Just as the outstanding Dracula Battle album does for the Castlevania series, Konami Shooting Battle applies raging hard rock arrangements to Konami's line of classic scrolling shooters. Never mind if game titles like Thunder Cross and A-Jax are unfamiliar or unplayed - once you've heard their arrangements on this album you'll be happy to call them classics regardless.
The wicked menace that characterized many of the arrangements in Dracula Battle is mostly absent in Konami Shooting Battle, in its place being elements befitting a sci-fi outer-space action adventure. In the aptly titled "Boost Up" it's a sense of speed, supercharged right from the start by quick, nimble cymbals and thrashing backing guitars. In "Gradius Boss - Salamander Boss - Fire Dragon" it's rhythmic percussive synth that's well suited to accompany the endless stream of enemies common in these classic shoot-em-ups.
The electric guitars are the star of the show, performed and mixed with the same masterful mid-80s hard rock quality as Dracula Battle. However what keeps the arrangements on a higher plane is the excellent synth programming. Even when at times a bit quirky in an '80s rock meets sci-fi meets gaming sort of way, the synth compliments the hard rocking guitars perfectly. In "Departure Again" an airy lead synth instrument leaves no mistake of the album's video game origins, while an unabashedly proud synth anthem hails its '80s rock influence. In the sole case where the synth borders on being cheesy, namely the bright lead horns in "Dog Fight III", an oh-so-rocking chorus and a no-nonsense guitar solo put everything right back into place.
A word of advice to listeners quick to judge - don't even think of passing off Konami Shooting Battle until you've had a good listen to its closing arrangements. Though aforementioned early tracks like "Boost Up", "Salamander Boss" and "Departure Again" are excellent in their own right, they're just a warm-up for the rock and roll tour de force commencing from track 7 "A-JAX". The rolling, blues-inspired guitars in this arrangement make for a great track on their own, but when a synth horn section joins in for the chorus you can just soak up the '80s hard rock goodness. After the anthemic "Dog Fight III", that taste of blues returns for more - in rowdy and rambunctious form - in "Out of the Blue from Hyperspace".
Not many albums save the very best for last but this is one of them. "Battles of Battleship" is simply entirely too epic to go anywhere else. As fun as the other rock arrangements are and as well as some capture the essence of a sci-fi shoot-em-up, this closing track merges senses of impending, insurmountable danger with adventure, triumph and exhilaration like no other. From the dark, deliberate opening chords (which really do conjure the image of some massive behemoth of an enemy ship approaching) to the indomitable solo that completes the piece, it's a space-operatic hard rock masterpiece.
Anyone with an affinity for hard rock or a nostalgia for old-school shooters absolutely needs to hear Konami Shooting Battle. The throwbacks to '80s hard rock certainly belie the album's age, but the driving themes and infectious energy behind them haven't diminished a bit over the years.