Mushihimesama Original Sound Track
|Composed by||Дайсукэ Мацумото / Хитоси Сакимото / Манабу Намики / Масахару Ивата|
|Arranged by||Аяко Сасо / Синдзи Хосоэ / Сёитиро Сакамото|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Official Release|
|Format||1 CD - 19 Tracks|
|Release date||April 19, 2005|
When I first played Raizing's classic shooter Battle Garegga a few years ago, the one thing that struck me immediately was the music. The gritty, warlike atmosphere of the game was conveyed perfectly with the range of industrial beats and angular, sometimes dissonant harmonies. There was more to it, as well; the music had many complex layers that really opened up when you listened to it outside of the game. I soon learned that the music was composed mostly by one Manabu Namiki, and upon listening to more of his work, I quickly became a big fan. He has written many soundtracks for shooters, such as Armed Police Batrider, DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou, and ESPGaluda II, and in each case he accomplished exactly what the game called for, and did it with style. So when I heard that he was writing the music to Cave's recently-released fantasy-themed shooter Mushihimesama, I was very excited to hear what he would cook up. As it turns out, my expectations were met and then some. It should be noted that composing credit is shared with Masaharu Iwata, though my suspicion is that he was the sound designer, composing only a few tracks, as most of them have a distinctly Namiki-esque sound.
The album opens with the short, yet bouncy, "Mushihimesama, Age 15", the track that plays as you select the difficulty and weapons. Though it is basically a four-measure loop, it serves as a great introduction into the world and atmosphere of the soundtrack. From there, it bounds straight into the first stage theme, "Shinju Heading Into The Forest". This is quite a great tune, with a happy, exhilarating atmosphere and many diverse sections, ending with the beautiful main theme of the game before transitioning back to the beginning. The level themes are more diverse than I have ever heard from Namiki, ranging from straight trance, as in this case, to the triple-time rock of "Walking On The Land Of Flame". Each of them, however, has much to listen to, and it remains cohesive throughout.
One track that absolutely blows me away each and every time I hear it is the final level theme, "The One Who Is Always In The Forest". Beginning with a very exciting trance intro, it goes through a winding flute melody with a maze of suspended harmonies. This tension continues through most of the piece, never resolving until the last 30 seconds of the track, when it suddenly shifts into an incredible rock section that makes the entire tune complete. I wasn't too fond of this one on first listen, but it's grown on me to the point where I can easily say it's one of Namiki's best efforts ever, and definitely worthy of playing on repeat (a rare honor for my ADD self).
My one major gripe with the original portion of the album is with the boss themes, "Levi=Sense" and "Is This How You Are?". Namiki seems to have this difficulty, writing beautiful, flowing progressions for the level themes and leaving the repetitive, grating tracks for the boss battles. Not that it matters in-game, since most of the time you're hearing these tracks when you're too busy dodging hundreds of bullets at a time to really notice, but listened to on their own, they lack a lot, in my opinion. This is made up for somewhat by the choral "Requiem of the Sky", a homage to the final battle theme from Radiant Silvergun. It's a very well arranged version of the main theme, and has quite an epic feel to it (and if you've ever seen the part of the game where this track plays, you can understand why. Close to 2,000 bullets on the screen at once!) The original section is concluded with the staff roll track, "I Have A Favor To Ask", which is quite a lovely way to end it up, despite sounding a little forced in places.
Then there are the extra tracks, which are a mixed bag. Hitoshi Sakimoto's version of the first stage theme is here, and despite a really cool rendition of the main theme, doesn't really do it for me. It sounds nice, but is just underdeveloped, which is odd for Sakimoto who has proven himself to be a master at that sort of thing. Ah well, they can't all be gems. The next track is from Mushihimesama Gaiden, a cell phone game(!), and is presumably an arranged since the sound quality is more or less perfect. It is a very energetic track with voice samples from Reko, the main character. This is actually a cool arrangement, with an infectious beat and catchy melody, and is definitely an unexpected highlight of the album.
The remixes are a bit of a disappointment, taking "Shinju Heading Into The Forest" and the originally beautiful Masaharu Iwata (I think...) track, "Like The Night Of The Falling Stars", and turning them into bland electronic arrangements. Only Ayako Saso's remix of "Walking On The Land Of Flame" keeps with the spirit of the original, beginning with an orchestral interlude, but eventually going into the bouncy synth rock that defined the original track.
Though the album has its high and low points, it's definitely one to check out if you are a fan of Namiki, or want an introduction to his work. The good tracks are easily some of his best work ever, and are well worth tracking the album down for.
Mushihimesama is a "bullet-hell shooter" from Cave and, along with Battle Garegga, the epitome of twitch games, in which you have to navigate a small ship through narrow walls of enemy fire. Some players will see an endless procession of bullets blossoming out in hypnotic patterns, some will freak out at the impossible bullet patterns of the bosses, while a fair few may be left listening to the music rather than concentrating on the action. The music of the games from Cave has always been one of their best features, and with the same set of composers featuring on many of the albums, each track follows a distinct genre too. The Mushihimesama Original Soundtrack uses a distinct electronica style and, with Hitoshi Sakimoto's company Basiscape being behind the work, the score is generally successful. On this album, Manabu Namiki and Masaharu Iwata produce most of the tracks — a whole thirteen in fact — and seem to complement each other with their respective contributions. Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, and two other composers contribute to the album as well. Let's take a closer look...
The first thing that should strike one about this album is its overall tension-filled atmosphere and electronic instrumentation. This idea originates from the album trying to interpret the graphical and technological nature of the game and is best exemplified by the boss themes. The third track, "Levi-Sense" for instance, takes a rhythmically congruent role, with its beats being very exact and announcing, so the track almost booms with fear. Namiki impressively creates the desired futuristic effect, but he achieves this with a few flaws left standing; it is probably the least successful boss battle on the soundtrack, as after a long listen, it is far too easy to get familiar with that all too grating bass line. A similar theme is "Is This How You Are?" for thr last boss. Gamers may certainly feel disappointed when their journey through one of the hardest levels in the game results in being greeted by a horrifically underdeveloped track like this. Nonetheless, everything works in-game perfectly, as the repetition has an almost hypnotic stimulating effect. These themes may be considered poor if they were part of an RPG score, but they just do the job just right for shooters. The boss themes are the only real problem with the album, but in all fairness there is a good one too. The true last boss theme "Requiem of the Sky" uses an excellent synth vocal harmony line and continually develops rhythmically and harmonically, proving to be a great track to listen to.
The rest of the album is a notch up from this. The first couple of themes, for instance, emit a strangely fun feel, allowing one to almost forget about the failing boss battle themes. The select theme "Mushihimesama, Age 15" is certainly amongst the most enjoyable themes with its pleasing bass beats and almost airy synth melody. The most enjoyable aspect of the track comes from its poppish style, which gives an image of the fifteen year old Mushihime given the modern musical tastes of most young girls. This youthful and upbeat feel is radiated in several places on the album and is one of the principle ways that it becomes stylistically distinctive. It is themes like Namiki's first stage theme "Shinju Heading to the Forest" that provide the most fulfilling melodies for the soundtrack. This theme takes a fast-paced yet somewhat laidback approach, putting the player at ease with its soft vibes while still feeling appropriate for a shooter. The track is a great listen to and it is hard not to feel addicted to its fun melodic line. Arguably, "The One Who Is Always in the Forest" steals the show, however. With its wonderfully developed melodic lines and thick, buoyant, and individualistic harmonies, it is both accessible and intellectually compelling. Sometimes the simpler gems in the album are satisfying too after all the action. "Starfall Village - Name Entry," for instance, provides a lucid feel and amazing imagery with its ethereal and incredibly smooth synth pads. This is what Namiki said when asked about these tracks:
I guess you can't erase an image of a game that's been so ingrained. But I think the significance of how you make music changes whether you knowingly make a melody that resembles that image, or go the complete opposite direction and make a track with your own "nourishment". - Manabu Namiki
The soundtrack conveys quite a variety of emotions. Tracks like Iwata's second stage theme "Furthermore, The Desert Must Also be Crossed" represent an almost fatigued state of mind; although it also creates a voyaging vibe, it becomes all too easy to linger on the exhausting falling notes offered by the track. In similar kin is the arranged version of the third stage theme "Walking on the Land of Flame". This track starts off with a tense introduction to represent the havoc of the situation, but soon moves on to a gentler flute and piano section. The havoc eventually returns as the theme plunges into a barrage of trumpet roars and timpani rolls before the track conludes grandly after the entrance of a drum kit. This is one of three arrangements featured at the end of the album, coming straight from electronica mastermind Ayako Saso. It's the best on the album and the others are sadly quite disappointing in some way. Shoichiro Sakamoto's fourth stage arrangement "Like the Night of the Falling Stars" takes a minimalistic approach that fails to capture the image of the original theme or even expand in terms of development. In contrast, the original is an inspiring and creative gem that features one of the best development sections on the album. Over the four minutes and a half that it plays, the track explores a number of distinct atmospheres; with the first having 'new age' vibes, it is easy to settle down to it. Moving on, another quote, this time from Iwata:
"The hardest track for me was the ending. In the story, the village is saved, but something very sad has also happened. Considering Pricess Reko's frame of mind, it was hard expressing something that wasn't too sad." — Masaharu Iwata
"I Have a Favor To Ask" isn't one of the most compelling ending tracks that game music fans will come to experience in their lifetime, but instead provides satisfaction through deeper means. The theme is made up from airy and twinkling instruments alike playing a cutesy melody, showing how Mushihime's innocence is at the heart of the game. Nonetheless, the backing synth pads and occasional descending progressions create a certain sadness here and there. Another notable addition to the end of the end of the album is "Location Test Song" coming straight from Hitoshi Sakimoto. Though not used in the game, it's a great track that hybridises many of his styles. With novelty sound effects reminiscent of Breath of Fire V, pumping Gradius V style electronica, grand Radiant Silvergun-esque trumpet fanfares, and Mushihimesama's own childish vibe, it'sa very creative bonus addition to the album.
Mushihimesama combines Namiki's typical hard-hitting electronic goodness with innocent and endearing melodies offered by his collaborator Iwata. It works very well in the game to reflect the near-impossible reflexes required and the sense of success at conquering each stage, even though it can be difficult hearing the actual music in the game given the barrage of shooting noises. Some say that all Cave releases should come with a health warning and, indeed, with its complex electronic sounds and cutesy melodies, some will find it oppressive, others will find it superficial. For most, it should be a nice hybrid of abstract complexity and melodic accessibility though. Hitoshi Sakimoto's contribution and the three arranged tracks should only add to its charm. The result is a worthy and individual addition to Cave's discography that has a little something for everybody. To conclude, a quote from Namiki-san:
"Since the backgrounds aren't mecha, but rather filled with nature, we were able to make some very interesting melodies. Please enjoy the medley of the story, visuals, and music of Mushihimesama. Let's go liven up those arcades!" — Manabu Namiki
Manabu Namiki (Basiscape)
Masaharu Iwata (Basiscape) (03, 05, 06, 13)
Note: There is also one more track that Masaharu Iwata composed.
Extra Track Composed and Mixed by:
14 - Hitoshi Sakimoto (Basiscape)
15 - Daisuke Matsumoto (Cave)
Extra Tracks Arranged and Recorded by:
16 - Shinji Hosoe (SuperSweep)
17 - Ayako Saso (SuperSweep)
18 - Shoichiro Sakamoto (SuperSweep)
Voice Actors: Yui Yoshii (Reko), Aiko Wahei (Aki)
Mushihime-sama, age 15 - Select
Shinju Heading to the Forest - Stage 1
Levi = Sense - Boss
From That Kind of Thing! - Stage Clear
Furthermore, the Desert Must Also be Crossed - Stage 2
Walking on the Land of Flame - Stage 3
Like the Night of the Falling Stars - Stage 4
The One Who Is Always In the Forest - Stage 5
Is This How You Are? - Last Boss
Requiem of the Sky - True Last Boss
The End of the Sacrifice - Game Over
Starfall Village - Name Entry
I Have a Favor To Ask - Ending
Location Test Song - Stage 1
Princess Reko's Adventure - Gaiden BGM-a
Shinju Heading to the Forest - Stage 1
Walking on the Land of Flame - Stage 3
Like the Night of the Falling Stars - Stage 4