Note from racketboy: This new tri-weekly sporadic feature is written by racketboy.com contributer, Mozgus. If you would like to know more about our plans for this series, please join in on this forum thread. This time around, I wrote the track descriptions, while Moz did the audio selections, conversions, and the longer introduction below.
Video game music has traditionally been thought of as nothing but clusters of nonsensical beeps and bloops. While this statement no longer holds merit in today’s gaming world, the general public still avoids or remains oblivious to this genre, often assuming that there lies nothing worth hearing within. I truly believe that there are countless gaming tracks out there that deserve a place amongst your more mainstream “normal” MP3s. With that being said, each installment of this series will sample just a few inconspicuous songs which, in my opinion, are worth your time. They may be retro or modern, official or produced by fans. Regardless, please give them a listen.
I’m doing something a little bit different this time. Show of hands; who remembers VGMusic.com? Yeah, it’s still around, and looks pretty much the same. You might even be surprised that it’s still receiving a steady flow of uploads. MIDIs aren’t so hot these days. In fact, I’ll doubt MIDI is even in the top 10 commonly used audio formats. Your casual internet surfer and iPod user has probably never even heard of it. A lot of the more aged geeks might get a bad taste in their mouths when reminded of the millions of GeoCities and AngelFire pages with embedded MIDIs that made you turn your speakers off.
Having boarded the internet cruise ship later than most, I’m probably not the best candidate to tell the story, but I’ll have at it anyway. In 1998, MIDI was still popular. Certainly not at its peak, but when most of us had half the bandwidth needed to stream a 128kbps MP3, MIDI was a nice alternative at times. It was convenient to be able to click a link and be listening to a fairly accurate representation of an old game tune, however displeasing the instrument choices or overall tone were.
Of course, these downsides were variable. A MIDI could sound like utter garbage on one person’s machine, while coming off as an upgrade to the original source material on another person’s machine. It all came down to the combination of sound card and sound font, or sometimes a software synthesizer. A soft-synth was ideal for users who didn’t have a sound card capable of using custom sound fonts, as it would rely on your CPU and RAM, and then shoot the end result as a wav stream to your sound card. WinGroove was one I remember using often. Later, I moved to the Yamaha S-YXG70 soft-synth, which was well known for optionally powering the PC version of Final Fantasy 7.
Soon after, I decided to buy a modern sound card. I went with the Creative Audigy 2 ZS. I quickly began trying out all the sound fonts I could find, which by this time weren’t all that easy to come by. Just last year I settled down on GeneralUser GS v1.4. It may not be the best out there, but it’s legally free, is custom built for Creative Live! and Audigy cards, has a smart installer, good instructions and info, and has a nice test MIDI which verifies that your effects are enabled.
I’d like to showcase a few video game MIDIs below that I feel are superior to their original source versions. They were all found at VGMusic, and all powered by GeneralUser GS v1.4. I was forced to record my entire output, else I would miss the EAX effects, and unfortunately it creates a tiny bit of static in some spots. However, you should get the basic idea. It was only by chance that four of my picks were by just two different people.
|The music isn’t as cajun and the game might suggest, but this track still have a funky rhytym to it that will help you through this challenging beatemup adventure. I was especially impressed on how well the enhanced version of this track turned out — even if Mozgus says otherwise.|
|Not only is Ristar one of the most under-appreciated Genesis platformers, but it also has an equally magical soundtrack. This particular track is refreshingly light sound to it that forshadowed composer, Tomoko Sasaki’s later work on NiGHTS into Dreams.|
|The music in Advance Wars may get a little reptitous in a long stratigic battle, but there is no denying that the actual tracks are well-produced. Andy’s Theme in particular has a unique rock and jazz blend that will keep you on your toes during combat.|
|The 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games are always filled with some creative tracks to effectivly set the tone for the themed levels throughout the game. The Mystic Cave theme has shades of spookieness blended in with an upbeat Inspector Gadget-like soundscape.|
|This energetic track serves its purpose in getting players ready for an intense ball-hurling battle. In the game, each arena had its own theme that was supposed to be fitting of the country it represneted. I suppose this track could be representivive of the USA as it reminds me a bit of the Rocky theme for some reason.|