Tenchu Z Original Soundtrack
Tenchu Z Original Soundtrack
Sony Records (CD Edition); Mega-Alpha (Digital Edition)
November 22, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
Over the years, the Tenchu series has experienced a turbulent production history with numerous developers and publishers, though one feature remained conserved until 2006: a soundtrack led by pan-Asian specialist Noriyuki Asakura. On Tenchu Z (aka Tenchu Senran), From Software asked their internal music team to handle the score and did not outsource any aspect of the soundtrack to Asakura. The team maintained the distinctive fusions of traditional Asian instruments and contemporary elements that have defined the series to now. However, they focused more on functionality than artistry…
Yoshikazu Takayama’s opening theme for the title “IZAYOI” was clearly written in the spirit of Noriyuki Asakura’s vocal themes. The vocalist Kyoko Kishikawa maintains the Eastern feel of the series’ vocal music and brings plenty of passion to the simple melodies. The instrumentation also blends traditional Japanese forces with modern rock influences. However, the supreme artistry featured in Asakura’s themes is clearly missing despite the obvious efforts of the composer; for example, the rock backing is a little derivative, the opening electric violin solo sounds very showy, and the closing harp flourishes are overly extended. It is all quite pleasant and fitting, but it is still clearly the work of a pop artist outside his comfort zone.
The background music featured throughout the soundtrack are also more of the fitting but straightforward sort. “Moon Conjunction”, for example, is an instrumentation rendition of the opening vocal theme. While the melody is pleasant at first, it some becomes obnoxious as it repeats ad nauseum against a simple rhythm track. There are some decorations, particularly from the backing vocals and koto lines, but they’re not enough to compensate for the linear and repetitious feel of the track. The two “Sound of Silence” themes meanwhile sound authentic enough with their biwa and shakuhachi leads. However, they seem to have no aspiration beyond this and could have easily featured in a basic stock library. Various shorter themes such as “Blue Water Heaven” and “Proof of the Golden Land” also sound appropriate, but are so sparingly elaborated that they are utterly vacant on a stand-alone level.
The best tracks on the soundtrack are those that express a little more individuality. Hideyuki Eto, for instance, demonstrates a talent for offering dark ambient soundscapes on “Total Luck” and raw action elements on “Thorns” and “Noisy”. Despite their slow-building nature, these tracks feature interesting hybridised timbres and ever-evolving polyrhythms. The climactic “Snipe on Edge” is also a decent imitation of Asakura’s more wild themes with its groovy blends of electronic, rock, acoustic, and vocal elements. There are two more interesting renditions of the main theme featured on the soundtrack, the upbeat jazz-tinged “Ever-Still Moon” and the sentimental classically-oriented “Wind of Dawn”; the melody could be richer and the arrangements more original, but these tracks still bring some much-needed diversity and emotion to the soundtrack.
The soundtrack closes with another vocal theme, “Shizuku”. Once again, the composer awkwardly hybridises features of Asakura’s compositions with pop ballad clichés. Kyoko Kishikawa’s vocals are once again the main highlight here and interpret some pleasant ethereal melodies. As for the instrumentation, the close harmonisation between the vocals and violin is an inspired artistic choice, but is too sloppily implemented to be convincing, while the brief electric guitar solo sounds over-the-top and unnecessary. This track would be a perfect fit for a more sentimental title, such as Ar tonelico, but is a rather contrived addition to the more highbrow Tenchu series. The soundtrack ends with a handful of instrumental arrangements and a mobile phone track.
The soundtrack to Tenchu Senran can be looked at in several ways. Compared with Noriyuki Asakura’s soundtrack, it is clearly less dramatic, original, or artistic. As an experience in its own right, it is still largely uninteresting, with the exception of some of the vocal and battle themes. The team at From Software produced a range of mostly suitable background music for the game, but there are far better Eastern-flavoured soundtracks out there for those looking for a stand-alone listen.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.