Archive for July, 2010

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EarthBound – “The Battle of Final Destiny” (Keichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka)

July 24, 2010

EarthBound (Mother 2, 1994) certainly had an interesting soundtrack. The entire game was off-beat, and it had a wide range of music and background to cover those emotions, but also many pieces that stand out for their strong melody. One of the more interesting – and thus memorable – tracks is “The Battle of Final Destiny,” a rather redundant track title that couples 8-bit drama with 90s death metal. You can find the rest of the EarthBound soundtrack on the impeccable Starmen.net (actually, the site is crazier than I last remember).

EarthBound – “The Battle of Final Destiny” (Keichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka)

“The Battle of Final Destiny” is the final boss music. Ness and his friends have transferred their souls into robots in order to travel back in time and destroy Gygas, a creature of chaos dead set on obliterating the earth (I don’t remember why; must have been all the porn we’re broadcasting into space). So the fight begins with the player facing a giant face of Ness inside an organic globule with a giant robotic spider controlled by Pokey – a rather humorous sight. The track opens with about 50 seconds of 8-bit music played over the SNES speaker, recalling classic games (and more specifically EarthBound Zero, aka Mother).

This type of music is completely unexpected, not only for its archaism but also because there is nothing else in the game that plays like this. Likewise, the infusion of death metal at 0:53 is equally surprising, and it’s actually not that bad a tune. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Earthworm Jim Special Edition – “Junkit” (Tommy Tallarico)

July 23, 2010

Ok, so what’s one of the coolest soundtracks from the early 90s? That would be Earthworm Jim (1994). Now, the original was composed by Mark Miller (ToeJam and Earl, Dark Side of the Moon), but Tommy Tallarico gets credit for arranging the soundtrack (and picking up the reins for the series) with Earthworm Jim: Special Edition on the Sega CD and PC. Earthworm Jim is one of the neatest characters ever put in a game – he’s a giant earthworm inside a super suit, and he fires a giant laser pistol that shoots about a bajillion rounds a minute (I am not making that up). The game had AMAZING animation as well as good gameplay and a great soundtrack. Anyway, you can buy a soundtrack compilation of a whole anthology of Earthworm Jim music from Video Games Live for $15. There’s some pretty zany stuff on there, but also a few good pieces like “Junkit” and “Subterranean”, but the Special Edition version of “What the Heck” was far better. The Sega CD version sells for about $50, which is completely nuts, but thankfully you can just play it on a Sega CD emulator instead of shelling out another $150 to play it on the actual hardware (or just buy the PC version for about $10 used). Umm yeah, you can also buy action figures.

Earthworm Jim Special Edition – “Junkit” (Tommy Tallarico)

The theme is quite earthy, which is kind of what you’d expect from a junkyard – all that low, grungy bass. But the theme also wants to climb to the heights with a wide range of notes played on flute and trumpet (which makes sense, as this level has a LOT of climbing as well as upward and downward movement!). The beat is groovy and the high quality synths add quite a bit. Oh yeah, and you of course have to love that guitar! This really is vgm at its best – great action music to game to (and sounds great on the stereo!).

In contrast, the original Genesis version has a pretty cool gritty feel. There’s a good drum track here (just check those high hats at 1:29!) that works well with the low bass line while the flute and lead synth are both high quality. And what’s up with that weird vortex sound in the intro!? See, you can really create some good stuff with the Genesis given good synth libraries. Honestly, this sounds like something you could find on the Amiga. While ultimately not as good as the arrange, overall, some of the better music on the system and a cool piece.

Oh yeah, another cool thing is the special ending music. Beat the game on super hard mode, and you’ll get this special message from Tommy Tallarico.

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Ogre Battle – “Zenobia’s Grave (A Champion Has Risen)” (arr. DJ K-Wix, Israfel)

July 22, 2010

“Zenobia’s Grave” is one of the few Ogre Battle arranges out there. The piece was arranged by DJ K-Wix and Israfel, two long-time mixers on OCR. For a long time, their arrangement of “Impregnable Defense” from Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen has been one of my favorites from OCReMix due to the intense imagery it evokes of a hard and brutal battle between two armies. The eerie, dynamic choir (described as “apocalyptic” by DJ Pretzel) and discordant, rumbling trumpets with bells makes for a great climactic fight. Pretty cool stuff that’s still good after all these years.

Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen – “Zenobia’s Grave (A Champion Has Risen)” (arr. DJ K-Wix, Israfel)

So just who is Zenobia? Well, Zenobia is the name of a kingdom in Zetegenia. It is the origin of a rebellion against the empire (which the player successfully wages). The name can also refer to the King of Zenobia (who the player might eventually become). At any rate, the kingdom was conquered by Empress Endora who put the country under an iron rule. The name certainly conjures visions of a conquered country rising from the ashes as well as the gloomy and haunted barrow of its ruler who must now be avenged.

The original piece was composed by Masaharu Iwata (Shadow Hearts, Odin Sphere).

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Kirby’s Superstar – “King Dedede” (Jun Ishikawa)

July 21, 2010

The fight with King Dedede in Kirby’s Dream Land and Spring Breeze (from Kirby’s Superstar) is a pretty cool concept. Here’s this little pink marshmallow fighting a five-ton penguin inside a boxing ring – and the penguin has a giant mallet. In the background, of course, all his minions are there jeering at you and cheering for him. It’s a pretty epic battle and a great finale to the game. (Incidentally, about the only other game I can recall that has a giant boxing/wrestling match for the final battle is Donkey Kong 64, which ended up as a good level concept with poor execution.) So, at the risk of doing too much Kirby (is that possible) – or more specifically, Kirby’s Superstar – here’s King Dedede’s theme! (Screenshot is from the DS version.)

Kirby’s Superstar – “King Dedede”

For the two-second intro, Kirby smashes into the castle at the top of Mt. Dedede and proceeds to bust his way into the arena. The instrument selection is very Kirby (and hence Jun Ishikawa), with big drums and a wood block. The main melody is played on trumpets with some nice bells and other tones added for emphasis and variety. The version in Kirby’s Superstar is actually better because it adds a third section at the end of the first loop (0:40) – whereas the original just looped at this point. This adds great variety to an a melody that is pretty catchy but would otherwise get old pretty quick. Anyway, the boss music is great for the fight against this bully with a nice bit of lighthearted humor.

“King Dedede” has only one really good remix, and that is the amazing Yoko Shimomura‘s rendition from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. There’s a lot of great percussion here, with better trumpet samples that just add so much emotion and atmosphere to the piece. There’s a nice break for the second loop with a brilliant piano and flutes. The only place I’m really torn is with that synth line as it’s a little too high-pitched.

And…that’s really about it. There’s a club mix from the more miss than hit Peach Mold doujin album (2006) and a couple trance/electronica mixes by cthonic (the other one is from VGMix 2.0, but not really worth sharing). Honestly, not my style.

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Kirby’s Super Star – “The Underground Jungle” (Jun Ishikawa, Dan Miyakawa)

July 20, 2010

Kirby’s Super Star (1996) happens to be one of my favorite games. Not just because Kirby is a pretty fun character, but because the idea behind the game – to create a single game containing five full original games in one playable by two players. The game was remixed as Kirby’s Super Star Ultra for the Nintendo DS and you can also get it on the Virtual Console. Aside from the final game, Milky Way Wishes, my favorite game in the collection is The Great Cave Offensive, which basically catered to my interest in exploring underground caverns for hidden worlds (something that must have arose from reading Journey to the Center of the Earth as a kid). There’s just something surreal about finding an entire world under the earth (especially one with race car monsters; and people once thought that really existed thanks to the hollow earth hypothesis). Anyway, it still makes good sci fi. The game is pretty cool – explore a giant cave Kirby has mistakenly fallen into, snagging all the loot as you go on your way. In any event, I find the main theme, “The Underground Jungle” to be quite fun, and one of the most memorable moments.

Kirby’s Super Star – “The Underground Jungle” (Jun Ishikawa, Dan Miyakawa)

“The Underground Jungle” is a crazy exploration tune that Pitfall Harry might be envious of. It’s got an amazing drum and percussion section with snare, wood blocks, taiko, and Kirby-style synth drums that really demand the player run forward. There’s a little bit of romance of exploration here as well, exploring a teeming jungle just below the surface and a vast forgotten land. Flute and strings add some nice texture. Granted, the theme does get a little monotonous after awhile, mainly because it repeats the same section twice, the second with variant, before heading to the loop.

Lucky members of Club Nintendo in Japan had the opportunity to get the Kirby Ultra Super Deluxe Original Soundtrack of the DS remake (2009). There was also a remix by doujin artist Makoto Shozu called “The Great Cave Offensive” that is a medley of all songs from the game (this one is pretty cool).

Incidentally, one of my other favorite tunes from this game is “Crystal Caverns,” a dramatic orchestral mix of “Green Greens.” Just the thing you’d expect for discovering a giant, majestic underground city. Great stuff.

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Kirby’s Adventure – “Green Greens” (Jun Ishikawa)

July 19, 2010

“Green Greens,” known in Kirby’s Adventure (1994) as “Black and White Plains Level (GameBoy)” was originally composed by Jun Ishikawa for Kirby’s Dream Land (1992) (Mr. Ishikawa also worked on Kirby’s Adventure and nearly every other title in the series). The track has since become one of the most well-known Kirby songs out there. Kirby’s Adventure was essentially a full-blown adaptation of the Game Boy version for the NES (the game was later adapted again in Kirby’s Super Star as Spring Breeze).

Kirby’s Adventure – “Green Greens” (Jun Ishikawa)

“Green Greens” is a hopeful, energetic theme that presents joy in life and the green earth (and all that there is to eat upon it), but also presents Kirby’s tenacity to move forward and consume all his obstacles. While not as gluttonous as some of Kirby’s other themes, “Green Greens” really stands out for its grace and simplicity – factors that were made possible by its origins on the Game Boy. In fact, the hidden stage this song plays in is a replica of Kirby’s Dream Land, with a black and white color scheme and a similar instrument set to that of the Game Boy version. The stage was completely different from anything else in the game (and most things on the system due to its reflection of another console) and showed off quite a bit of what the system could do.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl had an excellent orchestral arrange of “Green Greens”, also done by HAL staff. This might be the best version, though the variation from Kirby’s Super Star (also by Jun Ishikawa!) is also fantastic, particularly with a fully-realized Kirby-style instrument set!

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Super Smash Bros. Melee – “Ice Mountain” (arr. Tadashi Ikegami, et al)

July 18, 2010

“Ice Mountain” is an arrangement of the Ice Climber theme originally by Akito Nakatsuka. This is another relatively forgotten game from Nintendo’s early years. It’s basically an upward-scrolling version of Mario Bros. where you have to bash enemies*, collect power-ups, and climb to the top of an ice mountain before time runs out (or you get scrolled off the stage).  Their inclusion in Smash Bros. seems a little strange, but my guess it was more for the unique play style of having two characters as part of a team.

Super Smash Bros. Melee – “Ice Mountain” (arr. Tadashi Ikegami, et al)

“Ice Mountain” is actually a pretty cool jazzy theme, almost like lounge music due to the laid-back pace. It has all the instrumentation you’d expect for ‘cool ice music’, sleigh bells, high-scale synths and guitars. There’s a carefree but chaotic feel to the music – part of this comes from the slow, effortless melody of the second half while the other part from the frantic guitars of the first. In all, that melody fit well with the frantic pace of the original, and it also works with the chaotic battles of Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a remix of this theme, but I don’t like it as much as the Melee version.

Mr. Nakatsuka was one of Nintendo’s early composers who worked on Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Mario Super Sluggers. HAL’s sound team for Super Smash Bros. Melee included Tadashi Ikegami (Kirby’s Dreamland 2), Shougo Sakai (originally Data East; also composed Vapor Trail), and Takuto Kitsuta (Pokemon Heartgold/Soulsilver).

*You could bash seals in the Japanese version, but these were changed to yetis in the US.