Last week’s Outlaws piece put me in the mood for some more Western music, so I decided to upload a few over the next few days, starting with the Level 1 theme from Sunset Riders (Arcade, 1991). Sunset Riders was part of a small genre of Western-themed games that has appeared from time to time, the latest of which include Red Dead Revolver 2, Red Steel 2, and Call of Juarez. There is definitely a desire for cowboy-themed games out there, and Sunset Riders filled this niche back in the 90s with an awesome title screen of cowboys riding into a flaming sunset and a stampede of cattle you could run on. I remember playing this at the arcades with my friend and pumping tons of quarters into the machine – it was loads of fun, though today it plays more like a simpler version of Contra. The soundtrack was released on Konami Game Music Collection 5 (1992), which has a pretty awesome cover that oddly enough looks like it depicts a Japanese cowboy! (Actually, reminds me a bit of Curse of the Black Tiger.)
Sunset Riders – “Shoot-out at the Sunset Ranch” (Motoaki Furukawa)
“Shoot-out at the Sunset Ranch” is once again a fast-paced shoot ’em up tune perfect for stage 1. It has the cheesy trumpets and a driving metallic drums that keep the pulse going and sound like a posse on horseback. The high-pitched strings that seem ripped straight out of Super Contra are great punctuation to this rockin’ cowboy tune. The theme is supported by rock guitars too in the second half of the song. Really makes you want to strap on some irons and leap on a horse to go chase down the bad guys! Things seemed so much simpler back then…
Sunset Riders saw releases on the Super Nintendo and the Genesis. Despite censoring some of the ‘naughtier bits’ (the cowboys no longer kiss the ladies – lame!), the SNES version had superior graphics and audio. This version of the main theme is from the Arcade version. The SNES audio is much closer to the Arcade version, retaining that Super Contra sound. The drum samples also sound a little better in the second half of the song, particularly the high hat. The Genesis version has a dirtier, more metallic instruments, dropping the dramatic riffs of the Arcade for the Genesis’s graty sound. I was never a big fan of the Genesis sound system, and here’s a good example of why. You can compare the SNES version with the Genesis version here.
Motoaki Furukawa has been in the games industry since 1986 working on Konami’s arcade games. You can thank him for Super Contra and Ajax as well as later titles such as Snatcher and Castlevania 64. His music has been published in plenty of albums. He’s got a musical style distinct from Hidenori Maezawa (who actually served as sound advisor on Sunset Riders). He has since gone independent.