Various ‎Artists – Galaxy Force II & Thunder Blade

4 out of 5

Label: Data Discs

Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl master)

You know what the only problem with this score is?  It’s too damn short!  Most of the work here – from Super Hang-On duders Katsuhiro Hayashi and Koichi Namiki – shares the same astoundingly expressive scope as the compositions on that album, but while GFII and Thunder Blade both have some nice 3-5 minute tracks that really have the time to bring it home, each side’s selections otherwise feel like snippets or cues.  Put together, you still get your absolute money’s worth, but moreso than some of the other Data Disc productions, this feels like some singles propped up by the remaining tracks, instead of a lineup of songs from which to choose a favorite.  That’s always a threat with video game soundtracks, for sure – they’re designed to loop, after all, so you can get away with just doing a small bit – but it’s that the standout tracks stand the hell out so much so that the lack of length and depth to the other songs can’t help but be compared.

Still, I want to underline how good what you get is: I’ve been burning through both sides of this LP multiple times, and my statement above is legit: it’s really my only nit.  On side A, after the coin sound and Level Select warmup – truly just a preview of what’s to come – Beyond the Galaxy drops and blows our socks off.  This is the late 80s; I have no idea how Namiki was able to pack this much into a track, but Galaxy is a jazzy tour de force, with amazing percussion dynamics and instrumental interplay that’s impressive by any genre standards.  It’s followed by Defeat, which, though running at a few minutes, doesn’t bring many new ideas to the table – instead that’s saved for Take Back, which, like Galaxy, goes for this wacky jazz fusion fest that’s a 5+ minute blast.  Alone Fighter is another shorter offering, but it’s an amped up frenzy, backed up by TRY-Z, which mirrors Defeat’s retread concept.  The arranged version of Beyond the Galaxy is much more than just an alternate take: with the live instrumentation, it goes off the rails, picking up on the somewhat improv vibe of a jazz troupe and pushing the song into hilariously awesome lite FM territory.  Which sounds like a slight, but it’s not.  The track is a gas.

Side B’s pickings are a bit more sparse – Tohru Nakabayashi offers up some unused tracks which are all too short to offer much except to round out the LP.  Namiki’s additions, though – like my-god-the-funk Thunder Blade title track – more than make up for this.  In fact, said title track, paired with Beyond the Galaxy, would be worth it on vinyl alone.  Goodness.  But we also get Burning Point and Type II, which ply the funk in equally intense and impressive directions.

The mastering is excellent, and really shows the quality of DD’s processes, as some of the mentioned tracks here are really expansive beyond bleeps and bloops, and it’s good to hear that the handling of the recordings is still going to be leagues beyond some of the other current players in this game LP scores biz.  The packaging follows the company’s similar trend as well of a bright rendition of game-appropriate art and a nice insert, but the GF / TB outwork is such awesome sci-fi / fantasy stuff that I find it especially eye-catching.