The SNES definitely has a lot of memorable tunes. Amazing compositions in games like Legend of Zelda, Secret of Mana, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger and many others have left 16-bit tunes running through our heads for years. This is where video game music started to take a turn toward the epic orchestral sounds we’re so used to today. However, you might have noticed that a lot more people are making NES, Genesis and Gameboy chiptunes and not SNES tunes. Why?
Well, the overall quality of SNES music isn’t really that great. It’s all samples. Many people will say it’s hardly any better than your standard MIDI. It is true that it doesn’t have as much character as 8-bit synths. However, there is some charm to be found in these degraded 16-bit samples of strings, flutes and guitars. I mean, the amazing, lush songs on some of the SNES’ RPGs just couldnt happen on the NES or Gameboy. I really love the snappy compressed drums in Secret of Mana too. Today, we’ll look at how to get these samples loaded up in your DAWs and also emulate the SNES’ classic reverb with a basic tape delay controller.
Due to the recent announcement of a remastered version of the classic Duck Tales NES Game, I thought we should take a look at some of the NES games that came out based on Saturday morning (or every morning) cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s. There are some quality games here, packed with nostalgia in more ways than one, and some surprisingly great music too. Check out some of Blind’s Remixes along the way and a final verdict of if you should bother with these games or not.
Verdict: Worth playing, numerous times. Definitely on the top of the heap.
DuckTales was one of the many games that Capcom put out in the 90’s that used Megaman II’s game engine. It was a genius move, since Megaman’s engine is a true masterpiece of 8-bit technology. DuckTales definitely feels like a Megaman game right away. However, there are a lot of nice changes in dynamics and controls to keep things interesting. The cane pogo-stick/golf swing move keeps things exciting and unique. The quality level of everything from music to level design is extremely high. I love how there are tons of mysteries and secrets hidden throughout the levels. It gives you a great replay value. The Moon level song is probably one of the most soothing songs ever written on the NES. However, it is totally inappropriate for the level, it’s just too calm!
This game definitely deserves to be remastered. It set the bar pretty high for the competition. As you’ll notice, some cartoon-based NES games didn’t even make my list.
Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers
Verdict: Worth Playing At Least Once or With a Freind
Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. This game pretty much plays like any standard platformer from the time. You can pick up crates, throw them, stack them, but other than that, it’s your basic game play. There are some creative ideas like shutting off water faucets in order to reach different parts of the stage. The music is pretty good but not all that memorable. Still, it’s good for a trip down memory lane.
The 2 Player mode is also pretty cool. I don’t recall many games on the NES that had simultaneous play like this. It was much more common in the SNES days. This is the saving point for a game that’s pretty standard in other respects.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Verdict: Play it if you’re a sucker for punishment.
TMNT was arguably one of the biggest franchises in the 80’s and 90’s. There are tons of totally awesome TMNT video games out now for NES, Genesis, Arcade, SNES but this was the first. Was it great? Well, it was pretty cool at the time and the music was pretty rocking. However, this game was HARD. Not like, “challenge accepted” hard, but like, “this is not fair” hard. With no save point and the dreaded underwater level, many gamers just gave up. The Killer Seaweed tune from the underwater level is quite memorable.
Verdict: Play it or at least download the soundtrack!
I always had a soft spot for Bucky O’Hare. Sure, it was sort of like Ninja Turtles ripoff in space, but there was something unique about it too. I remember having all the action figures. They were huge, detailed and colorful and just awesome. The game too is colorful, innovative and pretty fun. The music is my FAVORITE of all these cartoon based games. The only weak spot in this game is sometimes the quality level drops in certain levels. While most of the game is top notch backgrounds, innovative levels and awesome bosses, you’ll sometimes find yourself on a screen with about six unique tiles. I mean, come on, you couldn’t even make corners on the platforms? Check out the original theme song too, its like Joe Esposito (Karate Kid song) rapping. Just wow.
Beatscribe 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.
Designing a video game requires hundreds of tiny creative and technical decisions that all amount to a finished product. You might think music was a no-brainer in the early days, with limited sound chips and minimal memory, but from the beginning their have been some totally baffling video game songs that make you wonder what the developer or composer were thinking. Here’s a few of those confusing moments that you may or may not have heard before. You might be surprised at how enjoyable some of these pieces are, they just don’t fit in their respective games.
Metroid – Norfair
Metroid has one of the best NES soundtracks out there. It’s memorable, heroic and creepy in all the right places..except for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a lovely piece of music. In fact I listen to it regularly, but after all this time and so many listens, I have no idea how this song makes me feel! Is it supposed to be scary? Relaxing? I find it rather relaxing until those weird unsettling pauses occur. It sort of makes me picture a lifeless puppet dangling in the wind. Wierdly, it reminds me of a 90’s math-rock/emo band called Ethel Meserve.
I love Final Fantasy/Square-Enix music. It’s grandly fantastic, highly emotive, cinematic music goodness on an epic scale x 1,000,000! Whether it’s the earlier compositions from the NES & SNES games (easily my favs) or those from the more technically superior consoles of today, the music remains completely magical. And so are the awesome, musically talented, badass nerds who remix, rearrange, and play this excellently fun music live in various forms, fashions, and instrumental configurations; there’s nothing quite like rocking out, dancing, swaying, and just getting downright weird to a live set of this sort of awesomeness. Speaking of getting weird, I think it’s time I STFU with this extra long intro & bring you the debut album from one group of said nerdy badasses:
No Phoenix Down
Can Save You Now
The World Is Square
This delightfully quirky, wonderfully weird 5 member Square-Enix tribute band brings it with 13 toe-tapping, giant grin inducing folky earjoys. Their acoustic instrument driven arrangements are strikingly different than any other band within the VGM scene; they craft their lovely covers with nothing more than keys, a Glochenspiel (!!!), several string instruments (acoustic guitar, ukulele, mandolin, & bass) and various forms of percussion. It brings a simpler, more paired down sound to what are typically extraordinarily cinematic, grand soundscapes, yet it works in a way that I never would’ve imagined possible. They’re fast becoming one of my favorite VGM acts in the scene, and hell, I haven’t even seen ’em live yet!!! :O (will be fixing that the first damn chance I get~ <3 ).
According to Lauren from TWIS it’s a damn fun experience within the group as well. “I wish you all could have seen my face when we were adding stuff together like the vocals in ‘vamo’ or the snap tracks. Standing around a mic with some of your best buds trying not to laugh is far more difficult than i thought.” Lauren goes on to say, “I’m really happy with how it (the album) turned out and honestly so flattered and overwhelmed with the amount of support and love we’ve gotten from everyone. I would have been happy recording silly youtube videos in our living room forever but this has just been a total bonus.”
If you’d like to experience some of this funtasticness first hand, be sure to come hang out/party/get weird online with the band and a bunch of other awesome nutbars (myself included most likely ;D ) during The World Is Square Interview & Album Bash at 8bitx.com on Wednesday, Sept 12th at 9pm EST. There’ll even be chances to snag some free download codes! For the full skinny, be sure to check out the Fb event here (and invite ALL the friends!!! ;D ):
In the meantime, go listen to their lovely album, and, of course, BUY THE HELL OUT OF IT OR TONBERRYS WILL CHOP OFF YOUR JUNK WITH THEIR SCARY, SCARY KNIVES & FEED ‘EM TO UMARO!!! <– Although quite honestly, this threat is wholly unnecessary. Once you listen to the album, you’re gonna wanna buy it. <3