Friday, September 05, 2014

Soundtrack September: Gradius III

Game: Gradius III (1989)
Platform: arcade
Composers: Higashino Miki et al (as the Konami Kukeiha Club)

You don't have to read this to know that, in the late 1980s, Konami Digital Entertainment released titles with some of the most beloved soundtracks in the history of game music. The developer enlisted a rotating powerhouse lineup of sound programmers who consistently excelled at writing tracks that got the player hyped. Flying through space while blasting serpentine phalanxes of enemy ships and upgrading your firepower as you go feels decidedly better when it's to the tune of a Konami soundtrack.

While the soundtracks to previous games in the Gradius universe (especially Salamander/Life Force) were also admirable, Gradius III began a new tradition of excellence. For many home console gamers, this would mark the series's first step into the 16-bit generation, with a synth rock soundtrack that took advantage of the SNES's sample-based audio infrastructure. Gradius III was one of the first SNES games I ever played and the sudden jump in sound quality made a big impression.

"In the Wind" is probably the most "Gradius-sounding" track of all: a motivational major-key jingle that makes the player feel invincible. Also of note are "Aqua Illusion," a five-count ambient tune to accompany a stage full of deadly bubbles (?) and "Easter Stone," the bellicose backdrop to a stage full of Moai statues (??).

No comments: