Archive for January, 2010

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Rockman X3 – “Opening Stage” (Capcom)

January 31, 2010

Today, I’m taking a short break from Konami music to do some Capcom classics! This time it’s the “Opening Stage” from Rockman X3 (1995), which is a darn good rock piece from the SNES. The soundtrack was composed by a whole bunch of guys (Kinuyo Yamashita, Toshihiko Horiyama, Syusaku Uchiyama & Makoto Tomozawa), so take your pick! The whole X collection (or at least 1-6) was released in a special compilation album in 2003. It ran a decent price of 6300 yen (about $65) which isn’t bad for 5 discs (I’ve seen most sets that big go for twice that), but I guess it’s out of print now.

Rockman X3 – “Opening Stage” (Capcom)

“Opening Stage” is my favorite piece from the Rockman X3 soundtrack. It’s not that the rest of the soundtrack is bad, it’s just there are fewer pieces that really stand out. As such, “Opening Stage” has the nice, energetic beat and easily memorable melody that you would expect from an introductory level. It’s also got great instrumentation: the main synth line feels just like a robot lab while also possessing a sense of nostalgia (similarity with the Dr. Light themes, perhaps?) as well as serial drama (due to the long notes). The combination of synth with the very slick rock guitar from the other X games creates great interplay, and when they meet at the end, the mix of low metal with high-pitch synth is pretty unique. And then the drums give it a nice pumping trance feel (which explains a few remixes). Other than that, a pretty basic, but enjoyable tune. Other pieces in the soundtrack have a nice viral infection feel to them, so if you like this one, give the rest a listen.

As you might recall, Rockman X3 came out late in the SNES’s life and as such it was ported to the Sega Saturn and PlayStation and given a remixed soundtrack along the way. However… Meh. It’s a slow beat jazz fusion that has nothing of the intensity and rhythm of the original. It’s a bit closer to the Alph Lyla Rockman X remix album, which I think was missing the jazz rock of the originals. The composers, Yoshino Aoki (Breath of Fire III and IV) and Shusaku Uchiyama (Biohazard 2, Devil May Cry) don’t seem to have been part of the band though… (but hey, Aoki-san is another of Capcom’s female composers! Win!) Honestly, I haven’t heard any decent mixes of this. Beatdrop did a couple for OCR, but they’re both essentially trance (the newer one is better). The melody simply doesn’t hold through. Maybe Kissing the Mirror will do one… Or Dwelling of Duels? It demands a rock cover!

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Perfect Selection Konami Shooting Battle – “Battles of Battleship” (Naoto Shibata)

January 30, 2010

I have to apologize to everyone who tried to download the Blaster Master file last night – the link was broken! However, it’s been fixed now, so you can listen to some Sunsoft goodness. Today’s is another rock track, this time “Battles of Battleship” from Perfect Selection Konami Shooting Battle (1993).

Perfect Selection Konami Shooting Battle – “Battles of Battleship” (Naoto Shibata)

“Battles of Battleship” is a pretty epic rock track. The theme is from Thunder Cross II and recalls images of a giant fleet in the middle of a star field. The lone fighter craft must fly through the armada to destroy the mothership! This is a long, grueling task, and the slow, methodic nature of the theme suggests this.

Thunder Cross II is a pretty solid shmup. The original piece was composed by Miko Saitou (aka Metal Yuhki; Dracula X PCE, Ninja Gaiden Arcade). The original used an FM synth that felt close to real rock guitars, so it’s nice to hear it with the real thing. Incidentally, there is another remix of this track on Konami All-Stars 1993: Music Station of Dreams, arranged by Mikio Saitou. You can read up more on the game on HG101.

I really enjoy the Battle albums. They’re very well-composed with some excellent guitar work. The metal arrangements really breathe new life into some of Konami’s great pieces, so it’s a shame these are out of print and impossible to find without sacrificing your firstborn son. I will say though the album art is kind of weird – lazer zaps floating through hyperspace. But it’s still got that early ’90s metal feel.

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Blaster Master – “Rocket” (arr. Prozax)

January 29, 2010

UPDATE: Link is now working!

Blaster Master (1988) is one of those cool Sunsoft games that never quite made it into the next generation of game systems. An interesting combination of Metroid and Bomberman, the game was defined by both the giant tank and the astronaut cave missions, as well as the ridiculous ‘Go rescue your pet frog!’ story (the GBC version doesn’t make too much more sense either!). The game was also pretty brutal as it had no passwords or saves – you have to play it in one sitting! However, like most Sunsoft games of the time, it had a fantastic soundtrack. Here is a remix interpreted by Dan Orosz (aka Prozax).

Blaster Master – “Rocket” (arr. Prozax)

Though “Rocket” plays in Stage 3, I feel it actually makes a nice introductory song for an album. The acoustic intro is slow and calm, giving the sense of emerging into the sunlight and into the rocket ship. About 30 seconds in, the track picks up with an 8-bit alarm for the rocket launch before jumping into some fantastic guitar, drum, and cymbal action. The only real downside to this piece is that it feels like it could have gone for about another 60-90 seconds; instead it just kind of fades out.

“Rocket” was one of the first remixes on OC Remix, produced in 2000. Even so, and at 128kbps standard of the time, the quality of the sound is very good, which helps it stand up 10 years later.  The track was eventually removed from OCR after a dispute over administration decisions resulted in a falling out of some of the original members and Prozax left OCR to help form VGMix, who requested all their songs be removed from the page (actually, the copy here is from OCR before it was taken down!). Read the rest of this entry ?

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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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Super Smash Bros. Brawl – “Theme of Tara” (arr. Takahiro Nishi) (2008)

January 27, 2010

Today I’ve got yet another Konami track for you, which doubles as another Super Smash Bros. Brawl track! (I must say, Brawl has a fantastic soundtrack – such a wide range of music, all popular themes from popular games!) This track is “Theme of Tara” from the original Metal Gear (1987) on the MSX2. This is great sneaking music that plays (in 8-bit form) throughout most of the game. In Brawl, this song plays in the Shadow Moses stage.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Metal Gear – “Theme of Tara” (arr. Takahiro Nishi)

I love “Theme of Tara” from the cheesy almost 8-bit trumpets that begin “Theme of Tara” to the slick ’60s Peter Gunn-esque guitar complete with bongo drums! (It is well documented that bongos will change a song from ‘good’ to ‘awesome’.) There are even a few mechanical chirps, referencing the sound chips it came from. I think the trumpets make it feel like Snake is saluting his superior officers before jumping in the plane and parachuting into the jungle – a really quick, simple videogame cutscene from the 1980s that tells all you need to know efficiently in all of four seconds. From this point, it’s perfect espionage music, with Snake sneaking around in the jungle and concrete bunkers – you can almost smell the cardboard box. It’s serious, it’s cool, and it’s fun – just what you’d expect from classic vgm! The Brawl mix also has some parallels with Metal Gear Solid 3, also set in the ’60s. While the loop is fairly short (and about average for vgm in1987), it has excellent rhythm and melody, which makes it a keeper. The style is also unique from the traditional ‘Konami Sound’ fare of the 1980s, feeling a tad more orchestral and seeming more in line with Hideo Kojima’s unique design philosophy. And where does the name of the song come from? Well, according to The Metal Gear Wiki, it’s because the beat sounded like “ta-rah” to Hideo Kojima!

“Theme of Tara” was originally composed by Iku Mizutani (Shadow of the Ninja, Renegade). The theme doesn’t make good use of the MSX2 sound system (unlike Solid Snake) Read the rest of this entry ?

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8-Bit Mondays – Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge – “Praying Hands” (Hidehiro Funauchi)

January 26, 2010

Here is another classic GameBoy piece for 8-Bit Mondays, this time from Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (1991). Castlevania really has a lot of excellent music, but the GameBoy soundtracks seem to be overlooked rather often. “Praying Hands” is probably the best piece from the early handhelds, but there is a lot of great stuff on there. The soundtrack was printed in Akumajo Dracula Best 2 (1991) along with the soundtrack to Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: The Adventure. Be sure to turn up the volume and ideally put on a good set of stereo headphones before listening: it is very absorbing.

Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge – “Praying Hands” (Hidehiro Funauchi)

“Praying Hands” plays in the Cloud Castle stage. It has a very soothing effect evoking the water element, but also the calm collectedness of a praying man. The track accomplishes this by keeping its dynamics around a central set of long, deliberate notes. The opening is powerful, overflowing with determination and fervor, and as the track develops, the four sound channels of the GameBoy are layered to the best effect. There are even some bell-like bloops that you would expect to hear on the NES, but not the GameBoy. The only real downside of this track is that the loop goes on for a bit longer than 10 seconds (the normal fade-out period). However, the fade effect at the end is pretty incredible.

If you’re a chiptune connoisseur, you will notice this is incredible sound coming from a GameBoy. The drums have the solid Konami Sound you would expect from the Famicom and the square waves possess an overwhelming buzzing effect that is completely absorbing over a stereo system. Hidehiro Funauchi was responsible for the sound design on a good many of Konami’s GameBoy titles, including Castlevania: The Adventure and Operation C, the latter of which is exceptional. Belmont’s Revenge was produced later in his career, after he had mastered the system hardware, and is a testament to both his skill and the surprising capabilities of the GameBoy. The game isn’t that bad either.

Another interesting bit about the soundtrack is that it contains an arrangement of “Passpied” from Suite Bergamasque by Claude Debussy and “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903)” by Johann Sebastian Bach.

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Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight – “Enchanted Banquet” (Michiru Yamane)

January 25, 2010

Nocturne in the Moonlight is a fantastic soundtrack. It has been consistently one of the top-rated and top-selling albums since 1997 and is the album that vaulted Michiru Yamane to star status as one of the best vgm composers around – and perhaps the top female composer in the industry. The soundtrack gets a lot of love, particularly for popular pieces like “Dracula’s Castle” and “The Tragic Prince”, but I always felt that “Enchanted Banquet” doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The vocals in the song are performed by Michiru Yamane’s sister, Kahori.

Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight – “Enchanted Banquet” (Michiru Yamane)

“Enchanted Banquet” is the fantastic battle theme of the Succubus and Medusa, Castlevania’s two female bosses. This technical masterpiece features the outstanding call-and-response of Kahori Yamane’s disturbing operatic virtuosity and Michiru Yamane’s strings and organs, an interplay that is only matched in the intense “Death Flower Succubus” from Lament of Innocence. Drums and discordant trumpets add to the piece’s powerful menace and depth, giving form to banshee-shrieks echoing off cold stone floors and dark, cobwebbed ceilings, demonstrating that a female monster is something truly to be feared, a fact Beowulf knew all too well. As listeners, we are usually inclined to avoid this discord and unpleasantness to seek harmony, but to sit back and embrace this operetta from hell is truly breathtaking. There simply isn’t much else in vgm like it, which is a damn shame.

The cool thing about Nocturne in the Moonlight is that it is available on iTunes for $9.99 (under the English title Symphony of the Night), which is a steal, considering the album was worth every cent of the $30+ it used to cost to import. Give the album a try if you haven’t heard it already – you WON’T be disappointed.
Now I admit I don’t normally listen to “Enchanted Banquet” when I put this on CD. In fact, I remove several tracks Read the rest of this entry ?