Tag Archive: game music


Activision. I probably don’t need to say any more, but I’m going to. They’re a company that fully endorses the practice of “make something until it stops making money, then burn it alive and dump the ashes.” Franchises like Tony Hawk’s Pro SkaterGuitar Hero, and James Bond came out practically yearly until the quality suffered. Many iconic studios like Neversoft, Bizarre Creations, and Radical Entertainment were among the casualties when their games didn’t sell well enough. Others, like Raven Software, were enslaved to make Call of Duty after two back-to-back commercial failures (Wolfenstein and Singularity). Even then, who knows when the COD bubble will finally burst?

But before Activision was the monstrous juggernaut they are now, they were still a company that was recovering from the ’80s. A bunch of bad business deals forced the company to be bought by a holding firm in the early ’90s, ran by Robert “Bobby” Kotick, who still runs the company to this day.

While Activision was trying to rebuild during the ’90s, they decided to do something unusual in terms of localization of two Super Famicom games to the west. Localization is fairly common, sometimes changing stuff like minimizing Hitler and Nazi references in Bionic Commando on the NES, to straight up overhauls of existing games like Masked Ninja Hanamaru becoming a game involving Domino’s short-lived mascot Yo! Noid for the NES. In Activision’s case, theirs were somewhere in the middle: they decided to scrap the original Super Famicom soundtrack, get a contract deal with some fairly popular electronic bands, and have their songs be part of the new American soundtrack, complete with advertising this fact on the box and in the game itself.

So, all I can say now, is “Are you ready for this?”

(Before I go any further: Shout out to online buddy LanceBoyle for giving me the inspiration to write about these. Not the guy from MegaRace, though I’ll give him a shout out too because why not?)

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The first game they attempted this with was BioMetal, a fairly innocuous shoot-em-up with powerups that was a decent little R-Type clone. Alas I am very bad at these kind of games, so I couldn’t get past the first stage. Though from what I’ve seen, it seems to be just one of many shoot-em-ups on a system filled with them. It’s why stuff like Phalanx had that weird hillbilly on the cover, to make it stand out.

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Though, Activision’s attempt to make it stand out was a bit more unusual: Replacing composer Yoshio Nagashima’s soundtrack with songs from the band 2 Unlimited. 2 Unlimited was the band that made that fairly popular electronic song “Get Ready for This,” a song that plays practically at every sporting event you could imagine. It plays during the title screen and appears on Stage 2.

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About a day or so after I finished writing the last post about Counter-Life, I took a nap. When I woke up, I found out about this:

More CS:GO music kits.

Not only more of them, but practically doubling the total number of music kits from 16 to 30. I nearly fainted after that. This time it seems we’ve hit a big variety sampler pack, from returning artists to film composers, and even an interesting collaboration between Valve and a record company. In addition to the new music kits, they added “StatTrak” versions that keep track of the times you’ve become the MVP in competitive matches. It seems a bit silly, almost like a joke someone made to Valve without saying they were kidding afterwards.

Since I’ve written about the previous ones before, it’d be remiss of me not to continue the tradition. (You can see what I thought of the initial nine music kits here, and the later additions in February 2015 here.) Like before, I’m gonna write how I felt about each one, mentioning some of my favorite tracks, and whether or not it’s worth the $5-8 to grab, with a quick verdict at the end.

Now in the last collection, I had made videos of the new kits, but this time I passed on doing that. It’s not that it wasn’t fun to make, it’s that considering my meticulous nature for making these things, I would’ve been here all weekend working on something that’s already been eclipsed by other YouTubers for lesser effort. So instead I’ll be linking to the pages of the music kits on csgostash.com. just click on the album cover to be whisked away to a page where you can listen along.

So without further ado, let’s get started…

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video game closet collage

I am a master at image manipulation.

For the past several years, I’ve been collecting my fair share of random video game stuff. Some of which I’ve talked about on this blog, others of which I still need to get around to. But it hasn’t just been physical stuff I find at Goodwills and other places, oh no. It’s also been loads of digital stuff.

Many years ago, back when I had a crappy old HP Pavilion PC with Windows Vista, 2GB of RAM, and 250GB of hard drive space, I was hoarding lots of digital video game goodies. Wallpapers, soundtracks, press kits, the works. That practice continued when I got my current PC in 2013, where I let them lay in my cluttered downloads folder. It didn’t dawn on me until I started moving it to a unique folder on my hard drive that I thought these were worth sharing, just like everything else I do on this blog.

The downside is that I’m slowly rebuilding my collection. When I was on the old PC, there were times where I had to delete some files to save space. So for now, some of the things I had are lost to time, unless I find them again somewhere. If these are still available on the official website, I’ll happily link to where you can get them, otherwise I’ll slap them up on my Dropbox for those who want it.

So let’s clean out my digital closet with these goodies…


Payday 2 wallpapers and posters!

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Payday 2 has slowly become one of my favorite games in recent memory. While it’s flawed in many areas, it’s still a fun action-packed ride. For some of Payday 2‘s updates in 2014, Overkill was releasing free goodies to go along with the big Team Fortress 2-style update pages. This included wallpapers for the Shadow Raid mission featuring the Payday crew, a poster advertising the crossover between Payday 2 and Hotline Miami, and the Gage Assault Pack, featuring the smirk of weapons dealer Gage as he holds a FAMAS and carries an M79 on his back.

Thankfully Overkill is damn generous and put these wallpapers on their official website, however they’re only for 16:9 monitors on 1920×1080, so ones with other setups are left in the cold, which is a shame.

Here’s something I’m wondering: Does anyone still rock a 4:3 monitor in this day and age?

You can grab these and some of the wallpapers at Overkill’s fan service page. Some of the individual update pages have more, but not all of them do.


Shadowgate NES ringtones!

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I heard these games were notorious for being real dickish to you. I wonder how they got so popular, then…

I didn’t know about this until recently, but there was a reboot for Shadowgate a while back. As I never played any of the MacVenture series of games I can’t say much about it, but developer Zojoi didn’t want to forget the roots of the NES version. So they released a set of ringtones based from the NES soundtrack by composer Hiroyuki Masuno.* Now you can listen to some of those tracks without needing a pesky media player. Or you can pretend you’re the Gaming in the Clinton Years guy and have that Hall of Mirrors track as your ringtone. Either way, a nice treat considering how classic some of that music is.

You can snag those ringtones at the developer’s website here.

(*-Until very recently, no one knew who composed the special music for the NES MacVenture games. Thanks to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation for solving the mystery of who composed those great tunes. Those guys do the heavy lifting not many others do, and it’s pretty great for a guy like me who loves nerding out about video game music.)

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Let's ignore the stickers and look at the big prize: NEW MUSIC!

Let’s ignore the stickers and look at the big prize: NEW MUSIC!

It’s that time again. On February 12, 2015, Valve introduced a second batch of music kits for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I had written about the first nine late last year, and it’s become one of my more popular posts recently. If you wanna see my reviews for the first nine music kits, click here.

Since there’s new ones, I thought it’d be nice to come back and write about these brand new ones and see if they’re worth your money.

Naturally, I’m going to review these, complete with videos so you can listen along. Like before, these music kits will randomly appear in the game as an offer for $6.99, or you can buy one on the Steam Market. Right now, they’re a bit overinflated (About $10-15 per kit compared to the $6.99 in game), but they’ll eventually even out once more of them appear in the store.

I’m also gonna throw one in that came out in December, after I had written the original CS:GO music kits post. Consider these music kits part of a “Series 2,” if you will.

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So for the past month and a half, I’ve been fixated on something a bit unusual:

When you need some jams while using the AWP on Dust II.

When you need some jams while using the AWP on Dust II.

Valve introduced “music kits” to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. These special items replace the game’s default music with unique tracks by nine different musicians. You can get one of these offered randomly in-game for $6.99, or buy one on the Steam marketplace if you’re looking for a specific one. Alternatively you can “borrow” anyone’s music kit who has a music kit equipped, so you can give it a try in action.

I love video game music. I also tend to get nerdy about the parts of video game music most people don’t notice. Naturally when this was announced, I was excited for something that was probably done to distract us from how broken the CZ75-Auto is in CS:GO. But I was curious on what each one sounded like, and if they were a good fit.

The first nine music kits introduced. A nice mix of game composers, DJs and rockers.

The first nine music kits introduced. A nice mix of game composers, DJs and rockers.

For the sake of this, I’m gonna give sort of a mini-review of each kit. Granted, I’m not great at reviewing music, but I’ll try to review it to the best of my abilities, and link to videos that feature each kit so you can listen to them for yourself. Without further ado, let’s get started.

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Over the years, I’ve amassed ridiculous amounts of video game knowledge. I created the Secret Area as a good place to share said video game knowledge with people. Naturally, video game music is something I’m also interested in. While I am a bit of an outlier in terms of my game music tastes – I usually prefer stuff by American and European composers, and don’t really care much for Japanese game music past the SNES/Genesis era – I still love finding information about game music, much like a lot of things I like.

So I’m gonna get nerdy about video game music. I’m gonna write about something that came to mind fairly recently that I thought would be worth sharing. This will hopefully be the start of a new series where I delve into the oddities and bits of inane trivia of music in games.

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Poke646 is one of the best Half-Life mods out there. At the time, most Half-Life mods reused most of the existing templates that the original game used, making Black Mesa look like a research facility that spanned a whole continent. Mods like They Hunger and many others changed how people looked at Half-Life, but not nearly as well as Poke646 did. One day, I should write about Poke646 and its sequel Vendetta, they’re some of the best Half-Life mods out there.

The game’s credits, featured below, featured this haunting, ambient tune.

The hip-hop styled track really fit in line with the rest of the game, which also had some great original ambient music. Thankfully all this music is in the Poke646 mod folder, since I don’t know much about the composer of the ambient music, and there’s little information about it or the mod’s soundtrack online.

Cut to 2010. I had recently picked up Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction Special Edition for $35 at Ubisoft’s online store because of an issue of the special USB keys not working on some copies. As I was going through the game itself, a certain tune started to play that sounded familiar…

(WARNING: Plot spoilers for Splinter Cell: Conviction within.)

Yep. It’s the same song. Until then, I had thought that credits music was a unique track made for Poke646. In reality, it was a licensed song: DJ Shadow’s “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” from his 1996 debut Endtroducing…..

Ubisoft had licensed “Building Steam…” to play over this part of the game. Since it had been years since I had played Poke646, I had realized the tune sounded familiar but couldn’t quite place it until I replayed the mod much later. After knowing this fact, I bought the song not too long after, naturally.

Games using licensed music is hardly new, think of the many music games that have come out over the years. But most games usually have a composer do all the incidental music, rarely do they use a licensed song unless it’s made specifically for the game, like Eminem’s “Won’t Back Down” and “Survival” from Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Ghosts, respectively. Why Ubisoft thought the DJ Shadow tune fit this particular scene is a mystery that we’ll probably never know.

Speaking of DJ Shadow, he has contributed remixes to a few games himself, such as the “El Dorado Megamix” he did for the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune soundtrack, and two tracks for Motorstorm Apocalypse. So he’s contributed music to the video game world, both directly and indirectly.

To bring it back around to Poke646, “Building Steam…” got a remix when Vendetta was released in 2006, adding some rocking guitars over the game’s credits. In a way, adding additional instrumentation to a song that heavily uses samples is interesting, because it’s using a song with samples as a sample for a new song. It’s fascinating, really.

Thanks to these mods, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” has become the Poke646 theme in my mind, which was used in some big budget game. Its inclusion in Splinter Cell: Conviction seems quite bizarre to me, especially since I first heard the song through a game mod many years before. Still a good song, highly recommend you give it a listen. Can’t say if the rest of Endtroducing….. is as amazing, but I’m willing to bet it’s a solid album.

I don’t follow many hip-hop or electronica DJs, but after hearing “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” I could probably get into this kind of music. Hell, I loved Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which was mostly Amon Tobin’s work, as well as enjoying most of Crackdown‘s licensed music which was the same kind of style. Time to broaden my tastes in music…

Speaking of game music, I recently updated an old article from 2013 comparing the tunes from NES game show games to their real-life counterparts. No longer using volatile YouTube videos, I replaced them with convenient MP3s. Check it out here if you wanna read more of me getting nerdy about video game music.

Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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Woflogocomparison

There’s two things that I love fondly that I grew up with: Video games (natch), and game shows. I’m not exactly sure what gravitated me towards game shows: Could be the flashy sets, the catchy themes, the thought of people winning $25,000 in mere seconds; but whatever it was, I was hooked. I still enjoy the classic game show every now and then, even though my interest in the genre has waned in recent years.

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Since I like game shows and video games, having the two come together sounds amazing. It’s my version of a peanut butter cup. There were a whole bunch of them on the ol’ NES, almost all of them published by GameTek, a US-based software company. I think the game show games were their only hallmark, though they did publish games like Frontier: Elite II and Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, as well as working on publishing Robotech: Crystal Dreams before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1999. There were some NES game show games published by other companies, such as Hi-Tech Expressions, but the less said about those games, the better.

Now, there’s a fair share of game show games on the NES by GameTek, including four different editions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, as well as Double Dare, Hollywood Squares and many others. What most people don’t know is that some of these were developed by Rare. Yes, that Rare. Donkey Kong Country Rare. Banjo-Kazooie Rare. Kinect Sports Rare. For those who don’t find that as surprising as I do, Rare is a games company based in Twycross, England. All the game show adaptions that they had made weren’t being broadcast on British TV at the time, so to have a company based in England to do American TV game show video games is funny. I would assume the production companies would send them episodes of the show as well as the rules of the game so they understand what they’re trying to make.

Since Rare was a small skeleton crew throughout the ’80s, they only had one composer: Dave Wise (pictured). Wise pretty much composed all of Rare’s games solo up until the early ’90s, and seeing him try to recreate some of game show’s iconic themes on the NES sound chip sounds intriguing. Let’s see how well he did on each of them…

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