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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Game Music Showcase: Critical Velocity

Released as a Japan-only title on October 13th, 2005, Critical Velocity is a Playstation 2 racing game which was made only by employees of the Namco Japan division, in the attempt to make a new story-driven series that could coexist with Ridge Racer and offer a slightly different kind of gameplay. This title comes from the spoils of a work-in-progress open world game called Rune Chaser, which was announced (and canned off) the year prior.

The game is mainly set in Priyo City, an uprising urbanized town of the fictional United States of FALCONIA where the steady growth of its population goes hand-to-hand with the rise of the street crime rate. Due to the lack of cops in the city's police department, the institution is hiring professional drivers who hunt down criminals for a living, known in-game as "Stormers". Critical Velocity's story puts the players in the shoes of Sole, a freshly-hired Stormer who fights the street crime of Priyo City with his partner Gordon, up to clear commissioned jobs that may or may not lead to a bigger conspiracy that tangles the whole continent.

Unlike the Ridge Racer titles, Critical Velocity is a mission-based game where the player has to explore Priyo City in order to progress the main story line and to join the game's missions, ranging from simple street/time races to alternative kinds of objectives like bumping into the criminals' cars to violently end their ride. That being said, the game doesn't shy away from referencing the longer-running Namco racing series in a number of ways, between familiar locations to race in and some cars directly coming from the Ridge Racer world. Despite Critical Velocity not ending up to be a success, its jazz-inspired soundtrack stands up to the test of time, being released on May 29th, 2012 as an iTunes digital album. It's also possible to hear bits of the game's music as background music for the episodic Audio Deka, the Taiko Team-produced comic audio drama series that started with the former official livestream broadcasts.

Despite some of these songs' arcade forays, the Critical Velocity legacy in Taiko is mainly a home console-oriented one, as all the tracks thus far have made their debut in such titles.


-Critical Velocity series-


 Sunset Runaway Critical Velocity
Allx4 (105)x6 (189)x8 (416)x9 (610)
 Taiko 0 Mu, Taiko Wii U 2

Previously featured in Song of the Week: March 26 2016

The first track of the PS2 game to become a playable Taiko track is Sunset Runaway, composed by Ryuichi Takada (高田龍一) from the MONACA unit. Being launched by Taiko Tokumori as the "New Game Music Last Unlock" contender for the aforementioned Wii U game, this percussion-happy and sax-friendly track later made its arcade debut under Taiko Murasaki, where it was also featured in one of its Dojo Ranking trials. Its Oni mode sports in different combinations of 1/16 cluster charting, with the usual 1/24 spikes ramping up the tension in many occasions.

 BLAZING VORTEX Critical Velocity
Allx5 (275)x6 (389)x7 (694)x7 (797)
 Taiko 0 W, Taiko Ps Vita

Previously featured in Song of the Week: March 26 2016

Ten years after Critical Velocity's launch, another track from Critical Velocity comes through as one of the many many Game Music track debuts on Taiko V Version, with its arcade debut a few months later as White Version's final Don Points unlock. BLAZING VORTEX was one of the songs made for Critical Velocity by George Nishigomi (西込乗二), a niche artist whose only other game-related work (to date) is the creation of music for Ace Combat Assault Horizon.

Despite the Taiko cut of the song actually being a shorter version of the original track, BLAZING VORTEX's Oni mode still managed to become one of the 7* not-Ura songs with the highest note count and density among the other similarly-rated tracks, counting an average value of 5,52 hits per second. Much like for other long-running songs of the 6-7* Oni ballpark, this one mainly features mono-color clusters, building up to the last Go-Go Time's cluster portion whose note formation can be very reminiscent to the ones of faster songs in Taiko gaming like Koibumi 2000.

  BLAZING VORTEX Critical Velocity

x10 (1208)
 Taiko 0 W, Taiko Ps Vita

Not happy with Oni mode's chart alone, notecharter Matsumoto (マツモト) also crafted an extra layer of difficulty to BLAZING VORTEX while also being careful on adding a subtle reference to the original racing game: the sum of the regular and Ura Oni modes' notecount gives out 2005, Critical Velocity's year of release!

Aside from this bit of arithmetical trivia, BLAZING VORTEX's Ura Oni already has some merit going for it, being one of V Version's many songs with over 1000-notes Oni modes; if the far more aggressive 1/24 cluster spikes and the more challenging 1/16 cluster formations aren't enough to throw you off from the Full Combo road, there's always the last killer Go-Go Time section with an iconic 32-note cluster that gets repeated over and over in order to form a huge note stream.

 Urban Striker Critical Velocity
Allx3 (122)x4 (161)x6 (427)x8 (648)
 Taiko PS4

Another track by George (also referenceable to as 'Jouji') Nishigomi (西込乗二), Urban Striker was one of the Game Music debuts in Session de Dodon ga Don, the debut Taiko game for the PS4.

For this song's Oni chart, irregular cluster formations have taken the backseat in favor of manageable 1/24 clusters of 4 notes each, made more approachable with a lower average BPM value. There's always little to no room to rest during the song's playtime, so that one random error may still lurk behind the corner!

 Racing the Storm Critical Velocity
Allx4 (???)x5 (???)x7 (???)x8 (787)
 Taiko Switch

The next track from the game by George/Jouji Nishigomi made its debut in the Nintendo Switch debut Taiko game, shining through as one of its hidden unlockable tunes.

Racing the Storm's Oni blend takes the opposite approach to Urban Striker: bearing more notes than the aforementioned track's Oni setting, handswitch-based clusters are by far the most relevant difficulty factor of this piece, while still retaining the same base BPM value and a dash of 1/24 cluster trickery to spruce things up.

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