Shenmue (Soundtrack) by Toshiyuki Watanabe

 

 

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Shenmue (Soundtrack) by Toshiyuki Watanabe

"East Meets West "
Review by Matt Peterson

 

Shenmue (Soundtrack) by Toshiyuki Watanabe

Shenmue
10/10

Composer 
Toshiyuki Watanabe

Shenmue (Soundtrack) by Toshiyuki Watanabe
 

Category    Score

Originality 10
Music Selection 9
Composition 10
CD Length 8
Track Order 10
Performance 10
Final Score 10/10
 


 

Real Audio Clips

 
 
 
 

 

Quick Quotes


"...music like this will make Shenmue worth buying even if you can't see or play it! It's just one of the features that will make the final game so desirable. But this, as a music CD in its own right, is something you won't forget for a long time, even if you couldn't care less about games."


Adam Doree - SegaWeb Reviews
Shenmue

 

 

 

Composed by Toshiyuki Watanabe
Additional music by Ryuji Iuchi, Tadahiro Nitta,
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi & Tsuyoshi Yanagawa
Lyrics by Yuumi Asada Arranged by Hayato Matsuo
& Toshiyuki Watanabe Conducted by Hiroshi Kumagai
Produced by Tatsutoshi Narita & Hiroki Horio Performed by the
Kanagawa Philharmonic and the Shenmue Orchestra
Released by Polygram - April 1st, 1999

Originally released for the now obsolete Sega Dreamcast, Shenmue was a smash hit in Japan, and found success domestically. The game transcends the genres, utilizing a combination of RPG, adventure, fighting and problem solving. The player assumes the role of Ryo Hazuki, a young man living in metropolitan Japan, circa 1986. After his father, a kung fu sensai, is murdered by a mysterious assailant, Ryo must undergo an odyssey that will test his true potential. The game itself is enormously detailed--virtually every element in the virtual neighborhood is interactive, allowing the gameplay to maximize realism.

From the first cutscenes the viewer experiences in the game, one element stands out: The music. The score of Shenmue is enormously strong, mature music that rivals the best orchestral works for film. The CD reviewed here, entitled Shenmue Orchestra Version, is an orchestral recording of the main themes from the game. Unavailable outside of Japan, this CD is available through various import markets anime sites and auction sites. Despite it’s limited availability, it is well worth the time and effort to track down.

Toshiyuku Watanabe and his team of fellow composers have created a masterful set of cues that effortlessly blends eastern motifs with western orchestral trademarks. Even though their blending is seamless, the combination of the two elements creates a very unique sound that is difficult to describe. Some tracks are more traditional, film music like orchestral cues, while others are heavily eastern, using traditional Japanese chord progressions and instruments. Unlike the soundtrack to the anime Akira, there is no heavy, traditional Japanese music to be found (such as from the traditional Noh theater, featured in Akira’s “Illusion”). Instead, the composers chose to focus on developing eastern sensibilities within a standard orchestral format. The result is nothing less than breathtaking.

The 8 track CD has a lean running time of 37:56. I doubt any material is missing, since this orchestral performance seems to have been specifically recorded for a CD release. Track title translations do vary between websites. Here is a track by track breakdown:

The score begins with the main title, “Shenmue,” Track 1 which opens with a percussive rumble, ethereal plucking of strings, and a bass underscore. Gently, the theme enters, played on a traditional Japanese flute. The orchestra then swells, taking the gorgeous theme to new heights. This is a superb theme, worthy of the best dramatic cinema.

Despite its repetitive nature, “Shenfa” is another great track which features a heavy, eastern theme played on traditional flute. It’s gentle nature is interwoven with the string heavy orchestra, which bursts into its own minor “B” section, exuding great foreboding.

Track 3, “Endless Earth” is a dark, mysterious track that evokes a sense of wonder and danger. Low vocals accompany the orchestra’s bass section, before a grand orchestral/piano theme enters, sounding similar to “Shenfa.”

“The Lion’s Banner” is an intense, percussive action cue, with a great sense of musical momentum. Low vocals underscore drums, which accompany a brass rendition of the theme heard in the previous track. Strings also dance throughout, climbing and descending scales a dizzying speeds.

Track 5, “The Morning Fog’s Wave,” Track 4 is the best track on the album. It introduces yet another grand, powerful theme that floats effortlessly. Each bold orchestral statement of the theme is preceded by the Japanese flute, adding a vital sense of ethnicity. A gentle piano climbs/descends scales in the background. It is a very structured track, transitioning between various sections with great consistency. Many of these tracks could easily constitute the main theme for an entirely different score.

“The Beggar” is a very dark track that begins with low strings, and builds tension gradually, adding various instruments and textures, until it crescendos. The process then starts over again, utilizing pulsating strings, percussion, etc., building toward another major key conclusion. This process repeats, and is quite effective. A theme reveals itself toward the end, accompanied by low vocals, providing the perfect transition into the final movement.

The score section ends with “A New Journey,” a fast paced orchestral attack, with a strong theme, revealed in the previous track. It begins with dissonant strings, and builds gradually (a definite pattern in the score) until the orchestra reaches a feverish pace. The strong theme is syncopated with snare drums and pronounced piano chords. The track slows down at various points, and re-energizes.

The final track is a vocal rendition of Track 2, “Shenfa.” The performance is passable, but not great. Stick to the orchestral version.

Toshiyuku Watanabe’s talents are clear. Shenmue Orchestra Version is a strong, expertly crafted score that, while repetitive at times, effortlessly combines eastern and western musical elements, creating a very unique and enjoyable listening experience. Let’s hope the score to the upcoming The Last Samurai can reach these heights. If you get your hands on a copy, don’t put it down!


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track

Title Time

 Rating

1 Shenmue Track 1 5:10  *****
2 Shenfa 3:54  *****
3 Endless Earth 4:12  *****
4 The Lion’s Banner 3:06  *****
5 The Morning Fog’s Wave Track 4 5:13  *****
6 The Beggar 6:01  *****
7 A New Journey 6:29  *****
8 Shenfa (Vocal) 3:51  ***
 

Total Running Time

37:56  

Shenmue (Soundtrack) by Toshiyuki Watanabe

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

 

Referenced Reviews
 

 

 

 


All artwork from Shenmue  is exclusive property of  Records (c) 1999. 
 Its appearance is for informational purposes only. Review format version 5.8