20 June 2012

Episode 86: Outer Space

Brent and Rob go where no man has gone before: outer space.  That is, they focus on space related games and space levels for Episode 86.  And truth be told, other men (and women) have gone there before them, but not in this particular way, sharing music from games like Over Horizon and Target Earth.  Full track listing below.

Game - Composer - Song - Company - Console - Year (North American release unless otherwise indicated)

Target Earth - Takayuki Suzuki - Surprise - NCS/DreamWorks - Genesis - 1990

Snoopy Concert - Vince Guaraldi, Minako Hamano (arr.) - First Beagle on the Moon (Rain, Rain Go Away) - Mitsui Fudosan/Pax Softonica/Nintendo - Super Famicom - 1995

To The Earth - unknown - Intro Cutscene - Nintendo - NES - 1989

Live A Live - Yoko Shimomura - Captain of the Shooting Stars! - Square - Super Famicom - 1994

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Echoes From the Past - Andrew Edlen - Codis Nu VI (First Visit) - MicroProse - Genesis - 1994

X - Kazumi Totaka - Mission 1 and 3 - Nintendo - Game Boy (Japan) - 1992

Star Fox - Hajime Hirasawa - Meteor - Nintendo - SNES - 1993

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warship - David Wise - Cyber Zone 2 - Rare/Tradewest - NES - 1990

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Crossroads of Time - Attila Dobos, Attila Heger, Gabor Kis, AndrĂ¡s Magyari, Steve Zuckermann - Hot Pursuit - Novotrade International/Playmates - Genesis - 1995

Star Ocean - Motoi Sakuraba - What Should Be - tri-Ace/Enix - Super Famicom - 1996

Space Shuttle Project - Scott Marshall - Title Screen - Absolute Entertainment - NES - 1991

Rocket Knight Adventures - Aki Hata - Stage 6 - Konami - Genesis - 1993

Over Horizon - Masaharu Iwata (Rezon) - Stage 5 - Hot-B/Pixel - Famicom - 1991

Axelay - Taro Kudou - Cosmos - Konami - SNES - 1992

SDI: Strategic Defense Initiative - Katsuhiro Hayashi - Illusion (Stage 6, 7) - Sega - arcade - 1987


  1. Did you guys ever get a copy of Earthbound?

    1. Yes, we did! Thanks to the amazing Gabe! (See Episode 54)

    2. Sweet! I missed that episode. Great game, awesome music.

  2. I totally forgot you played a song from the game I mentioned already. Episode 49 was a lifetime ago.

  3. You know, I'm noticing more and more SNES/SFC games (especially SFC) which make use of PSG samples. Now, unlike the Genesis, which actually has a PSG chip built-in, the SNES is relying on samples, or as Brent put it in the Geoff Van Dyke episode, and very well, I might add: "The SNES is basically playing back something pre-recorded, while the Genesis is generating in real time." ... (or something like that.)

    What's interesting to me is that they seem to all be square waves. SNES is not limited to square waves, like Genesis/Mastersystem/Game Gear is, yet they still seem to be using them pretty exclusively.

    I know I've said it before, but when you have nothing but square waves (Mastersystem/Game Gear) it tends to sound really simplistic and boring...yet, something magical seems to happen when you feature a square wave amidst a sea of FM, or PCM...it seems to become the highlight of the show! A nice, crisp, sing-songy songbird that just sails along the tops of the other instruments. The more time goes on, the more I love square waves. :-)

    Now something that I haven't said before (because it just occured to me while listening to this episode) is that there seems to be a great irony at work: The 50% duty square wave is the most basic of the waveforms that the 8-bit system PSGs use...yet, it also seems to be the most transcendent.

    So, what on earth do I mean by that? This: That the square wave, though the most basic of them all seems, paradoxically, to be less innately "8-bitty" sounding than a triangle wave, or other duty pulse waves would. A triangle wave would sound out of place, and more overtly dated, but the square wave seems to fit into 16-bit + music just fine, without seeming out of place, or overly dated.


    Anyone agree or disagree with that? Why or why not?


    1. This may sound like a different subject than my last comment, but it actually ties in:

      One thing that I've noticed is that the SNES samples seem to sound sort of "muffly." There is the gausian interpolation to prevent aliasing, as well as a 32k cutoff inherent in the SNES hardware, which, along with sample size, contribute to the muffliness. Between blog post comments, and e-mails to LMH, I've mentioned a handful of reasons which contribute to my preferring Genesis over SNES for sound, but the #1 reason why is how much crisper, clearer, and punchier the Genesis is. It may be bound to an outdated synthesizer, but it's still more [properly defined] "high fidelity." There's no muffliness to be found on the Genesis.

      Brent seems to notice this too, using language like, "The SNES samples seem more hollow to me." But I don't think "hollow" is as big an issue as "muffle." And it's the biggest of several reasons SNES loses the battle in my book, despite being [admittedly] theoretically superior.

      Brent, if you're reading this, I'd be curious to know what you think of my "hollow/muffly" distinction. :-)

      What's inteeresting, though (and this is how my seemingly tangential treatment on the SNES sound system fits into our discussion of the square waves), is that for whatever reason, when SNES samples PSG square waves, they seem immune to the muffle factor. They seem perfectly clear, as if there was actual PSG hardware in the SNES. They seemed so perfect, in fact, that I went back to double-check to see if there wasn't something buried in the Ricoh 5A22 chip that would be able to produce them. (didn't find anything.) So, I really have no good way to account for this. Could it be a sample size issue, perhaps?

    2. But since we're on the subject of the SNES sound system, I thought I'd throw this out for feedback: the SNES seems to produce more low end as a whole, but it's the muddier stuff. The Genesis tends to be punchier, which usually (not always) works to its advantage.

      This is the analogy I came up with to try to frame this (tell me what you think): if we were to conceptualize the bass sound wave as represented by the word "boom", then I would argue that the SNES tends too much to emphasize the "oo" of the "boom" and sound muddy, while Genesis tends to focus more on the "bm", and sound punchy, giving, if anything too little to the "oo (sometimes)."


    3. Genesis versus SNES, it really all just depends on the sound programmer or composer. Sometimes the SNES samples sound rich and full and real, sometimes it's hollow and muffled and empty. And sometimes the Genesis is rich and punchy and shining, but other times tinny and weak. They both can sound great if the composer/sound programmer knows what they're doing. If comparing both systems at their best, they're equals (in Brent's opinion), but do have a different sound. Genesis sounds more electronic and synthy, and SNES sounds more realistic and... real.

      About the SNES sampled PSG, it probably sounds so crisp, because it's such a basic and simple sound, and also synthetic, that when sampled, it's hard to hear that it's sampled, because it's so basic/low quality to begin with...

    4. Yeah, it really does depend on whether the programmer is really utilizing the hardware or if they're rush jobbing it.

      I think you more or less hit the nail on the head with your analysis of what each system sounds like at their best, and what each system sounds like at their worst.

      The only things I'd add/subtract would be:

      1)I've never heard an SNES anything that doesn't have at least a little muffle to it (except, of course, for those PSG samples...I think your theory on why they're immune is a good one, or maybe they aren't immune, and we just don't notice it via the character of the sound)Now, it seems that some of the later stuff, a lot of it that I've discovered through you guys, such as Rockman and Forte, comes much closer to being muffle free (that stuff sounds -great!-), but even there, it still doesn't quite make it.

      2)I'd also say that when you get to the worst of what SNES does, it's got so much reverb on it, and the SNES reverb so terrible at that, that you end up sounding tinny and weak as well.

      3)SNES can have samples that sound glorious, but in my opinion, too often, they sound cheesy.

      4)Also, on the dark side of the Genesis, FM can sound very harsh and abrasive, and when it's not used properly, you can have this happen. Even soundtracks I like, such as Spiderman, and X-Men (Not Spiderman/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge) tend to sound awfully serrated.

      I agree with you that they have totally different sounds, and agree with your characterization of those sounds. SNES, at it's best is going to sound close to CD-Rom in realism, and the Genesis, at its best is going to sound like the mother of all arcade games, or else, the great early pioneers of electronic music.

      I would be curious to hear your take on why the 16-bitters only seem to be using square waves. Genesis, it's by limitation, but SNES is not likewise limited. Why, then, are they only using square waves? Do you think my theory is a good one? I'd also like to hear what you think about my "boom" metaphor for the bass on the two systems.

  4. One important distinction I need to make: Objective vs Subjective. When I step back and look at the systems' sound capabilities objectively, metaphorically putting checker pieces onto a balance scale, I gladly conclude that the two are a tie. They each have serious advantages and serious disadvantages over the other, and I believe that when you weigh them in the scales, they come out a wash.

    You never have, and never will hear me say that Genesis -is- better than SNES. I don't think I could substantiate that claim, or its converse. Instead, you've heard me say I -prefer- Genesis. Now we're dealing in the realm of the subjective, rather than objective. I simply find the SNES's drawbacks more bothersome, and the SNES's strengths less compelling in terms of my personal tastes.

    So, objectively, you and I both agree that they're equal. Subjectively, I have come to favor the Genesis (it was the other way around back in the day). Are you saying that you find them equal subjectively, as well as objectively? If so, that's perfectly fine...you can't argue subjectives...but for clarity's sake, is that your position?

  5. Space is such a great theme, there are almost literally infinite possibilities. The amount of variety in this episode proves it. Check out the soundtrack to Star Cruiser for the Megadrive, it's got some great "chill-zone factor" and even a rockin' track or two. Plus the restaurant theme in that game totally gives off an "80's Sushi Bar" vibe (I still don't quite know what that means...). As far as I can tell, it was a space-themed first person RPG with graphics similar to Star Fox, only it came out in 1988! Though, it might be off limits for the show since it was ported from the PC-88.