December 16, 1992
Buy Used Copy
Before he went off to score SNK’s Metal Slug titles, Takushi Hiyamuta (aka HIYA!) scored a few scores for Irem. One of them was Undercover Cops, a beat ’em up set in the streets of New York City. He mixed funk, rock, and hip-hop throughout the soundtrack to create a relatively cutting-edge sound for the day. The soundtrack was released complete with four bonus arrangements in 1992 ahead of a re-release on the Irem Retro Game Music Collection 2 in 2011.
The first stage theme “Northern Barramundi” firmly asserts Hiyamuta’s individuality in Irem. He composes the track in a funk style, but features more distinctive hooks and extensive elaborations than, say, the score for Vigilante. The synth is considerably improved from earlier Irem soundtracks too, though the overall sound is still too muddy to be particularly pleasant. What’s more, the composer goes a little too far by integrating vocal samples that are so cheesy and distracting that they rival the worst of 1080° Snowboarding. They probably sounded cool to many back in the day, but hasn’t really stood the test of time now genuine hip-hop game soundtracks are available.
While voice samples are scattered elsewhere in the soundtrack, they’re fortunately less prominent in the other themes. Several tracks build on the hard funk approach of the first stage theme, for example “Sarah Sowertty” and “Redtailed Cat”. While far from awful, they will be a select taste given their disordered development and abstract timbres. However, other tracks such as “Dandy N.D.” with its rocking guitar riffs, “Chaca Chaca Move Ya” with its Latin-influenced rhythms, or “Tokimeki Street” with its punchy upbeat melodies are much more accessible. They’re more typical of game music back then, yet still more exuberant than most in their development and synthesis.
While the original section will be hit-and-miss for most listeners, there are four exclusive arrangements by anime veteran Michiru Oshima that are likely to be more accessible. The artist restores order to “Northern Barramundi” by offering a catchy disco sound, while rejecting the obnoxious voice samples of the original. “Chaca Chaca Move Ya” meanwhile resembles the jazz fusion music of the day, but still maintains much of the personality of the original. There are some more eccentric offerings, namely “Redtailed Cat” with its jagged writing and oriental infusions, and “Sarah Sowertty” with its bizarre hip-hop interlude. However, even these tracks have their merits and the former is especially atmospheric.
While a relatively progressive soundtrack for its day, the combination of abstract composition and limited technology mean that Undercover Cops will have limited appeal now. This soundtrack is quite well-presented with its extended track times and mature bonus arrangements. However, it is likely only a very limited audience will consider it worth purchasing.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.