5 out of 5
Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl remaster)
Label: Data Discs
Man, legendary stuff. Fine, fine: I played the crap out of Space Harrier II on Genesis, but to shirk off suggestions that I’m sniffing the nostalgia-ether when rating this, I have, like zero memory of the music. Other Genesis-era games I’d obsessed over – Sonic, Phantasy Star – yeah, I’ve got some tunes bouncing around in my noggin, but not Space Harrier. And unlike, say, Yuzo Koshiro, I haven’t developed an awareness of Hiroshi Kawaguchi’s style or sound. But I put on Space Harrier, and I was immediately blown away.
In the Data Disc liner notes from Hiro – which are only a page but are interesting and endearing as all get out – the composer speaks about how he wanted to write songs and not necessarily just video game cues, and that is what you dang here. The synthesized drums are used for fills and beats in a much more rock and roll type manner, and the synth notes themselves are tapped out like the most epic of guitar solos. Yes, this rush makes for a perfect fit for SH’s rails-shooter gameplay, but Kawaguchi cranked up the ingenuity further by finding, somehow, different vibes that would still map to a run-and-gun paced game; each track covers its own territory, with the A side culminating in the rather creepy sound effects of Wiwi Jumbo, and the B side concluding with an S.S.T. Band rendition of the theme, which is as equally amazing as the original version (which opens the album), but certainly has its own unique, layered flavor.
Having listened to a small but fair chunk of gaming music from different eras, it’s bonkers to me to think that this soundtrack was happening in 1985. The dedication to making full compositions on fussy electronics (the liner notes clarify how much of a process this was) paid off: 30+ years later, Hiroshi’s soundtrack still sounds revolutionary and badass.