Save Point brought a whole bevy of Japanese arcade music games to DragonCon this year. I am of two minds of them: it’s definitely niche and I’m in favor of that, and it’s nice to see a genre like this represented well. But they brought so many of them, and they were stationed close to the board gaming area, which made it very difficult to be heard there. Throughout most of the con you had to nearly shout to be heard in that area! I couldn’t get into any board games because of it. Hopefully next year they’ll find a way to better isolate the music games from attractions more suited to a quiet atmosphere.
Still, I will set aside my grudge against wrecking my Le Havre experience this year in order to document, via my cell phone, the many music games that appeared in 2023. Here we go:
That just may exhaust what I can milk from my DragonCon attendance this year. Back to our usual beats!
News flash: there is one UmJammer Lammy Now arcade machine remaining in the world!
News flash: by the way, there used to be an UmJammer Lammy arcade machine!
The news of both comes to us from the account of Youtuber UnEricYockey (12 minutes), in the form of a short documentary on the game’s history and, due to poor performance on location test, what is probably its sole surviving unit:
We recently posted about Rodney Greenblat’s early obscure Playstation title Dazzeloids, made a year or two before his and Nana-On Sha’s breakout hit Parappa the Rapper. Parappa became something of a media franchise, spawning a much-overdue sequel on the Playstation 4 and an anime series. UmJammer Lammy was Parappa’s original sequel, that brought the same kind of call-and-response gameplay to guitars.
UmJammer Lammy starred Lammy, an insecure young lamb and front-woman for the band Milkcan, who becomes a rock goddess when a guitar is in her hands. Play structure is similar to Parappa, giving the player a series of increasingly unlikely situations that they have to escape somehow by playing music: a dream, putting out a fire, taking care of babies, flying an airplane, making a chainsaw sculpture, and escaping Hell itself (or, getting off an island, in overseas versions), before ending with the most dire situation of all: a public performance in front of a stadium full of people. Yikes! You can do it Lammy!
Production values were a bit less than Parappa, but Lammy and her friends were, indeed are, still engaging and wonderful, and the PS1 game is worth giving a try if you’re at all a fan of Parappa and his world. You can play as Parappa in an unlockable mode after you win, and all of the game’s tracks were mixed as funky remakes! Sadly I can tell you that Parappa’s lines had nowhere near as much flow as they did in his first game, but speaking as one of the few US players who bought a copy of UmJammer Lammy, jamming with her is a great time.
That should be enough information on Lammy’s game. But, how did UmJammerLammy Now come about? The video tells us that the Namco System 12 arcade board is pretty much an original Playstation in an arcade format, and Namco wanted to get some games in Japanese arcades quickly to compete with Konami’s rhythm game dominance.
While the gameplay of the arcade version is similar to the PS1 edition, there are some notable differences, including a surprising number of extra cutscenes featuring the various business ventures of Joe Chin, the antagonist of Parappa the Rapper. The arcade game has been dumped for preservation purposes, and all of its cutscenes are demonstrated in a Youtube video, also on UmEricYockey’s channel (23 minutes):
There’s so much weird Parappa lore in this weird and obscure arcade game! And Lammy’s crippling social anxiety truly makes her a heroine for our age.
Playing the Super Mario Bros. theme live with a variety of instruments has been an internet video staple for a couple decades now. Here it is with accordion and a harp-like instrument called a bandura:
Louie Zong makes a bunch of fun song videos! Once in a while they’re game related. This one’s a short album made with Warioware D.I.Y’s composition feature. Even though it’s only about 12 minutes long, there’s ten songs squeezed in there, and each come and gone so soon that none have the opportunity to bore your brain.
Did you ever play Wario Land 4 on the Gameboy Advance? It was the last “classic” Wario Land game before its team switched over to making WarioWare games. If you’re a gaming, or at least a Nintendo, enthusiast you probably know what WarioWare games sound like, that endearingly weird crushed and echoey sound, but you might be surprised to discover that Wario Land 4 sounds of a piece with the Wario Land titles! Here’s the intro, hear for yourself:
Here’s the original WarioWare’s intro to compare its sound to. It’s all the good stuff!
geno7 over on Youtube (who has a terrific home page, by the way!) did a 51-minute deep dive into WL4’s sound design that’s just the kind of obsessive attention to detail that our cadre of pixel art loonies appreciate! Have a gawk and a listen and see if you agree.
Remember Crazy Taxi? How they got licensed punk music from Bad Religion and The Offspring for it? Remember how awesome that was? I’m not even a music person mostly, but I could still recognize that the soundtrack of those games was special. (I’m talking about the arcade and Dreamcast versions-other versions may or may not have that soundtrack, probably due to licensing issues.)
You want to know what game doesn’t have a great sound track? Crazy Bus.
Crazy Bus is a homebrew Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game that was created as a test for the programmer’s BASIC compiler. It wasn’t meant to be a real game. As a result, its soundtrack is almost a masterpiece in cacaphony. Listen for yourself… but you’re going to want to turn the volume down for this one.
It’s awe-ful-some. I encourage you to play it for for friends, family, co-workers, prospective employers, random strangers and household pets. I’m certain nothing bad will come of it!
We’ve been recapping some of the talks of Roguelike Celebration 2022 for a couple of months now, and it’s probably about time to let it rest until next year. Still, there is one more talk I’d like to draw attention to, on procedural music generation.
The other talks presented this year use music generated by this system for bumper and intermission ambiance. It really became the distinctive sound for this year’s conference.
Every song on the soundtrack of Jet Grind Radio (a.k.a. Jet Set Radio) is out of sight. One of the most memorable (they’re all memorable, but even among this group) is Super Brothers by Guitar Vader, a cheeky riff (in lyrics) on Super Mario Bros., in a Sega game.
Hirokazu Tanaka, a.k.a. Chip Tanaka, who used to go by Hip Tanaka, has had quite the career. He composed music for many Famicom games, including Kid Icarus, Tetris, Mother, and Mother 2/Earthbound. Especially he composed the music of Metroid, which did a lot to establish the feel of that entire game. He currently serves as President of Creatures Inc., the company that produces Pokémon. He has a personal website.
And he’s still making music! His second album came out in 2020. The above video is a song from it, which has a music video made by Undertale creator Toby Fox, and sprites by Temmie Chang. Give it a listen, why not?
For making it through another week of internet life in 2022, let’s reward ourselves with the notably changed soundtrack to the arcade version of a NES classic, Balloon Fight.
Balloon Fight is remembered for its catchy music, which you get to experience in length when you play its Balloon Trip endurance mode. The music is also heard during the bonus round. Well, the arcade version, called Vs. Balloon Fight in keeping with Nintendo’s branding efforts at the time, has a rather fancier version of that track! Whoever is playing those virtual drums is a real show-off.
Extra! There’s a lot of cool little touches that make the arcade versions stand out. Vs. Excitebike has a fun and simple little bonus stage that requires you to jump over trucks evidently owned by the Mr. Yuck Moving Company.