Nankyoku, Decky & Imocky / Naofumi Hataya – Golden Axe I & II (Data Discs Remaster)

5 out of 5

Label: Data Discs

Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl remaster)

Its all about Golden Axe 2, innit?

Not to sell GA 1 short at all – it’s a minor masterpiece for its era and provided GA 2 its cues – but Naofumi Hataya took those cues and ran with them, bringing in an immensely wider range of emotions and tones.

But again, taking a step back to imagine a world before Axe 2 existed, Nankyou, Decky & Imocky set the stage with some wonderfully driving tunes, all the more impressive for generally not being more than one layer at a time.  The base marching beat of the Golden Axe world is established here, notably on opening The Battle and then re-worked throughout, wound underneath some more playful, Medieval-sounding tunes like Thief’s Theme or Turtle Village II.  The downright moodiness of the score (which made the game fun) is what’s most apparent in this stripped down soundtrack, as on boss tuned Death Adder and Showdown.  And the composers do what they can to break past technical limitations of the time, with the crunchy “percussion” on Turtle Village I.

But, yeah, GA 2 turns that beat into something with military-esque aggression – a la the backing rumble on Ancient Ruins, or the death march on Enemy’s Headquarters – while massaging the Medieval layer into something more mysterious.  That there can be multiple layers is of course a benefit; tracks can bounce between heroic and dire themes (Dragon’s Throat, The Castle Gate), and even achieve something more emotional, as on the peaceful but slightly sad music the backs the credits on Staff Roll.  Again – credit where its due – these cues are from Golden Axe I – but the way Hataya adds to them is simply transportive, and provides a fun kick in the pants when his Battle-proxy – Character Select – starts like its inspiration and then shifts into crazy gear.

Landmark games that represent interesting eras in gaming, though only being a couple of years apart.  And the same goes for their affecting, amazing scores – definitely cut from the same cloth, but world’s apart, and each a standout on its own.