Darius II PC-Engine World / Super
Super Darius II PC-Engine World
December 21, 1992
Buy Used Copy
The soundtracks of most ports of the Darius series are significantly or moderately inferior to their originals. There is one score, however, that is arguably superior to its original: Super Darius II. Released in 1993 for the Turbo-CD, the game is an enhanced port of 1989’s Darius complete with overhauled graphics and an arranged redbook audio score. A team of musicians from T’s Music, the music production team behind other hit Turbo-CD soundtracks such as Lords of Thunder and Sapphire, were responsible for adapting the soundtrack.
Right from the opening stage theme “Olga Breeze”, it’s clear that T’s Music have worked wonders with Darius II‘s soundtrack. The track preserves the adventurous vibe of the original with its free-spirited melody and electro-acoustic backing. However, the production values are much more impressive given T’s Music created a CD audio track: Gone are the dated, piercing synths created with the arcade version’s sound drivers. In their place are electrifying guitar leads and otherworldly synthesizers. While the team place a strong emphasis on the original melody, they also introduce some welcome other elaborations such as a guitar solo. “Say PaPa” takes an even bolder approach, hybridising orchestral, rock, and electronic influences throughout its playtime to capture the epic journey to the final boss.
The rock influence of the two aforementioned tracks emanates throughout the soundtrack. Several of the stage themes are now straightforward rock fests: “Jamming” is filled with unashamed guitar leads and 80s power rock vibes. “Planet Blue” follows suit and sounds like it could have come straight from a kid’s anime show. They’re both competently arranged and performed, and certainly fuel the excitement onscreen. However, not all will appreciate their cheesy rock stylings. Many purists will also be disappointed that T’s Music adapted Ogura’s deliberately unconventional soundtrack to sound so mainstream.
Thankfully, the team still manages to offer quite a varied soundtrack overall through their skillful treatment of . “Muse Valley” provides the soundtrack’s most beautiful moments with its moody, spacey development and electro-acoustic soundscaping. While a fantastic stand-alone listen, it also gorgeously complements the stage’s visuals in context. The martial “Cynthia” also sounds vastly superior to before, as the heavy-handed snares of the original are replaced by more sophisticated synthetic military orchestration. While it doesn’t match today’s full orchestral anthems, it was a stellar effort for 1993. “To Nari” hasn’t aged well either, but still impresses for its ambitious epic electro-orchestral soundscaping.
Perhaps Darius II‘s weakest point was its boss themes. There were just two of them on the soundtrack and neither of them particularly matched the encounters they were used in. Thankfully, T’s Music remedied this problem using a mixture of arrangements and original compositions. The first boss theme is completely overhauled, now a funk piece filled with punchy licks and complex rhythms. While “Boss 2” falls flat, the original “Boss 3” and “Boss 4” wonderfully intensify the climax of the game. Both are space orchestrations filled with drama and intensity. What’s more, rather than simply imitate typical epic overtures, the team at T’s Music instead try to emulate the features typical of Ogura’s music, operatic elements and ambiguous tonalities among them. The experience concludes with a solid orchestration for the ending.
The soundtrack for Super Darius II is largely an impressive one. Thanks to the most out of the CD audio capabilities of the Turbo-CD, T’s Music were able to transform an old arcade soundtrack into a fully-fledged rock opera experience. While the soundtrack often loses the idiosyncrasies of the original, it is more energetic and accessible experience overall. And while many of the rock and orchestral tracks sound dated now, they were impressive for their time and still quite enjoyable decades later. Provided you’re keen for more than a few cheesy guitar solos, this now out-of-print disc is well worth picking up at game music auction stores and marketplaces.
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Posted on November 8, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 19, 2016.