One of the joys of heading out to PAX East every spring has been seeing how the independent games industry has grown and evolved. Each year there seems to be a greater presence of indie titles being shown off on the PAX East show floor, and this year was no exception. Among the various projects on display, there were a fair number of music and rhythm games. Over the next few days I’ll be highlighting the music games that I tried out at PAX East, starting with the game Just Shapes & Beats. (more…)
Just as we did for last month’s PAX South, we’re giving you the rundown of what you can expect to see from a game music and audio standpoint at PAX East 2017 next week in Boston. Some new and some returning musical performances shall be gracing the main stage concerts, as well as other tidbits you can check out through the event.
Let it not be said that the east coast gets all the good VGM events. This weekend in San Jose, Rockage has returned for three days of gaming, music and fun.
Rockage: San Jose is a celebration of indie music & retro gaming. Rockage is more than just an annual event- we support indie musicians and gaming culture on the West Coast year-round.
Much like MAGFest (and a nice precursor to MAGWest later this year), Rockage features tons of retro and indie gaming, but also local VGM bands, artists and composers to rock out to while you attend the event. This year’s lineup includes two performances by FTL: Faster Than Light composer Ben Prunty, who had a killer set at the MAGFest Jamspace at PAX South recently.
The event will be Friday through Sunday at the AFKgg Gamer Lounge in San Jose, with free admission for all. You can nab more ongoing information on their Facebook and Twitter.
The fine folks of Materia Collective present The Travelers, a supergroup of some of the most passionate performers and arrangers seeking to bring a unique acoustic experience unlike anything before. The Travelers cover VGM favorites and obscure selections in European folk arrangements of various styles from Celtic, Nordic, and Slavic traditions. Their membership includes players of a broad variety of instruments from many different parts of the world, featuring members from the Materia Collective, Triforce Quartet, and Tetrimino.
Produced by Josh Barron and Masha Lepire with art by Val Choung, The Travelers album features arrangements from Final Fantasy X, Shadow Hearts 2, Romancing SaGa 2 and more. For those who love Yasunori Mitsuda’s “Millennial Fair” and his Xenogears CREID album you will be treated to something that embraces the source yet presents something fresh in a live acoustic setting.
Over 200 artists and groups, including a good chunk of the VGM and chiptune scene, have gotten together with Bandcamp and are donating all profits from their sales today to the American Civil Liberties Union. The act is a response to current political strife, with Bandcamp donating 100% of their profits to the ACLU, and a large amount of musicians and music labels making additional donations of their profit cuts.
We hope that, as you listen to these albums, you’ll not only discover some great new artists, but will also gain a further appreciation and understanding for the way music transcends all borders, and remember that, even in the darkest of times, there is more that unites us than divides us.
Several video game cover bands and arrangers have thrown their support behind the movement. If you’re looking to purchase new music, beyond the Bandcamp portion, many of the following are making extra donations towards the ACLU:
The acoustic duo known around as the Super Guitar Bros. (aka. Sam Griffin & Steve Poissant) have at long last released their second full-length album as a follow up to their self-titled premier album in 2013. The new album, “Nice”, features 17 tracks spanning several classic games such as Donkey Kong Country, Chrono Trigger, Castlevania III and of course several Super Mario titles. It also features some of the most interesting album art for a VGM release I’ve seen since entering the community, which can take as you may.
The album is currently in digital format on Bandcamp at a “Pay What You Want” price, or as a physical CD for $10. The duo recently performed at San Francisco Comic-Con and PAX West 2016, and, you can also catch the Bros. streaming regularly on their Twitch channel for live practice, mini-performances and other shenanigans.
In the world of game audio there’s often a need for the sounds of the earlier game consoles. Whether this is to help emulate a feeling of nostalgia of the 80s and 90s or to create all new styles of music with the older sounds, the tones of these classic consoles have had a persistent presence in the gaming world. This has been especially true with the rise of the indie game scene and the emphasis on the styles of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.
Through the years there have been a number of software tools available to composers and audio designers for recreating these sounds. Programs like FamiTracker and Little Sound DJ have allowed composers to generate chiptune music, but they require considerable time to learn the various functions and limitations of the software. Meanwhile different FM synthesizers can be used to create sounds similar to the Sega Genesis, but often didn’t have the same limitations or imperfections of the sounds that you would hear on the original system hardware.
Now after many years of planning and development, Impact Soundworks, in collaboration with OverClocked Remix, has come forward with a collection of samples recorded from the systems themselves. The result is the sample library Super Audio Cart, which aims to provide a simple way of producing the authentic sounds of these consoles, while also presenting tools to let you do some new and complex things with the available instruments. I’ll be taking a look at the core functions of the library and examining how it stacks up against other methods of creating these sounds. (more…)
All of the pieces that we’ve featured on Arrangement of the Week have been based on music from games on either consoles, handheld, or personal computers. However, we’ve yet to have any covers of music from mobile games. That changes today with an arrangement of Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson’s music from the mobile puzzle game Threes.
The artist for this arrangement is timaeus222 who has created an electronic remix of the Threes main theme, “Threes Is the Bees Knees,” titled “Threes ‘Reactive’.”
The remix keeps the light and upbeat tone of the original track and transforms it into a short but sweet electronic funk dance track. There’s plenty of great FM synth sounds, but there’s a nice dose of acoustic sounding guitar instruments to balance things out. The mix never sounds dense or overwhelming and it maintains a light feel even when the heavier synth elements come in.
The tone of the track shifts often thanks to the wide variety of synth instruments that take the spotlight throughout the piece’s duration. There’s plenty of synth lead instruments that get the melody, so you never find yourself getting board of hearing any particular instrument in the remix. All in all, it’s a great tribute to a soundtrack that doesn’t get enough of the attention that it deserves.
Have any favorite remixes, arrangements, or covers? Feel free to tell us about them in the comment section. You can check out “Threes ‘Reactive’” at OC ReMix.
One of my favorite game soundtracks from the Super Nintendo era is Super Metroid. While it may not have the catchy melodies of some of its peers of that day, it builds a great atmosphere for the game that’s hard to forget. For this week’s Arrangement of the Week, I found a rock cover of Super Metroid’s music that strays far from the tone of the original material.
“Dancing in the Jungle” is a rock interpretation of the “Brinstar Plant Overgrowth” track by artist Cyril the Wolf, aka Connor Pelkey. I think you’ll find he’s done something quite interesting with the Super Metroid material.
While creating a rock version of this particular track is nothing new, the lighter tone for this arrangement is something that caught me by surprise. Cyril the Wolf has created a 70s style rock cover of the music, which results in a much brighter and upbeat version of the music. Usually cover artists create something that matches the dark atmosphere of the game, but this arrangement takes the road less travelled and it stands out as a result.
The piece has an almost disco genre feel, with it’s steady drum beats and lively bass line. I particularly like the inclusion of the organ throughout the track. There’s enough variation in the guitar parts as well to keep the listener’s interest and the the arrangement is just the right length to be enjoyable without overstaying its welcome. It’s another excellent cover of one of my favorite game soundtracks.
Have any favorite Super Metroid covers, remixes, or arrangements? Feel free to share them with us in the comment section. You can check out “Dancing in the Jungle” at OC ReMix.
Many of the acoustic arrangements that get coverage on Arrangement of the Week fall into the classical/orchestral genre of music. However, I do come across acoustic jazz covers that, while not as common, bring a welcome breath of fresh air to the usual collection of acoustic game music arrangements out there.
For this week, we have another piece from artist Nostalvania titled “Seven Pipes to Heaven,” a reference to a Miles Davis jazz standard “Seven Steps to Heaven.” The track is a jazz trio arrangement of two pieces, “Birabuto Kingdom” and “Muda Kingdom,” from Super Mario Land by composer Hirokazu Tanaka.
Nostalvania’s arrangement starts and ends with material from the game’s first level Birabuto Kingdom, while keeping the Muda Kingdom material in the middle. Despite altering the meter to 7/8, the melodic material is still quite recognizable. Improvisation sections also act as transitions between the two themes, providing some original material along with the Super Mario Land tunes. The Muda Kingdom music was actually a little harder for me to spot initially because it blends so well with the original improv material.
I like how the arrangement manages to capture the spirit of earlier Miles Davis jazz ensembles, even if the ensemble instruments are different. The material from Super Mario Land fits the genre well and the memorable melodies shine through as a result. The meter change is also a nice touch, creating an uplifting but slightly off-kilter sway to the music. Overall, it’s another wonderful jazz adaptation by Nostalvania of some great game music.
Have any favorite jazz covers of video game tunes. Let us know in the comments. You can check out Nostalvania’s “Seven Pipes to Heaven” on OC ReMix.
There are always tracks that get more attention than others when it comes to game music remixes. There have been a number of covers of the “Sub Castle BGM” from Super Mario World and we’ve covered at least one of them on this series. Today on Arrangement of the Week we will be looking at one of the more interesting versions that I’ve encountered.
This version of the “Sub Caster BGM” comes to us from artist meganeko, who has created a wild and crazy EDM remix titled “Big Boo Badman.”
Meganeko delivers a load of surprises in this track. The piece starts with what sounds like enhanced samples of the original track. But about twenty seconds in, the music launches into a powerful choral chip-rock rendition of the theme. Soon more dance beats enter and before we’ve even hit the one minute mark, the track has transitioned into an upbeat electronic dance track.
The tone, style, and genre is in an almost constant flux. Each new variation and change up feels fresh and exciting but never makes the piece come off as unfocused. One of my favorite parts is the breakdown section at 2’36,” where the piece drops down to a sample from the game again and almost seems to restart the piece. It’s an unexpected and cool interruption that fits in well with the track’s other tricks and surprises. In the end it’s a surprising and fun interpretation of a classic Super Mario World track and it stands out well among many other arrangements.
Have any favorite Super Mario remixes, arrangements, or covers? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below. You can check out meganeko’s “Big Boo Badman” on OC ReMix.
The Kirby series has seen its main character go on a wide variety of adventures. Outside the standard platforming titles he’s had his own pinball game, a handful of puzzle games, and even a mini-golf style game. One of my favorite deviations from the regular games is the GameCube title Kirby Air Ride, a unique racing game that featured the series characters riding around on various types of stars.
Like many of the Kirby games, the soundtrack is full of great music tracks for the various races and game events. For this week’s Arrangement of the Week, we’ll be looking at a solo piano arrangement of “Frozen Hillside” by artist jdaster64 titled “Frozen Fantasie.”
At first the arrangement is relatively calm and doesn’t feature much melodic variation from the original track. This ends up being a good thing, as it’s a clear and pleasantly light variation that sets the listener up for what’s to come. The piece soon builds a greater amount of contrast, switching quickly between sections of heavy chords across the piano’s entire pitch register to more delicate and quieter sections.
This type of variety makes the arrangement more interesting, while still keeping the original theme clear and recognizable. The decision to frequently switch between the different arrangement styles also gives the track a lighter and more playful vibe, which is a perfect match for the Kirby series. All in all, it’s a wonderful piano arrangement that effortlessly captures the spirit of its source material.
Have any favorite remixes, arrangements, or remixes of the Kirby Air Ride soundtrack? Let us know in the comments below. You can check out idaster64’s “Frozen Fantasie” on OCReMix.
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