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.
Back in 2013, David Crane chimed in on a thread about Pitfall II. The Atari VCS (a.k.a. 2600) was not known for the quality of its music. For sound effects, especially noise effects like blasts and booms, it was fine, but its TIA chip didn’t have the frequency resolution to produce every musical note precisely, meaning some of it notes would sound a bit off.
There was technically a way to produce almost arbitrary waveforms, though like many techniques on the system it was processor-intensive. It involved changing the volume on one of its sound channels in real time to simulate the waveform of the sound you wanted to make. That was fine so long as you didn’t need the processor to do anything else, and sadly, on the VCS, just displaying graphics relied heavily on the processor.
David Crane managed to get decent polyphonic music out of the VCS by using Pitfall II’s DPC chip, which Crane created himself, as a co-processor that figured out the right values to set the volume to produce the mixed waveform for the music at a specific time, which the machine’s overworked 6507 CPU could then read and send to the right volume register in the TIA every scanline. The process is explained (to the understanding of a sufficiently technical frame of mind) here. I think I understand it myself!
The fact that David Crane is still around, and so willing to discuss the many tricks he came up with to make his games, is a great blessing, as is the existence of the AtariAge forums themselves, which are a trove of classic gaming information.
Nowadays this technique has been refined and utilized in homebrew cartridge productions. A particular standout is the music from Champ Games’ version of Mappy, which is frankly amazing. Check it out:
It’s Sunday! Time to electrocute your brain with more game-related video weirdness. Electrodes at the ready!
In Japan, it seems, Crash Bandicoot has a completely different, and extremely earwormy, theme song. Well in the Japanese release of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, if you hold Left, Circle, L1, and L2 when the Playstation logo appears, you get this entertainingly bizarre karaoke video showing off a long version of the theme, featuring Crash doing a signature dance move, cavorting with ladies in nightgowns and bikinis, and getting blown up by a jetpack, all right and proper activities to be had by an anthropomorphic marsupial.
The song also featured in commercials for the games in Japan. As an extra, here is a (very badly compressed) compilation:
There’s a more video weirdness concerning Japanese Crash Bandicoot, but let’s save that for later….
Oh this one goes way, way back. Since Saints Row is back in the news….
Back after the release of the first Saints Row game, long before the series went bonkers gonzo crazy-go-nuts and then got rebooted, it was really buggy. So buggy that longtime internet person Cabel Sasser (who helped make the Playdate and helped publish Untitled Goose Game) made a video about it with catchy music. Enjoy!
Well, it’s Sunday again. The world around us is burning down in flames. As I write this [warning: U.S. politics rant], the overturning of Roe v Wade is fresh in memory, with the obstructionism of two particularly terrible Democrats, as well as every single Republican in the Senate, and the traditionally hard road to climb for the incumbent party during midterms, making it seems like nothing will be done about it for a while in the future. It’s pretty bleak, and it was all done by thoughtless, horrible people thinking they’re in the right. This is going to ruin tens of thousands of lives.
Kenta Cho is a brilliant game maker, and he’s come up with a couple of generators that can generatively make short stretches of music, suitable for classic-inspired arcade games.
Short VGM Generator is on itch.io, and works by taking a pre-existing piece of music and attempting to make another piece of a similar style.
The Good Old Game Sound Generator is on GitHub, but for playing around you might be more interested in its Demo page. It takes a bit more effort to make something with it, but it’s a much more flexible tool. I must leave you to your own devices to make something of value, or at least of interest, using it.
The process that let him to create these tools is up on a page he made on dev.to. If you’re interested in generative music you should take a look!