The Revenge of Shinobi was Yuzo Koshiro's breakthrough work as an independent artist. As the sequel to an Arcade hit, the Mega Drive platformer was anticipated to be successful, but it actually exceeded expectations. The game flaunted Koshiro's versatile musicianship, made him a viable artist for record label Alfa, and, in an unprecedented move, featured his name prominently on the title screen to make him a popular name in Japan and overseas. The soundtrack release The Super Shinobi & Works features the original score for the game, four bonus arrangements, and even some bonus compositions from a port of Bosconian. Let's take a closer look...
As with other entries in the series, the main appeal of The Revenge of Shinobi's music comes from its stage theme. The first stage theme, simply entitled "The Shinobi", homages the original Shinobi score with its oriental lead, funk backing, and pitch bending. However, its also instilled with Koshiro's individuality too with its moody chord progressions and danceable rhythms. It's an unlikely complement to the ruined Japanese landscapaes, but somehow it works. A little later in the score, "China Town" is written in a similar way, but the pentatonic melodies are just enough to give it a Chinese feel instead. The deep development seals its status as one of Koshiro's classic compositions. Unsurprisingly, it receives a bonus arrangement too at the end of the album. It has an upbeat poppy vibe to it, but also integrates some Latin influences with its percussion and brassy leads. It certainly captures a lot of nostalgia about the game. The disco-influenced stage theme "Make Me Dance" was also arranged for the soundtrack and, while it doesn't capture the rhythmical compelling nature of the original, it provides a new perspective on the theme with its experimental soundscaping.
There is plenty of diversity elsewhere in the original sound version. "Ninja Step" serves as a precursor to Streets of Rage's music with its surprisingly accessible industrial techno while "The Dark City" fits the nighttime city scenery with its jazzy elements; while these tracks loop sooner than the rest, they rarely inspire antagonism because the core elements are just so enjoyable. There are also faster paced compositions, such as "Sunrise Blvd." and "Run or Die", that affirm Koshiro has rhythm and lots of melody too. The diversity doesn't end there with the remaining stage themes featuring blends oriental instrumentation with various styles, ranging from the rocking guitars of "Like a Wind" to the abrasive crisis motifs of "Labyrinth" to the warm RPG influences of "Over the Bay". With every stage theme a classic, Koshiro doesn't let down the show with the battle themes either. The normal boss theme "Terrible Beat" has a timeless quality to it, especially given its Game Gear arrangement, while the hybridised final battle theme boasts some deep orchestration similar to ActRaiser. The pop-influenced ending theme "My Lover" is enjoyable too with its mellow instrumentation and contemplative progressions.
The album also includes Yuzo Koshiro's original compositions featured in the X68000 port of Bosconian. "Blast Power" and "Flash Flash Flash" have become fan favourites for good reason. Both are extremely catchy and rhythmically compelling action tracks, the former more funk-influenced with its slapped bass and the latter featuring old-school power rock. Koshiro even decided to dedicate two of the four tracks in the arranged section to these pieces. "Flash Flash Flash" really belts out the rock feel with its remastered synthetic instrumentation and extravagant guitar and keyboard solos. "Blast Power", on the other hand, is given a surprisingly soft orchestral arrangement to inspire reflection at the end of the album. The other two original compositions are the jagged rock-influenced "Inner World" and soothing new age piece "Asteroid Memory". While well done, they're let down by their brevity. Note that the score otherwise featured arrangements from the Arcade version of Bosconian, which wasn't composed by Koshiro.
Overall, The Super Shinobi & Works is a solid album debut for Yuzo Koshiro. The music for The Revenge of Shinobi shines for its stylistic diversity, fitting tones, and technological accomplishments. However, what ultimately makes it a worthwhile listen is the strength of the melodies and danceable quality of the rhythms. Koshiro's talents as an ambitious yet old-school musician are very evident here. The album features most of the score for The Revenge of Shinobi, though omits a few fanfares here and there unlike the renditions on the Shinobi Music Collection and Yuzo Koshiro Best Collection Vol. 2. Nevertheless, it offers a far bigger pull than these releases for those just after the game's music since there are several arranged tracks and the similarly captivating music from Bosconian's port. Whatever album you choose, Koshiro's first album is a must-listen for fans of his work.