Posts Tagged ‘Hip Tanaka’


Dr. Mario – “Fever” (Hirokazu Tanaka)

December 3, 2010

One of the games I remember playing as a kid was Tetris & Dr. Mario for the SNES. Dr. Mario is a puzzle game where you have to line up different-colored pills so they wipe out a virus of the same color. If the bottle fills up with pills, you’ve lost. It also had this really funny commercial. In the SNES version, there was a multiplayer option that was a lot of fun at the time, but I kind of lost interest in the game after I selected the hardest level and played through it for about an hour or two until I cleared it, saw the ending screen, and then was prompted to play another level. Then I realized it was pointless! Still, the game had some pretty trippy tunes that were so funny to hear, we couldn’t play some of them, or we’d mess up because we were laughing so hard! So yes, another classic from Hip Tanaka.

Dr. Mario (SNES version) – “Fever” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

“Fever” is a pretty cheeky tune – actually, all of them are, thanks to the jeering faces of the little viruses. The designers must have been inspired by Space Invaders, as you can’t help but enjoy squashing them with the pills. The SNES version uses an organ as well as provides chirps and insults from the viruses. At 0:29 there are a few bars from a famous classical tune that I have trouble identifying… You will also want to check out the classic Hip Tanaka bass line at 0:50, definitely a little reminiscent of Balloon Fight (especially with the bubbling pops).

I’d also like to point out that Dr. Mario was a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and so his theme saw a remix. However, I like the arrange of “Chill”  by Masaaki Iwasaki (Mother 3, Heavy Barrel) from Super Smash Bros. Brawl more, with its combination of original chip music and grunge guitars. Awesome high hat past the one-minute mark, too.

Finally, there is this incredibly awesome music video by Brentalfloss about Dr. Mario. Warning – it’s a tad NSFW! Read the rest of this entry ?


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 (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 ?


Super Smash Bros. Brawl – “Donkey Kong” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

June 21, 2010

For Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008), Hip Tanaka produced what might be the ultimate Donkey Kong arcade mix: using two decades’ worth of honed composition and DJ mixing skills that can be seen as far back as Metroid (1986), Tanaka revisits his first major composition, the 1981 Donkey Kong arcade game with a mix of old and new sounds. He seamlessly mixes, distorts, mangles, and remixes both music and sfx with modern synth lines and guitars to create a piece that sounds like a deteriorated but still functioning rom looks. All that was old is Hip again. While there is no distinct melody, Tanaka manages to string each section of the song together through tone and beat, ensuring the piece remains whole.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl – “Donkey Kong” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

Before composing the “Donkey Kong” mix, Tanaka had been keeping low-key. While it was thought that Mr. Tanaka was gone from music for good after becoming president of Creatures, Inc, he was only hiding, producing in 2003 “Saffron ’97” for the EXTRA concert (2007) and most recently mixing it up with Kyoto star DJ, Baiyon (Pixeljunk Eden).


Super Smash Bros. Brawl – “Underground Theme ~Easton Kingdom~ – Super Mario Land” (Koji Hayama)

May 18, 2010

More coverage of Super Mario Land means more insanity. With giant firebreathing sphinxes, flying Moai statues, airplanes, and more, Super Mario Land was quite a departure from the original games (though perhaps not so much so if we consider Super Mario Bros. 2). Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) saw the reappearance of several classic Nintendo tunes, including music from this somewhat forgotten Game Boy game. Koji Hayama of Cho Aniki infamy put his skills to the test with “Underground Theme ~Easton Kingdom~”.

Super Smash Bros Brawl – “Underground Theme ~Easton Kingdom~ – Super Mario Land” (arr. Koji Hayama)

“Underground Theme ~Easton Kingdom~” is the Egyptian temple theme, in Brawl, used for the underground ruins. Hayama’s heavy guitar riffs strongly affect the mood of the piece with an exotic intensity. The track starts out quite strong, with drums that explode on to the stage, an organ supported by a synth bass line, and bells to add detail. Instant atmosphere. A relatively quiet intro, this section lasts only about 24 seconds before blasting into the guitars. From this, the theme loops with three more variations.

While the synth line makes for a very atmospheric piece, Hayama also throws in some Aniki-ized sampled voices for good measure (“HEY!”). These cheesy samples – along with the echoing guitar riffs – are trademark to his style and appear in nearly every kind of song he’s made – though the half-naked, grinning body builders are, of course, absent. For a type of music that can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously, I do enjoy Koji Hayama’s work – he always has excellent layering and the cheesy samples provide a healthy dosage of humor.

Hip Tanaka’s original is quite impressive as well, though it feels like it wandered out of Kid Icarus Read the rest of this entry ?


8-Bit Mondays: Super Mario Land – “World Music 1” (Hirokazu Tanaka)

May 17, 2010

More Game Boy and Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka for Monday! This is one of his more widely known soundtracks, Super Mario Land (1989) for the Game Boy. A launch title, the game has fairly short songs when compared with Super Mario Bros. – however, it more than makes up for this with five unique world stage themes (Super Mario Bros. had only three), along with boss and ending themes. What’s more, the compositions for each song are very lyrical, pulling back to Tanaka’s root inspiration from bands such as The Monkees. While not as good as Kazumi Totaka’s Mario Land 2 soundtrack (mainly due to shorter songs and first-gen instruments), it’s still mighty impressive and a Tanaka classic.

Super Mario Land – “World Music 1” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

“World Music 1” (aka “Main BGM #1”) is the game’s Stage 1 music, or “main theme”. The composition is quite whimsical, with piano, bass, and drums. Tanaka puts some nice touches at the end of the first sections with two short, jingling notes. He is careful not to make two sections of the song identical, but instead creates short variations on the theme as a kind of call and response. The track is only 26 seconds long (with a two second intro), but a short, memorable piece.

I also love “World Music 3“. It has a very familiar melody, calm and soothing while evoking green rolling hills and lazy overland travel. Read the rest of this entry ?


8-Bit Mondays: Kid Icarus – “Stage 1” (Hirokazu Tanaka)

March 23, 2010

At the risk of turning 8-Bit Mondays into ‘Hip Tanaka Days’, I’ve got another classic tune by the master of the 2A03. It’s hard to not pick a Tanaka piece actually, considering how many good songs he composed for the NES and Gameboy. Of course, there’s a lot more than 50 games he made, so the entire 8-Bit Monday series won’t become the ‘Hip Tanaka Series’! Anyway, today’s piece is from Kid Icarus, the sister game to Metroid that was released in 1986. Kid Icarus wasn’t really that memorable – except for the fact it was incredibly brutal. It breaks the sidescrolling pattern in many ways by being primarily an upward-scrolling game where falling off the screen will result in immediate death – and falling (or dying from enemy combat) was incredibly easy to do. Each level stage is also marked off with a Zelda-like temple stage. I think the game simply took too many different play mechanics and tried to combine them in such a way that the game lost its focus – is this a sidescroller or an exploration game? As such, Kid Icarus has kind of become one of those quirky titles that got lost to history, only to be revived once again, like in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008). In any event, the soundtrack found its way onto the Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Sound Tracks Vol. 1 (2004) along with about a dozen other NES games (they used 99 tracks – the max a CD will take!).

8-Bit Mondays: Kid Icarus – “Stage 1” (Hirokazu Tanaka)

The “Stage 1” theme is probably the piece I remember most. This level was so difficult because you started off with absolutely nothing and had to fight your way through hordes of difficult enemies with really poor equipment. It was easy to get hit and lose energy. Items were so expensive and you had to kill many enemies to get enough money to buy them. You also had to survive Zeus’s trials, which were basically avoiding tiles flying at you from every direction. To top this all off, you couldn’t fall off the screen or you’d die (quite easy to do) and you were also timed to reach the top!

Anyway, “Stage 1” to me perfectly illustrates how this game was so mismatched. It’s got this great drumbeat with a pompously confident march – how could you possibly NOT fail? Read the rest of this entry ?


8-Bit Mondays: Balloon Fight – “Balloon Trip” (Hirokazu Takana)

March 2, 2010

Despite the fact that there are hundreds of good albums out there to choose from and many of these are 8-bit soundtracks, it can be hard to pick the ‘right piece’ for the day. It’s not that I don’t want to play certain songs, it’s just that with so many choices, it can be difficult to pick something wholly unique versus something old and familiar. Such is the case with today’s “Balloon Trip” from Balloon Fight, that 1985 classic by Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka. (And some great news for Tanaka fans: he has composed a single with Kyoto DJ and Q-Games composer Baiyon called In the Collaborations 03, which will be available in March 13 from iTunes, just in time for the GDC!) The soundtrack was released both as a standalone and as part of the Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Soundtracks Vol. 1 (2004).

8-Bit Mondays: Balloon Fight – “Balloon Trip” (Hirokazu Tanaka)

“Balloon Trip” is a pretty fun piece of music for the early days of the NES.  It is also 50 seconds long, which is a very good length for an NES track. Hip Tanaka was able to pull some nice bubbly effects from the 2A03 sound chip, making it sound like balloons bouncing off each other; in some ways the 2A03 seems almost custom-built for this type of sound. In any event, it’s unlike anything else you’ll hear on the system (except maybe some of Takana’s other work).

The song replicates gameplay and level design, the rising and falling of the notes as well as their airy nature mimicking the upward and downward movement of the Balloon Fighter and the floaty physics of the game. There are also some nice breaks such as a bass-controlled B section at 0:18 (transitioned into with a nice downward spiral of notes), and a drum solo at 0:44. There is also a nice burst of static at 0:32 to transition out of the bass solo. The drum beat gives the piece a trance-like feel: listen to it too loudly when you’re trying to to fall asleep, and your head might explode!

Though superficially, Balloon Fight is a lighter-toned version of Joust, Read the rest of this entry ?


EarthBound – “Dreaming on Distant Shores” (Rellik)

February 6, 2010

For the end of the Atlanta Art History of Games conference, I felt this piece fits as a good denouement for the entire experience. “Dreaming on Distant Shores” is my favorite EarthBound remix, and one of my favorite tunes. Both the name and the sound conjures so much to the mind, that it’s difficult for me to not evoke romanticized imagery from the game as I think back on it.

EarthBound – “Dreaming on Distant Shores” (Rellik)

“Dreaming on Distant Shores” is a remix of “A Flash of Memory“. The original is fairly minimalistic, with bubblings in the background over a constant midi drone, and Rellik’s rendition really fleshes it out. His piece is a kind of trance electronica, with a reassuring beat and a strong middle section with an evocative cello. It opens with static, suggesting the sound of falling rain, with beatdrops punctuating the rainshower. These resemble the midi trumpets and chorals from the original, and they bubble up within this space to give a sense of expanse. And then there is the steady drumbeat, a sense of trekking through dreamscapes that play so prominently in EarthBound.

There is some nice progression in this song, such as the distortion and electronic warbles added around 2:15, as well as the drum break at 3:24. Read the rest of this entry ?


8-Bit Mondays: Metroid – “Ending” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

December 29, 2009

If I was to pick one ending theme that I most like, it’s got to be the ending to Metroid. Hirokazu Tanaka’s masterpiece is something that really defines what the NES/Famicom sound chip was able to do by using each instrument to the fullest, taking the scale all over the place: you can hear the triangle wav move all the way from its more timber bass line to the airy bells used in the middle section. The drums in the next section have this great toe-tapping feel to them, with the taps to the beat seeming to penetrate right to the heart. Finally, the very last notes have a great sense of triumph to them that gives the player the feel of a job well done. This is the type of music that a player should be rewarded with! There’s a reason why they call him Hip Tanaka!

Metroid – “Ending” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka) [FDS Version]

NES Version

The song gains even greater impact due to its relationship with the other songs as well as the showdown in Tourian. First, Hirokazu Tanaka composed the soundtrack with the idea of countering every pop game soundtrack that had been produced up until that point. As such, the soundtrack is very amelodic, chaotic, and discordant, with each song giving a different feel of darkness and terror to the labyrinth of Zebes. This atmospheric music was among the first first and certainly the premier of its kind. Hip Tanaka treated the whole soundtrack like a living creature, composing the music so it would absorb the player’s sound effects as part of the piece.

The showdown in Tourian takes this to its zenith Read the rest of this entry ?


8-Bit Mondays: Metroid – Title BGM (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

December 1, 2009

This song is probably one of the most important game tunes ever written. I’ve gone on and on about how vgm really first demonstrated its capacity as an art form in the mid-80s, and Metroid was one of the ones that truly demonstrated this. Hip Tanaka’s score was simply unmatched at the time, and the title theme is a perfect introduction to this new type of game soundtrack. The Famicom version of the soundtrack was available through the Game Sound Museum Volume 12 as well as the Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Soundtracks Vol. 1.

Metroid – “Title BGM” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

The “Title BGM” is progressive. Unlike most vgm, it doesn’t have looping sections, but merely moves from one section to the next, developing the few central notes of the theme. Its harsh intonations and use of a more minor scale rather than the major scale common to most games at the time was a dramatic break and firmly established Metroid‘s musical aesthetic of descending into darkness and amelody and finally revealing the light and song at the very end in a catharsis of melody. It really set the stage for soundtracks that were more atmospheric, dynamic, and expressive rather than simply pop songs used to fill the background.

The track begins with a very harsh triangle wave like a trumpet Read the rest of this entry ?