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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Essential NES Soundtracks Part 4

Here we are with Part 4 of Essential NES Soundtracks. Let's do this.

EarthBound Beginnings

Composers: Keiichi Suzuki & Hirozaku Tanaka

June 14, 2015 will forever be known to EarthBound/MOTHER fans as the day the first entry was finally, officially released outside of Japan. The game was originally released in the land of the rising sun in 1989 so yeah, it sure took its sweet time getting to North American and European shores. Themes like Pollyanna, Bein' Friends, Snowman and the Eight Melodies are jams many an EarthBound fan are familiar with either through the SNES game or the Super Smash Bros. series, but each of those tracks have humble chiptune origins and they sound wounderful in their striped down form. EarthBound Beginnings is loaded with a diverse score of happy-go-lucky, moody and atmospheric themes that will stay with you long after the adventure is over.

Pollyanna (I Believe in You)
Battle with a Dangerous Foe
Bein' Friends
The Paradise Line 
Eight Melodies

Mega Man 3

Composers: Yasuaki Fujita & Harumi Fujita

Its isn't hard to see why so many champion Mega Man 2 as the greatest Mega Man game. The first entry was good, but Mega Man 2 was a vast improvement in every single way possible. And yet, it is not my favorite Mega Man. No, that honor goes to Mega Man 3, which added even more advancements to the series, even if there were slight. Mega Man 3 is the longest game in the classic Mega Man series so its a very good thing that there is never a dull moment in the soundtrack. The Title music with it's slow build up before it erupts into a killer beat, Magnet Man's jovial stage music, Snake Man's insanely catchy tune, Proto Man's mysterious whistle that gets extended for the game's epilogue; its all a text book example of superb NES music.

Magnet Man Stage
Spark Man Stage
Snake Man Stage
Dr. Wily Stage 2


Composers: Masahi Kageyama & Naohisa Morota

The 16-bit SNES and Genesis were all the rage in the early 1990s but you had some developers still proving that the 8-bit NES hardware could impress. In 1993 there was Kirby's Adventure and a year before it, there was Sunsoft's Gimmick! that was sadly, never released in America despite plans to do so. If you're the type that is easily fooled into thinking a game is simple based on cutesy, child-like appearances, Gimmick! will be one nasty wake up call. Sure it may look like a Kirby game but the bright colors and the peppy soundtrack is where the similarities between the two games end. Gimmick! is a thinking man's platformer that demands the player's attention at all times or else much frustration will abound. But leg's go back to that upbeat soundtrack. Most NES games stick to the five channel sound format with a few exceptions and Gimmick! is one of them. Gimmick! uses Sunsoft's FME7SUNSOFT5 memory mapper chip, which adds three more sound channels for glorious additional audio. Sure, most of the music is of the light hearted variety, but the game still knows when its time to get serious and this is evident in themes like Aporia, Identity Believer and Long Tomorrow. Even if you never play Gimmick! at the very least, you should hear the soundtrack. This stuff is chiptune gold.

Happy Birthday (Stage 1)
Slow Illusion (Stage 3, Part 1)
Paradigm (Stage 4)
Aporia (Boss Theme 1)
Identity Believer (Boss Theme 2)
Sophia (Take 2) [Stage 7]
Long Tomorrow [Final Boss, Part 2]


Composer: Hirokazu Tanaka

The first Metroid game, sadly, has not aged well. The lack of an in game map in a game world so massive is a huge downer and having to replenish your energy to max after you die really hurts. This isn't to say Metroid is a bad game, but the GBA remake, Metroid Zero Mission is the way to go if you wish to experience Samus Aran's first steps. Hirokazu Tanaka's soundtrack on Metroid, however, definitely holds up exceptionally well. That Title theme is just the start of many haunting tracks this score offers. Norfair, Tourian, and Ridley's Lair really do an excellent job of capturing the feeling of being on a hostile alien planet. Kraid's Lair is a huge fan favorite track and has been the subject of plenty of rock, metal and piano covers.

Kraid's Lair

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

Composer: Kozo Nakamura

A port of the 1989 arcade game, the four player aspect is stripped down to two, but it makes it for it with two console exclusive stages and bosses. In some cases, home conversions made arcade music sound better. It worked wonders for the likes of Contra and Double Dragon when they hit the NES. TMNT has outstanding music in the arcade so I can't really say that the NES conversion is superior. I can say is that TMNTII: The Arcade Game is a wonderful companion soundtrack to go along with the arcade tunes. The two exclusive stages use brand new themes and Scene 2-2 also houses a completely new track. The new themes are welcome additions and you'll hear plenty of riffs from the 1987 TMNT opening theme mixed in throughout the soundtrack.

Scene 1: Building on Fire
Scene 2-2: Sewers
Scene 3-1: Winter Wonderland 
Scene 4-2: Industrial District
Boss Battle
Scene 7: Technodrome 

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