Yoshitaka Azuma ‎– Panzer Dragoon (Data Discs remaster)

3 out of 5

Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl remaster)

Label: Data Discs

Half epic, half repetitive.

My main memories are of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, which was one of the first games I owned for (and a primary reason I bought) Sega Saturn.  When I went back to play the original, I found it to be much simpler and slower than Zwei – the same fantastic template, but less pivoting on the central idea; conceptually, we can extend that to the soundtrack, which has some incredibly novel and thrilling moments, but then tends to hit the same notes for most of its tracks.

As with the best game scores, something composer Yoshitaka Azuma does key on is an effective “feeling”; Dragoon is a run-and-gunner with a flying aspect, and the title and Opening Theme (on the A side) both capture this sense of momentum and panoramic scope, with a mixture of orchestral and electronic elements taking on a very forward-moving, eyes-open tone – a sort of soaring progression of notes.  But, theme established, we essentially continue to return to it.  It definitely gets tweaked for significant moments, like Conclusion or Parting on the C side, which logically slow things down and make it more reflective, but otherwise much of the rest of C and the B side are filled with familiar variations.

While this is a criticism, I was actually on the fence between 3 and 4 stars for awhile due to a few of factors: Firstly, the theme is rather thrilling.  As background music, it’s good house cleaning stuff: positive, buoyant, and though it’s repetitive on a track by track basis, you’re still bobbing your head as it repeats.  Second – Azuma doesn’t overplay his hand.  The A side establishes the theme through longer, more fleshed out tracks, but B and C apply it in a shorter format.  And between those shorter formats, you get the thirdly: That there are some stunning tracks that don’t use the theme.  Departed Souls on the B side and Flagship on C are two examples in which Yoshitaka breaks from his norm and delivers some devastating, heavy, complicated beats, great for fight sequences.  Those tracks are so awesome, your head is swimming for a bit afterward, making it more difficult to levelly assess the rest.  But I persevere.  FOR YOU.

The D side has some alternate takes of tracks, totally worthwhile as the orchestral / digital differences are absolutely notable.