In 2011, Yousuke Yasui was given the opportunity to create the entire score for the shooter Eschatos. The composer previously debuted as a major solo composer on Mamoru Has Been Cursed! How does his second solo work compare? The full soundtrack release, courtesy of the composer's employer SuperSweep, will let you find out.
The importance of a catchy first stage theme is always a must when it comes to a shmup soundtrack. With "Silver Lining," Yousuke Yasui does just that. It is an extremely catchy and bubbly composition that really manages to captivate the listener from the onset. I really enjoy the B section, as it provides a bit more lightheartedness than the A section; however, both sections are extremely incredible and really demonstrate Yasui's love for retro game music and the importance of a strong melody. Of all the songs, the second stage theme, "Survive," is most reminiscent of his work on Mamoru Has Been Cursed! It has a very youthful sound, particularly in the A section, while the B section offers some wonderful accompanying harmonies. Overall, it has an invigorating and motivating progression that really manages to capture the spirit of retro shmups.
These two themes also feature bonus arrangements that appear at the onset of the album. The first, "Silver Lining (Special Arrange Version)," arranged by Ryo Yonemitsu, a member of the original Falcom JDK sound team, takes Yasui's original and gives it a very early Ys sound. The variety of synthesizer sounds in the melody help give the melody a lot of different feelings, some feeling more futuristic and spacey while others feel a bit more heroic in nature. Towards the end of the remix, Yonemitsu adds some flamenco and electric guitar passages as well, given it a bit of exoticism and providing a bunch more energy to the mix. Overall, it's a wonderful mix and a great addition to the soundtrack. The second arrangement, "Survive (PSG&OPLL PlusMix)," by Yousuke Yasui, takes the original and gives an even more retro soundscape. Yasui manages to keep the same energy of the original while, at the same time, creating an even more basic soundscape. The first part of the arrangement is very 8-bit in nature, featuring very simplistic accompaniment to the core melody, while as it progresses, it takes on a bit of a Genesis sound by adding fuller accompaniment and replacing the 8-bit melody with a synth focused melody. Perhaps my favorite part is the last third of the arrangement, where he seems to combine both of these soundscapes into one.
"Point of No Return," the third stage theme, is the longest offering on the soundtrack. It is another exquisite example of Yasui's mastery of retro elements. I think that this theme offers a combination of wonderful things: a strong melody, an amazing atmosphere, and interesting synthesizer techniques. The melody itself has a bit of a contemplative feeling to it, but at the same time, Yasui adds a touch of heroism into the mix. The section before the loop is a melodic marvel as it really manages to accentuate both the heroic and contemplative touches heard previously. The accompaniment is also fantastic, featuring some retro guitar riffs and dreamy synthesizer. Of all the elements though, I think the synthesizer manipulation really makes the theme work even more, both in terms of creating atmosphere and in terms of changing the overall effect of the melody. This very well may be one of Yasui's greatest creations ever made.
Speaking of more melancholy and contemplative themes, "Stellar Light," the fourth stage theme, opens up with a very ominous and futuristic soundscape with foreboding beats and dreamy synthesizer melodies that reference the main theme, "Silver Lining." As the theme progresses, the tempo is increased, adding some retro rock riffs, while still keeping the ethereal soundscape. The section before the loop is utterly fantastic with its very energetic and heroic sound. Overall, it's another fantastic theme that really matches well with the setting of the game. The same could be said "Rush Into," the fifth stage theme, as it opens up with a short, melancholy passage before moving into an energetic theme that also references a bit of the main theme. It has a Genesis-inspired sound that I believe comes from the rhythmic accompaniment. The melody is another treat and really stands out among the ones featured on the soundtrack as it also features a bit of an exploratory nature and a sense of the unknown. Speaking of that, "Unknown Pulse," the final area theme, is the weakest of the bunch; however, it is definitely a great atmospheric piece. Sinister and ominous synthesizer dominates the soundscape to create an extremely eerie composition. Unfortunately, it doesn't focus on melody at all, making it seem out of place among the more energetic stage themes. It does help convey that sense of impending doom, but this is probably the one piece on the soundtrack that is definitely hard to listen to on its own.
Of course, there are also a few boss themes that bear mentioning. The normal boss theme, "Massive X," is a fun ride featuring an infectious melody that really manages to capture the listener's attention through its heroic and determined soundscape, with its almost improvisational nature at times. In the end, it's a very effective theme that works well with the stage themes. The last boss theme, "Extermination," is definitely the best boss theme on the soundtrack. It features an intense percussion line and some slick, sexy progressive rock inspired keyboard work. I really like the sinister soundscape that is coupled with that sense of finality. It's an extremely impressive theme that would work so well in a number of classic games. Lastly, "Scream Out," the true final boss theme, is quite intense, albeit short, and is reminiscent of the chaotic true last boss themes from shmup. It doesn't do much melodically, but it's an effective track. I would have liked to hear another loop before the track moved into the sound effects of the final boss exploding.
Overall, minus only a couple of tracks that are much better in-game than in a standalone listen, this is Yousuke Yasui's most accomplished work to date. It manages to capture the atmosphere of so many classic shmup games, while the same time, carries with it a strong melodic motif in the main theme, "Silver Lining," and brings Yousuke Yasui's mastery at creating fantastic melodies and combining it with his love of retro music. If you are a fan of Yousuke Yasui's other shmup soundtracks or his retro remixes, this one is a soundtrack that is not to be missed!