration and endurance. “Crimson Imperial Capital” deserved a bit of grandeur provided by simple orch hit scales given the impressive location. However, these variations on an already-tired approach are insufficient to make the themes interesting or deep on their own. The only remaining stage theme that has replay value is “Amber Ruins”, as the unpredictable drum rhythms and uncompassionate synth vocals create a very persuasive sound for those willing to overlook its theoretical deficiencies. The final stage theme “Castle of Darkness” attempts to create some ambience with a monophonic piano melody against lulling accompaniment, though only really conveys blandness. The torturing of the piano is especially unforgivable here.
Moving on to the boss theme, “Senate” is the third of the half-decent contributions here. Again Kikuchi shows his capacity to produce intense rhythms and the development section from 0:49 is arguably the peak of the score’s achievement. The last boss theme attempts to create an epic and moody sound by focusing on vocals. However, the scalar vocal melodies create absolutely no tension and their accompaniment merely comprises two mind-numbing timpani. While the first encounter with this boss is likely to be so tough that it’s difficult to notice the music, experienced players will cringe at how poorly it is implemented. Moving to the decent ending themes, “Stairway to Adulthood” is a light jazz piece, “For the Brave…” is a rock-based credits theme, and “Music Box of Memories” is a short sentimental music box track. The soundtrack concludes with a 90 second voice collection, which were later downgraded for the purpose.
The SuperSweep edition includes an art collection on DVD. it contains 113 pages in PDF featuring high quality artwork from the game, including final artist renditions, works in progress (i.e. just rough sketches for character form, etc.), enemy designs, images that show the entire stage design as you experience it in game, in-game images, storyboards, and whatnot. It’s pretty comprehensive and clearly a lot of work went into it.
Getting a chance to consider the intricacies of Progear‘s soundtrack (or lack thereof) is difficult amidst a clutter of bullets and sound effects when playing the game. However, it provides an appropriately heavy and action-packed accompaniment to gameplay, so is successful on a functional level. On a stand-alone level, however, the score comes across as amateurishly composed. Most compositions are simply composed of a few harsh riffs and crisis motifs based on repeating four bar chord progressions. A few decent rhythms and catchy rhythms are not enough to make this soundtrack even passable so hold back your money in favour of some of the many better shooter soundtracks out there. That all said, if you’re a Progear fan and don’t agree with my criticisms, SuperSweep’s release is a still an excellent-presented celebration of the game’s audio and visuals.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on June 12, 2014 by Chris Greening. Last modified on June 26, 2014.