Sunday, April 25, 2010
I finally caved and bought myself a Japanese Xbox 360. It was mostly because I found one relatively cheap, and came with a copy of Otomedius, which was one of the only Japanese exclusive games I was interested in. I wrote some initial impressions awhile back and didn't feel it was that great. I've spent some more time with it and rather like it now, even though it's immensely awkward - it can't decide whether to be a modern score-driven arcade game or a classic Gradius-style game, and neither really works.
In keeping with the general quality of the game, the music, outside of a few songs, is pretty anemic compared to Konami's legendary library of shooters. However, Otomedius was one of Konami's first big experiments with DLC, offering additional levels and characters, for a price. Amongst these were a total of seven music packs, each of which accompanied one of the main characters and gave them new theme music for the entire game. All of this music consisted of arrangements from past Konami games, including Gradius and Salamander, as well as XEXEX, Thunder Cross and others, many arranged by longtime Konami composers like Michiru Yamane and Akira Yamaoka. Alas, this experiment didn't turn out too well, because while the original music was all excellent, the arrangements were (mostly) kinda bad. The cost didn't help - buying all seven packs at $5 each means it costs $35 for the whole deal, or approximately how much it costs to buy the recently released Platinum Hits version. (Which, unfortunately unlike Halo Wars or Fable II, does not feature any of the DLC.
It's not a total wash though. A handful of the songs rearrange the music using the synth of a different sound chip, in some cases going technologically backwards. I've seen some fan arrangers do this, and it's always fascinating to hear, say, Genesis music done like NES music. The particular arrangement above is the Snow Field theme, "Beyond the White Storm", from Gradius Gaiden, a Playstation game, done with chiptune synth. It's a bit more advanced than a typical Famicom, although it's sounds similar, so let's just say it sounds like it could be from a fictional enhanced sound chip like the VRC6. I always loved the original theme - it ranks up next to "Burning Heat", the first level song from Gradius II, as one of my favorite pieces of music in the series - and this arrangement really captures why I love it so much. It's so warm, peppy and upbeat, typical of the 8 and 16-bit Gradius games, and it sounds right at home. You can listen to the original PSOne version below to compare, although any sane person should hunt down a copy of the Gradius Collection for the PSP to play it immediately, since it's one of the best shoot em ups ever made:
If you want to hear all of the music from Otomedius, including the arrangements, the fine folks at the Gradius Home World have ripped them for download here.