Manabu Namiki WORKS Vol.2 ~Thunder Dragon 2~
The second volume of the Game Discovery Series dedicated to the works of Manabu Namiki is for his work on the Thunder Dragon 2 soundtrack. While Operation Ragnarok focused more on old school style techno that was popular during the time, the Thunder Dragon 2 soundtrack is a more retro inspired affair, similar to what many shmups of the time were creating. In addition to the original soundtrack and unused tracks created for the game, there are also two bonus remixes by Shinji Hosoe and Manabu Namiki. How does the overall album turn out?
The majority of the album is comprised of two themes, "Fly to Live" and "Live to Fly," with a few variations of each. At first listen, these variations may not be easily recognizable to the passive listener, but for those who actively listen, they'll be able to pick out the differences. For example, "Fly to Live" features an infectious melody where the A section is the same in all variations, however, the B section changes it up in the melody line. "Fly to Live I" and "Fly to Live II" feature a similar synthesizer section; however, the latter is a bit more intense and deeper sounding. The "Fly to Live -minus one-" version, on the other hand, does not include this addition. The end result is a bit less satisfactory compared to the other versions of the theme, but the core essence of the track is intact.
The "Live to Fly" series of tunes is also very similar in approach. However, the core of "Live to Fly" places a heavier emphasis on accompaniment, as it definitely stands out more than its "Fly to Live" counterpart. Both "Live to Fly I" and "Live to Fly II" focus on a synthesizer melody in the B section, with the latter being a bit more uplifting sounding. As with the minus version of "Fly to Live," the same approach is taken for "Fly to Live -minus one-."
There are also two boss themes on the album, one for the normal bosses and one for the final boss. The first, "Impatience #3," is an intense theme not unlike many of Namiki's CAVE themes that focus on energetic rhythms and foreboding melodies. "Marginal Attack" is also quite intense. It also features frenetic rhythms and sinister tones. I also really enjoy the heavy metal influence heard in the latter portion of the track, with the powerful guitar riffs and synthesizer tones as it really shows off the intensity of the battle at hand. There are also unused minus one versions of these tracks present on the album.
At the end of the soundtrack, there are two bonus remixes as well. The first, "Still live to fly" by Shinji Hosoe takes the retro sounds of the original "Live to Fly" and turns it into a soundscape that is very reminiscent of Hosoe's work on Under Defeat, while still retaining the retro sound of the original. There are funky bass guitar grooves, plenty of guitar riffs, and a slightly jazzy tone in the synthesizer melody. The guitar solo is also quite lovely and really manages to convey a lot of energy. Manabu Namiki's arrangement is titled "Fly to Live -Love Theme-." Rather than focus on updating the original to sound more similar to Namiki's more modern approach to shmups, he transforms it into an extremely beautiful piano piece. The beauty of the melody is accentuated due to the slower tempo and the romantic aura given off by the piano. While it isn't a flashy piano arrangement by any means, it still manages to be quite successful, giving off a ton of emotion.
In the end, the Thunder Dragon 2 soundtrack is a solid retro style arcade shmup soundtrack. Unlike Operation Ragnarok, there are only a few key themes here and this means that the soundtrack doesn't have a great scope. The variations on the themes do provide different approaches, though passive listeners may feel as though they have heard the same two themes over and over again. The bonus remixes are quite nice and update Namiki's originals quite nicely. Given the limited scope of the album, it seems unlike there will be a further remix album dedicated to game, unlike Operation Ragnarok. Keeping in mind that Namiki's soundtracks for PC-47 Aces, Desert War, and Battle Garegga have been released through other labels, I'm not sure where the Manabu Namiki Works series will go next. Perhaps it's time that SuperSweep delved into the Eighting catalog and finally gave Armed Police Batrider a soundtrack release.