Hey! Listen is a twice-monthly column unearthing obscure video game music and trivia. Today’s column dives into ChainDive, a side-scrolling game with the honour of being soundtracked by Dark Souls composers Yuji Takenouchi and Hideyuki Eto.
You can’t talk about club music in video games without mentioning Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima’s music in Streets of Rage. With the Sega Mega Drive flying off shop shelves in the West, Streets of Rage was the first time Koshiro composed a game to appeal to an overseas audience, rather than a Japanese one. House and techno hadn’t taken off in Japan yet, so Koshiro sought out places such as the famous Club Yellow, partying to imported Chicago house, Detroit techno, dance and soul music.
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You can hear these inspirations throughout the music in the early Streets of Rage games: Inner City, Black Box, Technotronic, Marshall Jefferson – it’s all there, a megamix of late ‘80s and early ‘90s club music crammed into a tiny cartridge, and a lesson in how to max out the Mega Drive’s sound chip. Music this good should come with a warning sign.
When I watched Koshiro and Kawashima play ‘Expander’ (the lift music from Streets of Rage 2) during a DJ set in Paris back in 2018, there were moments where I thought my face was melting. Since then, I’ve made it somewhat of a personal mission to track down dangerously dirty game soundtracks that hit me the same way. While it’s unlikely I’ll ever find anything that surpasses the equal parts groove and heavy-hitting goodness in Streets of Rage, I’m confident I’ve found the next best thing.
Introducing: ChainDive, a side-scrolling 2.5D action-shooter developed by Alvion, released exclusively in Japan on the PS2. A Western release was planned but eventually dropped, so unless you were one of the lucky few that got your hands on the demo disc that came bundled with Official PlayStation Magazine, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of the game. That means you’re missing out.
Composed by Yuji Takenouchi and Hideyuki Eto, not only does ChainDive’s music mirror the co-writing approach that Koshiro and Kawashima adopted for Streets of Rage 2 (the best one), but also their genre preferences. Similar to how Kawashima’s music ended up being the heaviest in Streets of Rage 2 thanks to his love of intense gabber and rave music, while Koshiro’s main influences were dance and house, Eto’s got a thing for techno music. At the same time, Takenouchi (who also goes by TECHNOuchi), prefers the deeper, ambient cuts.
The game audio geeks that are likely reading this might recognise these names. Takenouchi is best known for his work on Metal Gear and Circadia, the latter of which has a pumping soundtrack and was Takenouchi’s first collaboration with Edo. You may know Edo for his music in Armored Core, but both composers are sound designers. They’ve collaborated on many projects throughout their career, including FromSoftware games such as Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. Takenouchi left the company after finishing work on Dark Souls 2, but Edo is still there today.
This isn’t just some cool backstory, by the way. Their knowledge of sound design basically makes them shit hot electronic music producers. Edo in particular has a way with sound. He’s been releasing techno records since the late ‘90s under his own name as well as the aliases Glidelator and Dideyuki Izo. If you’re a fan of techno music, I’d recommend checking out his single ‘Encode‘. It’s filthy.
Takenouchi’s music, on the other hand, is a much more relaxed affair. ChainDive’s soundtrack has this amazing flow to it where it jumps seamlessly between ambient house beats and pummelling techno, but it constantly keeps on your feet. The music that Takenouchi composed for the game’s first stage is full of ‘00s house vibes, especially with the piano chords that are on display. That’s in stark contrast to the disjointed and glitchy drums and synth passages that follow from Eto.
If you’re gonna click any of these links, though – and please do, because I link to stuff beyond SEO purposes in the hope you vibe off it as much as I do – then I’d recommend checking out what I believe are the two best tracks in the game. This boss theme by Takenouchi is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, while this beat from Eto sounds like the last thing you’d hear before stumbling out of Warehouse Project at 5 am as a sweaty, shaking mess.
If you’ve listened through the ChainDive soundtrack and want more amazing tunes to check out, you’ll be pleased to hear that Takenouchi released an album called ‘ChainDive Arrangements’ under his alias TECHNOuchi. It could easily pass as an early ‘Ministry of Sound’ compilation, with a decent and diverse mix of house, techno, D&B and even garage beats.
So there you have it. If, like me, you’ve spent way too many years searching for a game soundtrack that scratches that Streets of Rage itch, I hope you’ve finally found it.
If you’ve enjoyed this deep dive into the world of gaming soundtracks, check out the rest of Hey! Listen here.