And then three years later after Darius Gaiden, 1997 saw the release of G-Darius, the fourth arcade entry into Taito’s Darius series. What’s new, you ask?
Oh, not much:
…other than new 3D graphics for just about everything the game shows and throws at you, more bullet hell than Gaiden, a new capture system, BEAM-DUELAN’, and just look at the size of that fish I just fought and how much I had to go through in order to make it go boom!
Most importantly, if you were to compare the music in the video above to that of its predecessor, you’d find that the music has changed yet again…and taken yet another turn for the strange. The change in musical styles makes sense in context. Why?
G-Darius is an origin story, above all else. It is the chronological first entry of the Darius series, and it is an origin story with the theme of creation as the central point. From the creation of an aptly-named weapon capable of annihilating all life to the creation of the Silver Hawk fighter in response to a deadly galactic force’s appearance, the game’s tagline of “you will see the creation of new lives” speaks volumes about what the game focuses on. With that in mind, where Darius Gaiden‘s music was composer Hisayoshi Ogura’s attempt to express human psychology as a musical form, so too is G-Darius‘ music about creation, if the track titles are anything to go by.
The game’s soundtrack opens with “B・T・DUTCH,” which is featured in the video above. The only difference with the soundtrack version is that for the first twenty-three seconds of the track, Ogura appears to have sampled a live recording of one of the many busy metropolitan crossings in Japan and added what sounds like footsteps that increase in volume until there is nothing but silence. The effect is comparable to a movie trailer sequence that shows flashes of footage from the movie that fade out to black, and it’s perfect for building suspense befitting a boss battle.
Like Gaiden‘s “VISIONNERZ,” “B・T・DUTCH” gives the listener an idea of what to expect from the rest of the soundtrack. Ogura’s mixture of ambiance and industrial styles using “real” instruments (guitar, piano, various synth pads) and “non-real” instruments (power tools, creaking doors, shallow breathing) is the essence behind his attempt to convey the concept of creation in a musical form. Consequently, this mixture of musical styles and instruments has interestingly led to the creation of various lifeforms throughout this soundtrack – some of them are strange and bizarre like a lab experiment gone horribly wrong, others have coherence and melodies that stick to the listener, and the rest fall in between the two.
Past “B・T・DUTCH,” G-Darius‘ stage music reverts back to the old formula of being played in a specific tier of Zones. The same mostly applies for boss battles, but it still remains different from Gaiden in that the boss themes are never used as stage music. As such, the soundtrack listing is ordered in a typical route that players go through in the game. From the prologue’s haunting “NETWORK,” to the start-up sequence “EPISODE 0,” the point where first stage music “G-ZERO” starts is a nice indicator for the player to realize that they’re finally making their way from planet Amnelia in their quest to pacify the antagonistic Thiima. The second stage music “biophotron” keeps that momentum going until the player finally reaches the signature Darius space level, set to the fittingly ambient “Dada” that embodies the relative silence and mystery of outer space. Fourth stage music “invivo” relies on reverberation to give the player the sense of being enveloped by sound and the surroundings while final stage music “KIMERA II” is a brilliantly-done composition in the same vein as Gaiden‘s “SELF,” except where the latter conveys a mood of despair and helplessness, “KIMERA II” is a lot more motivational and upbeat for a final stage theme.
The boss battle themes are a mixed bunch, however. “PHAGE” comes off as a forced effort to instill an adrenaline rush into the player, while the second half of “H・G・Virus” abruptly loses the level of intensity already built by that point for the sake of sounding more mysterious. The ironically-titled “nonsensecodon” has an opening effect that’s not entirely necessary, but it’s a track that has a lot of substance thanks to its ever-moving bass line. Final boss theme “Adam” is the must-listen track out of the entire soundtrack and can be considered Ogura’s finest hour to date. It is an utterly relentless piece, fitting for a final boss theme of which its intensity has not been fully captured in either live performances or arrangements.
As G-Darius comes to a close, the somber “Duplication” is reflective of how ambiguous the many downer endings in the game are, but the theme for the ending credits, aptly-titled “未来完了 from 7” (romanized as “Mirai Kanryou from 7,” or “Future Perfect from 7”), is a complete 180° that has the theme of hope for the future. The best part about this piece is that it is an arrangement of the final (seventh) boss battle theme from the first Darius game, establishing G-Darius as the precursor to the grander scheme of things in the entire Darius storyline.
G-Darius was the last solo Darius project by Hisayoshi Ogura before leaving the in-house band that he founded at Taito, Zuntata. The combination of ambiance and industrial styles that he employed in this soundtrack created compositions that are still considered classics in the realm of shoot-’em-up music to this day. As a result, his influence also lives on in Darius Burst, composed by the current members of Zuntata, though Ogura made one noteworthy contribution: the boss battle theme for series staple Great Thing, titled “Hello 31337,” or “Hello Elite.” The sounds of change that appeared when Darius Gaiden was released only served to be a sign that its inevitable successor would not only just become stranger, but arguably more brilliant. So whenever giant mechanical fish in space are in need of some destruction, count on strapping yourself into a red, bird head-shaped space fighter and blowing everything up while listening to some surreal, but amazing music.