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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Mega Man Battle Network 6 FM Arrangement Project

It has been quite some time since we've had a Mega Man soundtrack to talk about. There are no shortage of Mega Man arrangements, especially when it comes to the classic series. This one comes as quite a surprise since it does not pertain to the most well known Mega Man series, but the Battle Network games, in particular, Battle Network 6.

Arranged by +TEK, Mega Man Battle Network 6 FM Arrangement Project is exactly what it sounds like: the soundtrack of Battle Network 6 in the FM Genesis/Mega Drive sound font. I'll admit that much of the music from Battle Network 6 wasn't fresh in my mind before listening to this album, but themes like Central Town and Battle Field were always standouts to me. They sound really good in the FM sound font as does the entire soundtrack. This is my first exposure to +TEK's work, but I'd wager this arranger really knows the ins and outs of the Genesis sound system. The bass and synth in these tracks sound phenomenal. I really love his rendition of Digital Strider among others.

Mega Man Battle Network 6 FM Arrangement Project is a name-your-price download so it can be yours for free. It really is nice to see one of the lesser appreciated Mega Man games get a soundtrack arrangement in the not-so-usual format. Other than LegendofRenegade, I haven't come across many Mega Man Genesis arrangements done this well. I'm hoping +TEK does more stuff like this in the future.

Mega Man Battle Network 6 FM Arrangement Project

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Super Sonic Fusion (Act 1)

When I was checking VGMdb for upcoming and new releases last week, I saw there was an entry for Super Sonic Fusion (Act 1). This mini album only consists of 3 tracks arranged by one of my favorite remixers, Joshua Morse. Joshua loves jazz and fusing different genres so his music is always a treat for me. The three Sonic tunes arranged here are Green Hill Zone, Mystic Cave Zone, and Sky Chase Zone. 

Super Sonic Fusion (Act 1) is a name your price download so you can get it for free or throw some money to an outstanding composer/arranger. With Act 1 being in the title, I do hope more follows from more classic and modern Sonic games. At a mere three tracks this is short but very, very sweet. I know I'll be listening to these while I'm reading or punching keys. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Favorite Tunes #223: ZUNTATA

ZUNTATA! Not the name of a single person but a unit of a plethora of composers similar to Konami Kukeiha Club. They are also known as the Taito Sound Team so if you see the name ZUNTATA or Taito, you can usually expect your ears to be treated to some outstanding music.

Urban Trail - Night Striker (ARC)

The first time I'd ever heard of any music from Night Striker was some ten years ago. I was blown away. I think this game's soundtrack along with music from various Darius titles is what cemented my love for ZUNTAT's music. Now if only Taito would release more collections so I could play this game.

Fire! Fire! Fire! - Syvalion (ARC)

Fukio Mitsuji is mostly know for creating Bubble Bobble. He's also the brains behind Syvalion and if you're wondering why this title doesn't ring a bell, it's because this one didn't fare anywhere near as well as the game with the two cute dragons. Once again, I gotta hand it ZUNTATA, or in this case, Yasushia Watanabe for turning in an amazing soundtrck.

Planet Course "The Nature of Art" - Vertexer (ARC)

When I went hunting for some screen shots or an arcade flyer to use for this entry, I was surprised to find that Vertexer was never officially released. However, the soundtrack to the game, was released in 2015. As one would expect from ZUNTATA (Tamayo Kawamoto), the music is really friggin' good.

Jamming - Darius II (GEN)

Did you think every entry on this list was going to be from the arcade? I mean, sure, Darius II originated in the arcades but it also saw a few home ports, one of which was on the Genesis, titled Sagaia outside of Japan. The music isn't exactly the same as the co-op version but it still turned out pretty well.

Geometric City - RayStorm (ARC)

Released in Japanese arcades in 1996 when 3D and polygonal graphics were really up and coming, RayStorm is one of the few games on this list I've actually played. I picked up the PS port years ago and it has been years since I've played it. I do, however, remember this music as it played on the first stage and upon rediscovering it, I've been listening to it on repeat for days.

Metal Black - Space Invaders Anniversary (PS2)

In 2003, Space Invaders turned 25 years old. To commorate the occasion, Space Indavers Anniversary was released, containing nine versions of Space Invaders. One version contained music from various games in Tatio's library such as tunes from Bubble Bobble, Darius and Metal Black. The music sounds very close to the original pieces, but anyone that's heard these themes enough can tell you that there are some slight differences but not enough to be detrimental. The track from Metal Black happens to be my favorite from that game, Dual Moon. Space Invaders fans living in the west had no choice but to import this one.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sonic: The Hero Who Never Stops Running

"But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying." - The Green Goblin, Spider-Man 2002

If you've never seen it, there's a scene in the first live action Spider-Man movie where the Green Goblin gives Spidey a little speech on his own views about just what trouble being a hero will bring him. The above quote is but a sliver of his words and while they may come from a villain, that doesn't mean that they don't hold some truth. For whatever reason, people do indeed love to see heroes fall. Be it comic books, real life, or in this case, video game characters, heroes fall and one of the biggest punching bags when it comes to the topic of failures over the years is SEGA's own mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog.

I haven't talked about it multiple times on this blog, but I've made it no secret that I do not like Teen Titans GO! Big shock, there are plenty of people that despise the show. It has taken up so much air time on Cartoon Network that I've found little reason to tune into the channel anymore if that's all I'm going to see. As much as I can't stand Teen Titans GO!, I find the overabundance of videos on YouTube saying that the show sucks/needs to bee cancelled and what not, to be almost if not just is irksome as the show itself. I get it, Teen Titans GO! is a blight upon TV, but talking about how horrible it is ad infinitum has gotten old fast. So what does this have to do with our speedy blue friend? Plenty.

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is a game I don't think I'd ever subject myself to for obvious reasons but I do love all the quotes that narrator Mr. Foddy chucked out to players after experiencing major setbacks. My favorite among the many quotes comes from Mary Pickford. "This thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."

Sonic has lost his footing and fallen down numerous times. Staying down after a fall is super easy to do. It takes zero effort to sit on your can when you fall and sometimes after you've been knocked down, it feels good to just stay there. However, getting back up, pressing on even when so many are calling you a failure, that takes effort. I think what might be the best thing about Sonic is that no matter how many times he's been handed defeat, he gets back up, wags that index finger with a smile and goes off to do what he does best, run. Even during the classic era when SEGA was experimenting  with Sonic and trying different things, he stumbled, although some fans and critics tend to suffer from a horrible case of selective memory, painting the classic Sonic era as if everything was perfect but that's an editorial for another day.

In a medium were so many video game characters are discarded and forgotten, Sonic has managed to stay relevant  for over two decades. There are those who think Sonic should hang up his shoes and retire, his glory days long behind him, believing that his games can only be good in 2D, playing like the titles from 1990s. Seeing as how Sonic is SEGA's mascot, there's no way they are going to stop making games. Yes, there are problems within Sonic Team that is hindering their games, such as an over-reliance on nostalgia. Despite that, Sonic refuses to stay down. Like a shonen anime character, he's got that never give up mentality. Fall seven times, rise eight. Keep on running Sonic, it may not seem like it at times, but you've got people out there rooting for ya.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Yamaha YM2612: Glorious Genesis Sounds Part 1

To my fellow gamers living in Japan and Europe, it was known under the super cool handle of the SEGA Mega Drive. In America, we call it the the not-quite-but-still-cool SEGA Genesis and many would argue that it was the best console to come out of SEGA. The console had a robust library of games. Unfortunately, the Genesis has gotten an undeserved rep for having poor sound quality. During the 16-bit console generation lots of Genesis games were also on the SNES and while it is true that some games did sound vastly inferior to the SNES version (looking at you Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers) others were much better. There are a plethroa of games that were exclusive to the Genesis that had outstanding soundtracks showing that in capable hands, the Yamaha YM2612 could work wonders. Get ready to get for a dose of audio nostalgia as we run through some of your and my old favorites Genesis soundtracks. Perhaps you come across a few new favorites as well.

01. The Revenge of Shinobi

Composer: Yuzo Koshiro

Known as The Super Shinobi over in the Land of the Rising Sun, there are a copious amount of reasons The Revenge of Shinobi has the prestigious reputation that it does. Obviously it has a badawesome ninja, and everybody likes those. The original print run featured some pretty well known bosses in the forms of Spider-Man, Batman, The Terminator, the Incredible Hulk and Godzilla (most of which are now gone). This is far from being the most difficult game on the Genesis, but Revenge of Shinobi will take you to school many times, forcing you to learn how to play by it's rules, though highly skilled players can make very short work of the game. Despite the steep challenge, Revenge of Shinobi is a really freaking good ninja game.

The soundtrack is as highly praised as the smooth gameplay, if not more so. Yuzo Koshiro had a gift for making the Genesis sound chip sing, making it roar out with ferocity or blow like a gentle breeze when the times called for it as demonstrated in tracks like Terrible Beat and China Town respectively. On the whole, the game has a very chill soundtrack and compared to most games that had lots of high energy music back then, that was pretty rare. There's been a huge revival for music in vinyl format and The Revenge of Shinobi was given such a release. It is certainly more than deserving of the honor.

The Shinobi
Terrible Beat
Sunrise Blvd
Make Me Dance
Ninja Step
China Town

02. Rocket Knight Adventures

Composers: Masanori Oouchi, Aki Hata, Michiru Yamane, Hiroshi Kobyashi, Akira Yamaoka

In the early 1990s, a speedy blue hedgehog with attitude helped SEGA one-up Nintendo. Seeing the little rodents success, other game companies rushed to create their own mascots but many of them put the most emphasis on the "attitude" often missing the point that SEGA's new mascot was more than that. Rocket Knight Adventures was one of the very few glaring exceptions to come out during this time. Despite the American Kirby is Hardcore look Konami wanted gamers to believe on the North American box art, Sparkster's in game sprite showed off just how cute he really was, bobbing happily while standing still and looking to the player to whistle "Let's go!" Like SEGA's blue boy, Konami's opossum was backed by a good game. Do you want a game where you get to use a jet pack to zigzag every which way, ride mine carts and engage in a mech battle with your rival? This game has all of that.

There a lots of punchy tracks throughout Rocket Knight Adventures, full of that signature Genesis twang and some sweet bass. It remains unclear who composed what songs. Rocket Knight Adventures soundtrack only pans 20 tracks but there are seven names attached, one of whom is Castlevania famed composer Michiru Yamane. Rocket Knight Adventures and the handful of games it spawned never achieved the popularity of Konami's other franchises but it may surprise you to know that it was given a vinyl release. If there's anything bad to be said about Rocket Knight Adventures' soundtrack, it is that the track names are pretty unimaginative. Those tracks listed below are indeed the official names and it hurts me that such a fun, jovial soundtrack has such lackluster names.

Stage 1-1
Stage 1-2
Stage 2-1
Stage 3
Stage 5-1

03. Thunder Force III

Composers: Tomomi Otani, Toshiharu Yamanishi

If you owned a Genesis and you loved shooters, then you probably owned or at least played through Thunder Force III. So popular was Technosoft's shooter that it was given an arcade rework under the name Thunder Force AC, which in turn was ported to the Super Nintendo under the title Thunder Spirits, which was my first exposure to the Thunder Force series.

SHMUPs are known for their brevity, but the soundtrack to Thunder Force III is energetic, highly memorable as well as extensive, clocking in at 22 tracks. I imagine it would have been easier to just go with one main boss theme and a different theme for the final boss, but Thunder Force III has a total of seven different boss tracks, so most of the bosses have their own tune. There's quite the tonal shift in the game's music from the beginning to the end. The first two stages, Hydra and Gorgon are fast paced, high energy pieces but from stage 4 and onward, the music takes on a more serious, somber feel and this is even shown in the track names. Stage 4 is titled Truth, stage 6, His Behavior Inspired Us with Distrust, and stage 7, Hunger Made Them Desperate. Keep in mind, this is a Genesis shooter from the 1990s. The folks at Technosoft must have really loved the music from Thunder Force III because it would pop up in the companies other titles as well as get arranged in Thunder Force V.

Back to Fire (Stage 1 - Hydra)
Venus Fire (Stage 2 - Gorgon)
The Grubby Dark Blue (Stage 3 - Seiren)
King Fish (Stage 3 Boss)
Truth (Stage 4 - Haides) 
Final Take a Chance (Stage 5 - Ellis)

04. The Hybrid Front

Composers: Naofumi Hataya, Junko Shiratsu, Sachio Ogawa

You may have never heard of The Hybrid Front and that's perfectly understandable. This turn based strategy game was released only in Japan and when it came time for a digital re-release on the Wii's Virtual Console in 2007, it once again stayed in Japan. Since the game's main draw was the story, which was heavy on text

Even if you've never heard of or played it, if you're a Sonic the Hedgehog fan and you've gotten your feet wet in the ROM hacking scene, you've probably heard a track or two from The Hybrid Front and given the nature of the game's soundtrack, that isn't too surprising. When one thinks of strategy games, a funky, dance inspired soundtrack is probably the last thing that would come to mind. And yet, that is exactly what The Hybrid Front's music is. What, you thought ToeJam & Earl were the only ones funkin' around on the Genesis? Nah, son. The Hybrid Front is also spittin' those phat beats.

If one name among the trio of composers for The Hybrid Front stands out to you, it'll probably be Naofumi Hataya. The man is famous for co-composing the music for the Japanese version of Sonic CD and he handled the lion's share for The Hybrid Front. Of course that isn't to downplay the efforts of Junko Shiratsu and Sachio Ogawa both of who turned in some fine music. Between the numerous BGM arrangements of Earth, Moon/Mars themes, it can be tough to nail down a favorite. Most of these tracks start off with digitized voice samples often saying "Let's do it!" or "Let's go!" before the beat drops.

Opening Theme ~ Title
Combat Scenario
Earth ~ Sukarabe Fight BGM 1
Moon - Mars ~ Sakurabe Fight BGM 3
Moon - Mars Cocoon Fight BGM 2
Ending Theme

05. M.U.S.H.A.

Composer: Toshiaki Sakoda

Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor or MUSHA for short, was yet another Genesis SHMUP. The game goes by the name MUSHA Aleste in Japan, which makes it part of the Aleste series (Space Megaforce, Power Strike, Power Strike II, etc.) In Japanese, the term "musha" means "warrior" and given the game's mechanized feudal Japan setting, the MUSHA acronym still makes sense.

With this futuristic Japanese lore setting MUSHA's got going on, you're probably expecting some feudal era type music, right? Nope. MUSHA's soundtrack comes spring loaded with tons of heavy Genesis rock and hard synth. Not too many Genesis games blare the synth to this degree but MUSHA pulls it off very well. Theme of Musha Aleste is actually an arrangement of the Power Strike (SEGA Master System) Title music. MUSHA was given a re-release on the Wii's Virtual Console, which has now been discontinued. Hopefully this Compile shooter gets another chance to fly again.

Theme of Musha Aleste
Fullmetal Fighter
Aggressive Attack 
Galvanic Gear
Noh Specter
For the Love of...

06. Sonic the Hedgehog

Composer: Masato Nakamura

Surely you didn't think I was gonna neglect the fastest thing alive, now did you? Talking about exceptional Genesis soundtracks and not giving a slot to Sonic the Hedgehog would be like discussing the best NES soundtracks and omitting Super Mario Bros. It just isn't something that you do.

By the time Sonic graced the SEGA Genesis, the console was already out on American store shelves for nearly two years but wasn't doing much to entice customers. It took the presents of SEGA's new mascot (along with some very aggressive marketing on SEGA of America's part) to sway consumers into picking up a Genesis, which would later be bundled with Sonic the Hedgehog.

Some 27 years later, the original music to Sonic's first adventure sounds just as lovely as ever. Green Hill Zone still has the vibrant, peppy vibe, Spring Hill Zone is dripping with early 1990s western musical influences and Scrap Brain Zone sounds like a final area music track if ever there was one. Masato Nakamura's musical contributions to Sonic may have been short lived, but boy, did they ever leave a lasting impression. Fun fact, Nakamura was so terrible at Sonic the Hedgehog, that he had to have someone else play the game for him just so he could listen to the music he wrote for it. Someone should have told him about the level select cheat, which also let's you listen to the game's music.

Green Hill Zone
Spring Yard Zone
Labyrinth Zone
Star Light Zone
Scrap Brain Zone
Final Zone

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Favorite Tunes #222: To Be This Good Takes SEGA

It certainly has been a while since we had a Favorite Tunes centered around one theme. I guess you can consider this a sequel post to Favorite Tunes #197, which is something I'd always been meaning to get around to.

ToeJam Jammin' - ToeJam & Earl (GEN)

A much loved Genesis classic, I actually haven't spent any time with this game despite owning an original cartridge. Perhaps I'll invest some time into this one when the SEGA Genesis Classics releases next month. I do know this much know: everyone was right about the soundtrack being baller.

Little Money Avenue - Streets of Rage 2 (GEN)

Hailed as the king of beat 'em ups on the Genesis and the best of the trilogy, Streets of Rage 2's soundtrack is nothing short of mind-blowing. A lot of older games let you listen to music in the options mode or through sound test codes (a huge bonus long before the days of YouTube). You might have come  across this sound while cycling through the tracks but you'd never hear it used in an actual stage.

Over the Bay - The Revenge of Shinobi (GEN)

Yuzo Koshiro strikes again. Like the two games mentioned above, The Revenge of Shinobi will also be featured in the SEGA Genesis Classics collection. You probably won't be fighting Batman or Spider-Man but the absence of two of the greatest super heroes is hardly a deal breaker.

Rogues Gallery (Mirage Saloon Act 2) - Sonic Mania (PS4, NS, XBO, PC)

Hey, how about that, music from a SEGA game that isn't on the Genesis. I knew we'd get here eventually. I feel like singing the praises of Sonic Mania is redundant at this point. I'm very pleased that this game is finally getting a physical release in the form of Sonic Mania Plus at the end of August. Mighty and Ray are finally coming out of retirement to join in on the fun!

Fly Like a Butterfly - Jet Set Radio Future (XB)

It certainly was nice to have Beat gear in Sonic Forces and Beat himself as a playable character in the Sonic & SEGA All-Star Racing games. I'm sure many would agree it would be even nicer to have the Jet Set Radio crew come back in their own, new game.

Sky High (Instrumental) - Daytona USA (SAT)

C'mon, you were saying or thinking "ROLLLLLLING STAAAAAAAAAAAAAART"
When you saw a Daytona USA jam. Admit it. Or the lyrics from the vocal version of this song came to you. Enjoying Daytona USA music may be something of an acquired taste, but if I ever saw a tee shirt that said "I Heart Daytona USA Music" or some meme from the game, I would pick it up without the slightest bit of hesitation.

Favorite Tunes Database

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hiatus Status: Ended

For a little over a week now, there has been zero activity on Gaming Rocks On. I try to keep even the mere mention of work off this blog, but well, work gave me the short end of the stick and it ended up doing a number on me during the past two weeks. We've been going through spring break, which has been rather busy around here and in between a total of nine working days, I was only given one day off. That combine with the aforementioned busy work weeks made me pretty worn out. I've fallen behind on some of the games I was playing and I've even got a manga backlog I need to work off that has only increased in the two weeks that have passed.

I like to have something prepared for when I work like that but I had nothing and I kept arriving home late. On top of that, I was extremely tired so I thought the best thing to do would be to just take a break. Nothing series has happened but I thought I owed you readers an explanation as to what was going on. Well, the break is over and it is once again time to rock on.

BTW, in case you've never gotten the continue screen in Sonic Mania (*ahem*I'venevergottenagameoverinthatgamebecauseI'msoawesome) that's what it looks like above. You're welcome.