Thursday, January 29, 2009

Genesis Does

Here's one more theory that I'm sure you'll all understand: Video game music is far less meaningful when it comes from a game you haven't played. I'll use an example from yesterday's post. Mega Man 2 is widely considered one of the greatest games of all time, and its soundtrack is frequently declared as the best of the incredibly prolific Mega Man series. But if you scroll down you'll see that I embedded music from Mega Man 3. I adore Mega Man 2, the game and the music, but I have a much stronger appreciation for Mega Man 3, and the reason is very simple. I've had Mega Man 3 since I was, maybe, five or six years old. I've owned Mega Man 2 for only a few months. I'd heard much of the music from 2 before ever really having played the game. After playing it, I immediately started listening to rock covers of the Bubble Man theme and learning to play the music from the second level of Dr. Wiley's Castle on my guitar. While I'm not going to go into all the reasons, I will say that playing a video game gives you an emotional connection to the music that you'll never find otherwise.

So I know most of the people reading this blog have never touched of a video game, and I know that that means you're probably not interested in any of the stuff I've been posting here this week. It doesn't mean anything to you. And while I know I'm not going to convince anyone, I'd like to suggest that you try. A quote from Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime:
Do you know anyone who's never watched TV, never seen a movie, never read a book? Of course not. So let me ask you one more question. Do you know someone, maybe even in your own family, who's never played a video game? I bet you do. How can this be?
Today, I'll be showing you a few games from the 16-bit era of video games. Many consider it the epitome, the defining epoch of video games. While I adore this age, and I agree that it birthed many of the greatest games (and greatest game music) ever, I never had a Super Nintendo of my own, and I only have three games on my Sega Genesis, and it does affect my relationship with the period a little. I did have friends who had these systems, though, and so I haven't been hit with Mega Man 2 syndrome quite so strongly.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Green Hill Zone theme (Genesis)

The 16-bit systems proudly boasted their audio capabilities, and they certainly could produce sounds far beyond the realm of the NES, but they still had a very simple, electronic quality. I think in many cases, the slight boost in fidelity may have actually given games of this time a less distinct, charmingly quaint sound. In the case of games like Sonic, though, they just sound great. Disagree? Fair enough - Sonic was one of my most-played games of this time. It's not unreasonable to think that I now give it more credit than it deserves.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 - Angel Island Zone theme (Genesis)

Legend has it that Michael Jackson worked on the soundtrack for Sonic 3. While I have no idea if this is actually true, I do know one Genesis game that was definitely inspired by the sounds of the Smooth Criminal.

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Genesis)

F-Zero - Big Blue theme (Super Nintendo)

Mega Man X (Super Nintendo)

As I said, I've never had a Super Nintendo, but I do have the PC version of Mega Man X. Unfortunately, much of the game was dumbed down rather severely, and several channels of sound appear to have been removed.

Thanks to oddities like this, and the fact that, although there's been a computer in my house almost as far back as I can remember, I didn't have computer speakers until probably around nine, have given me a slightly odd relationship with computer music of this time. Still, I can think of a few gems that stick out.

Doom (PC)

Jazz Jackrabbit - Main Theme (PC)

Secret of Mana - It Happened Late One Evening (Super Nintendo)

Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo)

There's been much debate in recent years about whether or not the Donkey Kong Country series is any good. There has been no debate about whether David Wise's score was anything less than genuis.

Donkey Kong Country 2 (Super Nintendo)

Tomorrow: The final day of this noise! It's almost over!

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