The Black Rock Shooter -The Game- Original Soundtrack is the first solo work for Manabu Namiki since DeathSmiles and also quite different for him in terms of genre, given it is an action RPG based off of the anime of the same name. Given its futuristic setting, where there aren't any humans left in the world, Namiki's futuristic soundscapes fit well within the game. In our interview with him earlier this year, he mentioned he poured his heart and soul into the soundtrack. What exactly did he mean by this? Read on to find out!
To sum it up in one sentence, the soundtrack for Black Rock Shooter: The Game is, essentially, the many styles of Namiki's shmup music all rolled into a single soundtrack. In a lot of ways, the soundtrack progresses much like a CAVE shmup that Namiki is most known for, although they are written in a way that is still appropriate for an action RPG. There are various field themes, numerous battle themes, as well as some event themes, all with comparable counterparts in a shmup. The album opens with "BRS the Game," an industrial influenced tune with beautiful ethereal synthesizer in the background. It doesn't develop much, but it does give a sense of the nature of some of the tracks featured on the album in terms of various soundscapes featured. Of the mission themes, "Mission: Black Trike" is a rock theme that focuses on powerful guitar riffs. It's extremely fitting for its use when riding at high speeds on a motorcycle, but compared to the more substantial stage themes, it's one of the weaker tracks on the album. The other mission theme, "Mission: Destroy Them All," is an electronic theme that incorporates both jovial and brooding sections, all with a slight rock influence. The combination is certain to gain the listener's attention.
There are some event type themes that should bear mentioning. "Aliens Conference" works as a theme for the villains of the game, opening up with gothic organ and developing in an electronic direction. It isn't a piece that develops much, but it does make for a great mood piece. "Lost memory..." is a contemplative piano piece that really gives off a sense of desolation and loneliness, which is supported by the occasional synthesizer bend. There's also a long version of this same theme that adds a bit of eeriness with its additional synthesizer and music box melodies. Another sad theme is "Nobody anywhere" for piano and strings, which is a theme that really demonstrates the fact that the world is no longer populated by humans. Whereas "Nobody anywhere" demonstrates the abandoned nature of the current world, "Human days" seems to reminiscence about the days when humans did populate the world. It's an upbeat theme that sounds like something that Michiko Naruke might do, with beautiful acoustic guitar and woodwind work.
The stage themes are some of the strongest themes in the game. "Battle Field 'Cisco Town'" is one of the more beautiful stage themes featured on the soundtrack. Even though it is electronic nature, the melody has a very organic sound to it thanks to some expert arrangement and sampling. In many ways, it reminds me a bit of ESPGaluda II mixed with Mushihimesama. "Battle Field 'Moscow'" continues the organic sound, while conveying a futuristic feel. I really dig the accompaniment in the B section, as it provides a bit of funk to the mix and creates a sense of exploration. But "Story Field 'Fuji Forest'" is definitely the most organic of the themes. In fact, it's "Lost memory... (Long Version)" developed a bit more. It still has that contemplative, melancholy piano and synthesizer work, but there is a bit of a jazz influence in the piano line towards the end of the theme. Since it's a story field, rather than a battle field, I imagine that an important part of the story takes place at this time, in reference to her memories.
In contrast to the more organic themes, "Battle Field 'N.Y. Central" infuses an industrial influence. Much like Ketsui, the melody combines with heavy guitar riffs, deep bass grooves, and various synthesizer tones to convey both a sense of urgency as well as a soothing, calming atmosphere. I also love how there is a lovely jazz influence, particularly in the B section, that really ties the whole piece together. Another of my favorites is "Battle Field 'City Eater'", which differs markedly from the other themes. It has a very heroic sound, particularly in the intro, similar to the character select themes from the DoDonPachi games, combined with more eerie, industrial accompaniment. The B section is absolutely exquisite, giving off a mix of the heroic and sinister using choral samples. The final field theme, "Last Field 'Her Moon,'" definitely gives off a sense of DeathSmiles and its sequel, given its focus on sinister organ work and exquisite vocal work. The final soundscapes gives off a sense of doom, but an innate beauty, perhaps inspired by the surroundings of the dungeon.
There are also two battle themes used in battle against non-boss enemies. "Armament class.C" has a lot of influence from CAVE's more melodic themes and conveys a clear sense of determination. The other, "Armament class.B," is definitely my favorite of the two, featuring a strong influence from DoDonPachi Dai Fukkatsu. The theme is once again quite heroic, featuring uplifting synth, some industrial percussion, and an addictive piano melody. The first boss theme "Alien class.A 'MEFE / MZMA,'" is definitely one of my favorites on the album. I really like how it combines a lot of styles, some from unexpected sources, into a very strong theme. The introduction captures attention with a retro style reminiscent to the Operation Ragnarok, the mellow A section is more reminiscent of DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou and the intense B section is more reminiscent of Mushihimesama with its guitar harmonies and beautiful chorals. "Alien class.A 'SZZU & CKRY / LLWO'" and "Alien class.A 'XNFE / SAHA,'" are also fusions of influences from Namiki's shmup soundtracks, the former being the stronger of the two.
The final boss theme of the game, "WRS the Game," is one of my favorites. While it's nothing like his intense CAVE final boss themes, it is still quite enjoyable. There is a strong focus on melody, plenty of rousing chorals, and a motivating trance beat. It's a really nice foil to the more calming, mellow, "BRS the Game" that opens up the album. The ending theme, "After human race," is a stunning piece that really ends the game quite well. Borrowing the motif from "Aliens Conference," it manages to convey a variety of emotions, from a sultry atmosphere from the jazzy piano tones to a transient sinister soundscape. There is still a sense of desolation that really caters to its strength as a piece and fits the Black Rock Shooter universe. All the elements, from the piano to the synthesizer distortion to the music box, are well mixed and combine into one of the strongest event themes on the album.
For fans of Manabu Namiki, the Black Rock Shooter -The Game- Original Soundtrack comes highly recommended. While a few of his more organic compositions have some synth quality issues, mainly with the strings, the majority of the soundtrack is Namiki at the top of his game. He channels all his influences from his career, ranging from Operation Ragnarok to the more recent DoDonPachi Dai Fukkatsu, and manages to create some stellar compositions. He also conveys the futuristic setting and action-packed gameplay excellently, showing that he can easily adapt his core musicality for genres beyond shooters and fighters.