Darius Odyssey :: Review by Don
The Darius Odyssey soundtrack is a compilation of Darius themes that was included as a promotional item with the DX Pack of Dariusburst on the PlayStation Portable. Featuring themes from the four arcade games, Dariusburst, and for the first time ever, the Super Nintendo soundtrack for Darius Twin, composed by Shizuo Aizawa, it offers at least, some incentive to purchase, but is it worth it?
The album embodies, in essence, the history of the Darius series. Featuring music from Darius, Darius II, Darius Gaiden, and G-Darius, it gives a nice example of the ever evolving musical styles of Hisayoshi Ogura. "Chaos" is from the original Darius game, and unlike most of the melody focused stage themes from that game, this one takes a totally abstract approach. Expect aggressive orch hits, haunting sound effects, weird dissonant harmonies, and an ever-repeating headline phrase. It's one of the strangest main themes ever, yet it's still so representative of Darius and memorable on a stand-alone basis. Darius II's sole contribution is "Say Papa," the final stage theme from that game. From its soft watery introduction to its happy-go-lucky action theme, it's a wonderful theme due to the progression of the theme. The melodic section from 1:05 is exactly the type of music needed to motivate listeners late in the game. However, it still retains a little of the series' quirk with the choral parts.
There are two offerings from Darius Gaiden. "Visionnerz" is regarded as one of the series' classics for good reason. In context, this track spans from the introduction of the game right through to the second boss theme, so naturally the development covers a lot of material. After an ethereal opening, Ogura layers a range of forces on top, ranging from edgy industrial bass riffs to soothing jazz piano improvisations. However, perhaps the most remarkable feature is the vocalist featured from the 0:48 mark, who introduces the game's main theme and brings a familiar yet otherworldly feel to the entire track. The track progresses through various moods and influences in an almost cinematic manner, but all the while, retaining the same focus of blending organic and inorganic elements. It is an absolute bliss to listen to. The other theme, "Fake," is an upbeat theme that fuses together some industrial percussion, some operatic and wispy vocals, and some killer synthesizer work.
Ogura's favorite Darius soundtrack, G-Darius, gets three themes on this compilation album. With "B.T. Dutch," after some crowd noise and ominous percussion, Ogura introduces us to a fest of asynchronised electronic beats and orch hits. He offers plenty of contrast throughout, whether with the "You" voice samples, bizarre sound effects, or industrial drill work, constantly giving the sense of something alien and alive being present. Yet what drives the entire theme is Ogura's ever-appealing sense of rhythm and lyricism; this alone ensures the track is more than a random fusion and instead something highly entertaining and appealing too. The third stage theme "Dada" subsequently provides the best of the series' soft watery themes. I can hardly describe how beautiful progressions such as at the 1:11 mark are. Moving to the climax of the score, "Kimera II" is a powerful accompaniment to the final stage. An industrial sound increasingly becomes prominent while operatic vocals, elegaic strings, and aquatic sound effects also find their way into the music. There is a real sense of motivation to this piece, yet there is also an underlying sinister and tragic tone too. The final result is a compelling fusion of emotions and styles.
The game with which it is released also received a couple themes on the album, serving as a preview for the then-upcoming original soundtrack release in January 2010. "Open the Zone" is a theme that references the main theme for the game. It features some very ethereal and somewhat haunting synthesizer accompaniment as well as some operatic vocal samples. For the most part, it's very calm, however, it also gets quite chaotic at the end, displaying the two major styles heard on the album. In the end, it's a fitting theme that serves as a preview. The first stage theme, as well as the main theme of the game, is "Goodbye My Earth," composed by Shohei Tsuchiya. It was first featured in the trailer for the game and it is an energetic theme that employs ample use of vocals to convey its strong melody. The drum accompaniment really helps give it a nice rock feel as well.
As for the Darius Twin soundtrack, it definitely sounds like an action game from the SNES era. My immediate comparison is that of some of the Mega Man X themes. As for the actual music itself, I think it's well composed, but it doesn't fit the Darius environs at all. "A Flashing Dual Hawk" is a very powerful rock theme with a strong melody and a nice progression. There is a subtle influence in the accompaniment of times that seems to be reminiscent of the first Darius game, but aside from that, it could be a theme in a generic action game. "Silent Diagonal" and "Cloudy Blast" have a bit more of that Darius sound to it, but they still manage to come off as run of the mill action oriented themes. I do appreciate the electric guitar melody, though, as I do find it strong in both themes.
"Logical Crustacean," presumably the boss theme, definitely has a very Darius sound with its heavy beats and atmospheric accompaniment. However, I think that the melody line is more akin to the rest of the soundtrack. Strong, but not necessarily fitting. The last theme I'll mention is "Boss 7". This theme is a resynthed version of the Darius final boss theme. It's a strong composition, but I think the SNES synth makes the theme lose some of its charm. It's not that the Darius Twin is a terrible soundtrack, because it's pretty decent, but I don't find that it fits the overall Darius sound that every other game seems to have.
In the end, I think this is an interesting album, due to its timeline approach. Although I don't find the addition of the Darius Twin soundtrack to be all the amazing, due to the fact that I don't feel it fits the Darius sound, it is a solidly composed score. The previews of Dariusburst are nice and I think, for the most part, some iconic Ogura themes were represented. In the end, it's probably not worth picking this up if you don't own a Japanese PSP, but if you can find it cheap on an auction site and like the Darius Twin soundtrack, then by all means go for it.
Overall Score: 6/10