Ninja Gaiden – “Death of a Legend” (Russell Cox)

May 13, 2010

“Death of a Legend”, by Russell Cox, is another old OCR mix. It is an arrangement of “Requiem“, the theme that plays after Ryu is forced to fight his father, Ken. Ken sacrifices himself to save his son from one of Jaquio’s fireballs. He spends the following two battles lying on the ground dying and afterward decides to go down with the castle. “Requiem” is a melancholic reunion, on the one hand containing the joy of seeing a father who we thought was dead, but on the other the shock and sadness of his sudden loss. There is a certain tenderness of a lullaby to this theme that grasps the father-son bond most tightly.

Ninja Gaiden – “Death of a Legend” (Russell Cox)

“Death of a Legend” is an orchestral piece that imagines the scene unfolding in more detail, like a film, particularly with the breaks in the middle and the fading at the end. The theme plays six times, each with a different variation, beginning with the touching clarinet, then moving to the proud trumpets before adding strings and finally harp. Cox also adds new materials (1:04 and 2:29) that flow nicely with the rest of the theme. Sadly, the piece doesn’t really take the track to its full potential.

“A Decision – Father’s Letter”

“Requiem” plays as a response to the introduction theme “A Decision -Father’s Letter” in which Ryu discovers a final message from his father and vows his revenge. It’s a wonderful ballad that plays after the epic moonlight duel. Full of determination as well as the youth and vigor of the son, it opens this new chapter in the history of the Hayabusa clan. Both tracks go together quite nicely, and between the two, one of them is my pick for best track in the game (I’m leaning more towards “A Decision – Father’s Letter”).

In his early days, Goat actually did a remix, “SuddenLoss“, combining both themes. It’s pretty good, with a very strong opening through his high-quality synths, but then degrades into synth lines that just don’t contain the spirit of his work on Unchosen Paths. I wonder what he could accomplish with today’s skills…

I’m continually amazed by the work on Ninja Gaiden. Each track is very short, yet contains so much emotion. The composers knew they had to get the most out of each song.

The composers of Ninja Gaiden seem to have had fairly scattered careers. Keiji Yamagichi (aka More Yamasan) left Tecmo sometime in the mid-90s to join KOEI where he worked on Gitaroo Man among other titles. He later worked on Dracula X Chronicles at Kajiya Music Co., Ltd. The other names, B.B. and Hakase, are nebulous, but it’s possible one of them was Ryuichi Nitta, another former Tecmo employee. Both worked together to compose the famous Tecmo Bowl (1991).

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