Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

h1

Totaka’s Song (Kazumi Totaka)

December 2, 2010

Here’s an interesting piece of music that not many people know about: “Totaka’s Song”, so-called because it appears in every single (or almost every single…) game that Kazumi Totaka helped compose. “Totaka’s Song” is his signature, basically a means of signing the work as an artist signing a painting and having a little joke in the process. The piece is 19 notes long and is a short, playful ramble that seems embarrassed to have been discovered and so sheepishly pauses at the end. Here it is from Mario Paint, one of its most famous appearances:

The song first appeared in X for the Game Boy (1992, Japan-only). It was also played by Mr. Totaka’s ‘avatar’ in Animal Crossing, the guitar-playing dog K.K. Nindb has a collection of several versions of “Totaka’s Song”, and more are on YouTube. PhilBond has a three-part video series on the song that sparked interest across the Internet, but admittedly the pacing is a little slow… Most instances of “Totaka’s Song” have been discovered, but a few are missing such as Wii Sports (though there is this funky version of the title theme played backwards). I’ve also yet to see any kind of arranges (anyone up to a heavy metal joke version for Dwelling of Duels?).

Advertisements
h1

Sunset Riders – “Mr. Pink Poncho’s Western Rock Band” (Dr. Manhattan)

December 1, 2010

Ok, so I’ve already talked about the original version of “Shoot-out at the Sunset Corral” from Sunset Riders, but I was so impressed with this OCR arrange that I just had to give it its own post before this blog rides out into the setting sun. I’ve already posted work by Dr. Manhattan before (“Sudden Kiss” from Dracula X) and I’m definitely a fan of his rock style. Plus, the track contains “Fight Bravely”, the second level theme.

Sunset Riders – “Mr. Pink Poncho’s Western Rock Band” (Dr. Manhattan)

The instruments are quite close to the original, with guitars, drums, and trumpets played to perfection, emphasized and cued just where they need to be. I’d almost say this is just a straight-up cover for the first half, but when they’re this good, why would you really care? There’s a nice guitar wail at 1:55 that is just what you’d expect from a spaghetti western, and this opens into a blazing guitar solo where Dr. Manhattan really shows his stuff – YEE-HAW! And what’s this? The “Mexican Hat Dance” song! (called “Jarabe Tapatio”). Of course you have to have that with the rifle-wielding Cormano! (And yes, he does wear a pink poncho!). This is a nice bridge to the Spanish-themed “Fight Bravely”, which ends the mix beginning at 2:47.

OCRemix lists the composer as Naohisa Morota (Batman: The Video Game, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness), but I think he’s just credited with the SNES version (Motoaki Furukawa did the arcade version).

h1

Falcom Special Box ’90 – “First Flight to You” (Michio Fujisawa)

November 30, 2010

Nihon Falcom Corporation is a famous game company in Japan that specializes in RPGs, particularly Ys and Dragon Slayer. From 1988 to 1997, the company released box sets containing originals and arrangements of their best music from that year (though labeling it with the next year). It’s a truly amazing collection as the albums initially had a wide range of arrangements, including vocal, heavy rock, new age, and sound scores/drama. I found out about the Falcom Special Box collections when Slightly Dark did a special on one. Falcom Special Box ’90 contains four albums, one from each of the above styles, though each disc averages about 20 minutes. My favorite disc is the New Age Music, which is a beautiful mix of cello, violin, and piano. The pieces were arranged by Michio Fujisawa, who is still arranging Falcom music, and some of the tracks have been reprinted in various albums over the past 20 years.

Falcom Special Box ’90 – “First Flight to You” (Michio Fujisawa)

“First Flight to You” is an arrange of the ending theme to Ys II, so it is particularly joyful, conjuring images of free birds flying over summer hills in the early morning light and the hopeful emotions of a joyous return. The notes of the original roll off the gentle touch of piano and violin, dancing in playful meter to punctuated leaps. The cello provides an emotional base and later (1:50) plucks joyfully along with the piano. There are three parts to the song, the first a regular loop, the second a variation (1:08), followed by a slow break (2:24) with new/freeform material, ending with a final variant on the theme (2:48) – classic AA’BA” structure. The final reprise is particularly joyful with violin and piano at full emotional vigor and new material on the piano. The piece ends – I think – a little abruptly, but that does not detract from its pleasant, relaxing excellence.

The original version was composed by Mieko Ishikawa (Dinosaur, Star Trader) and Yuzo Koshiro (ActRaiser, Shinobi). Hardcore Gaming 101 has an extensive overview of the series.

h1

King Kong 2 (MSX) – “End of the Adventure” (Commandcom)

November 28, 2010

Konami seems to have a good track record of releasing two versions of each of their games: one for the Famicom, the other for the MSX. Castlevania/Vampire Killer; Contra; Metal Gear 1 and 2/Snake’s Revenge. And now we have King Kong 2, with the MSX version King Kong 2: Yomigaeru Densetsu (King Kong 2: The Legend Restored). In the Famicom version (Ikari no Megaton Punch), players took the role of King Kong himself in his quest to find his beloved Lady Kong. With Yomigaeru Densetsu, it’s the adventurer Mitchel, also out to find Lady Kong, only this time to give him a blood transfusion. The game even resembles the MSX Metal Gear in terms of graphics and level design. Anyway, this forgotten Konami game recently saw an arrange by Commandcom (aka Jorge Mira Boronat) on OCR.

King Kong 2: Yomigaeru Densetsu – “End of the Adventure” (Commandcom)

While I think the soundtrack to Ikari no Megaton Punch is better, I have to admit that the “Stage 1” theme (arranged here) is an absolutely fantastic, catchy melody and pushes what the MSX could do, and it’s great to see how both soundtracks ended up with such great scores. The thing is, I don’t really like the MSX as much as the Famicom (though admittedly, it does sound a little more ‘Japanese’). The MSX usually doesn’t have quite the same impact as the Famicom, which in the right hands (say Kuniyo Yamashita or Hidenori Maezawa) can create a score much more lively and dynamic, due primarily to the extra channels and grittier sound (though Kuniyo Yamashita composed Vampire Killer with about as much gusto as the Famicom version). Still, Commandcom does an excellent job of really fleshing out the ideas present in the original, with lively piano, an adventuresome march, and wicked drumwork. It presents a grand feel of adventure, thick jungles, wild animals, and (in this case) helpful natives. Commandcom references Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean in his musical style, all excellent adventure scores. This is truly where the strengths of game music arrangements lie, being able to take an original piece and upgrade it for modern ears. It’s truly an example of how the bamboo model of the original song becomes a fully realized building with more powerful technology.

The original soundtrack was composed by Motoaki FurukawaMetal Gear for MSX and Dracula X: The Rondo of Blood.

h1

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair – “Ruined Castle Corridor”

November 27, 2010

I just discovered that in January Konamistyle is releasing the soundtrack to Harmony of Despair, the XBLA game that came out earlier this year which allowed you to play with up to three friends as one of Castlevania‘s heroes (and heroines!). What’s even cooler is there will be a bundle that includes this along with the Castlevania Tribute 1 and 2 albums (Tribute!? You steal men’s souls! And make them your slaves!). I’m hoping it won’t be a bunch of electronica… However, I’ve given the Harmony of Dissonance soundtrack a listen and was quite impressed. While it’s a selection from mostly newer games in the series (would have loved to hear some Castlevania IV and GameBoy arranges), Harmony of Dissonance has a truly rocking soundtrack with primarily new arranges. One of my favorites is “Ruined Castle Corridor”, the main castle theme from Aria of Sorrow.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance – “Ruined Castle Corridor”

Konami’s heavy metal treatment of “Ruined Castle Corridor” is pretty intense, with live guitars and an excellent synth library. The track might be called Soma’s Theme, the young man who is cursed with becoming the next Dracula (though he must start out as a college kid with a penknife – how he learns to wield a 6-foot sword of demon slaying in six hours, don’t ask). Anyway, the piece has a slight tinge of sadness, of bearing the burden of fate. Ultimately, much better than the meatier metal of Rize’s “Soul of Axe Armor” (named after the blue Axe Knights who roam the castle).

Michiru Yamane composed the original version of this theme, but she also composed an arranged version for the Lament of Innocence soundtrack titled “Cross of Fate“. This fantastic piece has Mrs. Yamane’s trademark percussion line, mixing a standard drumbeat (well-defined here as usual) with weird synthetic whisperings (see also 2:40). The drums are particularly intense and mesh well with the string, piano, and trumpet-driven melody. The piece has some excellent organ work beginning 2:40, the type of intricate, virtuostic work Castlevania is known for. This ending section goes on for perhaps a little too long without variation though, but it is still a fantastic arrange and a far cry from the blurry audio of the Gameboy Advance.

h1

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Kenji Yamamoto)

November 26, 2010

While I haven’t had a chance to play through Donkey Kong Country Returns yet (looking really forward to getting a copy though!), I did get a chance to listen to the soundtrack. My conclusion is that it’s pretty much a split: half the music is good, half is disappointing. First off, the instrument selection has greater variety than the original (which has a bass static to it due to lower bitrate) and seems to have come straight from swank jungle-themed lounges (so far straight-on) with a nice infusion of ethnic sounds (chanting, for instance).  However, the synthetic instruments just don’t seem to have the punch they did in the originals, and I think part of this comes from the synth lines and instrument library. I’ve heard some people say Nintendo’s instrument library is a little bit dated, and maybe this is an indication of that. Also, Kenji Yamamoto’s compositions are lacking in the environmental sounds that characterized the David Wise’s Donkey Kong Country soundtrack (a major sticking point in my view). Yet another disappointment is most of the soundtrack is arranges of pieces from the original Donkey Kong Country, giving the game the soundtrack of a complete reboot.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – “Jungle Groove” (Kenji Yamamoto)

It all comes down to the composition though, and this is where I’m split. Take the new rendition of “Jungle Groove”. Mr. Yamamoto’s rendition is a bit more intense and lacks the environmental sounds of the original. There are some fun additions here, such as the digeridoo, but the synth line seems a little out of place. I think the real trouble is pieces like “Jungle Groove” have a long and storied history, with plenty of other remixes and arranges to compare. In this regard, it’s difficult to outdo the best of the past 15 years, especially when the feel of the tracks has changed. Without so much comparison, they would probably stand higher as original compositions.

Still, there are some fantastic arranges here though that outdo the originals. Take “Fear Factory”, for instance: Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Secret of Mana – “Angel’s Fear” (Hiroki Kikuta)

November 25, 2010

I’ve already talked some about the Mana/Seiken Densetsu series before, but not yet the most notable piece of Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana (1993), “Angel’s Fear”.

Secret of Mana – “Angel’s Fear” (Hiroki Kikuta)

“Angel’s Fear” opens with the dragon’s roar, a mysterious, primeval sound, a sound echoing from Nature’s heart. The same idea would fit nicely with Princess Mononoke‘s soundtrack, I think. This transitions to the opening phrases of “Angel’s Fear”, a call-and-response between alternating bars of piano that are complimentary in such a way that neither would be complete without the other. The piano casts brilliant rays of light through the resplendent forest canopy, the purity and vitality of nature. The next segment puts the piano as accompanying melody while a flute plays the “Mana” theme. This is followed by the second half of the piece, transitioned through cymbals, and invokes images of summer wind blowing through the trees. It is one of the finest tunes from videogames that shows the tranquility and spirit of nature. The name is a little ambiguous, but I think it might refer to the fear that something might happen to the forest, dominated by a massive world tree, the Mana Tree.

There have been a large number of arranges to “Angel’s Fear”, but I haven’t been fully satisfied with any of them. The first is in Seiken Densetsu 3 (never released in the US) with a piano and harp arrange, Read the rest of this entry ?