Sunday, August 26, 2012

Critically Velocity Original Soundtrack

Another quietly released album, with still no knowledge of its existence on the market, like most other albums anyway. Fortunately, there is no need to seek this soundtrack out, as it is available to the public to both Japan and America.  However, the game itself was never released in the states.  It's a shame, because judging by its cover to the left, it looks just as good as the F-Zero series.
        It was first announced as Rune Chase, changed when it didn't meet its release date and was given extra time to complete.  Though, let me talk about the game itself, as it does bare some features that do differ from Namco's main drive, Ridge Racer.  Although, instead of just being a bare racer, the player is allowed to roam freely on the roads.  There is the adventurous story mode, but they give the ability to explore the world. 

At first glance, I was saddened that the music is mostly urban jazz.  There could have been the choice to go smooth jazz fusion like in Ridge Racer, but I guess they really wanted to steer away from that idea.  I was going to review the soundtrack per usual, by composer, but it seems each track continues right off from the last.  So, by the order of the track list, I have to take the straight road. 
01Sunset Runaway-Ryuichi Takada1:59
03Toward a Difficulty-Junichi Nakatsuru4:30
04Break Time-JN3:08
05Memory of Passed Day-RT2:10
06Priyo City Part 1-Yuuichirou Noro 3:25
07Priyo City Part 2-YN2:56
08Priyo City Part 3-YN3:21
09Priyo City Part 4-YN3:31
10Priyo City Part 5-YN3:44
11Crush ’em All-Jouji Nishigomi(George)4:45
12Racing the Storm-GN4:01
13Escape from Crisis-GN4:25
14Urban Striker-GN3:42
15Time Bomb-JN7:02
16Smooth Drivin’-RT3:10
17Through the Alley-Kakumi Nishigomi 3:47
18It’s an Easy Work!-KN4:13
19Street Courser-GN3:40
20Blazing Vortex-GN3:32
22Funny Fat Guy-RT3:19
23Most Dangerous Game-JN4:00
24Master of Speed-GN3:57
25The Fixer-RT4:00
26Purple Highway of Daybreak-YN5:03
27Mission Complete-YN0:03
28Mission Failed-RT0:02
29Reward & Honor-RT1:00
Disc length 100:04
Symbols fiddle and soothing keys start off in Sunset Runway, followed by jazzy strings.  Ryuichi Takada does arrangement with the strings, added by brass, synth keyboards and explosive percussion.  The brass sometimes gets too brassy and jazzy, but only for a few moments.  This track is the opening cinematic theme.  It works well for a chase scene.  Still, jazz is not the right fit for a situation like that.  Invitation, I assume, is the menu theme, and what a welcome Takada presents.  Attractive are his keys, and the drums playing in the background, all representing a slow entry for a game about speed.
Nakatsuru gets the first in-game track, using the some strings as Takada's, only less abrasive. The brass covers over while the strings continue to repeat.  Toward a Difficulty, gets better when the drums start in.  A flute takes the lead somewhere in the piece, and rather adds to the situation of whats happening.  Back into the loop, Junichi takes his time and fleshes out his strings and brass, improvising the flute and horns the second time around.  At the abrupt end, we go into Break Time, to take a load off.  The pace is truly changed from his previous track.  Lounging around with cello strings and keys, while the sax sings on top.  This is not the Nakatsuru we normally hear, as he really lets the listener sit back for the first time. 
Takada picks back up in the same note.  Memory of Passed Day is similar to the menu theme, but he has more work for the percussion in the background.  I'm not too found of his use of brass.  The next five Piryo City tracks are done by a new composer to me, Yuuichiro Noro.  He takes a more subtle approach then the other two before him.  While the jazz style is there, the rhythm and blues are what he excels at.  The strings, sax, and drums work hand and hand, to deliver something new. Part 2 has some rock influence as well as some electronic sounds that hurt the piece.  When those sounds don't ring the ears, the electric guitar solo does make it worthy listen.  Part 3 picks up in the first parts attempt to go flamenco.  Again, the sax really makes me wonder if this is a racer.  At least, the strings and piano keys make me want to dance.  Part 4 continues the second parts rock style, opening up with electric guitar.  The drums make it feel sound like its heavy metal.  The driving guitar manages to keep me tuned in.  Getting back into another slow Spanish mood, Part 5 lowers the pace again, which makes this soundtrack wholly feel like elevator music.
Another new composer to discover is Jouji Nishigomi or George.  He is the first really offer an attractive piece right from the opening of Crush'em All.  It is a rockin' track, with hints of jazz.  The drums spell out the name of the track well.  George does have the same techno sounds as Noro, but implements them in listenable manner.  Racing the Storm doesn't have the flare as the previous, though I'm not being negative about this track.  The rock instruments maybe minimal, but the feeling of racing is there.  Percussion give the beat alongside the brass and keyboard solos.  Escape From Crisis combines the other two's style, resulting in a rather unique experience.  I won't go further into detail.  Urban Striker does some fancy conga and brass work, with some funky soul keys and bass.  Some of this music reminds me of the silly Mario Kart themes, in which a lot of this soundtrack resembles. 
Nakatsuru reappears in the seven minute brass/rock out, Time Bomb.  It is a piece that carries the weight for the entire soundtrack.  Even so, his shorter ones are a little more enjoyable.  Takada is back again for a Smooth Drivin', in which the percussion is what stands out most here.  Ryuichi really could work on his brass, since he managed in Soul Calibur 3. 
The next two tracks by Kakumi Nishigomi(whom I'm guessing is the brother to George, and if so the elder one) does not do so well among the composers here.  The electronic sounds covering entirety of the track can be a turn off while listening to Through the Alley.  Percussion are a plus, and the improvising of them near the end saves him from being a skip.  The drums pick back up in the next track and surround the ears in all directions, making it an easy listen.  Its an Easy Work has reminiscent feel of some song, probably Broadway back in the days.   I can't tell what instrument takes the lead, either guitar or keyboard, sounds electronic but adds flavor, as well as the trumpet solo that comes after it, before keys take back over.  The final solo is an electric guitar for sure, and keeps Kakumi in good standing with the crashing of the drums again before it fades away. 
The other Nishigomi takes the spotlight, opening up like in Crush'em All, and using an electronic sound that reminds me of the Sonic games.  Street Courser seems to take some of the rock elements of Kakumi's and finally taking the soundtrack into a better direction, if Nakatsuru hasn't done that yet.  Blazing Vortex uses the all too repetitive brass linings of Takada's. The techno beat and sound effects like the wind fill the background, while the sax takes lead.  Interesting slew of engine sounds actually make appearance here. 
Pace is kept up in Stormers, in which Nakatsuru uses funky guitars, a somewhat nice saxophone solo, synth keys, and a great drum arrangement.  Nothing truly outstanding, but he does have a certain uniqueness that is hip and fresh.  Takada changes it up a little, as Funny Fat Guy goes comical and silly.  It is more serious than what I just said, and can be stomached for the most part.  Alternating back to Nakatsuru with Most Dangerous Game.  The guitars play out a 007 spy-like tune, only he did not flesh it out as much as I would have liked.  At the halfway mark, a very fun interlude of brass that sounds like screaming women, gets the listener aroused, followed by a bluesy guitar solo. 
George Nishigomi changes around again, in a very different offering of Master of Speed.  This is truly a unique sound from the rest of the tracks so far.  It is mysterious, ambietic, and leveled to enjoy from start to finish.  Even Takada changes his sound and style, gaining him some credibility.  Both of these tracks have nice bass.  The Fixer has some annoying engine that sounds like its being pushed to its limits.  Percussion and strings are done well and brass is minimal this time.  Yuuichiro as well lays back and gets the listener to relax as well with Purple Highway of Daybreak.  Seems to be the games results theme.  Noro-san's best offering yet, and one jazz piece that can really open anyone's ears to the genre.  Ryuichi's Reward & Honor is a short version of Noro's last but not as attractive.  Nakatsuru as well, doesn't surpass himself or anyone else with Depression. 
I got this soundtrack strictly for my fanship of Junichi, but if I were to just download his tracks, then I'd be ripping myself off.  $7.99 for 30 tracks, spanning a total of 100 minutes is a deal really.  Much of the music felt out place, but then again I haven't played the game.  The videos on the net didn't help that feeling either, and the premise of the game certainly is not typical of a racer genre.  This is one of first albums that I find hard to recommend.  Even Nakatsuru, whom did offer his talents, still fell short and quite frankly, disappointed me.  I didn't have hopes for any of the others, especially Takada, but he pulled through in the end.  I am glad to not be afraid of the new players, Noro and the Nishigomi brothers(that is if they are bros).  The price is the real factor in owning the soundtrack, even though my review can argue against it.  No composer had truly failed here, but there really isn't much of absolute must listen to tracks. 
Also, I don't know what had pushed Namco to release this years after the games release, but hopefully this will set a trend for other games in their library that they didn't have official soundtracks for.  Such as, Soul Calibur Legends, Time Crisis, and Urban Reign.  The game may have not made it here for U.S. citizens, but at least we can download it.  


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