Namco’s Critical Velocity OST Is Another Jazzy PlayStation 2 Gem

Namco’s Critical Velocity OST Is Another Jazzy PlayStation 2 Gem
Image: Bandai Namco / Kotaku
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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today let’s check out a combo of two of my favourite things: PlayStation 2 B-titles and jazz fusion.

When I was conducting my deep dive into the PlayStation 2 library early last year I managed to overlook Namco’s 2005, generically titled chase-racer Critical Velocity (playlist / longplay / VGMdb). It’s a simple, mission-based driving game focused on pursuing and crashing into enemy speedsters, sort of an updated take on Taito’s Chase H.Q. Despite its mid-budget charms and decidedly Western sensibilities, it never made it out of Japan.

No big deal, really, as it’s easy enough to enjoy on import. And if you check out the longplay, it also looks kinda middling, another just-alright B-game from the PlayStation 2’s later days. Know what I like, though? You guessed it, this thing has one jazzy bleepin’ soundtrack, composed by Namco vets who’ve contributed to Ace Combat, Ridge Racer, Soulcalibur, Tekken, Katamari Damacy, Taiko no Tatsujin…a lot of the biggies.

How do they take to jazz? Well, have a listen:

Bandai Namco / Seph (YouTube)

Strong start, huh? That first track, “Sunset Runaway,” has some real Cowboy Bebop vibes, and much of the rest of the 30-track OST follows suit. The next song, “Invitation,” switches over to chill af mode, before “Toward a Difficulty” brings the funky wah-wah and bassline. “Break Time” unleashes the sax, and “Memory of Passed Away” a trumpet. All quite enjoyable! The next five tracks are all titled “Priyo City [1-5],” and spin off into different variations on one catchy melody; my fave is the salsa-y piano and trumpet of “Priyo City 3,” and I don’t really care for the fourth track’s shredding.

There’s a lot here: The full Critical Velocity OST’s a solid 94 minutes! And despite a fair few pleasing tracks, it does kind of start to blend together after a while. As such, I find the most enjoyment in shorter, more focused listening sessions, which helps me keep each song distinct in my mind. Unfortunately, YouTube seems to be missing the album’s final 10 tracks, so you’ll need to look elsewhere (iTunes has it) to hear the remainder.

I often mourn the loss of these lower-budget B-titles, which used to account for many of my most cherished console-gaming discoveries. In this case, Critical Velocity the game looks kinda average to me, but Critical Velocity the soundtrack is a cut above (maybe two!), so bless Namco’s bean-counters for greenlighting this and its composers for delivering quality. It’s not my favourite bit of PlayStation 2 jazz fusion — I haven’t written that one up, yet — but it certainly qualifies as another delightful find from a vast library that only seems to keep on giving.

That’s a wrap for today’s Morning Music! It’s not often YouTube doesn’t deliver, so you know we’re gettin’ a little obscure today. Happy Tuesday, said no well-adjusted person ever. How’s your week looking?

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