Dark Half is another of those obscure Japanese RPGs that never found its way to the US. Designed by Enix in 1996, this was a late title for the SNES. The game features an interesting premise, having the player take the role of both the good character (Roda) and the evil character (Rukyu). The gameplay is similar to other tactical RPGs of the time, such as Enix’s Ogre Battle, but adds level exploration similar to other dungeon crawlers. The soundtrack is also quite interesting, fluctuating from the dark, brooding music of Rukyu to the heroic brass of Roda. It also takes an orchestral approach, though one that pushes the limitations of the system. Sadly, only about the first hour or so of the game has been translated, so it is impossible to play without a good understanding of Japanese.
“Royal Palace is a brilliant transition from the brooding music of Rukyu, which is full of organs, somber choirs, and discordant strings. The “Royal Palace” serves as a point of order amidst the evils to which the world has sunk, a bastion of the righteous. It begins with a cheery, confident trumpet section that quickly slides into tension (0:15) – not all is right in the kingdom. This somber section lasts for a good half-minute before melody returns at 0:42 with a graceful, dramatic string section that pulls us out of the gloom and back into order. This string section is followed by a responding countermelody at 1:03 before looping back to the brass intro at 1:23. I really enjoy the piece because it is so dynamic, it has a strong melody that stands out in comparison with the rest of the track, and because the notes are so focused on creating a memorable sound. Like most other good soundtracks by Enix, an album was also released.
Dark Half was composed by Takashi Tsumaki, whose only other composition seems to be An American Tale: Fievel Goes West and Tanjou S, and the talented Takeshi Sato. Takeshi Sato’s most recent compositions have included Jeanne d’Arc and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, but he has also worked on Policenauts and Yoshi’s Island DS, making him a truly inter-company composer. The album also lists Tomoyuki Hamada as a composer, and he has a MASSIVE collection of albums, mostly from dating sim games.