Thunder Cross – “First Attack” (Miki Higashino, et al.)June 7, 2010
Thunder Cross (Arcade, 1988) is another Konami shooter from the golden days, when companies were pumping them out right and left. This one is is another spinoff of the Gradius series, a sidescroller set in the same universe with the main opponent as the Black Impulse rather than the Bactrion Empire (though is there any difference between one alien invader and another when they’re both reduced to space garbage just the same?). Though reported to be a rather quality game on HG101, the game was largely forgotten as it never saw a home console port, which is too bad, really. The soundtrack was composed by the same team who did Gradius III (1990) (and Gradius IV), so many of the tracks sound similar (or rather, Gradius III sounds similar to Thunder Cross!). Particularly similar tracks include “Sand Storm” and “Try to Star.” Of course, the sound team included Miki Higashino, one of Konami’s best composers who has been making music since the original Gradius (featured earlier).
“First Attack (1st.BGM) opens to an awesome launch sequence that transitions to a Gradius-style thunderstorm. The melody here has some similarities with “Sand Storm”, and the style of active, happy melody suitable for a shmupper’s flow state sounds like Miki Higashino’s trademark. The body of the track is made up of three sections, the first a low, bubbling intro with some interesting whistles, the second and third sections made of a simple melody with long, memorable notes, accompanied by a star-like piano. The ever-rising melody builds to a great climax which loops nicely to produce an ever-forward driving motion.
Naoto Shibata did a nice rendition of “First Attack” in Konami Shooting Battle II (1995) (Naoto Shibata‘s work on the Battle series is some of Konami’s most memorable). It’s a pretty nice guitar arrange, though the intro and ending are a little crazy, with some insane guitar and slide piano. The main melody, however, works well on both synth as well as guitar.
Other notable tracks from the game include “Skywalker (2st.BGM),” “Endless Labyrinth (5st.BGM),” and “Final Base (7st.BGM)”. “Machine Graveyard (3st.BGM)” is also remixed in the first Konami Shooting Battle. The Thunder Cross soundtrack contains an arrange of “Skywalker” (the second-best track in the game) as well as the A-Jax soundtrack and arranges to several other Konami shooters of the period. Though A-Jax had been printed earlier along with Super Contra, this still ranks as an excellent Konami album. Konami also did something a little unusual with this album, beginning track fade-out partway through the second loop.
Five people are credited with composing Thunder Cross: Junichiro Kaneda (Ring of Red), Seiichi Fukami (XEXEX), Miki Higashino (Suikoden Series), Keizo Nakamura, and Mutsuhiko Izumi (Metal Gear 2, Guitar Freaks series). Out of these, Miss Higashino and Mr. Izumi seem to be the two most prolific (though Konami’s crediting on albums is less than stellar, so the others may have been involved in many more titles; you would think they would do better, considering what great composers they have).