Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite Original Soundtracks
The Nintendo DS has brought a recent revival of classic first person dungeon crawlers, such as the Etrian Odyssey series, Shiren the Wanderer series, and the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. However, Success has recently put out a game that also follows in these footsteps, entitled Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite (or The Dark Spire). Taking things one more step into the realm of retro games, this game features a classic and updated mode with music to match! How does the full import soundtrack, composed by Kenichi Arakawa, end up sounding?
The tracks can be distinctly split into those pertaining to the surrounding town, the floors of the dungeon, and the battle themes. The town related themes, such as "Town" and "Guild," all feature a dark, brooding atmosphere, with some decent bass rhythms and a pretty strong melody. Of particular note is the "Inn" theme; it's got a creepy Arabian vibe, so I definitely wouldn't want to sleep here.
The floor themes offer some interesting themes as well. "1st Floor Underground" is a rock-based theme that exhibits a sinister yet dramatic atmosphere through its awesome piano and violin lines. "1st & 2nd Floors" is probably my favorite of the bunch; it's got a catchy rhythm, some awesome rock riffs, and some eerie synth in the spirit of old-school game music. Meanwhile "3rd Floor" features some of the most interesting percussion and vocal samples on the soundtrack, giving it a pretty tribal vibe; despite a weaker melody, "5th Floor" has a very dark atmosphere as well through its mixture of strings and some industrial synth. The mysterious "4th Floor" comes off as one of the weaker floor themes, but it does feature some interesting harpsichord use and throws in some of "1st & 2nd Floors" music to tie in some thematic material. Both "6th Floor" and "7th Floor" are pretty interesting too given they present some awesome melodies on bizarre operatic vocals. The vocals really help make the atmosphere of the tracks much richer, despite their sound quality.
The three battle themes, however, are my favorites on the soundtrack. "Battle" features some pretty interesting vocal samples, a solid rock bass, and a pretty standard melody, but one that is pretty intense. "Mid Boss," though, is probably my favorite of the bunch. It's got an extremely upbeat bass line with clear techno and rock influences and the piano intro is to die for! As with the other battle themes, it also features vocal samplings, but the piano is the true star of this show. It melds so well with the guitar riffs. "Last Boss" comes a close second in terms of favoritism. The vocal samples in this one are very reminiscent of those found in the later floor themes, but the overall atmosphere is dark and brooding. Touches of rock, some keen organ usage, and a very beautifully mixed sound make this an amazing theme. One of the highlights for sure!
There is also a chiptune version of the soundtrack that totally changes the atmosphere. It really demonstrates the strength of Kenichi Arakawa's melodies and how his compositions intrinsically create so much mood. Though the chiptune version will be well-suited for old-school gamers, I personally found the DS version to be more captivating due to the more diverse sample use. A final highlight if the five minute special arranged medley at the end of the first disc. It's well done, right from its ritualistic percussive opening to its old-school rocking centre and operatic sections right the way to its romantic piano-based conclusion.
In the end, the Genmu no Tou to Tsurugi no Okite Original Soundtracks is a pretty interesting soundtrack. It features some dark, brooding music, but there are also some catchy themes, such as various floor themes and the battle themes. It's not the strongest of soundtracks and I like the Etrian Odyssey soundtracks much more, but it's still worth picking up if you like what you heard while playing the game and felt Sounds from The Dark Spire was too limited. If not, I'd try to find some samples on YouTube to see if it is for you.
Disc 2: Original Version
The "original" tracks are chip-tune variations of the "arrange" (normal) tracks.
Both are used in the game.
Underground Floor 1
Floor 1, 2
Bonus Arrange Version