NON – Gunstar Heroes (Data Discs Remaster)

2 out of 5

Label: Data Discs

Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl master)

Okay, I’m a bad gamer, but this feels like another score that’s more notable for the game to which it is attached as opposed to its quality as a standalone experience.  And I realize that in gaming, those two pieces can be somewhat inextricable, but thus far Data Discs has mostly gone with selections that either have an established name behind them (e.g. Yuzo Koshiro), or carry across a very strong sense of theme (Outrun, Golden Axe), or, at the very least, create a recognizable mood or have some otherwise notable aspect.

Gunstar Heroes is a classic run-and-gunner, noted for its insane boss fights and hectic on-screen action.  Fittingly, the music is often very hectic, and the boss fight tracks (the majority of the double LP album is level themes and boss themes) generally employ some unique stutter to them, but this is all stuff that works as amplification of the game, but really washes together on its own.  Non sticks to a fast-paced, higher range of tones – even the digital drums are pitched high – and rarely juxtaposes it with a grounding lower range beat.  The effect is that there’s really not a lot of immediate difference between the songs; if other DD releases at least leave you with an image of the game experience or mood, Gunstar’s soundtrack unfortunately doesn’t achieve much except to tell you that it’s probably in constant motion (which: yes.).

There is one major exception: The post-opening Story Demo score.  This track has a proper sense of bombast, and impresses with its range of emotions and surprising twists and turns, suggesting that NON might be more proficient at scoring story over side-scrolling levels.  To some extent, this ante-up returns during the ‘Ending’ track, but it’s still not near as impressive as that opener.

Data Discs’ packaging is always a lot of fun and there’s no change to that here: The full bleed, anime artwork looks fantastically fun, and makes you want to participate in the Gunstar world.  Shaun Crook’s vinyl mastering is similarly sharp as ever.

There are some DD releases I likely wont return to, but that I respect.  Gunstar – I definitely respect the game, but I’m not sold on the music.