classical composer orchestral review VGM

Wataru Hokoyama – Afrika OST Review

Afrika, the Safari game for PlayStation 3 (which desperately needs releasing over in the Western World please), finally has its soundtrack released on a two disc set. Disc 1 is the soundtrack while a bonus DVD has a few trailers and behind the scenes bits on it. The soundtrack is composed by Wataru Hokoyama.

The soundtrack is completely orchestrated and jumps straight in with “Savanna”, a regal and spirited piece.  Sweeping strings and  monarch brass and wind instruments flood the speakers as it carefully layers upon itself. It’s a beautiful piece and it sound very lush like some kind of epic Disney theme tune.

“Base Camp” is one of the most percussive tracks with marimba’s, bass drums and bells a plenty. Its also very uplifting and probably the only track to sound like a game music piece as opposed to a feature movie. What I like about it too is that it has a beginning, middle and end – not just a loop.

“Safari” is a grand spectacle. The fast and furious brass really shine through with the undercurrent of strings sweeping you off your feet for a magical journey. It has tune, style, pace and its the kind of tune you’d get your conductor arms out for a dance too. Superb.

“Mission” is more about pure tension with stabbing brass, rolling drums and discordant instruments – a bit like boss battle music but in a grander scale. In contrast “Jambo Jambo” is euphoric and uplifting with its cute, bouncy string arrangement and great use of percussion. These tracks are never stuffy.

“Heaven” is the token gentle track on the soundtrack playing the main theme in a more laid back fashion but even then because of the excellent production it sounds full, fresh and alive. Nothing beats an orchestra when you can fully hear everything as you can in Afrika.

“Masai” is a percussive track like an African samba track. and because its short but evolving it doesn’t get stale. “Hunting” meanwhile has a sinister feel all over it with big brass salutes and quivering strings building up into a furious frenzy. Excellent. Some of the brass in this sounds like elephant noises.

“Okapi” is quite individual on this soundtrack but sounding quite comical. Pizzicato strings are used with lazy brass to create that clumsy feel and its a great addition to have – almost like a broken tea cup ride song. “Night Safari” uses the same lazy brass to create tension however in this sneaking piece with some lovely harp work in the distant background. “Hatari” is the third and final percussive track.

“Big Five” starts off the final set of tracks with another beautiful piece that reminded me like a cut down section of final few minutes of Final Fantasy VII’s “World Crisis”.  “Sunset” serenely flows through your speakers  end like an end song should with beauty and emotion. An excellent piece. Finally “Afrika” rounds off the soundtrack is a rousing track throwing absolutely everything at you that an orchestra can give.

Afrika leaves you completely elated. It’s not often you get fully orchestrated albums like this any more and that’s a huge shame. Afrika is one of the freshest and genuinely exciting soundtracks I’ve bought not just for 2008 but in the last few years. I absolutely recommend it to anyone and its a no brainer for VGM and film score lovers.

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