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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Namco Original Showcase: Season Dragon Songs

The Seasonal Dragon series began its life on the 3rd generation Taiko arcades, and are all instrumental pieces composed by Azu♪ (あず♪).The naming convention seems similar to another Namco Original series (Kikyoku), however unlike it, the English word between the two tildes are simply how the Japanese phrase in front is supposed to be pronounced, rather than any direct translation.

Born in Kobe, Japan on April 1983 (real name unknown), Azu♪ is a freelance composer mainly focused on piano music, which he has studied since age 7. Aside from personal compositions and arrangements, his first works between 2009-2011 were mostly related to videogame BGMs, most notably for the XBox 360 scrolling shooter game Otomedius Excellent. Some years later, after the debut of some of his works on Taiko, Azu♪ began to contribute more often as a guest composer for many albums, both instrumental and vocalized, for emerging Japanese idol groups like Rynryn Midoroppu (Rynryn☆ミどろっぷ). Among his musical preferences are Japanese and Western musicians and bands, as well as classic composers like Maurice Ravel, who have deeply influenced his composition skills. For more information about Azu♪, check out both his website, blog, and his Twitter profile.

The songs in this series appear to be based on the annual seasonal cycle, starting with Winter. Three songs are in this series so far, with the only missing season being Autumn. Each song has consistently been released one year apart from each other, with the latest in the series, Karyu, released on Taiko no Tatsujin Kimidori Version in 2014 (hence the general expectation that the 4th in the series will be slated for 2015)

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-Season Dragon series-




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 Toryu (冬竜 ~Toryu~)
Version
Allx4 (104)x5 (188)x7 (355)x8 (541)
 Taiko 0, Taiko Wii 5, Taiko PS Vita
 110
 none
 furyu


Toryu (lit. Winter Dragon) is one of the first brand-new Namco Originals to be introduced through a software update for Taiko 0. In a past Taiko Blog entry, Ayu♪ described the song as suitable for a very tough RPG boss battle, as its rhythm conveys a lot of intense energy to the player.

Toryu's low BPM allows for creativity with cluster density and length. Toryu has many slow-moving clusters and long streams with 1/12 clusters, and the advantage of having a low BPM shines in the final part of the song, where the scrolling speed is increased (x2 for Oni; x1.5 for the other modes) and effectively made double the original BPM. Even the mood of the background music is changed in this part. On Taiko Wii 5, Futsuu has fewer notes in order to make room for a giant note.

  Toryu (冬竜 ~Toryu~)
Version
All


x9 (687)
 Taiko 0 S, Taiko Wii 5, Taiko PS Vita
 110
 none
 ???


Rarely do you see extremely difficult Ura Onis being introduced on console Taiko (the previous one being Hakuchou no Mizuumi Ura), and this is probably the hardest of the lot. Hardest to Full Combo, that is.

The song's first half has more notes and denser clusters with more complicated patterns, but nothing too taxing; and it is this part that makes Toryu Ura an easy song to pass. The real shocker is how much the Go-Go Time speedup changed from the regular Oni chart, featuring even denser clusters; the very first 1/48 beat clusters ever in Taiko no Tatsujin (1/24 on a doubled BPM of 220)! Toryu Ura is currently tied with Joubutsu 2000 for having the 4th densest clusters in the Namco Original genre (45.45 milliseconds between notes!), with the overall champion being Donkama 2000.

Although originating on a console Taiko, Toryu Ura only has a chart on Oni difficulty (along with all other Uras introduced at this point), as Taiko Wii 5's Uras are only playable on that difficulty.

 Haryu (春竜 ~Haryu~)
Version
Allx4 (168)x5 (260)x7 (502)x8 (698)
 Taiko 0 S, Taiko 3DS 2, Taiko Wii U
 218
 none
 haryu


Being Sorairo Version's first Don Challenge prize, Haryu (lit. Spring Dragon) is the second entry in this series, with the exact same difficulty rating as Toryu but based on the season after Winter.

In his blog and on the Taiko Team's own, Azu♪ briefly described Haryu's concepts. For the lively vibes provided by the spring season, he felt that the sense of speed in Haryu should be more tangible than the one in Toryu. The nods to classical music are also more noticeable with Haryu as well: while the song is more eastern in style, there is a small fragment in the middle on the song (referencing the Taiko patterns, before the second speed up) which directly pays homage to Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi's 4-violin set Le Quattro Stagioni, whose 1st concerto is incidentally called 'La Primavera' (Spring)!

Rather than having a low BPM with a sudden, brutal speed burst at the end like Toryu, Haryu does the opposite; an insanely high base BPM with slowdowns in between. It's a simple 8* chart which tries not to use too many 1/16s in the fast parts of the song to make things more manageable. This is also one of the few instances which one Taiko chart is handled by two team members, with current Taiko Team leader Etou dealing with the four standard modes and Kan (カーン) being responsible for a certain extra difficulty layer beyond Oni.

  Haryu (春竜 ~Haryu~)
Version
All


x9 (800)
 Taiko 0 S, Taiko 3DS 2, Taiko Wii U
 218
 none
 ???


Much like Sword Battlers, which was also on the arcade, Haryu comes with an Ura Oni from the beginning (while Toryu debuted without one; its Ura came into play on Taiko Wii 5). Notecharter Kan wanted to give to this song more exciting patterns. There's no ending killer pattern like in Toryu; Haryu Ura is more balanced, with consistent difficulty throughout the chart and some really tough 1/12 streams which are difficult to survive without a miss, especially because each of those streams have handswitch areas that are difficult to read on sight due to the song's high speed.

 Karyu (夏竜 ~Karyu~)
Version
Allx4 (237)x6 (346)x7 (498)x8 (673)
 Taiko 0 K, Taiko Wii U 2, Taiko PS Vita
 136
 none
 karyu


After Spring, there's always Summer! Karyu is another Don Challenge launch, this time for Kimidori Version. Just like Haryu, this song includes short extracts from Vivaldi's works from the 4-violin set Le Quattro Stagioni. Appropriately enough, this one is from the second Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, or more simply 'L'estate' (Summer), the second one from Vivaldi's season-themed concerto set. It's the second song on Taiko to draw inspiration from this particular piece, after the new Classic song Dokadoka, which is an actual remix of L'Estate.

A first in the series, the Oni mode notechart doesn't rely on scrolling changes of any sort, relying instead on consecutive clusters and long streams for some fine hand-switching moments.

  Karyu (夏竜 ~Karyu~)
Version
All


x9 (800)
 Taiko 0 Mu, Taiko Wii U 2
 136
 none
 ???


Can't have a Season Dragon song without an Ura mode! Karyu's harder challenge was silently added into Taiko Murasaki's August 5th update, , and gives the song a much-needed injection of challenge with loads of 1/24 clusters and playing around with scroll speed changes...although those aren't as drastic or combobreaking as its predecessors.

 Shiuryu (秋竜 ~Shiuryu~)
Version
Allx4 (226)x6 (315)x7 (558)x9 (750)
 Taiko 0 Mu, Taiko 3DS 3
 120-194
 none
 siuryu


One year (and a season) after Karyu's launch, the last of Azu♪'s Season Dragon songs makes its appearance as yet another Donchare unlock, for Murasaki Version's last month of activity. For the Autumn-related song of this series, Shiuryu is the only one whose English part doesn't literally match the meaning of the Japanese bit, with 秋竜 more literally translatable with 'Akiryu'. So, why is that, you may ask?

Unlike for the other Season Dragon songs, Azu♪ admitted in a Taiko Team blog entry that this one has been the hardest of the bunch to create, as he originally hadn't a clear idea of what kind of sound could give a clear image of Autumn. The idea, however, came with the many celebrations running throughout the season like Halloween, and the lonely feeling that the season itself might leave due to the cold approaching fast. Because of the trick-or-treaty celebration of Halloween, the final Season Dragon has the Japanese part of the title not literally matching the English part, as it has to be read as Shiuryu for a word play, as in Katakana, Shiuryu (しうりゅう) can be roughly translated as "Tooth-uryu", as the body part that is made busy by the younger kids for munching the sweets gathered during Halloween. On the third 3DS game, Shiuryu is used as a mid-boss solo fight against Hexaglia member Matthias.

Of all the season-related tracks on this page, Shiuryu is the only one who doesn't need an Ura Oni mode to have a 9-star Oni rating, made of different cluster formation scrolling to the player at different BPM and scrolling multiplier values.

  Shiuryu (秋竜 ~Shiuryu~)
Version
All


x10 (1045)
 Taiko 0 R, Taiko 3DS 3
 120-194
 none
 ???


Closing the circle of the Season Dragon songs is the third game for Nintendo 3DS, which delivered Shiuryu's Ura Oni mode, a first in the series both for being rated as a 10-star challenge and for the fact of holding more than 1000 notes. The notechart's consistently-high note density makes it for an overall harder Ura Oni to pass than the others, thanks to the many variety of note clusters included.

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