Posts Tagged ‘Virt’

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Shadowgate – “Title Screen” (ICOM Simulations)

October 11, 2010

Shadowgate is a pretty interesting game. A graphical adventure game, players are presented with a view of a room and must click on objects in the room to interact with them. You can take the treasure, but is it booby-trapped? Will you turn to slime if you touch that water? Or will the dragon burn you alive? Success in Shadowgate requires cunning to solve puzzles, combine artifacts, and fight the evil warlock to save the world – all before your torches run out! Shadowgate was originally on the Mac and Amiga in 1987 but was later ported to the NES in 1989. It’s been many a year since I played this on my NES, but I still remember it fondly!

Shadowgate – “Title Screen” (ICOM Simulations)

“Title Screen” is fairly short, but has a rousing melody with a mellow square wave for the lead instrument. The piece only has two sections, each 12 seconds long each for an agonizingly short 24 seconds – which is terrible because the song deserves to be expanded. The first segment is played lower on the scale, and suggests the difficulty of the quest at hand; the second half the hope and burning devotion towards the completion of the task. Behind it all is a driving drumbeat of the warrior king heading off on his quest, inviting the player to dive right in. Sadly, like so many other games of that era, the composer is unknown. However, he worked for ICOM Simulations. The NES version was ported by Kemco. The game’s other songs are mostly about as short, and so get repetitive very quickly (not something you want in a puzzle level, but ok for getting people off the title screen and into the game).

phoenixdk created a nice rock medley of several Shadowgate themes for OCRemix. Of course, the all-time best Shadowgate rock medley goes to Virt for “Warrior King“. This is some epic stuff, with a rock and string version that quickly leaps into the level themes. While I’ve heard some of Virt’s work before, this is pretty amazing and I’ll have to stick it on my iPod when I get the chance!

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Guerrilla War – “Overthrow” (Virt)

September 15, 2010

Guerrilla War was an early shooter by SNK that predates many of the ideas present in Metal Slug: prisoners to rescue, grenades and gun upgrades, tanks, and hordes and hordes of guys to shoot. There’s also an element of humor here – something you would expect considering the setting as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s overthrow of Cuba, making it jokingly referred to as “the Che Guevara Game”. In fact, the game was even called Che in Japan. This seems fitting, considering all the things going on in Cuba at the moment. The game was originally released in the arcades but later found its way to the NES where it took the system to the limit in terms of object display while still maintaining a smooth framerate (though suffering from LOADS of flicker). And the funniest thing? Castro’s rise to power is inevitable. It is impossible to lose the game because you can simply hit ‘Continue’ at the Game Over screen to keep fighting for liberty! Viva la Revolucion!

Guerrilla War – “Overthrow” (Virt)

Jake Kaufman, aka Virt, created an epic rock medley of the themes from the game for Dwelling of Duels, coming in fifth place in the November-December 2004 Duel. Part of this might be due to the game’s relative obscurity in the music scene – as well as stiff competition – but the mix isn’t bad, following Virt’s tradition of making long, epic rock medleys of classic games (particularly NES titles). There’s a nice synth break at 5:00.  I suppose the game really just suffers from a soundtrack that doesn’t have many particularly memorable melodies – and the ones that are there don’t seem that inspired (notables include the Stage 1 theme (0:00),  Boss theme (4:40), and end boss theme (6:20)) . Thankfully, the game holds out with pure shooting action, which is really where it’s all at. Not as good as his Contra mix, but still a fun piece.

The original game, made in 1987, has no credits. The 1989 NES port has the enigmatic composer names Kenny, Oh Chan, and Tarkun. We’ll just have to label it as ‘SNK Sound Team’ for now.

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Contra 4 – “Harvest Yard” (Jake “Virt” Kaufman)

June 23, 2010

The Contra series has a lot of memorable music. If there’s one thing Konami is good at, it is hiring composers who know how to make good vgm that not only has an attractive melody, but one that is easy to recognize and remember. “Harvest Yard” from Contra 4 is a perfect example of this. The level is really cool because it is the inside the body of a giant alien. The theme from the final stage, it captures both the intensity of the battle as well as the build to the finale, as it constantly builds intensity but ultimately never reaching a final height due to the loop. Jake Kaufman also pushes the limits of the DS sound chip to get some good samples coming out of the system’s tinny speakers.

Contra 4 – “Harvest Yard” (Jake “Virt” Kaufman)

“Harvest Yard” is memorable from the opening two seconds of the track – if you have played the game and heard this song before, it will be immediately recognizable. This is because the punctuation on those notes is so strong, and they stand alone. This punctuation is repeated throughout the piece, creating a march that is very easy to leave an impression. Additionally, Kaufman uses an instrument selection consisting of strings, drums, and piano, along with some deep brass that recalls the Alien Hive levels from Contra Spirits/Contra III: The Alien Wars, with the same punctuation but a bit less discord than “The Showdown“, a collection of end boss themes. This is particularly emphasized by the monster growls and howls and the screams of victims that fill the background. In fact, this is really straight out of Aliens, particularly the awesome piano break at 1:08.

“Harvest Yard” has an absolutely fantastic remix in Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded, but you’ll have to pick up the album for that one (sorry – but it’s only $12 and worth every cent!). However, you can listen to an early rendition of “Alien Hive” (“Let’s Attack Aggressively”) from Dwelling of Duels (January, 2008). The complete Contra 4: Dual Spirits (Japanese title, 2008) soundtrack was released through Konamistyle and contains a remix of the Harbor theme by The Smash Brothers. Unlike Danimal Cannon, et al, Konami charges an arm and a leg for their stuff (and that’s not including shipping!). At least it’s got an awesome cover…

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Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded – “Balls of Steel” (arr. Norg)

March 21, 2010

My review of Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded just ran on Gametunes.net. This album is total rockout, and it’s seriously f-n awesome. The Rocked ‘n’ Loaded guys have uploaded a couple demo tracks from the album (very good ones, but not the best on the album, of course!). So today’s Daily is my favorite of the two, “Balls of Steel”, the Factory stage theme.

Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded – “Balls of Steel” (arr. Norg)

“Balls of Steel” has a pretty amazing synth beat here. Because Norg plays keyboard, the track is heavily keyboard-driven, using rock guitars more for support. The keyboard sound actually feels quite a bit like Akira Yamaoka’s work in Shin Contra. I think because of this, it sounds a bit different from the other tracks in the album, but still feels like it’s part of it. Overall, the track has a sense of desperation of the battle of man against machine, things made to serve man that have now gotten out of his control. The main theme jumps in at 1:00, running into a nice synth break at 1:33; this is probably what 80s synth rock would have sounded like if they’d had the keyboards of today. If you listen carefully, there’s also some great mechanical percussion at 1:45, sounding like robot joints clinking. Halfway through the track (about 2:28), Norg mixes in some fantastic industrial percussion here with buzz saws, whirring servos, and clanking machines straight out of a Terminator factory.
The original track seems completely new (or at least I can’t place it…), but the composition feels like it would fit perfectly into Contra 3: The Alien Wars (aka Contra Spirits, 1992). Amazing instrumentation throughout, and Jake Kaufman’s original composition gains so much through this arrangement. The album art is pretty cool too – using instruments to blow the crap out of space aliens is something that I think would work really well in a game. Kind of like this video. (Yes, in the Dark Ages, Vikings raided and pillaged with the power of Norse and Danish metal). Anyway, you definitely don’t want to miss the album, so go get it!
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Contra 4 – “Jungle 1″ (Jake Kaufman)

March 17, 2010

To help celebrate finally having Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded in my grubby hands, here’s the “Jungle” theme from Contra 4 (2008) by Jake “Virt” Kaufman. This guy was incredibly lucky to work on Contra 4 – he had remixed an incredible Contra medley back in 1999 that still stands up to this day, a perfect mix of chiptunes and rock guitars. As such, I don’t think Konami could have picked a better American to do the Contra soundtrack, as Kaufman clearly demonstrates, making each note count as an integral part of the theme. From the steady punctuation of the main melody to the sheer volume of instrumentation, Kaufman applies his whole experience with game music remixing and composing to produce a true classic that simultaneously tributes the original theme while painting something new and unique.

Contra 4 – “Jungle 1″ (Jake Kaufman)

“Jungle 1″ follows the melodic feel of the original by organically weaving in elements of the original theme – this is why it sounds so much like the “Jungle” theme from the original Contra but the two are very different when played after each other. Original bits that find their way into the new Stage 1 theme are the classic ‘jumping out of the helicopter’ intro notes in the first second of the track (and again at 0:33), the drum beat at 0:25, and the main notes of the “Jungle” theme in the background at 1:20. Kaufman adds new notes to the main theme of the original Contra, taking half-steps to reach the same basic range of notes in the Hidenori Maezawa classic while providing such a rich and sweeping investigation of the central melody that the texture of the music is as rich as the jungle landscape it paints. Strings punctuate the melody with jolts of energy of commandos rolling through lush jungle, palm trees swaying in the breeze and mutant soldiers firing from the undergrowth. The loop at 1:30 makes this an impressive tune for an action game. I do have to say that the synths are pretty good for the DS, but I still think they don’t have the weight of good mods on the SNES. To me, the DS will always feel tinny and airy, lacking the dull bass of the 16-bit classic, but Kaufman can squeeze as much awesome out of this sound as the best of them.

Fans of the original “Jungle” theme weren’t disappointed either – a version of this was also present in the game. Virt’s “Jungle” theme was remixed as well in Rocked ‘n’ Loaded, under the track “Jungle Exploder”, a seriously awesome rock-out that adds plenty of synth to make this feel oddly like a Japanese doujin rock album – but this puppy is all-American and available for the low-low price of $12. What are you waiting for? Come get some.

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Metal Gear Series – “My Frequency is 140.85″ (arr. Virt)

January 28, 2010

I feel I owe something of an update for the last Daily. Upon reflection, “Theme of Tara” really isn’t that good – it’s a pretty flat theme and actually a bit repetitive. It’s more of a fun nostalgic piece than anything else. It’s kind of sad because the NES version of Metal Gear has a much better soundtrack – but isn’t considered an official part of the series as it was ported rather than designed by Kojima. In fact, the composer, Kazuki Muraoka, was later enlisted to compose nearly every other Kojima work, including the entire Metal Gear Solid series! So to show you some Metal Gear music that’s more than just a one-trick pony (even if it’s a fun trick), here’s Virt’s (aka Jake Kauffman) master medley, “My Frequency is 140.85″.

Metal Gear Series – “My Frequency is 140.85″ (arr. Virt)

What can I say? This is a fantastic medley of Metal Gear (NES) and Metal Gear Solid. It begins with a wonderfully atmospheric Peter Gunn rendition of the main sneaking theme from Metal Gear. The nice interplay of guitar and strings gives a sense of both seriousness and intrigue. From there it moves onto the main section, which is presented more as a one-man military march that really kicks off at about 0:50. Virt uses a Schecter 007 guitar for that awesome sound. As you can see, the “Main Theme” has a much better build than “Theme of Tara”, along with a far more developed and dynamic composition. It’s a damn shame this track did not appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. At the end of this section (1:28 ) you can hear the sound of a truck starting. Snake has just snuck into the back of a truck and been transported to the base!

The “Base” theme is another great tune from the NES Metal Gear. It’s simpler, but gives a sense of the concrete interior space full of crates, trucks, and soldiers with Sneaking around. The “Alert” theme at about 3:10 (I’m just pulling names out as there doesn’t seem to be an official track list) isn’t one of the better tunes – it is shorter and simplistic, used mainly to spur the player to escape and avoid the enemy.

Finally, we have the “Metal Gear Solid Main Theme” from Metal Gear Solid (4:10), which is the most popular Metal Gear song. The strings give a sense of the loneliness and determination of Snake on his mission to save the world while the guitar highlights the combat. This is a pretty good rendition of the theme, but there are better and more developed ones on the Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty album as well as Video Games Live, but I think the synth strings here combined with the guitar give it a unique sound. Still, the entire medley is a rocking good time, and was for awhile the highest-rated track on VGMix X. It’s also the best rendition of the NES Metal Gear theme out there.

140.85 is the radio frequency of Otakon in Metal Gear Solid 2. Otakon serves as an advisor for Snake on his missions after first being rescued in Metal Gear Solid. The voice at the end, performed by Virt, is what Otakon says whenever Snake is killed and the player gets a game over. Incidentally, I always thought that Snake’s scream at the end (“AAARGH!”) sounds a bit like “KHAAAN!”

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Bound Together – Get on the Bus (rem. Virt)

November 10, 2009

Ok, so Mondays are normally 8-bit Mondays, but this week, 8-bit Monday is an 8-bit Tuesday. The reason is I stopped at Chicago Midway Airport on the way back home from Boston and tracked down the House of Blues, which has some really awesome statues of the Blues Brothers (one dancing, the other sitting). The Blues Brothers happens to be my favorite film (which is saying quite a bit!), so this has been one pilgrimage spot on my list for awhile. I replaced my old, beat-up Blues Brothers T with a brand new one and got my picture taken with the statues. After meeting some of my old friends and seeing the BB statues, I think I can die a happy man now (at least until tomorrow). Anyway, what does the Blues Brothers and a trip home have to do with this Daily?

Bound Together – Get on the Bus (rem. Virt)

Well, “Get on the Bus” is a medley of the photo shoot, city, and bus themes from EarthBound (aka Mother 2, 1992), along with most of the songs played by the Runaway Five, the game’s nod to the Blues Brothers. The band’s leaders, Lucky and Gorgeous, even resemble Jake and Ellwood a little, though this time the entire band is dressed in black (they also have mustaches, giving similarities to Mario and Luigi). Interesting is that they are known as the “Tonzura Brothers” in Japan (means “The Escaping Brothers”). This group of R&B musicians manages to spend away all their money and get locked in a contract at wherever their last gig was. Ness and his friends save the day by paying off their debt and the band gets on a bus and drives through the ghost-infected tunnel, driving the evil spirits away with their blues beat!

It’s a pretty slick beat, capturing the feel of the city as well as that ‘get up and go’ of dancing and travel, two of the Blues Brothers’ hallmarks. The synths are fantastic, with a lot of spirit behind them, and the arrangement is also well done with excellent transitions and a moving rhythm. Jake and Ellwood would be proud! Anyway, here’s some cool fanart from that scene: Read the rest of this entry ?

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