Masashi Kageyama – Gimmick! (Ship to Shore cassette edition)

3 out of 5

Label: Ship to Shore

Produced by: Aaron Hamel & Justin A. Martell (release coordinated by)

I was certainly around to form strong nostalgia for the 8- and 16-bit era of gaming, but there are tons of games I missed out on. What draws me to soundtracks for those games, if I’m unfamiliar with the composer, is probably some marketing equation that my shopping habits are still trying to solve, but – as a game with which I was previously unaware – I dug the boppy platform setup of Gimmick!, its kind of underdog acclaim, and the labels that picked up the eventual release of its score (iam8bit, Ship to Shore) definitely had credit in my book that earned new releases second glances. Further research into the complexity of this music, and hearing some samples of it, surely sold me: Masashi Kageyama’s work’s layering seemed impossible for the game’s time of release.

That impression absolutely remains after sitting with the score for a while: the density of the music, and the sounds achieved, might as well belong to a modern platformer. Kageyama’s ability to stretch a few channels to cover several ranges – toucing on jazz and rock, for example – even if not all versions of the game could take advantage of that – seems more like a move that would be done once we got to 16-bits; such is the power of tech near the end of its lifespan, when we more fully understand its ins and outs.

However, impressiveness aside… I’m having trouble picturing the game, outside of clips I’ve watched. I suppose that’s why I started with my preamble, to indirectly note a difference between stuff I’ve played and haven’t, and while I’d like to be able to assess those scores completely on their own merits (and not my memories), it’s probably somewhat impossible. And then, if I’ve formed an affinity for a particular composer’s sound, I might “hear” things in their scores for games I haven’t touched which I might not’ve otherwise. Gimmick being the first tunes from Kageyama I’ve knowingly heard, and not being a game in my nostalgia bank… we’re starting from zero. And what isn’t drawing me in is, in part, the same complexity of the compositions I’m noting: this score is sometimes so busy that it doesn’t feel like you have time to sink into a mood, or rather to identify distinct moods. This perhaps also goes hand in hand with my not being able to hear consistent themes that tie the songs together. So what I’ve end up with is a collection of tracks that make my nod approvingly – and tap my toe! – but get somewhat clustered together as “island pop”, and “moody jazz” and etc.

I see that the Ship to Shore release has shuffled the sequence of songs from the iam8bit version, perhaps due to the differing formats. It’s tough to say if that also plays a factor, as it makes the entire A-side very similarly “toned” songs, and puts a lot of the more experimental stuff on the B-side, back-to-back. Sequencing that mixes these tracks together may’ve worked better; I can’t say what the original order would’ve been for the game without doing some light googling I’m apparently too lazy to do, but regardless, this is the sequence to which I’m listening.

STS’ cassette production sounds really good, nice and warm and clear, and though we’re missing an essay that came with the LP version, I do dig the artwork and color of the cassette – all very in sync with the tracks’ generally upbeat vibe.

It’s tough to say how often I’ll revisit this, and tracking down more of Kageyama’s stuff for comparison is proving a bit tough as well, so this is maybe something best experienced if you already have some nostalgia pre-installed.