Celebrating the close of its most prolific decade in the video game business, and the company’s own 35th anniversary, Namco turned an ensemble of musicians loose on musical themes from the company’s legendary lineup of arcade games. Whether or not every resulting reinterpretation of those themes is successful is really in the ear of the beholder, but at the very least they’re all interesting new takes on the simplest of old favorites.
That simplicity is really the fascinating wild card of the This Is Namco! album. Some of these tunes hail from such an early period of video game sound that they barely even qualify as polyphonic. In some cases, with just one line of melody and perhaps one line of counterpoint to work from, the artists were free to layer their own improvisations onto the music freely, from rhythm to harmony. “Pac-Man A Go-Go” takes the simple intermission music from that game and turns it into a bouncy, brassy horn-and-sax jam. “One O’Clock Galaga ’88“, on the other hand, takes thematic material from that game and reinterprets it in a Benny Goodman-inspired style.
The boldest experiment on This Is Namco! is “Solo Suite Xevious No. 1″, which rearranges music from that seminal game into a piece for solo violin. Considering that the original music consists of intricate, fast-moving, almost hypnotic passages, that it actually works is almost surprising. The other pieces on the album, all arranged by Kenichiro Isoda and Kenichi Mitsuda, vary in how much they lean on the original game music. “One O’ Clock Galaga ’88” is actually a good example of not relying on the original music very heavily at all, merely using it as a springboard.
This Is Namco! is a nice exercise in using the most basic of material for inspiration and coming up with something that, while the resemblance is still there, is on a whole different level.
- Pac-Man A Go-Go (5:07)
- One O’Clock Galaga ’88 (3:36)
- Mappy’s Lullaby (3:53)
- Dragon Spirit (6:28)
- Solo Suite Xevious – No. 1 (2:41)
- Tarosuke In Beijing Hotel (6:30)
- Main Theme From Rolling Thunder (7:29)
- Thunder Ceptor (4:23)
- The Return Of Ishtar (3:24)
- Ending Theme From Assault (5:22)
Released by: Apollon / Compusic
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 48:53