In 2012, Konami demonstrated that they hadn't forgotten about the much-loved Zone of the Enders franchise. They released a HD compilation, announced plans for a third game, and even released a special arranged album. Entitled Zone of the Enders ReMix Edition, it features modern electronic adaptations of popular pieces from Z.O.E. and ANUBIS. The album's producers hired a range of talented names for the album, spanning in-house favourites such as L.E.D. and Sota Fujimori, to versatile freelancers such as onoken and DJ Uraken, through to the fresh new talent at international collective Ringmasters LLC. The final result is worthy of the series' esteemed name.
The album opens strongly with a rendition of Maki Kirioka's incredible main theme for Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, "Beyond the Bounds". The first minute of the remix beautifully recreates the exotic, ethereal timbre of the original that encapsulates the utopic aspects of Hideo Kojima's world so well. But with the introduction of a distorted bass line shortly thereafter, listeners are soon subjected to the harsher, inorganic components that will come to dominate the album. Throughout the remix, Ringmasters' Eshericks interweaves the phrases from the original with bold electronics and a new vocal performance. What's more, he pays special attention to building a dramatic arch and maintaining a danceable feel. As with the rest of the release, the remix is also very competently produced, boasting cutting-edge beats, polished samples, and a well-balanced mix. A fantastic way to bring the series into the new generation.
In general, the remixers treat the originals in the perfect way for a remix album. As with the opener, "VR - Wall5 Remix -" is a much harder, beat-heavy take on the original. While the sounds created will be too heavy for some, they're still compatible with Z.O.E.'s world and will be much-enjoyed by electro lovers. However, this track still features an extended interlude filled with boundless synth soundscaping that captures the more soothing quality of "VR" and engages the listener emotionally. This variety ensures it sustains interest throughout its six minute playtime and is worth many repeats thereafter. With "Leo Leo", Smooth deconvolutes the original to produce a well-rounded, polished piece of music. Rapid industrial beats, formidable operatic vocals, and dazzling Gradius-inspired build-ups all make their return from the original. But this time, they're given a chance to breathe and actually sound like they belong together.
With "Factory (Vivid Transparency)", Sota Fujimori brings some further colour to the album with his uplifting synthesizers and nu-funk stylings. He asserts his identity stronger than most other remixers here, but his approach is still highly compatible with the original. It's clear that the album producers Kazuki Muraoka and Akihiro Honda were very careful when selecting artists here. In a further testament to the album's production values, Konami provided the budget to record with a session orchestra for two pieces the visceral "Train" and the reflective "Vascilia County". When these forces are combined with the ever-polished electronic component, it ensures an even more engaging, personal experience. The latter is a particularly present surprise on the album, since it was not included in the original soundtrack and includes a reprise of the "Beyond the Bounds" theme.
There are occasional tracks that don't hit the mark. "Chaotic Fight" by Fireworks DJs is a particularly generic remix, interrupting the clamorous orchestral phrases of the original with various breaks and bass modulations. The final result is decent, but largely due to Akihiro Honda's compositional direction than any inspired remixing choices. "City (The Earth Light)" from former GEM Impact member DJ Uraken sounds like it belongs to a mid-90s remix album. Generic Rotterdam techno stylings, excruciating loops, and obnoxious voice samples (including some countdowns) just don't cut it anymore. His remix of "Ardjet" is considerably better, with some genuinely danceable dubstep segments, but will divide listeners once again to its even more prominent voice samples. But with 13 tracks to choose from, these missteps don't detract from the overall worth of the release.
Rounding off the album are TaQ's "ALOIVIA - arousal mix -" and onoken's "Compression Space - evocation mix-". The former slowly builds towards its climax with moody string motifs, subtle electronic beats, and transient vocal ululations. While understated, it certainly arouses the senses. onoken's mix ramps up the tempo and electrifies the mood, but still stays faithful to the central concept of the album: the contrast of organic forces (the radiant violins here) with inorganic ones (yet more oppressive bass modulations). Finally, those unconvinced that Zone of the Enders is unsuited for a beat-heavy Bemani-esque treatment shouldn't forget that the L.E.D. (beatmania veteran Toshiyuki Kakuta) composed music for both games. His remix of "Final Battle" is the most invigorating track on the entire album, combining psychadelic trance passages with rip-roaring electric guitar parts. A unique, refreshing take on Norihiko Hibino's original.
Zone of the Enders ReMix Edition didn't have a good precedent to follow. Nearly all the remix albums in recent years whether for Final Fantasy, Gradius, Clannad, and even Dragon Quest have been tremendously flawed. But this album does almost everything right. The remixes stay faithful to the image of the originals and the game itself. The stylings and production techniques are fresh and worthy of 2012. And the remixers and producers seem to really care about the original material and the album as a whole. Though technophobes will not enjoy the album, those with an affinity for the originals and electronic dance music should find this a very satisfying production. Now how about similarly styled albums to commemorate Hideo Kojima's other magnum opuses, Snatcher/Policenauts and Metal Gear?