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.

Most Underrated NES/Gameboy Soundtracks

The lists of the best NES and Gameboy soundtracks are filled with familiar hits from Megaman, Zelda and Metroid. But there were a lot of less-than-stellar games for these systems that had some killer music. Here’s some amazing 8-bit songs you might have never heard.

 

Journey To Sillius

 

 

Journey to Sillius was originally going to be a Terminator video game but somehow Sunsoft lost the liscence and slapped a generic Sci-Fi story on this super tough platform run-and-gun game. Sunsoft gets two games on the top of the list for the same reason: Killer bass! While the triangle wave bass sound is one of the defining sounds of the NES, it also lacks character and punch of more modern synthesizer basses. While the DPCM channel on the NES normally plays tiny drum samples, that’s not all it can do.

 

The composers of Journey To Sillius loaded up beefy synth samples and used the noise channel to make drums. That gives these songs a lot more punch than your standard NES song. The added static from these 1-bit crushed samples actually adds to the power of these tunes.

 

To be fair, this soundtrack has gotten some recognition, it breaks the top 100, 300 and even top 20 on some lists, but I think it should be much higher. Check out the mind-blowing echoing part around 2:12 too!

 

Gimmick!

 

Gimmick is another Sunsoft entry to the NES line of games from 1992. Its happy, bouncy tunes are propelled along by awesome slap bass and crunchy samples that set it apart from other NES songs with their subtle bass parts. This game has got to have the busiest DPCM channels of any game out there. If you listen carefully you’ll notice that in some songs drum samples are playing in between bass samples. The resulting full sound never got the recognition it deserverd, probably mostly due to the fact that the game came out so late in the NES’s development cycle.

 

M.C. Kids

 

 

An annoying thing from the 90’s was that there was a video game that game out for every product imaginable. Every Saturday morning cartoon, soda, action figure collection got their own second-rate NES game. McDonalds didn’t want to be left out so they released M.C. Kids. It was basically a Super Mario 3 clone and brought little innovation or excitement. It’s graphics were also pretty weak. All that said though, this track is one of the most catchy things I’ve heard on the NES. The way they use the triangle bass is just great! I am warning you right now, if you listen to this song more than twice, it will be in your head for weeks. You may even awake from a sudden daze sitting in McDonalds with a Big Mac in your hand and have no idea how you got there. True story.

 

Turok

 

The Turok franchise started up around the N64 days around 1997. The Gameboy games had some amazing music. This Asian-infused little groove is really great. It’s hard to imagine this song sounding any better with modern instrumentation.

 

Conquest of the Crystal Palace

Conquest of the Crystal Palace was a hard-as-Blaster-Master platformer filled with weird characters (Dogs wearing Samurai armor) and impossible jumps. It’s one of those games that’s hard even if you use save states to cheat! The first level, however, has some of the most memorable Asian-influenced music you’ll ever hear on the NES. It’s got some great drum work too.

 

 

S-11

Released by Sunsoft and Paragon 5 in 2001, S-11 boasts some of the most amazing music for the Gameboy Color. You’re ears will have a hard time accepting that you’re only listening to 4 simultaneous sounds here.

 

Uncle Fester’s Quest

This super whacky Adams Family game might not have been the best game ever, but it had some killer music. This track uses the sampled bass trick that Sunsoft later perfected. You gotta respect that gritty bass sound and head banging beat. It’s very hard to make anything that truly rocks on the NES but this hits the spot. The interior “3d” areas of the game also have some of the creepiest music you’ll ever hear. I remember being on the edge of my seat exploring dark empty hallways, expecting something to jump out at me.
This is by no means a complete list. Post in the comments the long-lost gems that I might have left out.

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.

TFM Music Maker’s Creator Shiru Releases 16-bit Synth Rock Album


Shiru has been contributing to the retro gaming and chiptune scene since 2007 and anyone who has ever wanted to create the classic sounds of the Sega Genesis sound card owe him a huge a debt of gratitude for creating the excellent TFM Music Maker (aka VGM Music Maker).

Aside from making the best Sega Genesis tracker, he’s created homebrew SNES games, NES games and lots of other stuff. Just last week, Shiru released his first album Player Alone, a love letter to the 16-bit synth rock of games like Megaman X and Journey to Silius – that’s what it reminds me of anyways!

I totally love the album cover for Player Alone. It really fits the mood of the album perfectly.
I totally love the album cover for Player Alone. It really fits the mood of the album perfectly.

The instrumental album is a barrage of high speed synthesized guitars and pounding bass. It’s very coherent and has a theme running throughout it:

In the age of digital escapism, it is easy to view life as a video game. One is the hero of his own game. Getting through endless levels of ever changing reality, struggling with the outer and inner, continuing the everlasting chase for elusive dreams. The greatest enemy on this way that should never be allowed to ruin anything is the fear that this game is in fact a single player one.

The album art and music itself echoes the theme with a constant feeling of heroic struggle against the odds and relentless determinism. The album’s great coherency is probably its only weakness; most of the tracks kind of blend together into one long piece with a few exceptions. These exceptions are the highlights of the album in my mind. Extra Puzzle Piece and McBonus Break are two pieces that break the mold and introduce some new elements. Save Yourself has some awesome virtual shredding that is totally amazing. There is not a single weak track. From the title to the end every track will keep you moving and intent on whatever your doing. I need music like this!

Shriu’s album is for free, you can download it here. He is however trying to raise money for cancer research and you can make a donation for downloading his album here. I think we all owe this guy at least a few bucks for all he’s done for the scene over the year, and even more so if its for charity.

Get the album today!

 

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.

Why Megaman II Is The Best Nintendo Game Ever

Megman recently celebrated his 25th birthday, but he probably wouldn’t have made it past 2 years of age if it weren’t for one important game; Megaman II. Most lists put Megaman II near the top of best Nintendo games of all time. For me, it’s definitely number one. Of the myriad of Nintendo games I played as a kid, none of them impacted me as much as Mega Man II. If you haven’t played this game, I plan to convince you to get an emulator or pick up the cartridge and check it out.

The Developers Were Passionate About Megaman II

There’s an interesting story around the development of Megaman II. Megaman I was financially a bomb. Capcom was ready to give up on the blue bomber and move on to other projects. However, the team that made the original Megaman didn’t want to give up. They decided to spend their own time developing the game, improving the graphics and making more music for it. They put in 20 hour days and completed the game in about four months. This type of dedication and passion is exhausting but often leads to enduring products. Megaman II simply exudes this kind of commitment to quality.

I think this is something that gets lost so often today in games. Arbitrary deadlines cause people to give up their vision to get something out there to start making a quick buck. In the end, passion and creativity sell a lot more than dropping your game in the holiday season.

It’s Hard, But Not Too Hard

Crazy cliffhanger moments like this made Megman II pretty addicting.
Crazy cliffhanger moments like this made Megman II pretty addicting.

Megaman II is the first game I can remember that really made me tense up. In airman’s level there are some moments where you have to make blind jumps into the void and hope one of those big robo heads is going to appear under you. Once you land, the robo head starts launching an attack. This section of the game still gives me that feeling all these years later. It wasn’t until much later 3D games came out that I ever got a sense of vertigo or physical tension from being on the edge of a platform or taking a crazy blind jump. All this said, the game is never so hard that you want to throw the controller across the room, a common reaction to NES games.

It Has Depth

The premise of Megaman is not that different than many other games like Contra or even Super Mario Brothers. You run, avoid things, shoot robots, hop on platforms, etc. It’s nothing new, but the way it’s all put together is truly ingenius. The underwater sections require special diligence since gravity is altered there.

At this moment, I realized just how much thought went into the weapons in this game. Almost every one has more than one use. Here, the slow rolling, normally useless bubble cannon helps you uncover fake floor traps.
At this moment, I realized just how much thought went into the weapons in this game. .

I think the thing that stands out the most to me about the depth is the weapons. You can play through the whole game with the default blaster and it’s enjoyable. But the game gives you liberal weapon refills when you start using the other tools you earn from each boss.  Play through the levels in the right order and you’ll have tools to take shortcuts, get extra powers or take out enemy bots before they become a threat. Particularly, the seemingly useless bubble gun has such a cool secondary purpose of helping you identify false floors in one of the difficult final stages of the game.

The MUSIC….Oh man, THE MUSIC!!

Megaman II’s music is perhaps some of the best NES music out there. The game’s 21 tracks remixed hundreds of times in varying styles. The catchy tunes were composed by Takashi Tateishi and Manami Matsumae and many would agree that they’re among the most catchy and genre-defining songs of that Nintendo era. The game’s level selecting setup means there’s no “first level” to impress users with. This was common in a lot of NES games, the first level looked awesome and had great sound, but past that, it just became monotonous and musically uninspired. No matter what level you start with, the music is amazing. I’d have to say Flash Man and Quick Man’s levels have some of the best tunes. I’ve heard from many that Dr Wily Stage 1 music is THE best 8-bit song ever.

The songs definitely have a rock music influence to them. I get the feeling these guys were listening to 80’s hair metal guitar solos and trying to convert them into 8-bit blips. The end result doesn’t sound like your average video game track or a heavy rock song but something completely new. It’s hard to believe there’s only four sounds playing at any one time when you listen to these complex and well-composed tunes. I’m always trying to capture those melodic components in my own music.

Megaman II spawned an entire series of successful games, but I don’t think any of them was ever quite as perfect as Megaman II. I strongly suggest you play this excellent game today.

Here’s an awesome song done Coheed and Cambria style based on the Dr Wily Stage 1 Theme music.

 

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 NES Megaman Games You Never Played

I sorta remember about 8 more bits to this scene...
I sorta remember about 8 more bits to this scene…

I’ve gotta hand it to Rom hackers. I can’t imagine having the intelligence and drive to pick apart the code of an old video game and reassemble it into a newer game. It’s just mind-boggling to me that someone would take the time to do this as a hobby. I can only figure that they’re such hardcore programmers that it’s easy compared to whatever they do during the day (rocket science?! Actual Robot Master design?).

I’m certainly glad they do what they do though. If you’ve never heard of this, ROM hacks basically involve rewriting a game to add graphics, music, levels and enemies or modify the existing behavior of these things. Some hacks are simple, turning Super Mario into a girl or adding some differnet music. Some ROM hacks are like completely new games.

There’s a bunch of MegaMan II ROM hacks. My understanding is that they are legal since all they are is small patches of code changes that you apply to the ROM (how you get the ROM legally is your own business).

These are like alternate universe Megaman games that are much more challenging than the original. A lot of them feature graphic and music assets cobbled together from other NES games to create a new project. You might recognize something here or there from a game you played years ago. Here’s two of the best Megaman II Rom hacks. Have fun. These two require the Japanese Rockman II ROM to perform the patching. Patching the original rom is not hard, just follow our IPS patching tutorial to learn how to modify your legally-obtained backup copy of the original ROM.

Rockman No Constancy

Rockman No Constancy has some of the most gorgeous 8-bit graphics I've ever seen!
Rockman No Constancy has some of the most gorgeous 8-bit graphics I’ve ever seen.

Rockman No Constnacy is a massive tribute to the 8-bit and 16-bit era Megaman games. This game features meticulously redesigned levels that emulate parts of Megaman X and other later titles. To play the first level of Megaman X in glorious 8-bit is just a surreal experience. The level of detail put into this game is amazing. It’s hard to believe it’s a legit 8-bit game since it has some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the NES. If it wasn’t running on an emulator and my GameKing I’d think there was some sort of graphical cheating involved.

This game is HARD too. I’m ashamed to admit I only got as far as the level where you fight all the Robot Masters a second time. I have been unable to best them all. That’s just on Normal mode too. In hard mode, you don’t get the ‘reflex’ time when Megaman takes a hit and flashes for a moment. Nope, you can get hit over and over again, which means any robot master can take you out in about 2 seconds. I give up.

The music comes from Ikari Warrios and a bunch of other classic NES games. The quality level of this hack is just mind blowing. It’s my #1 recommendation.

Rockman Deus Ex Machina

While perhaps not as visually stunning as No Constnacy, Deus Ex Machina has great tunes and insane challenge level.
While perhaps not as visually stunning as No Constnacy, Deus Ex Machina has great tunes and insane challenge level.

Rockman Deus Ex Machina is not quite as pretty as Rockman No Constnancy, but it has some of the most insane level designs I’ve ever seen. Any time you approach a pit that looks like a simple jump, you’ll be surprised by something unexpected, a bird swoops down, a monster flies out of the pit right as you jump. I seriously wanted to cry after a few attempts. You can shoot 4 bullets in this version, which only slightly tips the scales in your favor. Another cool thing is the fact that there are lots of branches through many of the levels. You’d be hardpressed to beat this game witout using save states though. That’s just the way it is.

There’s a bunch of other ROM hacks of varying quality out there, but these two are the ones I’d recommend. Make sure you follow the patching directions. It’s really very simple if you follow the directions. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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.