Posts Tagged ‘Hidenori Maezawa’

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The Adventures of Bayou Billy – “Street and Swamp Fighting (Stages 1, 3, 6, 8 BGM)” (Hidenori Maezawa, et al)

November 29, 2010

The Adventures of Bayou Billy (1991), known in Japan as Mad City (1989), is one of the more obscure Konami titles and a forgotten soundtrack by Hidenori Maezawa. Nice graphics and tripping music, the game is forgotten because it was infamous for its difficulty (Spoony Experiment has a fantastic Until We Win feature about it). Billy West must save his girlfriend Annabelle Lee from the vicious gang of Godfather Gordon, fighting his way through swamp and street, driving a jeep through the bayou… Sorry, Billy, but it’s times like these when you’re probably better off just finding a new girlfriend! (and get a shirt while you’re at it!) Anyway, the music is fairly unique, quite a different sound from much NES music of the time, particularly the first stage theme, “Street & Swamp Fighting” .

The Adventures of Bayou Billy – “Street & Swamp Fighting (Stages 1, 3, 5, 8)” (Hidenori Maezawa, et al)

The piece opens with a funky guitar and hip swamp bubble popping. The main melody is played on a square wave whose identity is a little hard to pin down – perhaps trumpets or strings? – with some nice highlights from the trumpets. Its grungy slide is similar to that found in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Battletoads, a slam beat from the bayou. At 0:37 there is a nice break with punctuation from that dancing guitar. Coupled with the opening, the first loop is at 1:00, but after this, the loop length is 37 seconds, which is pretty decent, especially since the track is fairly dynamic.

The real reason I wanted to talk Bayou Billy though was this awesome arrange by Evil Horde called “El Lagarto“. I gotta say, this one took me by surprise, as I’d never heard the soundtrack before. The 70s disco-funk guitar is back with some slick Latin clapping and salsa-hot percussion – with a bongo solo at 3:16! Also check out that clapping break at 1:36 – this track is super-slick. This is sure to get your toes a-tapping and the ghost of Ricardo Montalbon dancing. Take a unique soundtrack and add a mix like this – a complete blast that’s also different from anything I’ve heard! The title, “El Legarto”, is the Spanish word for lizard – as in alligator!

The kings of this soundtrack are Jun Funahashi (Ys VI, Lost in Blue) and Hidenori Maezawa (Contra, Super C), who later collaborated on Castlevania III, which is some of the best music on the Famicom. The other composers were Atsushi Fujito (Castlevania: Bloodlines, Contra III: The Alien Wars) and Shinkon Ogura (Snake’s Revenge). Killer composers, all.

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Castlevania III – “Clockwork” (Hidenori Maezawa, et al)

November 8, 2010

This week I’m going to look at music appreciation through vgm. Essentially, this is to help increase familiarity with different musical styles through videogames.

First up is the Baroque period of music (1600-1760). While the layman often classifies anything that is played on the music station as “Classical”, these are actually broken up into individual styles based on particular musical periods. Works by Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel characterize this style. Baroque style is a dead giveaway through the use of a limited number and variety of instruments, primarily violin, harpsichord, and organ. Handel is noted for using brass, but most composers of the time did not; same goes for percussion, which is nearly absent, though the harpsichord was more often used to mark meter than it was for melody. The period serves as the foundation of modern music through the development of the suite and the refinement of musical instruments. The most famous work from this period was Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, which demonstrated musical composition in each key (major and minor), demonstrating the flexibility of the keyboard.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – “Clockwork” (Hidenori Maezawa, Yoshinori Sasaki, Jun Funahashi, Yukie Morimoto)

This brings us to today’s Daily, “Clockwork” from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1989). “Clockwork” is one of the most easily-identifiable pieces from the Baroque style from a videogame.  Though on the Famicom’s 2A03 sound chip (using a VRC6 expansion programmed by Hidenori Maezawa), we can still plainly tell that the instruments used are harpsichord due to the high-pitched plinking. The harpsichord is essentially a primitive piano played with a keyboard where strings are plucked rather than struck (hence the higher pitch). Harpsichord has rarely been used outside the Baroque period. The harpsichord here lends itself well to the mechanical gears of the clocktower, keeping time as well as remaining intricate like the spokes on a gear and the multitude of gears in the giant clock tower the level is played in (clocktowers have since become a staple for the series, requiring complex jumping maneuvers). Couple this with the low bass (could be used to represent a cello, harpsichord, or even an organ) and the track has a distinct feel of danger. In fact, the track also lends itself well to the organ, as demonstrated in the Castlevania Concert (sample in the trailer).

Of course, just because the piece was originally composed as a Baroque work does not mean that is how it has to be arranged. Dwelling of Duels demonstrated this with their special competition in 2004, which resulted in such compositions as the Latin “La Hora es Tarde” by Housethegrate. “Clockwork” has made appearances in Circle of the Moon‘s clockwork stage as well as in Castlevania Judgment, both of which are excellent arranges.

Castlevania III was composed by Yoshinori Sasaki (Illusion of Gaia, Ys VI), Jun Funahashi (Lethal Enforcers, Lost in Blue, Ys VI), and Yukie Morimoto (Gradius II and III, Ganbare Goemon series). Though no specific composer is listed in the soundtrack, Mr. Funahashi is credited with Special Thanks in the PC rerelease, which could place him as a consultant.

“Woodcarving Partita” from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is another fine example of Baroque. An accomplished pianist, composer Michiru Yamane has played this piece live at two separate concerts. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge for the Game Boy has another excellent selection of Baroque works, including Bach’s own “Chromatic Fantasy”. Clearly, the Castlevania series owes a lot of debt and inspiration to the composers of this period.

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Unchosen Paths – “Rancid Purgatory” (Goat)

February 5, 2010

Who knew that game death could sound so awesome? I’ve got a second great track from Unchosen Paths, a fun number called “Rancid Purgatory”. Yes, it’s two from the same album in two days, but the album is that good. By the way, his song titles are really imaginative and show great respect for the original music while helping paint a picture of the scene.

Unchosen Paths – “Rancid Purgatory” (Goat)

“Rancid Purgatory” is a remix of “Dying” and “Game Over”, the death and game over screen jingles. As the original tracks are only about 15 seconds long total, and “Rancid Purgatory” runs 4:00, the track is by far the most original of the songs on the album – and it’s a fantastic piece of work, and in many ways my favorite piece on the album. There are some nice riffs in the main melody, which opens with a nice bell toll. Heavy guitars are used enhanced by strings (in some places with nice variation, like 1:00). Coupled with the tolling church bells, this gives a full range of sound to complement the melodic progression. I really dig those mournful bells at 2:00, as their deep, hollow sound really fills out the guitar line – and of course the demonic chuckle at 2:20 is a fantastic touch.

The high notes on guitar at the end of each section of the loop (0:30, 1:30, and 3:30) are extensions of the “Game Over” theme, and give a fantastic gothic feel to the more pastoral/memorial sense of the original: it’s more mechanical, with technical attention to intricate detail. It does a good job of showing off Goat’s guitar style, which is very conscious of each note he plays. And then of course, the final notes of this section serve as the final epitaph.

The final bit of interesting information about Unchosen Paths Read the rest of this entry ?

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Unchosen Paths – “Shadow Buster” (Goat)

February 5, 2010

Had some technical difficulties- at a conference and we don’t have wifi in the hotel (or power outlets in the auditorium…). So the Daily for yesterday was “Shadow Buster”, a remix of “Flashback”, the credits theme to Castlevania III, originally by Hidenori Maezawa. This is from the album Unchosen Paths, a rock mix album of the entire soundtrack done single-handedly by Goat over the course of about four years. By the way, the entire soundtrack is available at Goat’s Castle if you haven’t downloaded it already.

Unchosen Paths – “Shadow Buster” (Goat)

“Shadow Buster” is one of my favorite remixes from Castlevania III. As the credits theme to the game, the song is about victory and return of peace and order to Transylvania, reinforced by joyful major chords and a hummable melody. It’s got a feel of mastery over difficulty and bright skies pushing away the dark shadows. It plays over a video recalling all the levels and enemies fought, hence the original title as well as Goat’s renaming of it. The acoustic guitar that begins the track has a wonderful ethnic sound to it, which is then enhanced by the power of the rock guitar and drums and the glory of the strings. Though “Shadow Buster” follows the original version fairly closely, it does add a fantastic flute and string solo at about 0:50 and a guitar solo at 2:05. Definitely not to be missed.

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8-Bit Mondays – Castlevania III – “Prayer” and “Beginning” (Hidenori Maezawa)

January 5, 2010

Here is one of the all-time classic videogame tunes, “Beginning”, the Stage 1 theme from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (known as Legend of Demon Castle in Japan), composed by the legendary Hidenori Maezawa. It is one of the most popular and recognizable videogame tunes, appearing in nearly a dozen games and remixed dozens more. This version of the song is from the Famicom version of the game (1990). It’s possible that “Beginning” is the most popular Castlevania song ever composed. I think later games in the series have better tunes, but this one still stands up with that classic ‘Konami Sound’.

“Prayer”

Castlevania III: Legend of Demon Castle – “Beginning” (Hidenori Maezawa)

“Beginning” is yet another example of a perfect Stage 1 theme – the strong, hummable melody is here with a rousing beat and multiple audio layers. The synthesized harpsichord adds a strong gothic feel to the track with the bassline giving a sense of danger while simultaneously driving the player forward towards the goal.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – “Beginning” (NES Version)

Note that there is also a difference between the Famicom version of the theme and that played in the US on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is because the FDS was able to use better sound chips (the FC7) which allowed the composers to use sampled drums for much better sound as well as provide two more instruments than the NES’s four. Read the rest of this entry ?