Archive for November, 2009

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Berserker – “Mega Man X: Sigma Level 1” (NESkimos)

November 29, 2009

The Neskimos are another popular vgm rock covers band. Their rendition of “Sigma Level 1” from Mega Man X (1991) is pretty cool and matched by the awesomeness of their album cover with its Viking bearing NES heraldry of Berserker (2004).

NESkimo Battle – “Mega Man X: Sigma Level 1” (NESkimos)

“Sigma Level 1” is full of both determination and loss. The NESkimos’ interpretation has some great emptiness to the track due to the low number of instruments, and what are there (drums, guitars, sax) serve to further accent the notes. In this phase of the game, Mega Man X and his friend, Zero, finally arrive at Sigma’s fortress, a barren, rocky outcrop over a vast abyss with the crags of cruel, cold mountains in the distance. The setting is a wasteland, product of Sigma’s war with the humans, and at the top lies his mechanical fortress full of mechanical monsters. However, the theme becomes fully melancholic in the decisive battle with Sigma’s henchman, the Boba Fett-esque Vile, who attacks with his ridiculously overpowered Ride Armor and defeats both X and Zero in battle. Zero manages to jump on the back of the Ride Armor and detonates his beam saber, destroying the mech. X regains his energy and defeats Vile, but Zero, who was blown in half by the explosion, dies. All of this is packed into the theme, which sets the stage for the final showdown with Sigma.

While it’s not like Zero ever did anything in this game (other than having a pretty cool – if short – theme song), I think his death touched a chord with a lot of younger players. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Rastan (rem. Glyn R. Brown)

November 29, 2009

One of the best arcade soundtracks of the 1980s has to be Taito’s Rastan (Arcade, 1987). The original chiptunes probably don’t sound like much by today’s standards, but they were pretty amazing at the time, especially for their orchestral quality, which was something new to game music. With the release of Metroid (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka) and The Legend of Zelda (Koji Kondo) in 1986, vgm was completely redefined by a move away from pop music and more towards atmospheric and orchestral music that would match the on-screen action and help emotion ooze from every screen. Here is a remix revisiting some of those first early flowerings of the art form:

“Rastan” (arr. Glyn R. Brown)

I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it. While it doesn’t have the pulse-pounding beat of the original, Glyn R. Brown’s mix of Masahiko Takaki‘s (Darius II, The Ninja Warriors) “Aggressive World” is a more sweepingly epic rendering of Rastan‘s Frazetta-esque barbarian vs lizard man action. Ok, the theme also evokes wide open country, hero-land with mountains and forest and desert, the kind of place a warrior can jump on a horse and ride through and seek his fortune. It’s a place ruled by sword and fang where stereotypical/archetypal supermen do what they’re designed to do and all the rest of the normal girly-men can imagine being in Conan’s shoes. Or leggings. I’m sure the woman singing the vocals is doing a great job telling us about Rastan’s mighty deeds, and some prophecy or somesuch. In any event, the drums, strings, and war horns are the “Blood and Trumpets” so fitting of an action game of this caliber. Read the rest of this entry ?

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“Forest Interlude” is now back up

November 29, 2009

Had some slight problems with the server, but “Forest Interlude” from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is now back up!

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Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Forest Interlude” (David Wise)

November 28, 2009

The Donkey Kong Country series has some of the best music on the SNES and gaming in general. The series was composed by Robin Beanland, David Wise, and Eviline Fischer, features some fantastic monkey antics, and simply oozes atmosphere. When you listen to one of their songs it literally feels as if you’re in the jungle that has been brilliantly prerendered. I love the gameplay (this was back before Rare focused too much on item collecting), but the art and sound design is simply impeccable.

Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Forest Interlude” (David Wise)

“Forest Interlude” is the theme from Web Woods and the other haunted forest levels in Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995). The track integrates some fantastic ambient forest sound effects to go along with the lazy and somewhat nostalgic, slightly melancholy feel of the notes. The sequenced wood drums and saxophone give a great sense of the depths of an old forest full of blowing leaves and mists. The track is very soothing and has wonderful development. Definitely one of the best tracks in the game. One final interesting thing about these albums is that unlike most vgm albums, the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks are not arranged in chronological order. As a result, they more paint a picture of Donkey Kong Country rather than tell an aural narrative of the game.

David Wise has composed for the entire Donkey Kong Country trilogy as well as Wizards and Warriors on the NES and Star Fox Adventures on the Gamecube. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Axelay – “I Know You Can Beat That Spider” (Scaredsim)

November 27, 2009

Ok, so today’s Daily was going to be something completely different, but my server is completely full, so we’re gonna get something else. Thankfully, that something else is also pretty cool, even if it is following the trend of shmup music. This track is a remix from the 199 Konami classic, Axelay (SNES) from the April 2008 Free Month on Dwelling of Duels. (This was actually a second-place finisher, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome). An interesting note was that Axelay‘s ending says there will be a sequel, but it’s now been over 17 years, and I don’t think a sequel is coming any time soon.

Axelay – “I Know You Can Beat That Spider” (Scaredsim)

This is a remix of “Unkai (1st BGM)”, originally composed by Taro Kudou. It’s a completely rocking energetic first level theme. There is fine use of guitar here as well as synth, making it for more of a straight up cover than an actual remix of the track, which had a great anime feel to it (actually some of the later tracks, such as the final stage theme, have a wonderful anime hero music tone to them). The Japanese name of the track means “Sea of Clouds” and is a literal description of the first level, which is a giant clouded landscape that makes fine use of the SNES’s Mode-7 capabilities (and actually one of the few games that I thought used it very well). Oddly enough, there seems to be more boulders than clouds here…

Scaredsim’s title refers to the Level 1 boss, which is a giant spider. That shoots lasers. Aaand here’s the spider:

And now you know. And knowing is half the battle. (Go Joe.)

Anyway Dwelling of Duels is a completely awesome site with a monthly contest where mixers compete to compose the most rocking track of the month based on that month’s challenge. The only stipulation is that the track be composed in the month of the challenge and that the lead instrument be performed rather than synthesized. While most tracks are rock guitars, there are also piano mixes and violins. Check out the winners of the past duels.

Scaredsim is a French vgm mixer and composer who actually has quite a prolific career. Check out his mixes.

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Vapor Trail Arrange Version (arr. Hiroaki Yoshida)

November 26, 2009

Here’s another of my favorite tracks, “Vapor Trail (Arrange Version)” from the album Vapor Trail (1990). This track was reprinted recently in Game Sound Legend ~ Speed and Wind (2004), which contains a few other fantastic mixes collected from various albums. Vapor Trail is a forward-scrolling shooter similar to Raiden, only using jets instead of spaceships. The game was developed by Data East.

Vapor Trail Arrange Version (arr. Hiroaki Yoshida)

This is a pretty slick rock mix of “Vapor Trail” with great pacing and theme variation. The beat actually makes it seem almost as if it’s surfing music. The break at 3:50 is a great transition into the ending theme, which gives a sense of mission accomplished and landing back at base. There is a light blues tone here, which lets you know how cool this cat is.

The track is performed by the Gamadelic Data East Sound Team:

Guitar: MARO (Hiroaki Yoshida)
Bass: Atomic Hanada (Seiichi Hamada)
Drums: Orega Miura (Takafumi Miura)

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Ogre – Grand Repeat – “GRAND REPEAT / Overture Neo-Overture” (arr. Masatsugu Shinozaki)

November 25, 2009

The wargames are on! Lead your army to battle to liberate the city! Or maybe to crush the unruly rebellion…  In any case, Masatsugu Shinozaka does an excellent job of remixing Hitoshi Sakamoto‘s Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen (SNES, 1993) classic.

Ogre – Grand Repeat – “GRAND REPEAT / Overture Neo-Overture” (arr. Masatsugu Shinozaki)

This piece is the main overture to the game, calling forth images of a giant army in review, with riders approaching over the green fields and profiles of the commanders and heroes before the vanguard. It’s hard to not be pleased by the bold brass of this track and choral backup, which is a nice follow-up from Sunday’sWarCraft III tune. This is a concert recording, a practice that about this time was becoming popular for recording actual game soundtracks (it is not very commonly used though due to the large cost of hiring an orchestra). This track comes from Ogre – Grand Repeat (1996), a remix album of the first two games in the series. Incidentally, the PlayStation version of the game (1997) features a shortened version of this theme that lacks the opening.

Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen incidentally has some musical inspiration from its title, mainly the 1974 album Queen II, which contained two tracks, “Ogre Battle” and “March of the Black Queen”. Masatsagu Shinozaki is responsible for composing the soundtracks to multiple games as well as a few orchestral arrangements, including one of my favorites, Suite Wizardry II ~Legacy of Llylgamyn~, which was recently available through Slightly Dark.