All posts by Beatscribe

Beatscribe is an full-time indie musician with a long-standing obsession with tall things 8-bit. He has composed soundtracks for tons of mobile and homebrew games and tries to infuse them with the nostalgic flavor of the early days of gaming. Check out his latest adventures on www.beatscribe.com.

Awesome Chiptune Fusion Bands

There are myriads of awesome instrumental true chip artists and bands out there, but the ones that break the norm the most are the ones that combine chip music with other genres of music and add lyrics. This article is not about the best live performing bands but rather those of the highest quality music and lyrics.

The Depreciation Guild


Download album.
Style: Shoegaze + Chiptune
Sounds like: The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Armor For Sleep (the music anyways)

If you never heard the term shoegaze, it’s a style that started in the early 90s and had to do with using layers of guitar effects and lots of keyboards to create a dense dreamy wall of sound. If you ask me, chiptune and shoegaze go together perfectly and it’s a widely unexplored area of music that has massive potential.

Heartfelt romantic chiptune? Yeah! You may recognize the names and voices of Kurt Feldman and Christoph Hochheim from their currently popular indie pop/noise rock band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart which is also riddle with nostalgic nods to the Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins and other things from the past. The Depreciation Guild is one of my all time favorite acts. They are now broken up but you can still find their albums out there for download. My favorites are Butterfly Kisses, Sky Phantoms (epic feels!) and Dream About Me.

Cheap dinosaurs

Style: Rock + Math Rock + Chiptune
Sounds like: A little bit of everything all mixed together
There’s nothing cheap about Cheap Dinosaurs. This is some high quality music here with jagged math rock tempo switches and unexpected changes. Their tracks are mostly straight-up chiptune with just some light drums and guitar augmenting them. The trippy Train Hop is one of my favorites and it has a whacky video to match.

Revengineers

Style: Post Rock + Chiptune
Sounds like: A more rockin’ Six Parts Seven, Tristezza, Solar Powered Sun Destroyer

Post rock is an instrumental style with lots of dynamic changes. I think Revengineers captures this better than any other band I’ve heard. The amazing song Laika is a prime example of this bands powerful sound. It’s emotional and uplifting and gets you banging your head at the same time.

The Flight Away

Style: Punk Pop + Electropop + Chiptune
Sounds like: Angels And Airwaves, A remix of Dangerous Summer, Owl City (just a little)

The Flight Away has some of what might be called an “emo” sound (although I hate to use the word) by some with their expressive vocals. It’s one of the catchiest chiptune rock band type groups you’ll find. I really can’t get enough of their EP.

The J. Arthur Keenes Band.

Style: Ska + Regae + Rock + Chiptune
Sounds like: 311, Elvis Costello, Dub (not step), Various other rock groups

While their name sounds like some kind of blues trio, The J. Arthur Keenes Band’s album “Computer Saavy” is a great little smattering of ska, regae and rock influences with excellent vocals and lyrics. The vocals will remind you of 311 or Solar Powered Sun Destroyer. You have to love that they have a song called, “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down.”

KANGAWA

Style: Noise Rock + Ambient + Post Rock + Shoegaze + Chiptune
Sounds like: Caspian, Hammock, Solar Powered Sun Destroyer, Explosions in the Sky, most Shoegaze acts

Another shoegaze+ chiptune pioneer, Kangawa combines high quality production values with lush synth backgrounds and Gameboy thumps and bass lines. Their songs range from post rock anthems to gentle yet noisy ambient tracks. There are also some surprising moments on this album that you won’t be expecting.

Super Danger Casper

http://www.reverbnation.com/sprdgrcpr

Style: Punk Pop, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists if Ted was from Indonesia + Chiptune

Super Danger Casper is similar to Anamanaguchi musically, but they have wonderful emotional vocals over top of it…in Indonesian. Yeah, I have no idea what they’re saying but it sounds very endearing and emotional. I love all those rolled R sounds too. After a few listens, you’ll find yourself singing along although you have no idea what they’re saying. If you speak their language, tell them to set up a bandcamp and a soundcloud page! The song above is one of their few english songs.

BeatScribeFaceBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea.  Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.

The Best Legend of Zelda Games You’ve Never Played

Zelda Games You've Never Played
Zelda Games You’ve Never Played

I’ve noticed most people either dabble with Zelda games or have completely uncovered every secret and know every dungeon inside and out. There are tons of great Zelda Rom Hacks out there. So many that I decided just to cover one from each original game. If you want to have that fresh, new adventurer feeling all over again, check out these amazing hacks. Remember, these are just code patches so they’re completely legal as long as you apply them to your legally obtained ROM. Patching the original rom is not hard, just follow our IPS patching tutorial to learn how to do it.

Zelda Challenge: Outlands

Original Game: The Legend of Zelda
Platform: NES
What It’s Like: Like Playing Zelda for the first time again, but with more headaches.

Zelda Outlands it filled with amazing new challenges.
Zelda Outlands it filled with amazing new challenges.

Outlands is one of the first romhacks I ever played and it is amazing. The game keeps all the original graphics, sound and music but redoes almost everything else. The dungeon locations are all different. There are tons of secrets and new enemy behavior. The 2nd quest is one of the most ridiculously hard things ever contrived in a video game. No joking, you won’t even get your sword in the first hour of play. All that aside, this is a truly enjoyable romp for a Zelda fan. Have fun finding the sixth dungeon without consulting a FAQ.

Zelda II – Part 3

Original Game: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Platform: NES
What It’s Like: Uncovering a whole new 8 levels of Zelda II.

Sometimes I feel like I'm playing Metroid in Zelda 2 Part 3.
Sometimes I feel like I’m playing Metroid in Zelda 2 Part 3.

Ice Penguin has made a bunch of Zelda hacks but most would agree this is some of his finest work. Almost every area is remade and the dungeons are particularly awesome. There’s a lot of little graphical updates too that add some new flavor to the game. There is a new plot and other little surprises along the way. You might get off to a tough start with this hack since it’s pretty tough until you have built up your levels a little bit. Just wait until you encounter Thunderbird! While not everyone loves Zelda II, if you are a fan, this game will definitely satisfy your craving for more. Check out any of Ice Penguin’s other hacks too. They’re all of a similar caliber.

 

Zelda Parallel Worlds

Original Game: Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Platform: SNES
What It’s Like: Like a professionally-made SNES sequel to Link to the Past

The makers of Parallel Worlds must have dedicated months to this pristine hack.
The makers of Parallel Worlds must have dedicated months to this pristine hack.

The level of detail in this hack is just amazing. There’s a whole new story, awesome dungeons with monstrous changes and insanely tough boss battles. The dungeons require a level of dedication that few gamers possess. Some have 4 different inside/outside sections, pretty much just to make you pull your hair out. There is tons of backtracking required whenever you get an item or a key. The craziest thing to me was the fact that I didn’t even get my sword until passing most of the first area. It really changes the gameplay.

Zelda’s Birthday

Original Game: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Platform: N65
What It’s Like: A mini-Zelda game of the highest quality

It's like nostalgic memories I never actually had...
It’s like nostalgic memories I never actually had…

While this game is only three dungeons long, it’s completely redone with new story line, acting sequences, side quests and multiple endings. They even redid most of the music or at least sort of remixed it. It’s not really long, but that might be part of its charm, really. It’s just a great fun nostalgic game. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

BeatScribeFaceBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea.  Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.

Life Skills I Only Learned From Retro Gaming

A good work ethic is one of those intangible things that I think you don’t just learn by attending school and doing your homework. I’ve been told I have an almost insane work ethic and I know part of it has to do with loving what I do and just trying to survive! But I’ve met people who feel no motivation from these same factors.

I dare you to find something that requires as much stress-management as this in your real life!
I dare you to find something that requires as much stress-management as this in your real life!

In retrospect, the ridiculously hard games of the 8-bit days and the complex RPGs of the 16-bit era taught me a few things that translate directly to real life. Was this the plan of the programmers of these games? I kind of have a hard time believing that was something done purposefully, but here’s a few things that video games taught me as a kid that I simply can’t live without today.

 

 

Resource Management

Perhaps the earliest thing I realized that video games had taught me was resource management. Take the common cycle of early CRPGS: You have X amount of health and X amount of gold. You go out and fight some baddies trying to make some more gold before running out of health. You might also have a special power or item to help you win a few battles, but these things run out. You have to remember that the gold you gain is great for buying new weapons, but if you don’t stay at the Inn and heal up, you won’t get very far with your new sword.

When I got my first job, I realized it wasn’t that much different with real money. It was tempting to blow it all, but I had to look at the big picture of how I used it and where it’d take me. In contrast, I saw many other kids who blew every paycheck they had and never had money for college, a car or other things that were ultimately more important in the big picture.

Tenacity

Metroid made me work hard. Harder than any other game I ever played. If you were going to play, you had to dedicate at least an hour to filling up your energy tanks before heading into new territory. Once you were there, you had no idea how deep you’d have to go to find a new item or make it to the next area. More often than not you’d die at the hands of some new monster or trip into a pit that you could not escape from. It was infuriating, but the pull of seeing what was beyond kept me coming back for more.

This tenacity translated easily into my work as a computer programmer. A difficult or seemingly impossible task was just another hurdle I could overcome if I put my mind to it. I often interviewed people to work on my team who would give up at the easiest programming problem during the interview. These people had no desire to pit their will against some silly computer, which is basically what I was doing with Metroid years before.

Managing Stress

Video games can actually stress you out. Even in something as basic as the original Super Mario Brothers, there are moments when you think, “I’ve come this far, I’m deep in Bowser’s castle, I’m going to die!” Multiply this by ten for early games that had few save points or no continues. After a while, these games taught me to sort of go into this calm, unthinking state when I got to the stressful part. I knew letting the tension get to me would ruin my chance of succeeding, I just had to silence that fear. Well, turns out real life works the same way. There are lots of stressful situations; tests, job interviews and other things where we just have to block out our fears and make it to the next level.

Perseverance Pays Off

The only games I ever played that consciously started to feel like work to me were some of the early SquareSoft RPGSs. Early RPGs made you work for every experience point and every new power. I remember getting obsessed with gaining every esper power for every one of my characters. It took weeks, but in the end, I had an almost unbeatable team and could just enjoy the rest of the game. There were tons of side benefits from working so hard, like my characters having super high levels early on.

I saw this to an even greater extent when playing MMORPGs later on. Spending a week hunting rats outside the city walls was boring, but when I got into more serious and dangerous areas of the game, my character was ready for anything.

Anything with serious rewards in life takes perseverance and sometimes long periods of monotonous or seemingly-unrewarding work. Getting a degree, learning a new skill, getting in shape – all of these things are “work upfront, rewards later” type endeavors, as were many of the early RPGs.

The music of these old games also helped motivate me. It made me feel like I was doing something really important (you know, like saving a fictional universe!) That heroic feeling was good motivation and something that sticks with you. I’m not going to go on a rant against new games and what they do or don’t teach. But I think it’s great whenever a game reminds you, “You don’t get something for nothing.” That’s just the way it is.

BeatScribeFaceBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea.  Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.

Tutorial: Making Some Fakebit Sega Genesis Sounds Within Your DAWS Application

I have really fond memories of the Sega Genesis system, which is strange because we were a humble, middle-class one-console (SNES) family and I only played it at the neighbor kid’s house. I have fond memories of playing Herzog Zwei and eating pizza all night in my friend’s dank basement. Lately, I’ve been wanting to explore the possibilities of composing chiptunes with the Sega Genesis’ Yamaha YM2612 FM chip. If you don’t want to read my rants, skip to the bottom for a quick list of what you need to downloaded to get started.

Genesis certainly was the coolest looking console of the era.
Genesis certainly was the coolest looking console of the era.

I thought I’d share my journey since it’s been a long and somewhat frustrating one. Right off the bat, I’ll tell you there are tons of options, the Sega Genesis and Master System use FM Synthesis, which tons of modern synthesizers support. You could technically create the same sounds with some of FL Studio and Logic’s native synthesizers, but it might not sound exactly like the Genesis itself.

The Genesis could also play samples. This is how most games did their drums. The super crunchy bitsmashed little samples are kind of what defined the sound of the 16-bit Sega era in my mind.

For now, I haven’t investigated native trackers – the Genesis equivalent to LSDJ might be out there somewhere but I don’t even have a console, so for now, this article is about how to get started fakebitting some Genesis sounds with some degree of realism within a DAWS like FL studio, Logic Pro or Cubase. It’s a long road to getting truly authentic, but I thought I could at least help people get started.

 

Genesis Trackers

My goal was to be able to compose in MIDI, not learn another tracker program. If you want to do that, you’ll want to get TFM Music Maker or the very comprehensive DefleMask. It’s actually pretty easy and similar to LSDJ and Famitracker, but I just wanted to compose in a familiar environment and end up with everything in my DAWS at the end.

Using Digital Audio Workstations to Play Back Genesis Yamaha Sounds

Check out my Battle Zone Alpha track, which I created with these tools.

VOPM – This is a pretty simple VST that emulates the Genesis’ Yamaha FM chip. You can build your own instruments by fiddling knobs, but if you’re not familiar with FM synthesis, it can be time consuming and difficult. Here’s a tutorial if you want to try it from scratch.

 

 

Getting Instrument Sounds from a Game Rom

One thing that I wanted to do right away was pull instruments from existing songs I knew on games I liked, sounds from Sonic and Earthworm Jim came to mind. There are two ways to get these loaded into VOPM.

Using the Gens KM Mod and a Neo Geo tracker called MVSTracker MD, you can dump a Yamaha channel from a running ROM and then load it up into MVSTracker, which has the same exact values and settings as the VOPM VST, then you just put the two side by side and set the VOPM VST settings to match the instrument you pulled from the game. This thread explains how to do it.

Fortunately, some wonderfully generous person took the time to pull all the instrument settings from almost any game you can imagine and put them into a format that VOPM can import. This can save you some serious time!

Download all the VOPM Format Genesis Game Instruments

VOPM runs great in Cubase LE and FL Studio and I’d imagine it’ll work anywhere else you can load a VSTi. This is how I get my bass, pad and lead sounds. It’s not quite as perfect as I’d like, and I still haven’t dipped into automation, note bends and other things, but I imagine that can all be done through MIDI commands with VOPM.

 

Drum Sounds

I kind of feel like sampling things is cheating, but this is the quickest way to get some Sega Genesis sounding drums going within your DAWS. Just load these samples up into the sampler of your choice and you can get that classic drum sound. There are also tons of vocal samples, orchestral sounds, rock guitar bits and other things that you can use to get that classic sound.

Mixer P and Friends Sega Genesis Drum Samples

 

Mastering Tracks

One thing you’ll notice right away is that VOPM outputs at rather low volume levels. I bounced each track to a WAV and then loaded them all up into the DAWS and do a little EQ’ing and leveling before proceeding with normal mastering steps. Anyways, you may not be the 16-bit master by the end of this, but you can get some classic sounds without learning a new tracker from scratch. Have fun!

 

Quick Download Cheat Sheet

 

BeatScribeFaceBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea.  Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.