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Today, I would like to talk about S.S.H.'s music in the PS2 remake of Gain Ground. But first, a bit of history.

 

If you follow S.S.H. or if you read the bio on my website, you would know that he was fairly active in the "doujin"/amateur scene making a name for himself by doing arranges of popular (and not-so-popular) games as well as his own original compositions. His first big break or his entry into the "pro" world would arguably be in 2003/early 2004, with of course, his involvement in the big budget Lost Child visual novel PC game (with basic battle elements uncommon for a game of its type). But, if you personally, with lofty standards and/or strict adherence to whatever definition you have of "professional", don't count that as pro, then his participation in the PS2 remake of the Sega game Gain Ground undoubtably and definitely fits the criteria.

 

It would appear to me, that this happened with little fanfare (I can't speak for S.S.H. fans inside Japan). In fact, my discovery of this was by complete accident. By this point in time (late 2004 or early 2005), I was already a devoted S.S.H. fan. One day, the "Sega Ages Soundtrack the Best Plus" (KDSD-00051~2) was on my playlist. This album is basically a disc of selected tunes from selected classic Arcade Sega games and another disc of those same tunes, except arranged by whoever for the PS2 remake. There are three tracks from Gain Ground and when I came across the arranged versions, I was like "...wait a minute... this sounds familiar..." and listened to them again and again. The album booklet was not too helpful in terms of information but I was over 90% sure that S.S.H. was responsible for this. A quick search on Japanese websites raised this percentage to 100%.

 

As far as the game is concerned, other websites have already adequately described the way it works. What I will say here is that indeed, although on first impressions this may look like an action game, that is only one side of the story. And the other side, the stronger factor, is strategy. This is a thinking man's game and it's about resource management (the multiple characters you control), enemy awareness, route planning and time management. Funnily enough, time will kill you more than your enemies. Heck, enemies can only kill you one at a time, if you run out of time, then time gets angry and will inflict genocide on your characters (play the game to see what I mean).

 

PS2 Gain Ground is probably S.S.H.'s debut when it comes to arranging music professionally. And he doesn't disappoint at all (does he ever?). The original non-arranged first stage music 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ) (neanderthal stage with cavemen enemies) is actually pretty catchy already, but S.S.H. dials it up with his arrange. Same goes for the other tracks, he stays true to the original while at the same time giving the song his own "voice". However, there is an extra set of music that can be unlocked by completing the game which opens up the "EXTRA GAME", which is basically an arranged version of the game. On top of that, normally each set of 10 stages has a "boss stage" which doesn't have a song of its own (i.e. the stage theme of the previous 9 stages also plays on the 10th boss stage). However, in the extra game, S.S.H. composes an original song for you to enjoy. Chances are you won't survive that long (or finish the stage too quick) for the song to finish its loop though. I myself have never completed the game legitimately. Believe me, I've tried. I've come close a few times but I'm prone to making mistakes, most which happen in the futuristic stages (the 4th set of ten stages). My desire to experience the extra game's music in context was strong enough that I broke down and downloaded a completed 100% save file. I'm surprised I even managed to find one.

 

The biggest disappointment (apart from me sucking at the game) is the fact that the soundtrack has never had an official release (apart from the few tracks from the aforementioned album in paragraph 2). The biggest anti-disappointment however, is that, with a certain easy-to-use program, the music can be easily extracted from the game disc's files. Which brings me to what I actually wanted to talk about: a hypothetical release of this soundtrack.

 

Soundtracks need track titles and from past Gain Ground albums, we already have most of them. So the issue that needs to be solved is what to name the original songs that don't have titles. Looking at the official titles, we can see that they are pretty straightforward. They're just a description of the type of stage it is (e.g. Middle Ages Europe). So, in keeping with the spirit of the original titles, our new titles will also be straightforward descriptors, which makes this exercise a lot easier.

 

I now present to you, a hypothetical example of what an official Sega Ages PS2 Gain Ground soundtrack might look like:

 

セガ エイジス 2500 シリーズ Vol.9 Gain Ground Original Soundtrack

Catalog Number               SLPM-62445

Release Date      Feb 26, 2004

Publish Format  Commercial

Release Price      3000 JPY

Media Format    1 CD

Classification      Original Soundtrack, Arrangement

Published by       Sega

Composed by     You Takada, Katsuhiro Hayashi

Arranged by       Saitama Saisyu Heiki

 

Tracklist

01 戦争本能[OPENING] (2:08)

02 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ)[BGM1] (5:58)

03 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ)[EXTRA GAME BGM1] (4:31)

04 双頭悪魔[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM1] (5:11)

05 中世欧州~承~[BGM2] (5:26)

06 中世欧州~承~[EXTRA GAME BGM2] (5:01)

07 サンダーナイト[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM2] (4:57)

08 革命前中国~転~[BGM3] (4:57)

09 革命前中国~転~[EXTRA GAME BGM3] (4:23)

10 刀双子[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM3] (4:32)

11 未来ロボット~結~[BGM4] (5:41)

12 未来ロボット~結~[EXTRA GAME BGM4] (5:59)

13 ゲイングランド防衛システム[LAST BOSS BGM] (5:31)

14 ゲイングランド防衛システム[EXTRA GAME LAST BOSS] (5:22)

15 時空の扉[ENDING] (1:26)

16 時空の扉[EXTRA GAME ENDING] (1:28)

17 Great Gainer[RANKING] (4:39)

Disc length 77:09

 

01 戦争本能

Or in English, "Simulation of War". For the logic behind this track title, we (literally) turn to the background prologue to the game... by turning the pages of the instruction manual. And it's actually interesting. In the year xxxx (yes even the first digit is an x), mankind has reached its highest state of evolution. The failings of mankind like poverty and discrimination now only exist as definitions in a dictionary. But a new crisis emerges in the form of 種の滅亡 (Species Destruction?). Everywhere around the world, there are increasing rates of suicide among young males. The World Federation Government researches and finds out the cause of the suicides: Peace that has continued for too long or 戦争本能の未分化 (Undifferentiated? War Instinct). I don't understand the last three medical Kanji but I think that term basically means a lack of will to live, the lack of something to fight for, something like that. Anyway, the Government attempts to give people a purpose of their existence by stimulating their "war instinct". They then build a 疑似戦闘体験システム (Simulated War Experience System) which they call "ゲイングランド" (Gain Ground). Of course, just like The Matrix, things go wrong: one day, the computer stops receiving inputs from humans and the humans that were "logged in" are trapped and unable escape. Those who remain trapped either go mad or revert to suicide. The Government tries to send in support but they are captured by the system's robot soldiers. Time passes and the situation gradually worsens. In an last ditch effort, the Government sends in their best three warriors (the three characters you see on the front cover art). It's all or nothing. Press Start.

 

So now you know where I got the track title from. I think it's the most suitable one as it represents what the game is about, and suits the music too. These are also possible alternate track titles for track 01 (obviously all from the instruction book):

種の滅亡

戦争本能の未分化

疑似戦闘体験システム

GAIN GROUND

Gain Ground

ゲイングランド

 

02 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ)[BGM1]

03 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ)[EXTRA GAME BGM1]

Eng: Primeval~Origin/Source/Beginning/etc~ (Theme of Heroes)

Official track title. I just added the "EXTRA GAME" to track 3 to differentiate between them.

 

04 双頭悪魔[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM1]

Eng: Twin-head Demon

From memory, the first boss is a two-headed demon that shoots fireballs. I think in the normal game, it only has one head. Note that, in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the track titles, I will not be using/minimising the usage of particles. Note also that, for the same reason, this will also apply to katakana.

Alternate title: 2つの頭悪魔 (2-Head Demon). I still chose the one I chose because I got it from 双頭の怪物 which seems like a legitimate word, based on Japanese web pages.

 

 

05 中世欧州~承~[BGM2]

06 中世欧州~承~[EXTRA GAME BGM2]

Eng: Middle Ages Europe~?~

Official track title. I'm not sure what the Kanji is supposed to represent.

 

07 サンダーナイト[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM2]

Eng: Thunder Knight

Yes, I know there's katakana but there's a ファイアナイト (Fire Knight) and ウォータナイト (Water Knight) in the instruction manual, so why not a Thunder Knight? Speaking of which, the boss is a big knight with a big sword that can shoot thunder, hence the name.

Alternative title: サンダー騎士 (Thunder Knight)

 

08 革命前中国~転~[BGM3]

09 革命前中国~転~[EXTRA GAME BGM3]

Eng: China Before Revolution~Kanji that represents revolving, turning, etc~

Official track title.

 

10 刀双子[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM3]

Eng: Sword Twins

The boss is a pair of... I can't remember, Chinese-style warriors maybe? But I do remember they're palette swapped versions of each other and they both have swords. I use instead of to give the title a bit of Chinese-ness.

Alternative title: 刀兄弟 (Sword Brothers). I'm perfectly happy with this one too.

 

11 未来ロボット~結~[BGM4]

12 未来ロボット~結~[EXTRA GAME BGM4]

Eng: Future Robot~Conclusion~

Official track title.

 

13 ゲイングランド防衛システム[LAST BOSS BGM]

14 ゲイングランド防衛システム[EXTRA GAME LAST BOSS]

Eng: Gain Ground Defence System

Last boss is a big robot/mech that can spray danmaku-style bullets. Considering some of the character's walking speeds... I think the Extra Game last boss looks different from the normal game, can't remember.

Alternative title: Your imagination is the limit. I just went with a pretty generic title, like the rest of the tracks.

 

15 時空の扉[ENDING]

16 時空の扉[EXTRA GAME ENDING]

Eng: Door of Time and Space

The ending is pretty funny (or was it the extra game ending). Anyway, the game's characters walk onto the screen and die and their corpses make a word (can't remember what).

 

17 Great Gainer[RANKING]

Eng: Oh wait, it's already in English. It's the token English track title. But seriously, it's the game's ranking screen music and on that screen, the words "Great Gainer" is helpfully displayed.

Alternative title: グレイトゲイナー (Guess what this means)

 

18 戦士の休息[STAGE CLEAR]

Eng: Warrior's Rest.

Official track title. Short 2-3 second stage clear jingle. Unfortunately, I cannot find this track to extract from the game disc. Can anyone help?

 

Finally, let's actually talk about the music itself.

01 戦争本能[OPENING]

No guitar is heard until literally the halfway mark. Awesome.

02 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ)[BGM1]

03 原始~起~(勇者達のテーマ)[EXTRA GAME BGM1]

Just as catchy as the original, if not more.

04 双頭悪魔[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM1]

Very slow burn and suitably demonic-sounding song.

05 中世欧州~承~[BGM2]

06 中世欧州~承~[EXTRA GAME BGM2]

The original is a medieval-sounding, with minimal guitars, and somewhat meandering, somewhat dull tune, and might send you to sleep. The extra game BGM is also medieval-sounding but better and more exciting to listen to.

07 サンダーナイト[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM2]

The first of my two favourite songs. Full use of guitars. Full of awesome.

08 革命前中国~転~[BGM3]

Chinese-sounding tune, and can be pretty groovy at times. Chinese-style song practice for Koihime Musou/Enbu 10 years later?

09 革命前中国~転~[EXTRA GAME BGM3]

The second of my two favourite songs. The chinese-style notes are toned down slightly and the guitars are brought in. Awesome.

10 刀双子[EXTRA GAME BOSS BGM3]

He shows off some of the bass here. Awesome.

11 未来ロボット~結~[BGM4]

12 未来ロボット~結~[EXTRA GAME BGM4]

Original is another slow-burning and futuristic sounding tune. The extra game BGM ups the BPM and techno-lises it. Awesome.

13 ゲイングランド防衛システム[LAST BOSS BGM]

14 ゲイングランド防衛システム[EXTRA GAME LAST BOSS]

Normal game briefly references the theme from the first stage. Awesome. And awesome. Both equally awesome.           

15 時空の扉[ENDING]

16 時空の扉[EXTRA GAME ENDING]

Extra game ending tune adds a bit more instrumentation to the original (e.g. bass).

17 Great Gainer[RANKING]

Short. Still awesome.

18 戦士の休息[STAGE CLEAR]

It's a two second stage clear theme.