By Joseph Walter
The apparent epitome of that game is the original Playstation's Sol Divide. Supposedly an arcade game before being hastily ported to the PS1 with a new, pseudo-roguelike mode, Sol Divide is easily one of the most baffling games I've ever played, although, again, not because of the gameplay. It's a mix of a brawler and shoot-em-up, tangentially similar to the epic Lords of Thunder, where you take control of medieval characters who fly, shoot, and slash their way to victory. But that's where most of the similarities end.
Where Lords of Thunder had lengthy, difficult and detailed stages, Sol Divide consists of stages that are barely half-a-minute long and have almost no rhyme or reason to them. By the time a level gets started, it's over.
It's fun, with magic abilities and items, but it almost doesn't matter because there's no real reason to use the myriad of spells and weapons because the game is over before you know it (with an entirely Japanese slideshow) and structured in a way where the use of these concepts is unnecessary.
The "new mode" for the PS1 release is just as surreal as the standard arcade mode, and even the nearly untranslated manual can't adequately explain it, other than saying it has a different story (for the record, with what little time I've spent with the game, the only added "story" is a king in the beginning of the game saying "WHO WILL GO?" as you pick your character.)
The most fascinating and downright unexpected element of this unusual game is its unbelievable music. Somewhat like how the PS2 Golden Axe remake was gifted with a powerful score it didn't deserve, Sol Divide is inexplicably graced with a phenomenally composed and utterly bad-ass soundtrack.
For this week's "Soundcheck," I wanted to talk about five of these tracks because God knows they deserve appreciation from more people than the handful who have played the game.
Knight of Darkness
Its orchestration is surprisingly complex and it takes the now-established theme through some fairly interesting hoops. The composer, whoever they may be, is fond of this concept, and will morph the theme into a lifeblood that flows through the following tacks, so get your ears ready!
If you close your eyes, you can practically see your soaring warriors tear through hordes of enemies, casting their magic and swinging their swords, all for the excruciating length of thirty seconds! How do they have such stamina!?
... and that's Sol Divide, for you. A game that boggles the mind with its barely-held-together existence that has been gifted with a memorable, intoxicating soundtrack that features short doses of savage coolness.
Although many of the tunes share similar structures and musical ideas with each other, they're worth listening to. And if you're still not satisfied from this list, here's a playlist containing the entire soundtrack.
I'm so pleased this game and its mysterious wonders found its way into my life, and if anyone has any "Weekly Soundcheck" suggestions for weird musical gems from games such as these, please let me know!