It’s no secret that I have been a big fan of Nintendo’s 2015 foray into competitive third-person shooters as well as its 2017 sequel. The subsequent single-player expansion pack was pretty cool too. It included 80 stages. Merely clearing the game lets you play online as an Octoling. But if you make it to completion? Well, then it even features one of the toughest secret boss fights since Capcom and SNK gave us God Rugal.
One of the best parts of the Splatoon games has consistently been their music. Whether you’re talking about Keity Pop & Mari Kikuma voicing the Squid Sisters, (Sea O’ Colors in Japan) Rena Itou & Alice Peralta voicing Off The Hook (Tentacles in Japan), or any number of the game’s many fictional bands like the Chirpy Chips (ABXY in Japan). The music goes beyond simply providing something to listen to during matches, it is used extensively in world-building.
So the music does a good job in the games but how does it fare on its own? In my opinion, it fares very well. Many game soundtracks these days feel like film soundtracks. Either grand orchestrated pieces that may fit a scene perfectly well. Or a collection of real-world musical tracks most of us know, or at the very least have heard somewhere else. These soundtracks hearken back to a time where several things were true. Video game music used to really describe a game’s identity. When you heard Guile’s theme outside of Street Fighter II, you immediately thought of Guile fighting another character like Blanka on the airstrip. Even today, songs like Going Down The Fastway immediately take anyone who has ever played Rise Of The Triad, back to 1995 sitting at their computer eating monk meal.
Outside of video games, throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s if you bought an album it potentially included tchotchkes. Sometimes they might have been replica ticket stubs for a show the album was a recording of. Other times they gave you fold-out posters. When CDs began to overtake Vinyl records in the 90s these weren’t as common. But now and again there would still be something spiffy showing up with one of them. 15 years ago some of them even tried to mimic the look of a vinyl record by coming in gatefold sleeves. Of course, nowadays CD releases are neither as sought after as the vinyl resurgence nor do they have the prevalence or simplicity digital downloads do.
But video games have also started to see an interest in their soundtracks over the last several years. And while many of them can be purchased on Steam or sometimes directly from their composers, Many of them have been going the film route. With a grand orchestrated score or a list of top 40 hits. Which may make sense for Grand Theft Auto. But it doesn’t make sense for everything. But oddly enough while a lot of soundtracks are available they’re not always available across the board. Sometimes they’re only on digital storefronts. Sometimes only on vinyl, in a very limited number. Or sometimes pretty plentiful, on CD, but not here in North America.
The Splatoon Soundtracks have yet to see a digital release as far as I can tell, and they have no international release so you’ll have to import them from Japan or buy them from a business that has already imported them from Japan. Or from an importer, or from an individual second hand. But it is a worthy endeavor.
No matter what kind of music you’re into, there’s likely going to be a few songs you’ll really like. The first album has a lot of electronic synthpop, New Wave, and Power Pop inspired by the early 90s Pop Punk sound. And this fits very well as the characters in the games are doing battle in malls, skate parks, and other places teens and young adults would be. But the OST also has many Experimental, Electronica, and Post Punk sounding tracks as that fits the campaign nicely. The Octarians are led by a Samurai Octopus DJ after all. The thing is, all of these fit a long car ride, or a commute nicely. Most of the music here stands out and even the stuff that doesn’t is still pretty good. The stars here are clearly the Squid Sisters, but there are a lot of good songs over two discs. And beyond that, you still get all of the sound effects they recorded.
The second soundtrack continues this trend, but Off The Hook has a blend of Hip Hop and dance genres like Funk and Disco. These tracks are really good and again, stand on their own. One of the especially catchy jams is Acid Hues which those who have played Splatoon 2 may remember from the Splatfest events. You’ll get a wider variety of music in the sequel with tracks like Fins & Fiddles having a Celtic rock band influence, Rip Entry having a very slick bass line that feels like it could hang out with a Red Hot Chili Peppers set, and Tentacular Circus mashing a bunch of effects together before erupting into something that sounds like DEVO had a few beers with Danny Elfman. It goes with the craziness of the stage it’s featured in. But by itself, there’s something captivating about it. Splatune 2 also has a lot of cool Jazz and seafaring Rock. And of course, the highlight for a lot of fans will be the Squid Sisters’ Spicy Calamari Inkantation.
But these albums also give you some of the extra little things I talked about with the albums of old. Splatoon gives you a couple of nice alternate covers you can use to simulate the fictional albums of the game’s universe. Including the breakout Squid Sisters record as well as DJ Octavio’s. Splatune 2 on the other hand includes a polybagged guitar pick with a rather nice Splatoon squid logo on it.
Do you absolutely NEED to get these? No. You’ll be paying more than the price of a typical album, and you’ll have to pay extra for importing them. But if you’re a big fan of the games and you like collecting physical releases of games, movies, and music these are something to consider picking up. Kadokawa has also released other official Splatoon series’ albums. Octotune (which I don’t have yet) includes all of the tracks that were added to Splatoon 2 through updates over the years as well as all of the music from the Octo Expansion pack. Beyond that, they have also done live album versions of the different live shows Nintendo has done over the years.
Besides giving us a Philip J Fry “I see what you did there.” meme moment, Splatune and Splatune 2 are fantastic soundtrack albums that hearken back to a time long before buying music on iTunes or streaming it through Spotify was how to get your music. With a wide variety of sound and some really cool feelies, these can be appreciated by anyone who likes good music. Though, importing these is still going to appeal mostly to the biggest fans. If you are one of those biggest fans you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not, you likely won’t be disappointed either as the music is really good. Still, it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. Even if that tea is super tasty.
Final Score: 9 out of 10