Game Music, Reviews

Going Way Back: Sega System 16 Complete Soundtrack Vol. 1 (Review)

May 25, 2011 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Going Way Back: Sega System 16 Complete Soundtrack Vol. 1 (Review)on Twitter

Yes, we have more classic SEGA music, but rather than going back to the Genesis or even the Master System which SEGA is most known for, SEGA has decided to pay homage to one their early arcade boards, the System 16, with a new collection of music.

Classic game music from SEGA is nothing new, but as a Nintendo kid growing up, I missed out on a lot of the early SEGA games, and even more so never enjoyed them in arcade form. Well, they’re here if you’ve been waiting to hear them, so join us in our review as SEGA takes us through a crash course of 11 different soundtrack in this collection.

So, what’s here, you ask? While there are many games featured on this collection, you’re probably going to be the most excited about Fantasy Zone, Quartet, Alien Syndrome, and S.D.I. These are all fantastic soundtracks, and it’s the first time I’d heard many of these.

The album opens with Sega Yakyuu League, a baseball game with lots of short jingles and a few unmemorable songs. “Name Entry” may strike you with its 80s pop melody, but don’t let this one on the whole discourage you from listening further. Fantasy Zone is just up ahead, and while you should already have this as it’s included in the amazing Fantasy Zone: Ultra Super Big Maximum Great Strong Complete Album, in case you didn’t, this is one of the best sounding version of the first game’s soundtrack.

I mentioned Quartet earlier, and it’s always been a legendary soundtrack that I was never exposed to. This is the one soundtrack I was looking forward to the most from this collection, and while it did appear on the 2005 release, SDI & Quartet ~SEGA System 16 Collection~, it doesn’t fail to impress here. The first stage provides a flurry upbeat synth notes before funky bass and percussion come in. Straight from the glory days of SEGA sound, this one will take you back, even if you’re like me and never played the game. Amazing stuff. “Sky” is another fantastic piece, and “FM Piano Test” should get you in the mood with its deep, rich FM piano chords.

Sega Joshi Pro Wrestling is strangely upbeat and brimming with positive energy throughout, which is entirely unexpected for a wrestling game. It almost even borders on “cute.” The pinball game Time Scanner provides another surprise with its fast pace and seemingly exotic locales. It sounds like you’re traversing deserts and dungeons with this one, with “Ruins Stage” standing out as the best with its reverberating and mysterious melody. Action Fighter, on the other hand, brings in fast tempos and driving bass, with the action-heavy “Helicopter” being my favorite. The Alex Kidd soundtrack here is rehashed from the complete album that we reviewed in the past, but it’s still great to have here if you passed on that album. Next, Dunk Shoot won’t strike you as memorable, although “The Fight (Round 5)” gets a little more interesting with its funky beat ’em up sound.

Alien Syndrome is yet another classic that I never got to experience. And here I am, listening, wondering how I never heard this. The dark and brooding “Dooms Day (Main BGM)” is amazing, especially when considering the time it was released (1987 on the System 16). This mood is pervasive throughout the soundtrack, with individual stage and boss themes that are simply fantastic, making for a perfect musical accompaniment to the grotesque and dangerous creatures that you encounter in the game. The final boss theme, “Boss 3,” is just as epic as the opening track.

SDI not only looks incredibly fun, but the music is some of the best I’ve heard from SEGA’s early days. You’ll note on YouTube that nearly every video associated with the game has to do with its music, and it’s not surprising once you’ve heard it. It’s funky, spacey, and futuristic, and it’s seriously awesome. “Satellite Attack” is probably my favorite track, but I also dig “An Imminent War” and the emotional ending theme.

Finally, Bullet is another cool looking game as a top down shooter with enemies swarming all over. The pumping music creates a tense atmosphere, and the various tracks are all interesting to listen to. Stereo versions of songs are provided for some reason, and actually sound worse due to the separation of sounds being so jarring between one ear and the other.

While this is Volume 1, Volume 2 has since been released. I’m not sure why it’s called ‘complete,’ as there were over 40 games released on the System 16, and I’d be surprised if they released the soundtrack to them all. The album features some fun chibi artwork of the games’ various characters, and there is extensive commentary (in Japanese) featured throughout the booklet. Overall, it’s a pretty nice set with some of SEGA’s earliest and best, although the 3,675 Yen price tag may keep you away. Even then, SEGA soundtracks are notoriously difficult to obtain outside of Japan. Still, if you’re a huge fan of these early SEGA arcade titles, it may be worth your while to hunt this one down.

What do you think of SEGA’s System 16 titles? Do you have a particular favorite, and would you like to see them release even more music from the board beyond just Volumes 1 and 2?

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