Review Summary: Go Shiina Go!
Go Shiina is without a doubt one of the biggest rags to riches stories in the video game soundtrack scene. Born May of 1974 in Yokohama. Go learned to play music when he was very young. Since he was young, Shiina had lived and breathed music, and strove to play music anywhere and for anyone. It's why he would often join multiple different avenues as a way of expressing his love of music, an example of which was his membership in a Megadeth cover band for a time. Despite this, Shiina was consciously overlooked everywhere he went. He applied to at least 47 companies, including a fast-food company and was rejected by almost all of them.
All of them, except one.
In 1997 then video game juggernaut Bandai Namco saw something in the young Go Shiina that so many others didn't. He became one of their many composers for video games. Although he showed promise and talent, he was rarely given the opportunity to show what he was made of, usually working with other composers in the games he participated in. That isn't to say he didn't do any notable work. His soundtracks for Klonoa 2 and Tales of Legendia were serviceable, but not anything to scream from the mountaintops about. For 12 years Go Shiina toiled in the studio, never being given the chance to spread his wings and fly. Then, in 2010, a ragtag team within Bandai named Shift, took him in to work on the soundtrack for their upcoming game God Eater.
At the time God Eater wasn't expected to be anything special for the company. It was simply meant to be a Monster Hunter-clone to cash in on the series popularity. Surprisingly however, the game itself found a massive cult following, and Go's soundtrack received acclaim. The success of the game prompted numerous remasters and a sequel, and though these releases also saw major success, Shiina was still being overlooked when compared to his contemporaries. Things began to change when the God Eater anime was released, bringing the cult hit to a brand new audience. It exploded in popularity overnight, and more attention was suddenly being given to Shiina. Things suddenly heated up when God Eater 3 was released, as it sold extremely well, and brought Shiina newfound acclaim from those who didn't even know he existed. The problem was, while his work in God Eater was fantastic, it was his only claim to fame. He needed a project to work on that allowed him to start from scratch, and show critics that he was more than just "Music master of God Eater". That project came in Code Vein.
Like God Eater, Code Vein wasn't meant to be a huge success. It was simply meant to be a cash-in clone of Bandai's Dark Souls games but in an anime style. And yet, as if once again defying destiny; the game exploded in sales on release. Critics and gamers praised it's character customization, deep lore, and especially, Shiina's soundtrack. Indeed, while his previous works were great, Code Vein's soundtrack would stand above them all. In it, Shiina employed a bombastic collection of tracks, filled with erupting choruses and pulse pounding instrumentation.
Shiina intended to express the tension and size of the game through high energy composition; utilizing over-dubbing and ultra compression to dull the sounds and create the illusion of an orchestra of 1000, when there was really only a tenth of that actually playing. Compression is a double edged sword, on paper it can be used to disguise over-dubbing and enhance more intense songs. On the other hand, such a process can leave the quality of sound low. Instruments can get bogged down in the wall of noise and the meshing can leave it's original promises unfulfilled. Recognizing this fatal flaw, Shiina liberally uses synthesizers and other electronic instruments; layering them over the compositions and giving more color to the overall production. This can be seen in tracks like Royal Lineage: Loss
where a small synthezier is layered over massive choruses and heavy drums.
Not all of the songs are off this blueprint, though. Songs like Requiem
and Your Everything
are primarily soft J-Pop tracks with a main singer accompanied by a small chorus. These tracks place more emphasis on violins and flutes, and utilize less compression. This is in stark contrast to fast paced songs like Tears Aflame
which put the synthesizers and electronic instruments on blast along with a blazing speed. Yet with all of these different styles, it is primarily the opening of the soundtrack that is the highlight. Code Vein
is a dark, Gothic ballad with large use of organs and heavy percussion. It's second track, Horrors of War: Beyond Fear
switches gears to the trumpet sections, as french horns and trombones explode with colorful sounds as a marching drum escalates in intensity.
Code Vein's soundtrack is the album that has placed Go Shiina on the map of an industry filled to the brim with talented composers. After 12 years of crawling through the mud and dirt of the video game industry, fighting to be heard. After another decade of being overlooked by everyone from critics to gamers. Go has shown the world his talent, his fire... nay... his soul. Currently Go is now poised to helm the soundtrack of the upcoming Scarlet Nexus game by Bandai. As all eyes are fixated on this mysterious Hack 'N Slash release, Go begins to craft a soundtrack that will no doubt shake us, whether for good or ill. With his destiny now in full view, Shiina now blazes a trail, ready to cement his position among the halls of his contemporaries and predecessors; and as this trail continues to sprint into the ears of gamers everywhere, his loyal fans can only say one thing...
"Go Shiina Go!"