DO-DON-PACHI DAI-FUKKATSU ARRANGE ALBUM
The latest arrange album to be released by CAVE came included with the limited edition of the Xbox 360 port of DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu. Rather than go with a multi-arranger approach, CAVE decided to hire the newly formed RESONATOR unit, which consists of Kenji Ito, formerly of Square and known for his works on the SaGa series, and Kohta Takahashi, formerly of Namco and known for his work on the Ridge Racer series. The result is more akin to the arrangement style found on ESPGaluda II Black Label Original Soundtrack, rather than the interpretative arrange albums of the past, although there are also arrangements that do take a more interpretative approach as well.
Upon hearing of this album's announcement, I immediately suspected that the arrangements would be split amongst the two composers somewhat evenly. To my shock and surprise, it seems that Kenji Ito was only responsible for one arrangement on the entire album. When I found out what track that was, I was shocked once again. Arranging the "Boss 1" theme, known as "Element Daughter" on the original soundtrack, he transforms the original rock focused theme into an exquisite piano theme. There is a very solemn nature to this arrangement and it almost carries a fairytale like quality at times, but the dominating emotion is one of sorrow. There are also some motifs of the main theme heard interspersed throughout the arrangement that really bring about a nice thematic connection to some of the other themes that feature this motif, such as "Stage 1."
Kohta Takahashi, on the other hand, was responsible for the rest of the arrangements featured on the album. Opening with "Select," he transforms the orchestral original into a mellow and relaxing theme with a focus on ethereal synth and jazzy beats. It's not overbearing and, despite its length and straightforwardness, it does manage to keep my interest through the entire duration. Perhaps channeling from the artist's experience in the electronic field, the percussion work is particularly impressive as the theme progresses, getting more and more complex with time. "Stage 1" opens with further beautiful soundscapes, including the sound of running water, before moving into a beautiful rendition of the main theme on piano. The complementing elements really capture a sorrowful and somber mood that is also mirrored in the original. Of course, when the key change occurs later on in the song, with some ethereal synth subtly in the background, a whole new level of emotion is added. In a way, "Stage 5" takes a similar route and demonstrates Takahashi's strengths when focusing on atmosphere. Opening with what sounds like a war torn battlefield's aftermath (wind and crashing thunder, although slight), it quickly moves into a passage blending operatic vocal synth, acoustic guitar, and piano passages with some beautiful strings harmony.
Kohta Takahashi also manages to arrange each remaining stage theme in two ways. "Stage 2A" is a very upbeat and bright interpretation with some beautiful harmonies that mirror the original's melody. The essence of the original is captured quite well and I really like how fun this arrangement is. Whereas this theme is reminiscent of ESPGaluda, the "Stage 2B" arrangement sounds closer to the material on a Ridge Racer soundtrack. It's a riveting electronic theme that manages to keep the bright and cheery melody line of the original, while incorporating unique passages too. However, I find the brass section that appears for a portion of this to be a bit weak and awkwardly paced compared to the rest of the theme. "Stage 3A" is quite a smooth arrangement of the original. Blending jazzy rhythms and overtones, with well-mixed crystalline synth, it really manages to capture this sort of "smoky" atmosphere that you might here from more traditional jazz arrangements. It's quite an exquisite interpretation and I prefer it to the 3B counterpart. Similar to "Stage 2B," the remix for "Stage 3B" manages to incorporate some nice techno beats while still retaining the jazzy nature of the original. I particularly enjoy the synth adaption of the original electric guitar part for the sections unique to 3B, but at the same time, I think some of the atmosphere is lost overall with the addition of the beat.
When I heard that Kohta Takahashi and Kenji Ito were arranging this album, I knew that Takahashi would be arranging stage four's theme, or at least one of the versions. This was, of course, before I knew that Kohta Takahashi did most of the arrange album. I was expecting some nice rock tones and a much more powerful version of the original, yet was actually presented was a pleasant surprise. Rather than focus on the industrial rock nature of the original, Takahashi adapted both "Stage 4A" and "Stage 4B" to sound as if they came from a Sega Mega Drive game. It's quite intriguing to hear this, especially as someone growing up in love with the sound of the FM synthesizer sound. However, I also like how, somehow, Takahashi still makes the theme sound more intense than the original. These may be some of the more straightforward arrangements on the album, but at the same time, their retro sounds make them worth a listen.
Some of the remaining arrangements are less inspired. I really like how dark and intense Kohta Takahashi made the boss theme; changing the original electronic arrangement into an orchestral theme with industrial undertones and some guitar riffs was a very intriguing decision and it became quite powerful. Yet as the shortest arrangement on the entire album, it's a shame that it didn't entirely fulfil its great potential in terms of development. Stage Clear" is a relaxing electro-acoustic mix, but isn't nearly as complex as some of Umemoto's arrangements, whereas "Name Entry" offers an upbeat and futuristic synth sounds in a relatively straightforward way. Out of all the arrangements, the latter is definitely my least favorite and it makes me wish for the days of the more creative arrangements of some of the other Cave arrange albums.
Takahashi's re-imagination of the final boss theme harbours the sinister tones of the semi-operatic original, but through using eerie and futuristic synth. This same synth, though, manages to make some sections of the arrangement quite ethnic in tone and during others quite beautiful. However, what I particularly enjoy about this arrangement is the R&B like beats that have a chiptune-like quality to them. I always think it must be a daunting task for the arrangers who have to arrange Namiki's crazy true final boss themes. Takahashi's version of "True Final Boss," however, succeeds in creating an arrangement as crazy as the original. It incorporates bee buzzing — a fitting tribute to the design of the true final boss of the DoDonPachi series — while focusing on glitch techno rock and chaotic synth sections. I think it's one of the better true last boss arrangements from the recent CAVE arrange albums. Thankfully, "Ending" is another theme that I really enjoy. Despite the lack of the piano, it retains the beauty of the original while increasing the tempo, adding some FM synth in the accompaniment, and adding beautiful synth manipulated to mimic the vocals heard on the original.
In the end, it's up to you whether or not you purchase those albums. For those expecting a variety of styles, similar to the Cave arrange albums of the past, this may not be for you, given the fact that most of the arrangements are from a single person. For those expecting a lot of rock on this album, be warned there is very little to be found on it. This, in my opinion, isn't a bad thing, but some people may not warm up to it as easily for this reason. I like how Takahashi and Kenji Ito are able to provide some very stunning versions of the original, in particular Kenji Ito's "Boss 1" arrangement, and how Takahashi showed us a softer side as well as a more intense side with his arrangements. It's not my favorite Cave arrange album to date, but I think it is a well-produced album with a lot of listenability, blending a relaxing overall aura with some more chaotic, retro, and acoustic arrangements.
Kohta Takahashi: 01~05, 07-16
Kenji Ito: 06