26 June 2013

Episode 139: Sports 3

Once again, Sports Games is the topic of the week for the Legacy Music Hour.  This time Brent and Rob are joined by Dan Bialek and Asterios Kokkinos from the Gamedians video game podcast.  They talk about sports, pull ups, going on dates, and good video game music from 8-bit and 16-bit era sports video games.  Full track listing below.

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

International Superstar Soccer - Harumi Ueko, Hideyuki Eto - Scenario Mode Clear - Konami - SNES - 1995

Bill Walsh College Football '95 - Joel Simmons, Jim Simmons - Title Screen - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1994

New 3D Golf Simulation: Devil's Course - Yumi Satake (Yumi Kinoshita), Shigekazu Kamaki (arr.), Shunsuke Minomiya (arr.), Yusaburo Shimojyo (arr.), Akira Tamada (arr.) - Music No. 6 - T&E Soft - Mega Drive - 1994

Jack Nicklaus' Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf - unknown - Options/Statistics - Konami - NES - 1990

ATP Tour Championship Tennis - Hikoshi Hashimoto - Try Again Next Year! (Tournament Elimination) - Sims/Sega - Genesis - 1994

Ganbare! Golf Boys - Atsuhiro Motoyama - Memory of the Breeze - Masaya/Dual - PC Engine - 1989

Bases Loaded 4 - Tatsuya Nishimura - Menu - TOSE/Jaleco - NES - 1993

Super Spike V'Ball - Kazunaka Yamane - Ending Credits - Technos - NES - 1990

Dear Boys - Kenji Yamazaki, Yoshikazu Yao - Out on a Date - Yutaka/Kan's - Super Famicom - 1994

Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs - Rob Hubbard - 1st Half - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1991

Kings of the Beach - unknown - Match BGM - Konami/Ultra Games - NES - 1990

Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyuu 3 - Harumi Ueko - Success Mode Autumn - Konami - Super Famicom - 1996

Super Hockey '94 - Hayato Matsuo, Hitoshi Sakimoto (prog., arr.) - Game Match 2 - Opera House/Yonezawa PR21 - Super Famicom - 1994

Ganbare! Golf Boys - Atsuhiro Motoyama - Away Back - Masaya/Dual - PC Engine - 1989

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! - Kenji Yamamoto, Akito Nakatsuka, Yukio Kaneoka - Match BGM - Nintendo - NES - 1987

19 June 2013

Episode 138: Alberto José González

Alberto José González (otherwise known as Joe McAlby) is a Spanish composer who worked for the video game company Bit Managers during the 8-bit and 16-bit era.  He did the music for many Game Boy titles, most of them released only in Europe and often times based on European cartoons.  Brent and Rob focus on the work of Mr. González but also select a few tracks from other composers González admires.  PLUS, Brent and Rob did an interview with Alberto José González via e-mail, which you can read right here.  Big thanks to Alberto José González for taking the time to answer The Legacy Music Hour's questions and for listening to the show!  Full track listing and interview below.

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

The Smurfs - Alberto José González - Act 7: The Old Gold Mine - Bit Managers/Infogrames - NES (Europe) - 1994

Tintin in Tibet - Alberto José González - Hotel des Sommets - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Gear (Europe) - 1995

V-Rally Championship Edition - Alberto José González - Ending - Infogrames/Ocean/Velez & Dubail - Game Boy (Europe) - 1998

Sea Battle - Alberto José González - Lose - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Boy (Europe) - 1998

Spirou - Alberto José González - Cave - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Boy (Europe) - 1996

Spirou - Alberto José González - Ending - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Boy (Europe) - 1996

Streets of Rage - Yuzo Koshiro - Dilapadated Town - Sega - Genesis - 1991

Final Fantasy III - Nobuo Uematsu - Edgar & Sabin - Square - SNES - 1994

Metal Masters - Alberto José González - Metal Beat - Bit Managers/Electro Brain - Game Boy - 1993

Super Turrican - Chris Hülsbeck - Stage 2-4 - Factor 5/Seika - SNES - 1993

Otto's Ottifanten: Baby Bruno's Alptraum - Alberto José González - Woods of Happiness - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Boy (Europe) - 1998

The Smurfs 3/The Smurfs Nightmare - Alberto José González - Another World (The Mysterious Planet) - Bit Managers/Infogrames/Velez & Dubail - Game Boy (Europe) - 1997

The Smurfs - Alberto José González - Stork Travel - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Boy - 1998

V-Rally Championship Edition - Alberto José González - Car Selection - Infogrames/Ocean/Velez & Dubail - Game Boy (Europe) - 1998

The Smurfs 3/The Smurfs Nightmare - Alberto José González - Aqua (The Bottomless Well) - Bit Managers/Infogrames/Velez & Dubail - Game Boy (Europe) - 1997

Otto's Ottifanten: Baby Bruno's Alptraum - Alberto José González - Game Over - Bit Managers/Infogrames - Game Boy (Europe) - 1998

Asterix & Obelix - Alberto José González - Intermission - Bit Managers/Infogrames - SNES (Europe) - 1995
Interview with Alberto José González:

Brent: Obviously, there's a certain Western style that you hear in video games of the 8-bit and 16-bit era.  Is there a more specific style to different regions in the West?  Is there a "Spanish" style in video game music?  A French style?  And so on?  Or does it just really come down to individual composers, regardless of their nationality?

Alberto José González: I think both the individual composers and their regions are closely related to the different styles in the early game music. Some good composers with a very distinct style were the inspiration of others, and both at the same time were influenced by music not related to video games that was played in their regions.

In Europe we had a strong market of games for 8 bit computers dominated by game companies of the UK. The best musicians from UK were also programmers, which in my opinion resulted in the creation of a music style very elaborated technically. New musicians like myself would follow that style because it was what we were used to hear in our games.

From my own experience, composing for sound chips can be quite boring if you just use them following their normal specifications, but for a young programmer it's always a motivation doing something out of the ordinary with a limited machine.

That said, I think every composer has his own and recognizable style which in many cases is easy to guess. There's always that moment when you listen to a fantastic music which you suspect must be from a favorite composer, and then you found that it is!

Brent: Were there other Spanish video game composers during the 8-bit and 16-bit era or were you the only one?

Alberto José González: We had a golden era of 8-bit computer gaming here in Spain, with several companies doing games, but I don't remember being many dedicated video game composers. I can only think of two or so...

When game consoles replaced the 8-bit and 16-bit computers in the early 90's, most of the Spanish video game companies disappeared or switched to the PC market. For over a decade we were the only Spanish studio developing games for consoles, so I suppose I was the only console musician in that period. I may be wrong but I think there's only one Spanish console game not made by us during the whole 8-bit and 16-bit era.

Rob: Have you met any other notable composers like Hirokazu Tanaka or Koji Kondo?  Do you talk about music with them or do you try to avoid the subject and talk about sports or something?

Alberto José González: Unfortunately I haven't ever met any famous game composer, at least not in person. Now thanks to social networks I can find many of my favorite composers and leave them a message, but I'm afraid that's all for the moment!

Brent: Occasionally, you're credited with doing graphics.  How much were you involved with doing graphics and how does it compare to doing music?  Is it harder or easier?  Is it as fulfilling?

Alberto José González: Actually I started my career as a graphic designer. I was in charge of all the work related to sprites and animation.

I can't say which was easier, both things were challenging at the time because of the limitations of the machines. I found refreshing to switch from one job to another during the development, but then it was also a lot of work. I suppose that doing music was more fulfilling for me because occasionally it also involved programming, which was one of my favorite hobbies.

Brent: While you were composing music for games during the 8-bit and 16-bit era, were you also playing video games you didn't work on?  If so, which games from that era were your favorite?  When you played other games, did you actively listen to the music to hear what other composers were doing in your field?

Alberto José González: I have been a very active player since I got my first computer... until now, that is. With the family and all the work it's difficult to find free time to have long playing sessions any more. But yes, I used to play a lot during the years I composed music for videogames. I also had several consoles from Sega and Nintendo, and even the Atari Lynx.

Favorite games... so many! Just to cite a few: Contra, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, Batman, Metroid, Axelay, Gradius, Street Fighter 2, Wonder Boy, Super Mario, Sonic... and then there's Shadow Dancer for the Genesis, which to me is like the perfect action game.

As for the music of other composers, yes, I listened to every game soundtrack I could under scrutiny, trying to decipher every technique used on its composition. That was my way of learning. I even programmed an emulator of the Game Boy CPU and sound chip so I could listen to the soundtracks I ripped from the games without actually play them. That was much before the first GBS player appeared, and I still use it to record the soundtracks I have uploaded to my SoundCloud.

Rob: Genesis vs NES vs SNES.  If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one of those to compose music for until you were saved, which one would it be?  Which one do you think would be more useful for parts when you finally decide to make a raft and leave the island?

Alberto José González: I think I would chose the Genesis, since I've already worked with the others and I know them fairly well. Trying to get the most of a sound chip is highly addictive, and I also loved the sound of the Genesis and FM synthesis in general. I wish I'd worked with that console at least once.

As for the parts, I wouldn't dare to destroy any of them to build a shabby raft! Besides, the idea of being alone in a deserted island with a game console sounds now quite appealing to me...

Brent: How come so much of your work was on the Game Boy?  How come you didn't work on many NES and SNES titles?  And why not any Genesis titles?

Alberto José González: I think it just went that way because of specific time the industry and our relationship with Infogrames.

We worked very closely with them since the late 80's, developing 8-bit computer versions of their Commodore Amiga games. That continued later with the consoles; they had an in-house 16-bit development team producing games for SNES and Genesis, and we made all the versions for 8-bit consoles. The only exception was Obelix for the SNES, which was co-developed; most of the graphics and the design were made by Infogrames, and the program, music, and some animations were made by us.

We also worked for other 8-bit consoles, but the Game Boy was selling better and went strong for a long time. We had plenty of work only with it. Then we also made 4 Turok games for Akklaim. There was no escape from that console for more than 10 years!

Brent: Did you compose the music for every game by Bit Managers?

Alberto José González: Almost, there were some exceptions: a coin op arcade game named “BANG”, and “Radikal Bikers” for the Playstation for which I programmed the sound but used the original songs and effects from the arcade.

We also did a Playstation game which was a port of another arcade named “Speed Up”, and I also programmed the sound on it. The game was sold to Sammy, and I think they changed the music and the graphics to released it as “Racingroovy” in Japan, although I'm not 100% sure of that.

Brent: When it came to porting titles from other consoles, how often did you do adaptions of the original music by another composer?  Or did you mostly compose new music for the port?

Alberto José González: I think I used a few tunes from the original SNES version of Tintin, the intro and one stage of Tintin 2, and the main menu of Spirou. I didn't think most of the original tunes would translate well to the Game Boy, and there were many I didn't like enough, so I composed new ones.

One of my main concerns while doing music for sound chips is that the tunes had to sound well in them, and If I couldn't find a way to make a certain tune sound good then I would compose another one specific for that sound chip, provided that I had enough time for it. That's the reason why some of my soundtracks differ between consoles, like Asterix for GB and NES.

Actually, the sound of each sound chip had a lot of influence in the composition of the music, the tunes where thought to sound well in them right from the start.

Brent: Which video game soundtrack are you are most proud of composing during the 8-bit and 16-bit era?

Alberto José González: I'm specially fond of The Smurfs for GB and Asterix for NES, not only because I think they are two of my best soundtracks but also because they were the last games I drew the sprites for. Smurfs Nightmare was really inspiring too, and I also loved working in Obelix for the SNES because it was completely different than doing it all with square waves and noise.

Brent: You seem to employ a lot of melody driven pieces.  How do you compose a strong melody?  Do you figure out the chords first?  Do you just sing it out loud free form?  Do you tinker around on an instrument until you find it?

Alberto José González: I don't have any special technique for composing the melodies, they just come at one point while trying to find them. I usually play a bit on the keyboard or directly put notes into the sequencer until something triggers the “OK” flag, then I continue from there polishing the melody and adding the other parts. Maybe I find an interesting bass first, or a chord progression, a rhythm, a sound... It depends on the tune, really. What I need for sure is a point to focus, a character and a scene.

I also like to close the eyes and compose in my mind, imagining the game with music and effects. I don't play the keyboard very well, and this way I don't feel limited by my physical (in)ability with it. Also, often I have to start composing a soundtrack for a game before there's nothing yet to see, so I have to imagine it anyway.

Many times I've got the idea for a song when I'm not in front of the computer. A good walk or a shower at home works well for me.

The truth is: you have to mentally become a Smurf to actually compose something smurfy enough!

Brent: Are you influenced by reggae? The Smurfs, V-Rally: Championship Edition, and other soundtracks of yours seem to have tracks that use reggae rhythms?  Was that a conscious thing for you to sound reggae?

Alberto José González: I don't recall composing reggae tunes deliberately, they just ended sounding that way I'm afraid! I suppose I've been influenced by everything I have listened in my life, but actually I don't think I've listened to much reggae. I used to listen a lot of House and electronic music back in the eighties, though. And I like almost any kind of music, really.

Brent: Who are your favorite 8-bit/16-bit era composers?  What are some of your favorite game soundtracks from that era?

Alberto José González: Actually I don't remember the names of many console game composers, but if I have choose the ones I know whose works have been really important for me in the 8 and 16 bit console era, they would be: Tim Follin (and his brother Geoff), Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo, Yuzo Koshiro. They all have influenced my work in one way or another, as I took them as reference for certain kinds of game music.

As for games: Plok, Spiderman & the X-Men (SNES), Super Turrican, Act Raiser, Castlevania IV, Chrono Trigger, Demon's Crest, Streets of Rage 1, Revenge of Shinobi, Wonder Boy in Monster World, Robocop (Ocean) (Game Boy), Castlevania II (Game Boy), Final Fantasy Legend I and II, Batman (Game Boy), Solstice.

Rob: What's on your iPod or iTunes playlist right now?

Alberto José González: Lately I'm digging into early progressive rock by Yes and Genesis, and also I like to listen to works of relatively unknown composers I discovered thanks to Internet. Of course I always carry a bunch of game tunes from my favorite video game composers too!

Rob: How many episodes of The Legacy Music Hour have you listened to?

Alberto José González: Not as many as I would have loved! I try to listen the show every week and I usually do it at work when my current task allows me to concentrate in the show. I really enjoy the insights on every tune, and to discover soundtracks I didn't know about.

Also it's great to have one of my tunes in the show every now and then! ^^

12 June 2013

Episode 137: Asiatic Music 2

Asiatic sounding video game music tracks are all the rage of Episode 137 (also see Episode 74).  Good music here with lots of pentatonic action.  Brent and Rob try to crack the mystery of "Kenny's Song".  Also, Brent's new friend makes a return visit, and Rob and Brent get a work out.  Full track listing below.

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

Mouryou Senki Madara 2 - Tappi Iwase, Miki Higashino, Hirofumi Taniguchi - Madara 2 Theme - Konami - Super Famicom - 1993

Toughman Contest - Brian Schmidt - China Theme - Electronic Arts - Genesis - 1995

Table Game Dai-Shuugo!! Shogi Mahjong Hanafuda - unknown - Mahjong - Varie - Super Famicom - 1996

Monster in My Pocket - Hiroshi Takeyasu, Kozo Nakamura - Oriental Illusion (Stage 5) - Konami - NES - 1992

Shanghai - unknown - Round Complete - Hudson Soft/Activision - PC Engine - 1987

Granhistoria: Genshi Sekaiki - Motoaki Takenouchi - Opening - J-Force/Banpresto - Super Famicom - 1995

Bonze Adventure - Hisayoshi Ogura, Yasuhisa Watanabe (Yack), Y. Ohashi, C. Ichikawa - Round 7: Emma's Lair - Taito - arcade (Japan) - 1988

Live A Live - Yoko Shimomura - Secret Mission - Square - Super Famicom - 1994

AIII S.V.: A Ressha de Ikou 3 Super Version - unknown - Theme 3 - Pack-In-Video/Artdink - Super Famicom - 1995

Out to Lunch - Mark Knight - China 1 - Mindscape - SNES - 1993

Mahjong Taikai II - unknown - Sinbad - Koei - Super Famicom - 1994

Yie Ar Kung-Fu - Miki Higashino, unknown - Fight Theme - Konami - Famicom - 1985

Ninja Warriors - Hiroyuki Iwatsuki, Yasuo Yamate (N. Tate) - Boss 5 - Natsume/Taito - SNES - 1994

Samurai Ghost - Norio Nakagata, Guppy/Honchin (arr.), Miyoshi Okuyama (Okkun/Okuyaba) (arr.), Hiroyon (arr.) - Title Screen - Namco/Now Production - TurboGrafx-16 - 1992

Mini Yonku GB: Let's & Go!! All-Star Battle Max - Toshiyuki Ueno - China Meeting Place - ASCII /Jupiter Multimedia - Game Boy (Japan) - 1998

05 June 2013

Episode 136: 1998

The year 1998 is the topic of Episode 136.  The Game Boy was going real strong during this time, the only console that was significantly active during the 16-bit era (which was reaching it's end).  There were a few titles coming out for other systems, but this episode ends up being almost entirely a Game Boy focus.  Brent and Rob pick tracks from games released in 1998 and talk about other things going on in the world that year.  Brent also meets a new friend.  Full track listing below.

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

Oddworld Adventures - Eric Nunamaker - Paramonian Temple - Saffire/GT Interactive - Game Boy - 1998

Famicom Tantei Club Part II: Ushiro ni Tatsu - Kenji Yamamoto - Reasoning 1 - Nintendo/TOSE - Super Famicom - 1998

Wario Land II - Kozue Ishikawa - Underwater Tunnels - Nintendo - Game Boy - 1998

Gyogun Tanchiki: Pocket Sonar - unknown - gameplay - Bandai - Game Boy (Japan) - 1998

Bomberman GB - Yasuhiko Fukuda - Monster Trial (World 1) - AI/Nintendo - Game Boy - 1998

Monster*Race - Kennosuke Suemura - Wild Monster Race - Koei - Game Boy (Japan) - 1998

Bust-A-Move 3 DX - Norihiro Furukawa, Andy Brock (arr.) - Final Round - Taito/Probe/Acclaim - Game Boy (Europe) - 1998

Rockman and Forte - Akari Kaida - Groundman - Capcom - Super Famicom - 1998

Harvest Moon GB - Tsuyoshi Tanaka, Youjirou Okino (arr.) - Party - TOSE/Natsume - Game Boy - 1998

International Superstar Soccer - unknown - Title Screen - Konami - Game Boy - 1998

Pocket Monsters Pikachu - Junichi Masuda - Cinnabar Island - Game Freak/Nintendo - Game Boy (Japan) - 1998

Mini Yonku GB: Let's & Go!! All-Star Battle Max - Toshiyuki Ueno - New York Map - ASCII/Jupiter Multimedia - Game Boy (Japan) - 1998

Game Boy Camera - Hirokazu Tanaka, Minako Hamano, Kentaro Nishimura - Credits - Nintendo - Game Boy - 1998

Wario Land II - Kozue Ishikawa - Lost in the Ruins - Nintendo - Game Boy - 1998

Nectaris GB - Jun Chikuma - Opening - Hudson Soft - Game Boy (Japan) - 1998