Saturday Morning RPG Original Soundtrack
Saturday Morning RPG Original Soundtrack
Scarlet Moon Records
January 27, 2014
Buy at Bandcamp
Saturday Morning RPG is an episodic role-playing game based heavily on 80s Saturday morning cartoons. While the RPG genre has branched out into many different settings, this game finally takes the genre in a different and fresh direction. Everything is designed in a cartoon/pixel art style, except for the music. The music was created by Vince DiCola, of Rocky IV and Transformers: The Animated Series fame, and his long-term collaborator Kenny Meriedeth. Together, they bring quite a few different styles to the plate here. While the game has a retro feel, the music is far from retro. What you get is a wide soundscape of electric guitar and 80s progressive rock. If you are curious how this all sounds, please read on!
Let’s start with a few of DiCola’s tracks that he worked on alone. “Saved by the Bell” is a very relaxing tune that reminds me strongly of Persona’s more lighthearted themes. The piano melody intertwined with the airy and flowing synth pads are absolutely beautiful. “Fallen Angel” is the complete opposite. A progressive rock melody accompanies a overdriven bass line and synth keyboard solos. It really reminds me of something you would hear from Jordan Rudess (of Dream Theater) or Rick Wakeman (progressive rock band YES, VGM composer for the Sega CD game Microcosm). The last one I’ll discuss in this category is “Overdrive.” I believe this is the final battle theme and oh boy is it sexy. This one puts a HEAVY focus on complex keyboard solos and electric guitar. This might just be my favorite tune on the whole album.
As far as the two composers working together we see an even wider range of styles. “What Was That?” is an amazingly intense event theme. It starts with an electronic beat, a dramatic orchestral melody, and roaring electric guitar. It is rather short, but gives quite a bit of context in its 1:13 playtime. The regular battle theme holds this same style, albeit a bit more flowing. This one focuses more on the orchestra to drive the melody with some rockin’ synth scratches and more of that lovely electric guitar. The last of the upbeat ones I’ll discuss is “What Once Was Lost.” This one has a subdued percussive electronic harmony driven by piano and orchestra. It grows in intensity until a brief percussion solo. That is followed by an out of place (yes still beautiful) piano solo. The song builds back up to the previous climax before ending. This little section here really showcases the highlights of this album.
Next, we will talk about a few slightly ambient area/event themes. “Power Plant” is the only area theme discussed here that doesn’t have some sort of ambient focus. Carried by a slow fusion jazz tempo, a heavily overdriven guitar (tuned to almost mimic a saxophone) riffs out a wondrous 80s hair band guitar solo throughout the entire piece. There is only one way to describe this one: sexy! “We Need To Talk” is a moody piano piece with some slight string accompaniment building a rather somber soundscape. Lastly, “Beast” plays out for half the track with just ambient background noise and random gurgling sound effects. As it progresses, ominous strings layer onto the ambiance building intensity until it reaches a bombastic orchestral climax and then ends. Overall another well executed group of tunes!
To draw the discussion to a close, I’d like to mention the two arrange tracks included at the end of the album. “Dawn of A New Day” is the first of those, arranged by Grant Henry (aka Stemage ) from the VGM Tribute band “Metroid Metal.” While the original has a more synth orchestral feel, Stemage went more for a 80’s pop rock sound. We are first greeted by an electric guitar melody and a largely unaltered harmony. Chiptune sounds are layered in later on, while the rest of the track slowly moves toward a Falcom sound team -esque sound. The second arranged track is titled “Saturday Morning Arcade Shooter” and is arranged by retro artist Jake Kaufman (aka virt). This one is mostly based on the original track “Battle Scene” but with FM synth. It follows the original pretty closely, improvising several of the synth solo sections. With that said, there is no other person better suited for this type of arrangement. Just close your eyes and imagine playing a classic 90’s arcade shmup; it fits PERFECTLY!
This album was a total surprise for me. I only knew Vince DiCola from his “Moon over the Castle” remix from the Gran Turismo series. He didn’t disappoint on that one or this album alongside Kenny Meriedeth. All the tracks sound like they came straight from 80s rock bands, which sets up the game’s setting perfectly. In the end I will say this: If you are a progressive rock fan, especially in the Dream Theater or YES style, then this album will rock your world. A few tracks are too ambient to hold up well outside of gameplay but they are small enough in number or short enough to not derail you from an enjoyable listen.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on May 11, 2014 by Bryan Matheny. Last modified on May 14, 2014.