Chip Music, Game Music, Reviews

Behind-the-Wheel Beats: Retro City Rampage (Review)

May 25, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Behind-the-Wheel Beats: Retro City Rampage (Review)on Twitter

Earlier this month, the boys who put together the soundtrack for the open-world, 8-bit adventure that is VBlank Entertainment’s Retro City Rampage were interviewed about their involvement in the project (and maybe a bit more personal information than most readers were prepared for). Regardless, the dynamic trio of Jake “Virt” Kaufman, Matthew “Norrin Radd” Creamer and Leonard “FreakyDNA” Paul expressed just what inspired them to create the funky beats of the parody game.

However, now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes the music of the game as fun and colorful as the artists themselves. Check under the cut for the funky beats and delightful dissection of Retro City Rampage.

So here we have a project that was originally meant as a hack that combined aspects of things such as Grand Theft Auto with 8-bit parody and satire thrown in to poke fun at the time when 8-bit was king of gaming. How do you represent that in terms of musical accompaniment?

To sum things up properly, the game’s soundtrack is classic 8-bit chiptune-fueled beats with melody that’s ramped up to 11. If it were needed to give the overall sound of the soundtrack a genre definition, techno-jazz is probably the closest you could hope to come to, but it’s much more than just that. Kaufman, Creamer and Leon seem to have about as much fun with the album as possible. Creamer’s “Cleaning Up the Streets” is a great example of putting the GTA feel into a game with 2D sprites, and giving it a oldschool Mega Man spin.

The music has areas that definitely act as throw-backs (or at least draw inspiration from) several NES titles of the era. One of my favorites of the album, “Sidegirl Revenge” by Paul, immediately reminded me of the “Streets of Desolation” 1st level music of the NES Batman game in terms of melody and synth. It’s got that moody, gritty kind of feel that’s mixed in with pop beats that in either case gives you a sense of driving down a dark back alley in the middle of a sprawling city. Several of Creamer’s songs give one the sense of a mish-mash of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossed with Ninja Gaiden, especially songs like “Joy Ride,” and almost seem to blend melody you’d expect to find on Sega Genesis synths and smashes everything together to create incredibly catchy beats. Even Kaufman’s “Mission Briefing/Danger” sounds like it should have been included as an 8-bit version to one of the Gameboy Advance Castlevania titles, with moodier, almost foreboding melody that sets itself a bit apart from the more upbeat tunes.

None of this detracts from the songs themselves, however, or downplays them as copying past game tunes. How better do you represent the “Retro” part of Retro City Rampage? You take what you know from your childhood and create an effigy to it, and that’s really a lot of what this album represents. Some tunes are deliberate in their throwbacks however, such as “Not Mega…” — honestly, you can call the music a tribute to the NES era as much as you can the entire game.

Also, if you were one of the smart people who pre-ordered the soundtrack before it came out, you were doubly blessed with special bonus tracks by Mr. Norrin Radd himself. Each of the 10 extra tracks runs from between one and two minutes long, with Creamer giving you that little something more you might be looking for after listening to the whole album (“Cocoa Quackula” was my favorite of the bonus items for its musical leans towards Castlevania-style beats). If you missed on pre-ordering and getting the bonuses, then you  really missed out.

I honestly wish I had more to say that couldn’t be summed up by simply listening to the soundtrack for yourselves, other than the music Retro City Rampage is a proud testimonial to ages that have gone by, but that we’re all not quite ready to let die just yet — or ever. Catchy, upbeat, and almost addictive, RCR and its composers do more than enough justice to the nostalgic feeling we all get for some classic, 8-bit thrashing while blaring the stereo. Check out the official game website to grab the album and prove me right.

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