The World Ends with You Original Soundtrack
The World Ends with You Original Soundtrack
August 22, 2007
Buy at CDJapan
Released in 2007, The World Ends With You is one of the most innovative games to come out on the popular NDS and a rare original IP to come out of Square Enix when they are busy milking the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series. The game received critical acclaim upon release and was also commercially successful. The music of the game, composed by Takeharu Ishimoto, captured the gamers’ attention immediately and remains popular among the fans until today. Let us inspect the reason behind the enduring popularity of this unique soundtrack.
The World Ends with You features a vocal-heavy score, with 17 vocal tracks out of the 35 complete tracks released on the original soundtrack. The soundtrack features a total of twelve vocalists. Heavily influenced by contemporary Western music, the score is comprised of songs from numerous genres, integrating techno, pop, hip-hop, and rock influences. Featured vocalist Sawa is also the primary lyricist of the vocal tracks in TWEWY. Sawa is experienced in writing English songs for her band, thus influencing her to write for TWEWY equally in Japanese and English.
One of the great feats of TWEWY is that the game was able to fit so much high quality tracks into the cartridge of NDS despite its memory space limitations. In the beginning stages, Ishimoto ambitiously submitted contemporary vocal tracks as demo for the project despite the expected limitations. The risk yielded positive results because the directors felt the demos were such a fitting portrayal of Shibuya, where the game took place in, they decided to free the memory capacity for compressed movies to make space for the music. They removed the pre-rendered movies and replaced them with Flash-style sequences, which freed up cartridge space to include over 30 vocal songs. This was an unusual move given that most video game developers prioritize visual quality over music. In the end, the data of the compressed music occupied about a quarter of the game cartridge’s total memory space.
The soundtrack is primarily made up of J-rock songs with mid-tempo electronic beats. These rock tracks are mostly performed by female singers with mellow vocals, which emphasized their Japanese roots. With a catchy melody and effective beats, “Calling” is the most popular of them all and has inspired numerous subsequent arrangements. The most striking track of the bunch to me is “Satisfy”, sung admirably by Ayuko Tanaka with a yearning voice which grows progressively stronger in the song and culminates in a powerful ending. Another worthy mention is “Give Me All Your Love”, a track in which the memorable melody is highlighted with simple backing that emphasizes the beats. “Hybrid” and “Someday”, two rather generic J-rock songs, each get two versions with different lyrics in Japanese and English respectively, but both versions retain the same backing arrangement.
The other major component of the soundtrack is hip hop songs with rapping. “Twister”, a track as popular as “Calling” and was also arranged multiple times, repeats a whimsical guitar riff on a quirky bassline in the first half and adds in a layer of ethereal vocal atop an altered backing to create a different vibe in the second half. “Twister” also has a Japanese counterpart with an extended arrangement but the rapper for this version delivered the Japanese lyrics in a really deadpan way. “Ooparts” is an eccentric and playful track featuring two singers rapping in both Japanese and English as if responding to each other amidst the occasional insertion of chipmunk voices. The rapper of “Owari-Hajimari”, Cameron Strother, really brings the track alive with his vibrant and almost dramatic rapping.
Lastly, we will take a look at the instrumental tracks in the soundtrack. Most of them are rather short in comparison (under a minute) and not as developed as the vocal tracks. The track that opens the album, “It’s So Wonderful”, utilizes discordant piano chords and peculiar guitar riffs to create a mysterious yet lively sound. “Fighting for Freedom” is an electronic track composed entirely of synth beats and a repeating sampled voice saying the title of the track. “Psychedelic” is a thick soundscape made up of aggressive synth noises, as appropriate to the track name. Junk Garage is an interesting that uses a lot of sampled voices that forms a really dissonant sound with the bombastic backing. “NOISY NOISE” is an rhythmic track which combines percussion parts with synth beats as well as some samples of murmuring low voices to create a really interesting sound.
The World Ends With You Original Soundtrack is an groundbreaking album utilizing musical ideas that one would not expect to hear in video games, especially a NDS game, at the time. The music continues to be loved by the fans and inspires new arrangements even years after its initial release, a testament to the quality of the score composed by Takeharu Ishimoto. I cannot recommend this album to everyone because whether you will be able to fully appreciate it will depend heavily on your affinity for J-pop music and your tolerance of “Engrish” lyrics. And the album also has a number of filler instrumental tracks. Regardless, one cannot deny the originality and production value of this unique soundtrack which was ahead of its time when it was released.
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Posted on October 14, 2015 by KT Wong. Last modified on January 17, 2016.