Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune Original Soundtrack 10th Anniversary Box
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune Original Soundtrack 10th Anniversary Box
July 15, 2015
Buy at CDJapan
Namco Bandai’s arcade racer, Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune turned 10 this year and to commemorate, Lantis compiled all the music currently produced for the series in a single box set. Featuring both re-released music from Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 1-4, as well as never before released music for Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX and 5, Koshiro’s trance outings have been compiled into one place. However, is the final product worth a listen, especially if you own the previously released soundtracks to the series, or if you are entering the series for the first time?
Although the compilation starts with the most recent game in the series, the flow of the review will be in the chronological order. The first entry in the series, to put it bluntly, isn’t the most distinct soundtrack. Many of the tunes on the album, while different, all follow a very repetitive sound with very little to engage aside from a few melodic phrases. However, there are some highlights on the album. While they can, at times, fall into the same pitfalls as some of the more generic pieces. Both “Driver’s Delight” and “Stream of Tears” both utilize piano to provide catchy melodies that work quite well with the trance accompaniment, with the latter being one of the catchiest tunes in the series’ history. There is also a “Stream of Tears (More Tranced) Remix” featured on the album which keeps the general flow, but the additional synth makes it much more upbeat and adds some nice new piano sections that help differentiate it from the original version. “Acid Runner” provides quite a catchy dance tune and is another example of where other elements, in this case vocal samples and piano, help to add some nice musical texture to the mix. Speaking of vocal samples, “Destination Blackout” opens with vocals that lead into a high energy trance tune that has some wonderful contrast between its softer tones and thumping beat. Lastly, “Blue Blazes” is one of the most successful trance tunes on the album. Featuring a wonderful blend of soft tones and dance beats, it makes for a very entertaining listen from start to finish. There’s also a “Blue Blazes SP” version that is shorter that adds some more acoustic (although still synthesized) elements into the fold.
The second entry in the series also suffers from a lot of pitfalls featured in the first game in the series. While it does add some variety with the guitar driven themes “Upbeat Gas Junkie” and “Smoldery Guest,” they, too aren’t the strongest of pieces on the album. In fact, in many ways, I find that there are less highlights on this entry compared to the first game. The two vocal themes, “Nothing Can Live Forever” and “This is My Destiny,” sung by Paula Terry, while not featuring the most sophisticated of lyrics, offer a nice blend of trance, vocals and other instrumental elements, such as piano. In addition, the melodies in these themes are quite strong, although can lean a bit towards the generic at times. Two of my favorite tracks on the album are “Last Utopia” and “Holy Land Anthem.” The former features a nice blend of acoustic and electronic elements to craft a very engaging and beautiful theme with more of a lounge electronic vibe as opposed to a trance element. The latter blends seamlessly from “Last Utopia” and adds to the atmosphere created in the original by adding some piano as well as incorporating some trance-like elements into the mix to help tie the soundtrack together.
The third entry in the series incorporates a lot more variety compared to some of the other series and also includes a blend of new styles as well as old styles. In addition, music from the expansions to this game are featured on disc for the first time. Themes such as “Love to Rise in the Summer Morning” feature a catchy blend of electronic and rock and a pretty fun melody as well. On the other side of the spectrum is “Black Pressure,” combining trance and choir to make for an extremely entertaining blend as well as a darker tone compared to a lot of music in the soundtrack. Speaking of dark, “Evil Association” delivers with its heavier sound and eerie synth. “Feel the Moment, ” also sung by Paula Terry, continues the vocal tradition from the second entry in the series to combine trance and vocals and includes a rather catchy melody. “Phantom of Blue” is an example of the more pure trance stylings. Reminiscent of “Blue Blazes,” the synth is quite ethereal and features a fantastic melody. The additional vocoder vocals help give it a bit of a futuristic vibe that works quite well with the backing music.
As for the new music featured on disc for the first time for Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX and Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3DX Plus, it’s a blend of new music and remixes of past music. “Stay Where You Are” is a very repetitive and generic tune that doesn’t really garner much appreciation here. “Loop of Fortune,” while coming off as slightly generic, at least has some interesting progression and is an overall catchy tune. “Enjoy the Process” is another song featuring vocal samples that wears out its welcome a bit. It definitely has a nice backing, but the vocal samples are definitely a bit overkill due to their simplistic nature and overuse; however, the two remixes of past music are quite nice. “Acid Runner Remix 2010” adds a funky and jazzy element with the inclusion of a guitar line and piano, respectively. While it doesn’t quite keep the same flow, although the original tune is present in entirety, the addition of another melody line adds a bit of contrast, although it can sound a bit muddled at times. The other remix, “Feel the Passion Remix 2010” is also another tune that has a different sound. The original featured a fairly memorable melody and that is retained here. However, in addition, there is a clear rock element added that really helps kick it up a notch through the wailing guitar solos and riffs.
The fourth entry in the series is also the longest soundtrack to date and is also the strongest, thanks to its wealth of diversity. Tracks like “Dark Side Style” and “Black Zone” provide a darker soundscape with their reliance on the hard techno style of music while themes like “Never Throw Away,” with its trance and piano combination, and “Driving Energy,” with its peppy electronic sound, help maintain the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune sound. Of course, there are also tracks that incorporate unexpected elements like “The Final Countdown.” While similar to “Black Pressure” from the previous entry, the choir here takes a much more prominent role and helps the track stand out among a sea of mostly instrumental. Fusion also plays a big role with tracks like “Glory Days,” a clear highlight on the album, with its blend of funk, soul, jazz, and trance, and “Highway Discipline,” with its rock/electronic focus. Lastly, vocals once again enter the fray. The three main vocal themes on the album all provide a different sound. “Drifting Into You” and “Re-Birth,” sung by Aubrey Ashburn, primarily feature a funk/trance and pop/trance sound, respectively, with the former being highly successful. “Taillight,” sung by Emi Evans, is more in the vein of the vocals in previous entries as sung by Paula Terry, however, I feel it’s much more refined and a stronger piece as the vocals are the main force driving the actual track.
The latest entry of the arcade racer also features the least amount of music. Themes like “Avatar of Speed” feature the classic Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune sound and, while enjoyable, comes off a bit on the generic side. “Daystar” also suffers from repetition, both in the intro and as the theme progresses. However, there are some catchy melodies threaded throughout the piece. “Inorganic Soul,” in my opinion, is one of the highlights on the album with its trance meets big room house vibe, as is “Dispatcher,” with its mix of high energy trance, chiptune, Koji Hayama-like vocal samples, and some great bass accompaniment. The main highlight on the album is definitely “Fallen Angel.” This is definitely Koshiro’s most fully realized electronic vocal theme in the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune series and one that is very reminiscent of today’s popular EDM vocal tunes. The melody is superb and the vocals really help bring it to life. It’s the single track on the album that I find myself coming back to more often than not.
In the end, the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune Original Soundtrack 10th Anniversary Box is a nice compilation for fans of the series. It features music not released anywhere else, although that music, in and of itself, is variable in terms of quality. For fans just jumping into the series, this is a fairly affordable compilation that allows you to see the evolution of the series’ music; however, for those who only have some of the earlier soundtracks, I would just opt for the soundtrack to Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 as I feel it is the most diverse and entertaining entry in the series’ musical history.
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Posted on August 5, 2015 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 5, 2015.