Splatoon Original Soundtrack -Splatune-
Splatoon Original Soundtrack -Splatune-
October 21, 2015
Buy at CDJapan
What is the true essence of a squid or a kid? Is it the tentacles that dangle freely from the body of a cephalopod, or the innocent nature of a human child? Regardless, Nintendo’s Splatoon has one of the most uniquely memorable soundtracks in recent years. It’s a bold statement to make, but rarely does a game soundtrack become so heavily remixed and cited as a modern day classic. Drawing influences from both Western and Japanese musical styles, Splatoon‘s sound design is an ink-credible triumph. Its soundtrack was eventually released by Enterbrain as a two-disc set, Splatune. Yet oddly poor choices made with the way the album mixes its song selection prevents Splatune from perfectly reflecting its game’s creative heights. Two of Nintendo’s in-house composers, Toru Minegishi and Shiho Fujii, have crafted something that only they could have made. This is a good one, people!
Something to appreciate right away with Splatune is its presentation. The album comes with a multitude of eye-catching, adorable album covers that you can swap out with the official one. It’s such a needlessly aesthetic touch, but it works wonders. The inside booklet is chock full of artwork, and some of it has never even seen the light of day until the album’s release. Rarely do I take the time to compliment something as trivial as this, but it’s just charming and puts a smile on my face. In a way, it feels as though the album has come right off the store shelves from the game’s own Inkopolis City.
The best way to actually talk about the music in Splatoon is to play along with the game’s own creative decision. A good chunk of the songs are by bands in-universe. It’s such a minor detail, but because of it, Minegishi (who solo composes the bulk of the songs) has created tunes that make you go “Oh yeah, that one’s by the Squid Squad!”. It’s a brilliant touch, and also gives “Splatoon” the unique edge of having a multitude of different genre’s to dip it’s creative tentacles in.
The Squid Squad are the main band for the game’s main feature: the online multiplayer. “Splattack” is universally considered to be the “theme song” for Splatoon. It’s an uproariously catchy song and it oozes with style. The playful guitar jams along in such a way that it almost feels like you’ve stepped onto a Californian beach. Synths and percussion abound, it’s immediately memorable. The nonsense-singing that accompanies the track makes it even more catchy, as if the “lyrics” are inking a mark on your brain. The band makes a high use of a Western-sounding rock style and it doesn’t just stick to a “summer on the beach” kind of sound. “Ink or Sink” has more in common with a harder, progressive-rock style, and “Metalopod” (My personal favourite from the band) is straight up metal. The latter track projects genuine confidence, for a lack of a better word. If there’s one song of the Squad’s that I’m not particularly fond of, it’s “Kraken Up”. It does have a deliciously upbeat tone that dials the fun of the previous songs up to 11, but it’s noticeably more scattered and unfocused. This is no more apparent then how it doesn’t have anything resembling a chorus. I don’t see this as a negative though, it works wonders in battle, as it should.
I’ll attest, I have a super soft spot for chiptunes. So, basically, the Chirpy Chips are my favourite things in existence. While “Metalopod” is ultimately still my favourite of the battle tunes, any of the Chips songs are a plus. This band is one of Shiho Fujii’s main contributions and it shows a completely different style from Minegishi’s. J-Pop has its fingers all over these two tracks, “Friend List” and “Quick Start”. With their adorable scatterings of 8-bittiness and pop-infused guitars, it’s hard not to get a goofy grin when listening to the Chips. The other band that have their music playing during Turf Wars is “Hightide Era”, and I actually cannot pin-down what to call their music. I’ll put it this way, “Jazz Piano mixed with Alternative Rock”. “Hooked” and “Sucker Punch” are absolutely all over the place. Yet, it’s hard not to find yourself bobbing along to the powerful key-presses of the piano in “Hooked” and the (oddly) melancholic tone of “Sucker Punch”. I think these four tracks are the most easily forgotten of “Splatoon”, and that isn’t just because they were released later as part of an update. There’s an elephant (Octopusaphant? Tentacelephant?) in the room. (Look to the right.)
Shiho Fujii’s baby is clearly the Squid Sisters. The cousins (THEY AREN’T SISTERS. IT’S A LIE) predominantly feature on 5 of the game’s most stunningly creative and just flat-out awesome tracks. “High-Color Evolution” showcases a clearer J-pop influence then the Chirpy Chips. Guitars have been replaced for pure synth, and it’s awesome. There’s something abundantly charming about how Fujii has structured these nonsense words to honest-to-god sound like actual song lyrics. The Squid Sisters don’t just act like Japanese-idols, the music accurately reflects the proper style and tone. Listen to “Ink Me Up”, a battle theme that only plays during the game’s “Splatfest” events. It’s a faster-paced song and all the more catchy for it. Here’s something else that I love about these tracks: the mixing of the “sisters”. Callie is always on the left track, Marie on the right. “Shiokara-Bushi” plays during the last half of the game’s final boss battle, and if you’ve talked with anyone about Splatoon music, you’ve probably had this song come up. Most people just call it the “Squid-Sister’s song”. There’s no better way to describe it then something that makes you both want to dance and kick Octopus ass. It is a battle song, yet, it isn’t structured like one. The synths rise and fall in the background underneath the vocals in almost a carnival-like fashion. Believe the hype; there’s a reason why people love the Squid-Sisters.
The songs from the game’s single-player campaign lie the reason why I can’t give this album a perfect score. Toru Minegishi has done masterful work with the Squids, but his weaker work lies in the underground Octarians. Yet, the tracks aren’t particularly very weak. It’s just a completely different style of music. More of a “progressive-electronica” than anything else. “Eight-Legged Advance” and “Tentacular Circus” are some of the more stand-out tracks, with the latter being my favourite of the level themes. “Tornado Spin” is the weakest of the tracks, and is one of the few level-themes Fujii has composed. It’s an ambient piece that jars heavily with the other tracks. It works well for the game, but not for the album, and sticks out like a sore tentacle. His other song, “Cephaloparade” takes a similar style to his work for the Squid Sisters while also keeping in theme with the other Octarian sounds. The humming of the Octolings is menacing, and adds an extra layer of urgency to the track.
I mentioned that this is where the weaker music comes out, so I’ll just come out and say it. I hate it when a video game has different versions of a theme and the album just mixes them all together into one track. In this case, we have “Octoweaponry” and “I am Octavio”. See, for each different phase of their battles the music will change. In “Octoweaponry”, instruments are added to its (sadly repetitive) industrial-inspired base melody. In the final phase, it explodes into having a latin-guitar and a bombastic final half. If they had maybe mixed the song so each progression wasn’t looped twice I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but that’s what they’ve done. It’s not just repetitive, it’s droning. You know when there’s just too much build up of something, and when you finally get the pay-off, it just doesn’t feel worth it. That’s this mix.
“I am Octavio” is a little smarter, and thankfully, the first phase of the battle isn’t a total bore. It also doesn’t loop the build-up twice and lets the change into the final phase come in with a burst of energy. Yet, just as you’re getting into the song’s multi-layered, awesomely-eery pulses of electronic energy (I’m a big fan of the final part of this song, in case you couldn’t tell), it absolutely ruins it by cutting to the version that plays when the boss prepares to use an attack. Maybe if there had been a little more build-up to the change, but it just unnaturally switches into what sounds like synthetic airhorns being blared over the original tune. Thankfully, it eventually changes back, but these two mixes put a sour taste in my mouth. There’s no better way to describe it then tone-deaf. There’s no way they thought these mixes could be as enjoyable as just giving us the final phases of each of the battle. Much like how Mario Kart 8 would randomly include something like the Shy-Guys to take you out of the track, this is Splatune‘s greatest failure, and if it wasn’t such a noticeable issue I would have given the album a perfect score. Oh well.
The Splatoon Original Soundtrack -Splatune- is a gorgeous piece of work. It has a style and flair that extends past the music and into the albums actual presentation. It has a solid selection of tunes that will be remembered as Nintendo classics, and judging by how much the soundtrack is remixed on Youtube, we’ll never get enough of it. If only it could have managed a consistency in it’s latter half, the Octarian tracks suffering due to the occasional lesser song and poor choices in mixing. This review has been a while coming due to my classes, and it’s almost cathartic to finally get this out. Don’t let the half-star off fool you: I adore Splatune and think as a soundtrack it’s as close to perfection as perfection can get. Yet, as much as a squid is/isn’t a kid, a soundtrack isn’t the same as an album.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on December 14, 2015 by Chris Hayman. Last modified on December 15, 2015.