R-Type II -G.S.M. IREM 2-
Having gained popularity with the arcade and console versions of R-Type, Irem released several other futuristic space shooters during the late 1980s. One of them was R-Type II, which elaborated and improved on the original game in several ways, and another was X-Multiply, which featured similar gameplay yet within a completely different location: a woman's body. The composer of both titles, Masahiko Ishida (aka OH!GI), managed to create catchy and fitting soundtracks despite grave technological limitations. His scores were packaged on to a compilation album entitled R-Type II ~ G.S.M. Irem 2 in 1990.
Starting with the score for R-Type II, the first stage theme "Counterattack" is basically an extension of the punchy approach adopted for R-Type's equivalent. However, Masahiko Ishida ensures the theme is quite a bit more fast-paced, catchy, and focused compared to its predecessor. The relatively primitive sound board still lets it down somewhat, but it still manages to be fitting and will be enjoyable for most listeners of classic game music. Oddly featured on the same track in this album release, the "Boss Theme" really captures the sound of a formidable enemy with its foreboding synthpads and excessive noise. The resultant theme has a remarkable effect in context and will also be appreciated by some old-school gamers independently too.
Ishida ensures each stage in R-Type II is portrayed in a slightly different way. Appropriate given the lush visuals, "Water Splash" has a more slow and surreal sound compared to the opener. The development of this one was vast for its day and the synth-heavy section around 1:26 is especially emotional. Among the more superficial tracks on the soundtrack, "Metal Crusher" focuses on funky discords and "Slip Slidin' Away" latter on rock riffs. Whereas the latter is too short and generic to be of interest, the former is surprisingly catchy and captures the rhythms and timbres of machinery. The ambient focus also continues on "Dead End" and "Baiyo", both of which create enormous tension during the final stages of the game. Again, their stand-alone worth will vary from listener-to-listener and the latter is particularly compromised by being presented in a medley overdubbed with sound effects.
The score for X-Multiply dominates the second half of this album release and features similar sorts of sounds. For instance, the first stage theme "Into the Human Body" once again demonstrates Masahiko Ishida's great sense of rhythm. The thrashing rock riffs and elaborate synth overlays throughout the theme capture the dynamism and intensity of the action. However, everything is so punchy throughout that the track is also difficult to resist on a stand-alone level too. Featured in the same original sound medley, the "Boss Theme" takes a darker shift with its apocalyptical tribal rhythms and heavily distorted leads. It's a great example of what Ishida accomplished back in the day despite technical limitations. He certainly demonstrates whatever is lurking in that woman's body must be pretty formidable.
Ishida continues to develop his rhythmically focused approach on subsequent stage themes on the soundtrack, most of which are superior to R-Type II. While some tracks sound remarkably similar to the opener, for example "Babe Good Lookin'", the composer somehow ensures they are still compelling listens. There are also some tracks that clearly adapt to the contrasting locations that each stage takes place in. "The Rolling Worms" captures the imagery of one of the most disorientating stages in the game with its fast synth runs and hypnotic backing beats. Ishida supplements his typical beat-heavy approach with all sorts of surreal effects and industrial influences on "Bloody Boom", while "Twilight Sight" is another favourite with its slower, more surreal approach. The score is rounded off with an action-packed final stage theme and excellent final boss track, both of which reaffirm this score is something special.
The album features several 'play versions' of several themes from both R-Type II and X-Multiply, featuring recordings of game sessions in arcades. This will be a nostalgic experience for some, but the sound effects tend to be overwhelming and distract from the music. With the aforementioned exception of the final stage medley on R-Type II, the sound effects rarely intrude on the main scores, but can affect the overall listening experience given they are scattered somewhat randomly across the release. On a more pleasing note, the album also features a decent arranged medley of the stage themes from R-Type II. Kei Takahashi brings out the punchy quality of the original tracks with his saxophone leads and funk licks, particularly "Counterattack". However, he still preserves the mood of the game with the ominous sound effects at the opening and the more intense stylings at the climax.
The scores for both R-Type II and X-Multiply are both quite creative and enjoyable, despite being composed for primitive hardware. However, their presentation on R-Type II ~ G.S.M. Irem 2 is disappointing, given the original medleys are quite hard to navigate and the sound effects are often distracting. It may be better to experience these scores in the context of the wider history of Irem's music on the R-Types Retro Game Music Collection and Irem Retro Game Music Collection instead.
Tracks 2-10: R-Type II
Tracks 11-20: XMULTIPLY
R-Type II (Arrange Version)
Title Back-Coin-Play Version
R-9TO The Front (Start)-Counterattack (Stage)-Boss Theme-Stage Clear
Water Splash (Stage2)
Metal Crusher (Stage3)
Slip Slidin' Away (Stage4)
Dead End (Play Version)-Miss!!-Game Over-10 Seconds Blast (Continue)
Baiyo (Stage6)-Boss Theme (Play Version)-Escape From The Empire (All Clear)-Game Over
Nameless Soldiers (Name Entry)
XMULTIPLY (Title Back)-Coin-Into The Human Body (Play Version)
Stage Start-Into The Human Body (Stage1)-Boss Theme- Stage Clear
Babe Good-Lookin' (Stage2)
The Rolling Worms (Stage3)
Illegal Illusion (Stage4)
Bloody Bloom (Stage5)
Twilight Sight (Stage6)
Lusty Her Majesty (Stage7)- Boss Theme-Stage Clear-The End Of Operation (All Clear)
Body Scratchers (Name Entry)