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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Song of the Week! 8 October 2016

Another week, another round of song requests! Chatbox user Yusri Khairi has a couple of Game Music-related song requests for us that cross the Limited-Play boundaries.

Unfortunately, though, video/notechart footage for one of the requested songs so far isn't available at all for the hardest difficulty setting of one of the two requests, so I'm forced for now to glance over one of the two in exchange for something else, also from the same genre...

 Hippare! Monster Strike (ヒッパレ!モンスターストライク) Monster Strike
Allx3 (???)x4 (???)x5 (262)
 Taiko 0 K (promo only)

...that said, enough with the apology time! On this corner we finally have a place to touch yet another major mobile sensation that has crossed its path with Taiko gaming for a peculiar occasion (of which we'll also talk about later, of course). Under the title translatable as 'Pull! Monster Strike!' lies the theme song of the titular Monster Strike, a game developed by mobile company Mixi who managed to dethrone mobile sensation Puzzle & Dragons in the revenue front. Co-created by Konami/Capcom designer legend Yoshiki Okamoto (岡本吉起), the game was originally launched on August 2013 for the Japanese iOS mobile market, with the Android counterpart debuting 4 months later an game localizations for North America/Korea/Taiwan occurring the year later.

This is a mobile title that follows the collectible/raising formula of many other games before it (including -again- P&D), with the main gameplay twist being the physics-related links tied with its gameplay. In short, players are in charge of a team of up to 4 different monsters that can be flung by a flick of the player's finger into a board, with the aim of bouncing directly into the enemies or the other ally monsters to unleash varying combinations of 'Bump Combo' attacks to clear the board of the enemy creatures. One big factor that has contributed pushing the game's popularity are the multiplayer features, including options for both local matches (through GPS localization with nearby players) and online matchmaking.

As anticipated, Monster Strike's success has been huge, so much so that it managed to save its social media-related company from failure! With the original game counting an estimated daily revenue of over 4 million dollars across all versions (as of June 2015 data analyses), the Monster Strike brand has expanded in the past 2 years with an official Youtube animated series (from October 2015) and a Japan-exclusive Nintendo 3DS videogame that was released on December 2015, with plans of a theathrical movie premiere for the franchise set to a December 2016 release.

The scope of this mobile game's success can be palpable even by delving into the story of its main theme, which ultimately led to the playable Taiko cut we're displaying up here. Hideki Sakamoto (坂本英城), director of the Noisycroak Co.,Ltd. sound production company, has provided the music for the original app, whose main theme has been re-arranged and lyricized in occasion of the Monster Strike app's 1-year anniversary at the Nico Nico Douga live house nicofarre, on October 24th 2014. This version of the main theme, composed and lyricized respectively by Riichiro Kuwagara (桑原理一郎) and Nagae Kuwabara (桑原永江), was released as a publicly-available single 5 days later under the name of Hippare! Monster Strike, starring none other than Anime theme voice sensation Hironobu Kageyama (影山ヒロノブ) as the singer.

Flash-forward to the month later, the Nicovideo-broadcasted show titled "New Year's Eve Final Quest" has had the Taiko no Tatsujin franchise playing quite the spotlight role across the end-year broadcast, with Taiko Team leader Etou being challenged by many different game developers and Let's Players to a Taiko match with selected songs from said developers' respective games. Monster Strike's lyricized theme was among those, leading to a six-arm match in which a hopping Etou had to play against a couple of challengers with one dedicated note kind to hit each. Seeing as only the Muzukashii mode was shown in a playable state and the song itself not being available for other kinds of public play during (or before/after) the Nicovideo broadcast, it's safe to assume that the Kantan and Futsuu modes might as well be just placeholders for the show, seeing how Hippare! Monster Strike itself has never seen the light of day in any public Taiko title yet.

 Knuckle Heads (ナックルヘッズ) Ouburokou (鷹舞狼吼)
Taiko 10x4 (137)x5 (192)x7 (442)x9 (639)
Taiko DS 3x4 (137)x5 (192)x7 (409)x9 (639)
Taiko 0 M, Taiko Wii U 3x4 (137)x5 (192)x7 (442)x8 (639)
 Taiko 10, Taiko 0 M, Taiko DS 3, Taiko Wii U 3

For our replacement song feature, narrowing down the candidates was quite easy; today is October 8th, the eight day in the eight month (in the Julian calendar of Latin roots), so here's an 8* Oni feature fix for that, pronto! Gather around and hear the tale of Namco's very first arcade fighting title...

Released on December 1992 worldwide (early 1993 in Japan) under the Namco NA-2 board, Knuckle Heads is a tournament fighter akin to Capcom's original Street Fighter, for which this game was created by Namco as an answer to it. After picking up one of the six characters from different areas of the world, the player is called to defeat the other five opponents and fight their way to a fated match against their character's gold replica. The 2D combat game features simplistic controls in form of a jump, low attack and high attack, link-able in combinations that might lead to throws or customized charge moves through their fighter's aura. A re-release of the title was issued in August 2009 for the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service, only in Japan. All of Knuckle Heads' music was composed by Takayuki Aihara (相原隆行), who also happens to be appearing in some other songs in Taiko lore such as the subsequent TE-20 (also from a fighting game!).

Ouburokou is quite the complex word to see at first, isn't it? Its translation stands for 'Hawk's Dance, Wolf's Howl', which also happens to be the name of the theme music for Takeshi Fujioka (タケシ・フジオカ), Knuckle Heads's Japanese fighter. As also the game's soundtrack points out, the same character song is played for the 'VS Fujioka' CPU battles, but only starting from halfaway the tune like the rest of the other 'VS' songs in the game.

This Knuckle Heads track also happens to be the subject of quite a peculiar episode that happened during the Taiko 10 arcade's launch, as former Taiko Team leader Takahashi himself has told through one of the very first Taiko Team blog entries. During the arcade pre-production meetings about the song list definition, a conversation between three Namco Bandai clerks has spread throughout the whole staff a different title for the song: Kachofugetsu (花鳥風月, lit. 'The Beauty of Nature'), which actually happens to be the name of fighter Takeshi Fujioka's unique end credits theme. When the mistake was properly addressed, the whole team has been in a hurry on modifying that portion of the title into all the already-produced cabinets, but as promotional material pre-production was already long-time concluded, it was actually possible to see promo Taiko 10 posters and pamphlets displaying the newcomer song as 'Knuckle Heads Kachofugetsu' instead.

After this troubled beginning, Ouburokou has had some slight changes to its title between Taiko games, being one single title name at first for then having the 'Ouburokou' part being the song's subtitle in Taiko games since its first console outing. Regardless of its location and later rating changes, this Knuckle Heads track is always ready to welcome Taiko players with its semi-pure 1/16 notechart made of meddling cluster trickery and stamina-based endurance.

Its Oni notecount is notable for being the same one of BLUE TOPAZ's Oni Master Route, which is another song made by Takayuki Aihara for earlier Namco games. It's also notable to mention how this was one of the few songs whose not-Oni modes (in this case, only Muzukashii) had its notechart changed for a Nintendo DS game not for housing some Denden notes but for actually offering a different-feeling chart! This Muzukashii, however, was scrapped for the later, current-generation games in favor of the original one.

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