Who here have heard of Zuntata, Taito’s In-House band? Raise your hand please. Anyone...? Ok... who here have heard the name Yasuhisa Watanabe, better known as “Yack.” to his fans? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere… For those who know of Yack, you’ve likely discovered him through Metal Black, a legendary shooter if ever there was one. Of course, Yack provided an unusual score for a shooter, but it still fitted the scenes nicely. After 10 years of service with Zuntata, Yack decides to move on and gets hired by Arika, at the same time that Shinji Hosoe & friends from Namco join the company. Right off the bat, Hosoe, Saso, Aihara and Yack work on Street Fighter EX 2 Plus, which is regarded as one of the finest Street Fighter scores created. After a few years at Arika, Shinji Hosoe decides to create his own company, Super Sweep, and brings several Arika members with him, including Yack. One of the more recent works by Super Sweep was a shooter called Border Down. This shooter takes the 2D look and meshes it with 3D polygons and has other unique traits, such as getting harder the more times you die. Yack entered the fray with his equally odd music... but how can anyone dislike the man’s ability to do the smoothest synth-jazz?
The opening theme “Last News” starts off on a mellow pace, while not following the norm of most shooter soundtracks (hyperactive techno-ish melody), the theme gains a bit of speed during the last 30 seconds or so. Some of the level themes like “Upon the new raid”, “Girl of Power” and “Snow Fox” feature Yack’s own “electro-jazz” style, which mixes jazz elements with rock, fusion, tribal, etc… You name it! He’s got it! You get this sense of adrenaline rushing through you as you hear the music, which makes visualizing an epic battle as your ship zooms into enemy territory and destroys everything in its path. Boss themes are a bit different, titled at “Prot ## Track Title”, most are very misleading, most don’t sound epic. For example, “Prot #1 Eyes” is a bit too light in sound and feel and it would rather fit the area theme criteria rather than a boss theme. Others like “Prot #5 Blade Action” gets the point that you’re fighting a stronger foe and underestimating it would spell your doom. I especially enjoy the electric piano’s “hammering” throughout this track, as it progresses; you know you’re in for bigger trouble. One which is unusual, but highly addictive is “Last Prot Bloom”. Despite the title, this is not the last boss theme for Border Down, but rather second-last. An ominous start is quickly followed by electronic effects, and then we’re treated to several string and brass passages which bring the piece to an amazing climax which would have made it very fitting for final boss theme. At the end of the soundtrack, we are treated to several arranged versions of what I consider the 3 best area themes (Hint: they are mentioned above). Ayako Saso transforms the already excellent “Girl of Power” into a rockin’ synth fest. At a point, Saso uses an instrument set which is the same as Motoi Sakuraba’s of Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile fame. Shinji Hosoe remixes “Snow Fox” with his usual electronic approach, but also makes good use of guitar samples. Yousuke Yasui, a newbie at Super Sweep; arranges “Upon the new raid” in a techno fashion, which is enjoyable, but stands a bit lacking compared to Saso and Hosoe’s arrangements.
Fans of Yack will surely want to purchase this soundtrack as it contains the feel he nurtured while with Zuntata. Shmup fans will also find a lot to enjoy here, even if it is slightly unconventional Shmup material. CocoeBiz is the only retailer which sells this disc, so go ahead and be sure to grab volume 2 of Border Down as well.