Sengoku IXA Original Soundtrack
Sengoku IXA Original Soundtrack
December 21, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Square Enix recently teamed up with Yahoo to release the browser game Sengoku IXA, a strategy title set in the Sengoku era. The company decided to complement the exuberant graphics of the title with an extensive score. Each member from Square Enix’s in-house music team contributed a piece to the soundtrack, while Pax Japonica Groove were hired a couple of special themes. The 13 pieces from the game were released in a special soundtrack release (officially entitled Sengoku IXA Senjin Souran -Shutsujin-) at the end of 2011.
Right away, Hidenori Iwasaki’s “Introduction” reflects the type of sounds to expect from the album: vibrant hybrids of brooding Japanese instruments and heroic orchestral leads. While these stylings are similar to those on the Sengoku Basara and Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, Iwasaki emphasises cinematic pacing and bold themes throughout. While the introduction is inevitably short, other tracks convincingly build on this basis. Iwasaki’s own “Sekigahara” is even more dramatic — particularly with its ferocious interlude at the 2:00 mark — while his partner Yamazaki offers a stunning climax to the experience with the superbly implemented orchestral showdown “Battles of Kawanakajima”. Who would have expected music of this quality on a browser game?
But Shuhei Kurosaka of Pax Japonica Groove provides the centrepieces of the album. “Colors -once upon a time-” shifts away from the drab dense sounds typical of Sengoku simulations in favour of a more personal approach. The shakuhachi lead at the start of the piece gives the piece a tragic focal point, while the brighter section from 1:50 is particularly inspired. The melodic emphasis and emotional feel of this one clearly reflects Kurosaka’s background as a pop artist, rather than game scorer. “Longing” is also an exceptionally beautiful addition, combining a beautiful performance by Masaki Nakamura on shakuhachi with intimate piano and strings parts. Tracks like these demonstrate why Sengoku IXA deserved to receive its unexpected soundtrack release.
It’s interesting to hear Square Enix’s composers adapt their established styles to represent the Sengoku era. For example, Tsuyoshi Sekito offers a twist on his bombastic and rhythmic approach to action themes — placing the emphasis on wailing flutes rather than blistering guitars — while his partner-in-crime Yasuhiro Yamanaka subtly blends traditional instruments with the dark percussive style he developed on The Last Remnant. Naoshi Mizuta’s initially ambient contribution, “Month of Rainy Night”, also blooms beautifully into a section where shinobue player Kohei Nishikawa ends up stealing the show. Another emotional entry is “Resting”, a piano solo with a strong thematic emphasis — quite unexpected from Keiji Kawamori. Slightly impressive is Hirosato Noda’s “Exploration Chapter”, with its repetitive electronic beats and brief superficial overlays, but it’s hardly terrible.
A couple of the additions don’t fit the concept of Sengoku IXA. The hypnotic beats and dreamy synthpads of Mitsuto Suzuki’s “ACID Sengoku” are a radical departure from the dark moods and orchestral emphasis featured on the rest of the album. Meanwhile Takeharu Ishimoto’s “Shake Down” — with its heavy beats and pop vocals — would fit better on The World Ends With You. While out-of-place, both tracks will nevertheless be well-received for fans of their respective genres. The album closes with a bonus track by Square Enix’s resident funnyman, Masayoshi Soken. Inspired by the anime theme songs of Ichiro Mizuki, the track combines ridiculous vocal lines (sung by famed game designer Takashi Tokita) with upbeat samurai-styled instrumentals. It’s an authentic and appropriate parody, but a select taste.
As Sengoku IXA is the soundtrack for a flash game, it is less extensive than those featured on the bigger sengoku simulation titles — there are just 13 tracks here after all. The album also falls down slightly due to the lack of unity created by a few tracks here, notably by Ishimoto and Suzuki — such pieces would have been best reserved for other projects. Square Enix partly compensates by ensuring almost all of these pieces are extensive highlights, whether Iwasaki and Yamazaki’s powerful cinematic hybrids, Mizuta and Yamanaka’s beautiful ambient experiments, or Kurosaka’s emotional centrepieces. Each of Square Enix’s current in-house artists received a chance to shine here and most of them offered interesting twists on their established highlights. Sengoku IXA is best enjoyed if approached as a collaborative image album, rather than a traditional soundtrack release.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.