Konami Shooting Battle II continues in the tradition of its excellent predecessor, taking high-energy themes from classic 2D shooters and giving them the hard rock treatment. However while the first Shooting Battle could be considered a hard rock album with substantial game music influences, Shooting Battle II feels more purely like game music, but with a heavy hard rock slant.
The electric lead, rhythm and bass guitars boast the same spot-on performances and professional mastering found in other Konami Battle series albums. The difference in Shooting Battle II is that the guitars take a less prominent role. Though several tracks are guitar rock first and foremost and sound great, in many others the guitars are relegated to backing rhythms and extended solos that compliment the lead.
Filling the void is the synth, which takes a more prominent role as well as a more game-like quality. This is revealed with complete clarity by the bright gamey synth horns and optimistic synth chimes in the opening track "Prelude of Legend". It's a fairly drastic change of pace from earlier Konami Battle albums and I didn't care for it at all at first. "Colony" from Axelay succinctly shows that contrast between the guitar and synth sounds of the album. The grinding lead guitars at the climax of the track sound surprisingly similar to Dracula Battle, even more so when a mean bassline goes solo for a few seconds; I just find it a shame that the emphasis on some very bright synth horns in the rest of the track takes that hard edge off a bit. Fortunately there is some excellent shooter'esque synth programming to be found, most notably "Kidney Stage" from Life Force, which like the same series' "Departure Again" from Shooting Battle I boasts a catchy lead instrument that brings memories of the hordes of enemies common in those early games, plus an anthemic lead melody that gets you fired up to take them all on.
Once you grow accustomed to the more pronounced synth sound, the similarities to the first Shooting Battle are plentiful and almost entirely positive. The sense of speed in "Cross Point" is reminiscent of Shooting Battle's "Boost Up", with rapid percussion and energetic guitars at the forefront and intermittent bursts of synth adding to the effect. Like "Out of the Blue from Hyperspace" from Xexex, the same series' "Crystal Clear" in Shooting Battle II gives bluesy guitars and piano a raunchy, energetic kick, made even better by some well-timed synth horns. And as in Shooting Battle's "Dog Fight III", the extremely bright, gamey lead synth in Thunder Cross's "First Attack" might seem a bit much at first, but once a driving chorus anthem and a grinding guitar solo kick in you can't help but love the piece in its unbridled enthusiasm.
One final, important similarity to note between Shooting Battle II and its predecessor - both albums save the very best for last. As with other arrangements, "Faraway" comes full-on with the synth, and while its anthemic '80s hard rock quality is easy enough to enjoy from the outset, a hard and wicked yet perfectly complementary guitar solo takes the piece to the next level; when the synth anthem comes blasting back it makes a perfect climax to the album.
I'll admit to at first being disappointed by Konami's second Shooting Battle album, and I'll also admit to being mistaken in that early judgment. Though in some ways I personally would have preferred the more guitar-focused approach of previous Battle series albums, there's no denying the same energetic, exciting themes and climax-building arrangements at work here. And for those who absolutely demand their hard rock guitars, even in the few purely guitar-driven tracks and the synth-supporting solos there's enough to get that fix. The first Dracula and Shooting Battle albums remain my highest recommendations in Konami's renowned Battle series, but Konami Shooting Battle II comes close behind.