The World Ends With You Original Soundtrack
The World Ends With You Original Soundtrack
April 18, 2008
Buy at iTunes
With an open mind, one is keen to many types of music, especially with the variety contained in the world of video games. Unfortunately, I fall into the category of the very open-minded. The World Ends With You is an album composed by Takeharu Ishimoto, a former sound operator (and a rather poor one at that) for Square Enix. Since I was very vehemently against this album when I first heard it, mainly due to the horrendous “Twister,” that was released at the Square Enix Party, this review comes as a surprise to me. As I’ve listened further, I’ve grown to actually enjoy it. It’s far from a perfect album, but it’s definitely something that one should listen to if they are growing tired of some of the monotony surrounding video game music today.
Shortly after the US release of the game, the soundtrack was released on iTunes. While the release is almost identical to the Subarashiki Kono Sekai Original Soundtrack released on CD in Japan, there is one bonus track specially created for the localised version. Also of note, for those who are interested in playing the game, the song “Fighting for Freedom” was removed from the localized version of the game and a new song “Lying Stars” was added in its place. Sadly, that song is not on this bonus soundtrack, as it is quite enjoyable from what I’ve seen online. However, Subarashiki Kono Sekai + The World Ends With You was eventually released featuring all the remaining US exclusives.
This soundtrack is a mixture between vocal tracks, featuring ten different vocalists, and instrumental pieces. Within each category, there are some definite winners, and unfortunately, some definite losers. The instrumental section is essentially an amalgamation of normal instruments and various beats and rhythms. I must commend Ishimoto here because I believe the rhythms he created are particularly strong, even if the overlying melody isn’t. I think that this comes from his experience as a sound operator and it’s what makes this album infectiously catchy. As the soundtrack opens, we’re subject to the main theme “It’s So Wonderful.” Here’s a prime example of a good rhythm, but horrible melodic material. The piano here is a series of chords that don’t really match up with the rhythm to well. Most of the instrumental section is usually very short and atmospheric, such as “Despair” and “Forebode,” or catchy and bouncy like “Black Market” and “Let’s Get Together.”
Occasionally, we are treated to a short instrumental that seems out of place on the album, such as “Amnesia.” While this is still atmospheric, the prominent use of strings to create this melody is a very interesting development in this album. Another track that sticks out in my mind is “psychedelic.” While the rhythm in this track is definitely pretty catchy, the track overall is what I consider wasted potential. So much more could have been done with it. It essentially sounds like a track that takes two minutes to open, but fails to do so at the end. One of my favorites in particular, and how I’ll end the instrumental section, is “Shibuya.” For some reason, the mixture of piano, guitar, DJ scratching, and synth all come together quite nicely, something when I first heard it thought wouldn’t possibly work. It’s definitely different and sticks out on this soundtrack.
Moving onto the vocalist portion of the track, I’d say that this is the meat of the soundtrack, and as such, there are pieces of filet mignon as well as ground beef. Featuring ten different vocalists, the variety and talents of these performers varies greatly, and also makes or breaks the songs in the end. The infamous “Twister” appears three times on this album, and to some, that is three times too many. While I can see why people would see that, I do find that the song itself as some things worth mentioning. While the vocalists in all three versions are rather weak, I really like the underlying accompaniment. While it may seem discombobulated, I think it really fits the track title well and was what Ishimoto had intended.
In addition to the three versions of “Twister” on the original soundtrack, the soundtrack released on iTunes includes a bonus track. This piece is called “Twister – Gang Mix.” Essentially, it’s the same version as the others, but with some noticeable differences. First of all, the vocalist was replaced with a male, and I assume a native English speaker, and as opposed to the female versions, and in doing so, the lyrics are much clearer. In addition, the lyrics take more of a hip-hop approach and are less melodic than the version by Mai Matsuda. The overall sound is a bit crisper as well. I’m still not a big fan though.
Continuing on with some of the more horrendous additions, we are given the extremely repetitive and forgettable “Fighting for Freedom.” A very obnoxious rhythm and a robotic “Fighting for Freedom” voice isn’t something that makes for an interesting track. Despite that, it isn’t the worst vocal performance on the album. Those spots are reserved for the hip-hop tracks. “Game Over” has a jazzy/rock feel, but the vocalist really makes this track an instant turn off. I find it something akin to a very bad Rage Against the Machine performance. “Detonation” also suffers from this problem; however, I find it to be a much more serious offender. The rhythm in this track isn’t that great to begin with, and the addition of something that sounds like late 80’s rap doesn’t help the matter much.
On the other side of the spectrum, the best vocal performances belong to women. These tracks are “Someday,” “Hybrid,” and “Calling.” Each one has a different flavor to it and really help to salvage an overall lackluster vocal section. “Someday” has a combination of surfer rock and punk rock influences to it. This track appears twice, once in English and once in Japanese. I feel that the English vocalist performs the track a bit better, but both performances are fairly strong. “Hybrid,” sung by the same vocalist as the Japanese version of “Someday,” is a bit weaker of a performance, but the melody and underlying rhythm really make this track interesting. It’s got a nice rock feel to it, but at the same time, a bit of electronic influence.
However, the real star of this album is “Calling,” sung by Leah and is her only performance. This is a shame since I felt that she was the strongest performer on the album and she could have salvaged some of the other vocal pieces that were sinking. “Calling” is a nice mixture of pure rhythmic bliss and electronica. The heavy percussion makes for a great accompaniment to the electronica melody and it creates a very airy and catchy piece. The performer’s voice really helps bring this track to life. This is the one vocal piece to listen to if no other. While the vocal section itself has its ups and downs, it is pretty average overall. Other notable mentions are “Long Dream,” for its nice rock/techno mixture and “O-Parts” for its interesting use of electronic sounds and vocals.
The World Ends With You is definitely a very controversial album that many people dislike; however, it isn’t without warrant. Tracks like “Calling,” “Hybrid,” and “Someday” are the high points on the album, with their interesting choice of instrumentation, while tracks like “Noisy Noise” “Game Over,” and “Detonation” are definitely the low points on this soundtrack. The rest of the album employs some interesting choice of sounds and instruments, a refreshing change from Square Enix as of late. While I wouldn’t recommend this for the masses, if you’re interested in hearing something different, I suggest you give this a try.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.