7th Dragon 2020 Original Soundtrack
A few years ago, 7th Dragon was released on the Nintendo DS and featured a design inspired by the classic RPGs of the NES and SNES systems. It featured both an orchestral soundtrack and a chiptune version of the soundtrack, should you meet certain conditions. Recently, a second game was released, titled 7th Dragon 2020. Released on the PSP, it had a graphical style reminiscent of the original PlayStation. Since the game takes place in Tokyo in 2020, the decision was made to have a more futuristic and electronic styled soundtrack, as opposed to the orchestral, fantasy style of the original. Yuzo Koshiro once again returns to compose for the soundtrack, featuring a blend of mostly new compositions with some favorites from original game remixed for the modern setting. How does it compare to the original?
The album opens up with "A Beginning Specialist," a reprise of "An Adventurer's Beginning" from the first game. The melody is just as elegant as the original, particularly during the more ethereal moments of the album; however, even when there is definitely more of a groovy rhythm, the original still manages to shine. In a similar soothing fashion, "A Brief Rest" blends some light jazz rhythms with some romantic strings harmonies, keyboard work, and a slight electronic touch.An early area theme, "A Certain Day of a Certain Month, in Shinjuku" features edgy electronic beats mixed with rock. While the melody isn't the focus of the theme, I really like how the light electronic tones contrast with the heavier beats. It's certain to get your head bobbing and really fits in with the urban environment. "Metropolitan Government - Reversed Eclipse" features a haunting atmosphere with heavy beats and spooky synthesizer leads and effects. It definitely gives off the atmosphere of an eclipse and has an extremely catchy melody to boot! "Underpass - Cave Investigation" is another excellent area theme focusing on trance and house accompaniment and some electronic/rock leads. It has a sinister tone to it and also a bit of a heroic, exploration tone to it.
The rest of the area themes in the game are various provinces around Tokyo. "Shibuya - Jungle Navigation" is a reprise from the original. Koshiro takes the hauntingly beautiful original and transforms it into an equally beautiful theme, focusing on soft electronic tones and some jazz influence, particularly in the piano and rhythm, creating an extremely lush soundscape that works wonders for the transformed Shibuya. As with the original 7th Dragon, this is one of the best area themes on the soundtrack. "Yotsuya - Moonlit Cemetery" is another personal favorite of mine. Channeling the Streets of Rage sound, Koshiro creates an extremely catchy urban beat with moody accompaniment, fitting for the spooky environment that Yotsuya has been transformed into. Of particular note is the bridge that opens with clanking piano before moving into a darker, industrial tone, before looping into the groovy, slick tones of the theme.
"Kokubunji - Hot Sand Factory" is a dark and edgy contemporary theme. Expect another powerful rhythmic accompaniment, some amazing electronic harmonies, a bit of an industrial flair, and an extremely energetic melody. All the elements in this theme work wonders, from the edgy guitar riffs to the sharp synth hits. It's a true marvel. "Ikebukuro - Aerial Front" is a more militaristic piece, focusing on sharp percussion tones and tense melody lines. I really like the doomed sound of most of the piece and the electronic harmonies and synth choral samples really bring a more lighthearted, almost heavenly, tone to the dark soundscape. I think this theme works well for the mechanical aspect of the dungeon. "Daiba - Frozen Town" encapsulates that frozen soundscape quite well with its crystalline synthesizer focus, particularly in the accompaniment and harmony, although at times, the crystalline synthesizer takes the lead, offering the most beautiful and surreal tones of the composition. I really like how Koshiro also fuses some traditional Japanese instrumentation into this theme, offering a bit of an organic soundscape to a largely electronic album.
There are battle themes abound on the soundtrack as well. The normal battle theme, "Battlefield - Swiftly and Speedily," is an exhilarating ride that is more in line with his Sekaiju no MeiQ battle themes with its tense rock and electronic soundscapes and extremely catchy melodies. What I find the most successful about this theme, aside from the superb melody, is all the small intricate details heard throughout the theme, from the ethereal electronic tones in the accompaniment to the more glitchy aspects here and there. It's one of Koshiro's best battle themes and shows he's a master at crafting amazing battle themes. I believe that "Battlefield - Pierce the Dark Clouds!" also serves as a normal battle theme of sorts, similar to the changing battle themes in both the Etrian Odyssey series and the original 7th Dragon. This theme, however, focuses more on anthemic trance tunes blending his RPG styles, particularly in the melody, with the more rhythmic and energetic aspects of his Wangan work. The melody is extremely catchy, heroic and ethereal at times, and really manages to provide that sense of the futuristic setting of the game.
There are plenty of boss themes to go around though. "Battlefield - Seven Struggles" plays against the major dragon enemies in the game, of which, as you may have guessed, there are seven. Although the track opens up with sinister orchestral tones, that's the last you hear of them, as the theme turns into an excellent drum n' bass tune with some sinister electronic passages with a focus on foreboding melodies, groovy bass guitar, and some progressive keyboard work. It's an amazing theme and also demonstrates one of my favorite things about a lot of the battle themes on the album. Rather than creating a loop point like most composers would on an album, he layers the beginning of the theme with what's currently playing to create a seamless transition, akin to what most DJs would do during a live set. Another dragon related battle theme is also a reprise from the first game. "Battlefield - Further Enraged Ones" takes the sinister orchestral tone of the first one and transforms it into an orchestral/electronic fusion that really works well and, to me, makes the theme a bit more enjoyable. I really like the various effects heard in the background and I really think the fusion of styles do wonders for the theme without trading in any of the aggressive and ominous sounds of the original tune.
"Battlefield - Rival Arrival," played when going up against your rivals, also channels Koshiro's Wangan side, creating an energetic trance theme with some rock influence. It's an extremely catchy melody and is extremely fun to listen to, but isn't nearly as complex texturally as many of the battle themes on the soundtrack. "Battlefield - Raging Tyranny" is another theme that doesn't focus so much on melody, but the overall tone of the track is quite sinister and edgy. I love the guitar riff focus mixed with the haunting, spooky synthesizer as it creates an interesting contrast. I also like the various electronic effects in the background, from the more industrial accompaniments to the wobbles heard commonly in the dubstep genre. This one may be an acquired taste, but it definitely works as a theme against a major enemy, even if it isn't melodically focused like many RPG boss themes.
Among miscellaneous additions, "Daybreak at the Metropolitan Government" is one of the best tracks on the album. In some ways, it reminds me of the more urban themes from Persona 3; however, the melody is much more emotional and I think the combination of the groovy rhythms works well with the crystalline synthesizer melody. It's quite an effective theme and would probably please fans of Shoji Meguro's more contemporary styles. "Mankind's Last Stand" is another defining contribution to the soundtrack, offering a steady electronic beat mixed with a contemplative, yet heroic synthesized melody, lots of electronic harmonies, and some ethereal, wind-swept sounding accompaniment. "Lowlifes, Gathering" is a funk rock theme that sounds like it would work well in a Streets of Rage game with its jazz influence, scratching sound effects, and infectious rhythm. Similarly, "With the Murakumo Squad 13" with its R&B influence and urban soundscape would also work well in a Streets of Rage style game, although the piano bridge brings elegance to the theme. On a totally different note, "Advance, Complete the Plan" has a very sinister tone and is quite reminiscent of Koshiro's Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune work with its high energy trance tunes. These themes may be a select taste, but each is enjoyable in their own right.
The final dungeon theme, despite the misleading name, is "Decisive Battle - Tokyo Tower" and it's a reprise of "Battlefield - Tower of Crimson Pickets" from the original game. While the original focused on dramatic and moving orchestral work, the remix brings it into the 21st century with its fusion of rock, electronic, and orchestral tones. While it's definitely more upbeat with its electronic beats and largely electronic focused soundscapes, it's equally as moving, particularly during the moments when the orchestral sections take the forefront. This is another excellent composition that transferred over from the original game and Koshiro does it justice once more! The final battle theme, "The Wild God Niara," is a reprise of "Three Dragons / The Mad True Dragon Niara." As per usual, Koshiro updates this one with a more electronic flair; however, the orchestral elements are also present along with some chiptune influence as well. I really like how the sharp synthesizer tones accentuate the sinister nature of the orchestral focus on the melody. The chiptune elements also work quite nicely, implemented during a time when piano is in the forefront, creating an interesting mix of retro sounds and elegant piano. It's an extremely satisfying remix of the original and, in my opinion, creates a much more powerful end result because of the electronic support.There are also two post-game battle themes. The first, "Mankind's Warrior Takehaya," is similar to "Battlefield - Rival Arrival" with its trance focus, however, I find it much more successful, as the melody is much more engaging, as are the rock/percussion additions and the overall sinister tone of the soundtrack. Plus, it has some really catchy moments during certain sections of the theme, particularly when various electronic elements are being layered. The last battle theme, presumably for the post-game ultimate boss, although I hear it is Takehaya, so this may be the second part to that battle, is "Battlefield - The Unknown One." It's one of my favorite battle themes with its trance nature, although with some rock percussion, and some slight dubstep influence at times. It's chaotic at times, particularly when sharp synthesizer accompanies erratic melody lines and powerful rock percussion, and sinister during others, particularly during the bridge sections, with the implementation of the organ. Overall, it's an extremely fun theme and while it may not be as sinister or menacing as some of the hidden boss themes in the Sekaiju series, it's an extremely pleasing battle theme nonetheless.
There are also two ending related themes on the album. The first, "A Tale of Men and Dragons," is a reprise of "The Tale Began" and transforms the original into a modern electronic affair with a focus on catchy rhythms, some rock influence, ethereal synthesizer, and some chiptune influence as well. It's an extremely pleasing theme that really captures the urban environment of Tokyo quite well, while still retaining the delicate nature of the original intact most of the time. The credits theme, on the other hand, titled "The Tale Ended," is, hands down, one of the most beautiful things Koshiro has ever created. It is an extremely warming and heartfelt melody that manages to carry the listener away to a world away from our own. The ethereal, heavenly choral samples, the crystalline synthesizer, and poignant piano all come together to create an extremely satisfying listen that can only be described as heavenly bliss. A final highlight is "Phantoms of Recollection." It features an excellent soundscape thanks to the mysterious, ethereal synthesizer accompaniment, the glitchy electronic beeps in the background, and the poignant piano melody in the lead. In addition, the light jazzy R&B beat is an excellent accompaniment to the delicate piano.
When it comes to the 7th Dragon 2020 Original Soundtrack, I feel there will be two camps. Those who appreciate the more organic tones of Koshiro's Etrian Odyssey and original 7th Dragon work may have trouble adjusting to the more electronic soundscape of the album; however, those who appreciate a more modern Koshiro may find this album more accessible. Compared to the original soundtrack, at least in terms of track times, it is much more accessible as most themes are short enough to be looped twice. On a personal level, this is definitely as enjoyable as the first soundtrack, providing an updated, modern soundscape for the series and those who may not have appreciated the orchestral tones of the original might want to check this one out. But for those preferring more retro-inspired Koshiro or those who don't enjoy more modern soundscapes, you may want to avoid this one. It comes highly recommended by me nevertheless.
Released as a pack-in with the game, the 7th Dragon 2020 Limited Soundtrack provides a look at some of the themes on the soundtrack. It includes their Miku Hatsune versions, which are not included in the original soundtrack and are arranged by a variety of people, although only sasakure.UK is included on this album. There is also the theme song for the game, also composed by sasakure.UK. How does the album turn out?
"BGM TOWN 1" is "Daybreak at the Metropolitan Government on the original soundtrack. It reminds me of the more urban themes from Persona 3; however, the melody is much more emotional and I think the combination of the groovy rhythms works well with the crystalline synthesizer melody. It's quite an effective theme and would probably please fans of Shoji Meguro's more contemporary styles. "BGM TOWN 2" is "Mankind's Last Stand" from the original soundtrack. It's an excellent contribution to the soundtrack, offering a steady electronic beat mixed with a contemplative, yet heroic synthesized melody, lots of electronic harmonies, and some ethereal, wind-swept sounding accompaniment. It's quite engaging and definitely one of the highlights of the album. The Miku version of the former focuses on chiptune rhythms and piano accompaniment that works well with the vocaloid melody line. The Miku version of the latter is a bit jazzier in tone, but focuses on piano, keyboard, and piano. Overall, it's another great interpretation.
"BGM BATTLE D1" is "Battlefield - Further Enraged Ones" from the original soundtrack and is a reprise from the first 7th Dragon soundtrack. It takes the sinister orchestral tone of the first one and transforms it into an orchestral/electronic fusion that really works well and, to me, makes the theme a bit more enjoyable. I really like the various effects heard in the background and I really think the fusion of styles do wonders for the theme without trading in any of the aggressive and ominous sounds of the original tune. The Miku version is also quite interesting, focusing on some drum n' bass mixed with chiptune. Miku's voice isn't implemented as well here, used mainly to simulate the more sinister strings sections of the original, but the overall soundscape is an interesting transformation, nonetheless.
"BGM BATTLE D2" is "Battlefield - Raging Tyranny" from the original soundtrack. It doesn't focus so much on melody, but the overall tone of the track is quite sinister and edgy. I love the guitar riff focus mixed with the haunting, spooky synthesizer as it creates an interesting contrast. I also like the various electronic effects in the background, from the more industrial accompaniments to the wobbles heard commonly in the dubstep genre. This one may be an acquired taste, but it definitely works as a theme against a major enemy, even if it isn't melodically focused like many RPG boss themes. The Miku version focuses more on orchestral tones with some hip hop rhythms and chiptune accompaniments. Once again, Miku's voice isn't the star of the show, but the transformation of the original is spectacular in terms of instrumentation choices.
The main theme, "SeventH-HeaveN," composed by sasakure.UK is an extremely catchy theme featuring Miku Hatsune on vocals. It has a chiptune influence as well as some jazzy tones. It's short, but does manage to engage the listener. It's an excellent theme that manages to bring the more current trends in Tokyo to the forefront.
In the end, this album should be skipped over in favor of the original soundtrack. The Miku Hatsune versions will not please everyone, mainly due to the vocaloid's voice, but the instrumental soundscapes that accompany her transform the originals into something quite spectacular. While these did not get released with the original soundtrack, perhaps they will in the future, as it'd be interesting how they treated many of the themes in the game, especially with the plethora of arrangers working on that aspect of the soundtrack. The theme song will also please certain fans, but those who don't like Miku Hatsune should stay away, despite it being quite catchy overall.
A Beginning Specialist
A Certain Day of a Certain Month, in Shinjuku
Battlefield - Swiftly and Speedily
Metropolitan Government - Reversed Eclipse
Battlefield - Seven Struggles
A Brief Rest
Daybreak at the Metropolitan Government
Shibuya - Jungle Navigation
Ikebukuro - Aerial Front
Advance, Complete the Plan
Yotsuya - Moonlit Cemetery
Battlefield - Further Enraged Ones
Kokubunji - Hot Sand Factory
Battlefield - Rival Arrival
The World Inquires
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