Review Summary: A faux soundtrack to an imaginary NES shoot 'em up that's just as fun as the ones it emulates.
CarboHydroM has held considerable fame in the video game remix community for quite some time. For ten years, he’s brought his uniquely melodic, guitar-driven style to the soundtracks of countless interactive classics, including an epic, twenty minute long arrangement of most songs from A Link To The Past entitled “Unsealed”. But since he’s started making music, he’s never once made a full album of original material. “Prime Legacy” is his attempt to rectify this: it’s a chiprock soundtrack to a hypothetical NES shoot ‘em up in the vein of such classics as Gradius and Life Force, created with the limitations of the musical hardware in mind – all of the leads are created with three-channel chip synths, and the backing guitar is relegated to a purely harmonic role. It wasn’t entirely clear if CHM’s powers of arrangement would translate to his own writing, but “Prime Legacy” ends up being just as charming as any of his remix work, if not more so.
The album follows the general order you’d experience the tunes in if you played the game straight through: title screen and stage select music, the music of the stages and bosses that make up the game, and the ending and credits music. Normally OSTs have an awkward sense of flow about them, since the music isn’t necessarily created to be listened to outside of the environment it was designed for, but since “Prime Legacy” is an OST in concept only, it has the advantage of flowing perfectly. Levels wax and wane seamlessly between the uplifting, enthusiastic main stage music and manically tense boss tracks that will make your palms sweat just by hearing them. The first three tracks mainly build on the same musical theme, but it never feels tedious or repetitious – it’s simply smart placement of recurring elements, something even a lot of progressive rock bands have trouble pulling off. And when that theme shows up in a radically altered form towards the end of the “game”, it truly feels like the cumulation of everything you’ve worked for.
If Prime Legacy has any glaring flaws, it’s a slight lack of variation. Some of the tunes seem to blend together, especially in the middle section, and the tempo remains the same throughout most of the album. This isn’t to say the album doesn’t have its fair share of emotional moments and crescendos (the opening track “Fire Curtain” is about as emotional as chiptune gets), but don’t go in expecting the variation of “Mega Man” and “Super Mario Bros”. If you can get past that, you’re in for a real 8-bit treat.