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.

Though Brown based this mix off Martin Galway’s C64 version (which is pretty much identical to the arcade, save the sound chip), the original composition was for the arcade by Masahiko Tataki, one of the lead composers in Taito’s resident musical group, Zuntata. Glyn R. Brown is no slouch either, having composed plenty of other fantastic vgm remixes and soundtracks to other media. However, he says that “Rastan” is incomplete, attributing it to a lack of variety from 3:49-4:08 and not enough lead instruments.

The interesting thing about the series is that it was built around the concept of a warrior king who, we are told, began his days as a thief and a murderer and offers to tell his story for the low, low price of 25 cent increments. Each sequel expands on this storytelling idea, but by the time we get through the third game, no sequel has ever been produced and the end of the story is never present; it’s merely an excuse to keep milking quarters out of the machine until the series is sucked dry (as it appears happened). Of course, the series also has some fantastic artwork, which saw its apex in 1991’s Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III. Eat your heart out, Frazetta:

By the way, this game is played on three monitors set side-by-side for that extra widescreen look. Sadly, while the sequel Nastar/Rastan Saga II sported a great soundtrack, the gameplay was incredibly lacking, and some of the animations were…a little odd. Let’s just say I didn’t let that go unnoticed.

One comment

  1. Look at this Savage Sword of Conan #24 cover by Norem, it’s what Glyn.r.Brown based himself on when painting the Rastan cover you posted.

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