Shin Contra – “Fortress” (Akira Yamaoka)March 5, 2010
An ever so slight change of pacing from rock to metal – heavy metal. Shin Contra (New Contra), or Contra: Shattered Soldiers (US title, 2002) was the first 2.5D Contra title on the PS2. It was oldschool, reaching back to Contra: Hard Corps on the Genesis in terms of difficulty, structure, and style, but it included many of the old enemies such as Red Falcon and the giant alien tortoise. Along with the new ‘mature’ graphical style, Shin Contra also picked up the heavy metal soundtrack from Hard Corps (which had been composed by Michiru Yamane) and updated it to modern sound processors under composition by Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill series, Castlevania Chronicles) and Sota Fujimori (Castlevania Chronicles, Metal Gear Solid 4). Other good tracks on the album include “Hell Drive”, “Venus”, and “A True Last Boss” as well as a nice remix of the Contra main theme in “Islands”.
“Fortress” is the level 1 stage theme, and it’s pretty intense heavy metal, perfect for shooting. Simultaneously, the track is heavy on melody (albeit in low guitar growls) and forward-driving, forcing the player desperately and determinately onward. There are some great sounds here such as the metallic clinks from the cymbals (0:23) and the hollow sounds of the synths (0:28) and the creepy loops of alien infestation (0:41). There are some good examples of shredding here (1:02) and the track takes a nice break into synths at 1:15. The cover art is a bit over-the-top, but follows the tradition of classic metal illustration. The soundtrack is all good, intense fun, and a reminder of the path Konami began to take with the series. It’s too bad that after taking itself probably too seriously, Konami later jumped WAY off the deep end with Neo Contra, but redeemed the series later with Contra 4.
Akira Yamaoka states that he tries to combine Art and Music with his own style. I think this helps make his work unique, even in a sound studio as unique as Konami’s. Mr. Yamaoka will be presenting the audio keynote at the Game Developers Conference next week where he will talk about No More Heroes 2 among other things. I will attend and report on this for Gametunes.