April 19, 2008
(All due apologies for the admittedly corny Musing title...)
A few days ago I listened to some samples of the “remastered” soundtracks that were released in Japan for the Zero and ZX series. I knew from perusing Capcom of Japan’s website that such soundtracks existed, but I never sat down and actually listened to them until now.
I’d been under the impression at first that these soundtracks contained remixes, but I came to discover that’s not entirely the case. To be sure, they’re not direct recordings of the songs from the games like many game music CDs. Yet at the same time, most of the tunes aren’t exactly remixes either. They’re something in between.
Basically, most of the songs are virtually identical to their original game versions (at least for the first loop, after which they frequently diverge from what you hear in the game). Having said that, the remastered tracks are definitely of higher quality than the game songs—the sampling rate is better, so all of the instruments sound much clearer, with less “fuzz” in the background. But the actual compositions and tempo are frequently the same, though stereo effects were added to many songs that were originally in monaural.
Overall, this “remastering” of the songs is quite cool in my opinion. For one thing, you get what are basically higher-quality versions of the game musics. Also, I personally find that remixes that diverge too much frequently end up just taking a good tune and spoiling it somehow. So, sticking close to the source is fine by me.
Some random comments on a few of the songs that I sampled:
- ZX Intro Stage / Area A - This is the first of these remixes that I heard, ironically on Capcom’s own ZX website. At first it sounds basically the same except with better instruments and stereo effects. Once the main melody kicks in, the guitars in the remix sound a bit harsher than whatever the heck kind of wind instrument they were emulating in the original. Then after the first loop, additional melody is added in the remix. It’s quite a fun little composition.
- Get Model ZX - This song starts out sounding identical to the game. After the first full loop of the body, it adds some additional riffs to the main tune that aren’t in the game version. (I really like this song, but in an odd sort of way, I think the sound effects actually enhance it, giving it that extra “umph” that you get from watching the accompanying transformation movie during the game itself. But that’s just me.)
Incidentally, on the soundtrack this has a rather unintuitive name (made me think of Advent actually). It took me a while to even find it when all I had to go by were the song titles.
- ZX Mini-Boss Battle - Interestingly, most of the instruments in this one sound virtually identical except that once the melody line kicks in, the remix adds a lot more reverb to that particular instrument, making it sound like it is vibrating a lot more. In my view this almost detracts from the nifty stereo effects that were going on in the original.
- Giro’s Theme - Wow, this one is surprisingly indistinguishable from the game’s version at first. However, once the melody kicks in, the difference is apparent. For one thing, the remix is at a different pitch.
- Serpent HQ - Oddly, the strings utilized in the background of this remix make it sound almost more muted than the original game version. Otherwise the two songs are very close. In the remix, the strings during the melody are more techno and vibrate more. And of course, before the first loop is even complete, the remix starts going off and doing its own thing.
- Guardian HQ - Ah, the Guardian HQ theme, used in both ZX and ZX Advent. This one sounds different right away because the instruments are similar but not identical. Also, the volume settings of the various tracks seems to be different, emphasizing some instruments and burying others a bit more. But overall the song composition for the first loop is pretty much the same.
- Ouroboros - The song that was titled Ouroboros wasn’t actually Ouroboros. The actual title of this one makes sense I suppose, but it wasn’t something that made me think Ouroboros. Anyway, I liked this song in the game so of course I looked it up on the soundtrack. For the most part it sounds identical as well, just fuller with better instruments. After the first loop it starts adding additional melody, and by the halfway point it’s already gone off and done its own thing.
- Area M/N - To me, this song sounds like they took the original sheet music and replaced the instruments with oddly tinny ones. Somehow the game version sounds fuller. Oh well. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this remix does in fact remix the melody, even in the first loop.
- Area O - Starts out eerily similar to the original except for some additional hi-hats. It takes virtually a full loop before it branches. Curiously, though, in the second loop the remix adds what almost sounds like an airplane sound effect to the composition, along with going off on its own.
- ZX Credits - What makes this one interesting is, unlike most of these other songs, the original game version of this one does not loop. The remix and the original start off sounding so similar I wouldn’t be surprised if the remix version was down-sampled into the game. However, curiously, right around the halfway mark of the remix, an almost jazzy melody line is added, so that, overall, the remix is longer than the original game song.
- Zero 2 Intro - The original game version of this has sandy wind blowing in the background and so it’s tough to entirely judge the similarities. The strings/flute are definitely a bit different, but overall the tune starts out basically the same. Of course, in the game version, the first song fades out prematurely and cuts into another song (of which there is also a remix version) but naturally, on the remix CD you get the entire song—and then some.
- Zero 2 Credits - Of all of the songs I listened to, this one is the most similar. The instruments are slightly different but the composition is entirely the same from beginning to end—they are even the same length!
- Zero 3 Twilight Desert - Okay, so I’m amused at how they kept the naming theme going on, but if they’d just called it “Twilight Desert” (or anything to do with deserts for that matter), I would have found it faster. I can’t complain too much though, because the title they chose is appropriate in context. Anyway, the melody comes out a lot better in the remix version, probably because the instrument sample isn’t as muted. There are some slight timing differences between the two songs, and of course after the first loop, the remix adds some additional instruments and riffs.
In the meantime, it should be noted that just recently I posted the original game versions of most of the above songs over on the Song of the Whenever. Rather ironic timing, one could say.
- The MegaMaster