Sakura Wars -In Hot Blood- Complete Music Collection
Sakura Wars -In Hot Blood- Complete Music Collection
February 26, 2003
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The Sakura Taisen -In Hot Blood- Complete Music Collection is the soundtrack to the PlayStation 2 remake of the original Sakura Taisen game on the Saturn. Kohei Tanaka returned as composer and arranger, while Takayuki Negishi and Masami Kishimura are responsible for arranging the character songs. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the Japan-exclusive game is a successful cross between traditional Japanese RPGs and dating simulators with a well-structured story line. The main protagonist’s relationship with the characters in vital to battle states and the nature of the soundtrack follows this gameplay faithfully. Looking back on the Sega Saturn’s original soundtrack, the game had very memorable tracks, though the sound quality was a bit lacking. The PlayStation 2 version makes up for that, keeping the original orchestrations and updating the synth sound to suit the remastered look of the game.
I would like to first cover the vocal themes. Sakura Taisen is renowned for featuring memorable and quirky characters (designed by Tales character designer Kosuke Fujishima) across its video games, anime and manga. Seiyuu perform their character’s song during the dating sim mode of the game. Each song has musical diversity that fits each character’s mood perfectly. To pick some examples, I’ll start with the main theme of Sakura Taisen; “Declaration! Imperial Floral Assault Group”. It has a catchy, addictive melody and encapsulates the entire world of Sakura Taisen. Serving as the main theme for the entire series, there are numerous different versions of this song outside the game. This track with either grow on you, or you might find it quite irritating, just for the amount of times it plays in the game!
Used to portray the French aristocratic girl Iris Chateaubriand, “Etude” is played with accordion and piano. It is suitably innocent in its nature. “Tokyo-style Holiday” is catchy vocal theme with pleasant traditional kotyu solos. Sakura’s Theme “Cherry Blossom” combines the beautiful voice of Chisa Yokoyama with piano backing and Japanese elements. It is also the only vocal theme to get an instrumental version. Some other vocal themes are duets, as they take place in the protagonist’s opera house hideout during the game, such as “Because it’s Love”, “Love is a Diamond” and “Blooming Maidens”. Others worth checking out are “Red Hot Boogie”, “Only Man”, and “Seductive Mambo”.
Looking at some of the other highlights, “Main Theme” highlights the bombastic orchestral sound one might expect from Kohei Tanaka. This PlayStation 2 version is much better produced than the Saturn original, highlighting the lyrical interplay of the trumpet and violin leads. The common battle theme, “Try Your Best! Imperial Floral Assault Group”, combines Tanaka’s distinctive style with jazzy elements and traditional Japanese motifs. It’s also peppered with reprises of the main theme. The main theme is also reprised in tracks such as “Move Out! Imperial Floral Assault Group Theme”, the victory fanfares, and the transformation themes, giving plenty of thematic unity to the soundtrack. Another notable track is the main area theme “The Heartwarming Life of the TeiGeki”, whhere most of the character event occurs.
Much of the rest of the soundtrack is comprised of event tracks. Most of these themes are fully orchestrated, bridging Tanaka’s military stylings with Japanese-influenced music. However, approximately half of the tracks across the two discs fail to exceed the two minute mark and sometimes fall into filler territory, interrupting the flow of the soundtrack. There are still some decent entries though. “We, The Kuronosu Council 1 & 2” serve as the main villain themes, the first version fully orchestrated, the second synthesised. “Silent Nihilist” is a cold and suspenseful sub-character theme. “Theme of Joy” and “Theme of Excitement” are romantic, calming tracks that aare part of the dating-sim mode; though stereotypical, they’re a nice break from the soundtrack’s more pressing and malevolent themes. “Let’s All Make it Together! The Cheerful Imperial Capital” should be mentioned as a heroic highlight, but still could be more developed.
Looking at some of the other battle themes, “Enemy Battle 1” serves as midboss theme and is one of the strongest battle themeson the soundtrack. It is dark, full of tension, and typical of Tanaka’s structure to boss themes. The brass melodies shine throughout the track and the percussion is also very well-done. “For the Sake of the Imperial Capital” is a major boss theme. It has a much more harrowing feel to it, though retains the gallant brass and strong piano melodies typical of the Sakura Taisen sound. “Enemy Battle 2” is deceptively titled, as it is an anxiety theme used for boss appearances rather than a true battle theme. Finally, you have “Final Battle”, which is a four and a half minute epic (looped for nine minutes) that reprises the Kuronosu theme in a satisfying way. It is the darkest battle theme on the soundtrack, with an organ introduction that builds it up to it main melody, before brass bring tension and finally the track breaks out into a heroic segment. A brilliant finish to the battle themes, and make the build up of the second disc so worth while.
All in all, Sakura Taisen: In Hot Blood is enjoyable soundtrack with interesting fusions of traditional Japanese and orchestral music. Tanaka successfully combines the dating sim aspect successfully with the military elements of strategy. I have a few qualms with the soundtrack, namely the traces of filler among the event tracks and the slightly excessive usage of the main leitmotif. However, the vocal themes and battle themes hold things together nicely to produce a rounded two-disc package packed with content. It’s also vastly superior to the original Saturn version, offering rich instrumental performances and plenty more content (the instrumental and vocal tracks of the original game were released on separate albums). One of the strongest soundtracks of the series, you can find copies on Amazon Japan. As a sidenote, fans of the anime may recognise reprises in this soundtrack; Tanaka arranged some of these pieces, especially the vocal themes, to fit for the televised production.
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Posted on July 4, 2015 by Christopher Jones. Last modified on January 19, 2016.