Muchi Muchi Pork! & PinkSweets W Soundtrack
Cave has been releasing many of its titles on the Xbox 360 as of late, some of which feature special bonuses for the limited editions, such as soundtracks. With the release of the Xbox 360 version of both Muchi Muchi Pork and PinkSweets, both of which feature a new arranged mode with arrangements of the music by WASi303 and Koji Hayama, respectively, the limited edition came with a special soundtrack commemorating the updated music. How does the new music compare to the original soundtracks and, since this game is region-free, is it worth picking up the limited edition for the new music?
When the Muchi Muchi Pork Original Soundtrack first came out, it definitely featured a range of criticisms. Some found the soundtrack to be overly cute and lacking any substance, whereas others found it to be an enjoyable soundtrack but one of Cave's weakest. For the Xbox 360 version, WASi303 was able to redeem the soundtrack in my opinion, mainly because the original atmosphere is entirely transformed into something more tolerable than the sugary sweet feel of the original. For example, WASi303's new stage themes offer much more variety than the hyper-happy electronic tracks on the original game. "Stage 1" creates a bright atmosphere while also giving off a retro vibe. The melody definitely manages to create a great listening experience and is quite catchy. I particularly enjoy the strings harmonies in the background, giving it a bit of a disco sound as well.
"Stage 2," on the other hand, has a very unique soundscape. What I really enjoy about this theme is how it really incorporates arcade sound effects to yield a gamey sound; however, at the same time, he adds a bit of honkytonk and big band influences with the brass. Moving on, "Stage 3" theme is easily my favorite of the new stage themes by WASi303. It features a mellow atmosphere thanks to its innately beautiful piano melody and sybtle vocoder samples. However, it still features an important energetic drive through its the techno beat. "Stage 4" continues with a more upbeat techno influenced theme, shifting from sections featuring ethereal synth and those with a more futuristic edge. In the end, it's a strong interpretation of the original that mirrors the styles of "Stage 1".
While the boss themes in the original game were very enjoyable, albeit repetitive, themes that emphasized heavy beats, WASi303's versions manage to improve by offering varied soundscapes. Rather than relying on a static beat like the original, the main "Boss" theme places the focus on guitar work and offers a few flourishes along the way. It's a little repetitive but still an improvement. The industrial-tinged "Battle 1" is another battle theme that really manages to soar above the original due to its complexity, despite the overall straightforward approach in terms of progression. "Battle 2," on the other hand, was originally featured in the second trailer for the game, and until I asked WASi303 myself, I had a very difficult time figuring out what track it was. This theme is absolutely stunning. The electronica in the melody line works so well with the underlying guitar riffs and industrial sound effects to create a very upbeat, energizing, and slightly sinister battle theme.
"Stage 5" manages to close the stage themes with a very retro-inspired, but upbeat and bright, melody. The synthesizer harmonies are truly wonderful and help bring a bit of a majestic soundscape to the entire theme, while the beat manages to accentuate the overall uplifting feeling. "Last Boss" manages to portray a sense of urgency and intensity with its mixture of rock leads and techno backing. There are some vocal samples thrown in the mix, and I really like the sections that drop the beat because it helps build a bit more tension. Speaking of electronic influences, "Staff Roll" features a trance influence that continues the arcade approach. However, Sato gives the melody a more tropical sound and once again integrates some vocoder parts. "Ending," on the other hand, is a very experimental theme that definitely has that arcade sound, but throws in some industrial and electronic influences as well. Overall, I think that these themes carry the playfulness of the original soundtrack, but at the same time, refine them through WASi303's consistency in style.
While the original Muchi Muchi Pork soundtrack was divisive, the original soundtrack for PinkSweets by the same team was generally regarded as a good job. Koji Hayama's new music manages to capture the original atmosphere of the game, but at the same time, also throws in some of his staple styles to create an intriguing listen. For example, "Player Select" is a playful synth track with a rock edge that features Hayama style percussion. It's a bit repetitive up to its modulation, but fits the atmosphere. "Stage 1" keeps with the style of the original soundtrack with its techno beats and poppy melody. The piano runs are a nice addition as well and, as is expected, the Hayama influence is present, particularly in the industrial ercussion.
Moving onwards, "Stage 2" features some choral notes alongside a steady techno beat. The trance-like melody lines, in conjunctionw itht eh crystalline piano, helps give the theme a bit of an airy atmosphere. There are some slight Hayama influences, particularly in the electric guitar that shows up in the accompaniment from time to time. Less impressive is "Stage 3", which would fit more in a racing game with its Gran Chaser influences. The distorted synth and chiptune harmonies are welcome here, but it's nearly complex enough to suit the shooter. "Stage 4", on the other hand, inspires reminiscence of the Touhou series with its combination of ethereal synth, piano passages, and Asian instrumentation. It's a nicely developed theme, but at the same time, it's a bit derivative.
The boss themes, in my opinion, range from decent to very good. "Boss ~ Sky Battle" is an energetic industrial theme written in the spirit of the original. The futuristic synth leads provides a bit of a melodic hook, but at times, it sounds a bit off in conjunction with the accompaniment. "Boss ~ Ground Battle" is far superior. It has a sinister atmosphere through the use of mysterious synthesizer and ominous industrial percussion and accompaniment. It also incorporates Hayama's love for random vocal samples and there is a slight rock influence towards the end.
Returning to the later stage themes, "Stage 5" is an upbeat industrial theme that focuses heavily on atmosphere rather than melody. The intense drum passages and sharp industrial synth used really help set up the atmosphere, though it sounds more fitting as a boss theme to me. "Stage 6" also reminds me of Hayama's racing scores, though it manages to incorporate some soundscapes that I'd associate with a futuristic shmup as well. The serene piano and synth in the melody line combines quite nicely with the more groovy bass line. The funky guitar work serves as a nice contrast to the more serene qualities of the theme. Lastly, "Stage 7" is definitely one of the more unique stage themes by Hayama. It emphasizes the soundscape of the original, particularly with the playful synth melody; however, at the same time, Hayama offers some classic styles, such as the industrial synth rock in the accompaniment and the funky guitar work in the introduction of the theme. All in all, it's a decent theme, but I find it to be a bit lacking compared to some of the other themes.
"Last Boss" is classic Hayama to the max. Industrial synth/rock help create a menacing soundscape for the last boss theme. I really like the contrast between the sinister accompaniment and the more heroic synth melody line. It really helps give it a nice sense of finality (even if it isn't quite the last boss). Finally, "True Last Boss" follows a similar approach to "Last Boss" with its industrial rock influence. I think the melody here accentuates the chaos of the final battle with its twangy synthesizer solo and darker tone. "Ending ~ Staff Roll" closes the soundtrack. Although the opening of this track has a very heroic sound, it quickly moves into an upbeat rendition of the introduction with fast techno beats, crystalline piano, and some of Hayama's industrial synth sounds. There are portions that sound a bit off compared to the rest of the track, such as the pounding timpani drums. Fortunately, they aren't featured often and the final track still sounds celebratory.
Overall, I think that the Muchi Muchi Pork & Pink Sweets W Soundtrack is a very enjoyable listen. There is music featured on both discs that will please and displease, but the overall soundtracks are welcome listening experiences. I think that WASi303 was able to capture the spirit of Muchi Muchi Pork, while providing a very enjoyable and inspired soundtrack, whereas Koji Hayama's interpretation of the core of Pink Sweets features both hits and misses along the way. In the end, however, it's worth a listen if you're a hardcore fan. However, since it only came with the limited edition of the Xbox 360 release, it may end up costing a bit if you use a middle man service to acquire the soundtrack.
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