GAME MUSIC PAGE
Date written: 15. 06. 2001
I simply have to write this page, dedicated to game music genre. Computer music and especially game music is really music I like to listen and after many years I didn't found any other music style where is to be found so much originality and ideas as in game music. Here I'd like to write some words about this type of music in the past and now, beginning with old ZX Spectrum's beeper sounds and ending with nowadays hi-quality game soundtracks. I'd like to provide some useful links to the outter net in every section, so you should take more information if you want. But note the date when was this article written, maybe some links couldn't work now...
ZX SPECTRUM 48K MUSIC
This is the oldest music "genre" I've listened to. I remember when I was going to primary school, everybody saved on their cassettes Modern Talking, Michael Jackson or Depeche Mode. Not me. I saved on my cassettes beeping ZX Spectrum tunes from Dynamite Dan, Chronos or Jetset Willy. Don't wonder why everybody from my class treat me little bit as 'fool' then. Although this music really wasn't very "listenable" too long time, it was at least
ZX SPECTRUM 128K MUSIC
That was "another cafe" comparing the 48K Spectrum. Three channels of synthetised and crystal-clean music was really big step forward againist classical 'beeper'. Unfortunately, I never had Spectrum 128K, so I've been missing all the great tunes, but I've met them when I played these games under PC emulators. So I must mention IMHO best musician for Spectrum 128K coming from Czech Republic, František Fuka. He made awesome pieces, although they've been mostly remakes of popular C64 tunes. But anyway, for his Commando, Tetris 2 or Belegost tunes could Spectrum owners be very thankful to him. Also famous C64 musicians, especially Ben Daglish, Tim Follin, David Whittaker, but also Rob Hubbard, made some great pieces for this compy. Tim Follin did great job on Bionic Commando, Rob Hubbard made awesome soundtrack to Dragon's Lair 2, Ben Daglish's unforgettable things are Monty's games or Terramex. But as I mentioned, I wasn't able to listen to all tunes on this Compy, so they're only few from selection.
ZX SPECTRUM MUSIC LINX
COMMODORE 64 MUSIC
I have to say it. I simply have, but it isn't easy. Ok, Commodore 64 WAS the best 8-bit computer, and yes, it HAD the best music from all 8-bit computers. Although I never had C64, although I was hard Spectrum fan in the times I was young. Now, in time of emulators, I must say that Commodore's SID music is something absolutely great. Try some SIDs and listen to them (links to pages with SID music are below), you'll sure agree that these tunes are so nice and melodic, they have so many ideas in them as nothing else has. I downloaded all released C64 songs from the net and listened in the whole C64 playlist (it took me whole 1 year!). When I finished, I simply needed to listen to the playlist again... And who are the kings of this music? Surely, Rob Hubbard is the first
COMMODORE 64 MUSIC LINX
High Voltage Sid Collection - All SID tunes on Commodore 64!
One and only 16 bit computer which I'll take a closer look to. It's because no other computer could compete Amiga in her best times. And if we're considering what was the best part of this computer, we'll sure think of Amiga's sound chip. Big quality 4 stereo digitized channels brought Amiga awesome tunes, which have been best of the best long time after the "official" dead of Amiga in 1994. In my opinion, Amiga's music was the best till 1996-1997, but due to great melodies and "ideas" of her tunes (something like the C64 tunes), it's no problem to listen to these tunes today.
Firstly, the main music format for Amiga is MOD. This format is supported by most Windows players such as WinAmp etc., but they're often emulating these MOD tunes with questionable quality. If you really want to listen to MODs with "original" Amiga's feeling under Windows, download ModPlug player (see links to software below). The bad thing is, that not all Amiga tunes are in MOD format. In MOD format is only approx. 50% of all released Amiga game music and 90% of all released demo music. The rest is stored in some various formats, which depend from the authors who did the music (musicians like Chris Huelsbeck, Rob Hubbard, David Whittaker or Jochen Hippel created their own formats to play music). Today isn't problem to download all the music in these formats (see links below, did I say that? :) ), the problem is often to play it under PC. They have been mostly playable only under original Amiga's player DeliTracker, but fortunately, this year has been released clone of this player for PC, named DeliPlayer. Through this player you should play all these great tunes on your PC! But (there have to be some buts :) ), you must note that not all formats have information about playing time inside, so you'll need to play with this prog and setup little bit, if you want to listen to big playlist during work.
AMIGA MUSIC LINX
World of game mods - your absolute solution if you're looking for game MODs
Let's have a look at most common machine of nowadays, but let's look at it in the times of late 80s and sooner 90s. It doesn't have sense to mention PC game music before this time, because it produced only "beeping" caused by PC speaker then. But comparing to beeping of ZX Spectrum e.g., beeping on PC was the way worse. :) Maybe because authors of PC games didn't have the sense for making "maximum from minimum", maybe because sooner PCs have been just unfortunate on good beeping musicians :) Anyway, let's skip this beeping time on PC and let's look at the times when first "real" music started to be created on this compy. It happened by incoming of first AdLib sound cards, which had music chipset based on synthesised sounds of OPL-2 synthesizer. As the time came, Creative Labs used this AdLib chipset in first version of their SoudBlaster cards, and music started to make big progress with incoming of General MIDI format. I won't bother you with long evolution of midi music, important is, that game music on PC was, in most cases, in midi format. Although it could use any other format, includint Amiga's MODs (and it also was used in some games), MIDIs were the PC style. Why? Maybe because most of the PC games came from USA (comparing the Amiga, which was 'european' platform, or consoles which lived in japanese world), and in USA was midi always very popular. MIDI tunes (or tunes with MID extension), have some pros and contras comparing to mods or other formats. Real advantage is, that the quality of sound output raises with quality of your soundcard, because midi doesn't save sample data. It saves only pure music data (that's why it's also smaller than mod), and the music samples needs to be in the soundcard itself. Midis are also relatively easy to made, you just can plug the real synthesiser and go on, big advantages is also their small size. But MIDIs have also disadvantages. Because of many MIDI formats (General MIDI, General Sound, XG, AWE), it may happen that one midi tune can sound on the soundcard totally crappy, because it hasn't mapped the right samples for corrsponding soundcard. Total tragedy is, when really good XG cards like Yamaha DB50XG can play normal General MIDI files only under some emulations, which really isn't very cool. Also in music alone have the MIDIs serious lags. If you listen to 10000+ mids on the same soundcard, you can be bored from the same samples and ideas, and you found that MODs, although they don't sound so nice often, have cool sampled data and you cannot expect what surprise awaits you in the next one... I, personally, like Mods more than Mids, but maybe it's because I've grown on Amiga and mods.
Anyway, doesn't matter on the format, everytime does matter on the quality of the musicians. And also on PC have been great music masters, which released awesome MIDI tunes on it. Although the PC tunes haven't reach my heart as it was on Amiga or C64, you can find plenty of great "hellish" tunes in games like Doom 1 and 2 made by Robert Prince, one of very productive PC midi musicians. Technoid freaks could enjoy Descent 1 and 2, and especially adventures from LucasArts (Monkey Island 1-2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis) and Sierra (Quest For Glory, Space Quests) have very much of great "adventurous" feeling. Surprising on all these games was that one game often has 30 or 40 tunes, one completely another than else! And that wasn't in these times so usual, in that time was normal one or two tunes played usually during all the game. So it is in Dune 2, Sim City 2000 or Al Quadim. And absolute great medieval symphony is in Warcraft 2. These tunes really rock, but tunes from Warcraft 1 are not far away behind them! What? I forgot to mention great tunes from Heretic and Hexen? Oh... Yes, I should name plenty and plenty of PC tunes, but maybe you can look at World of Game MIDs, and check some for yourself. Only one think that I wanted to say, is the last thing. Yes, last "big" game released on PC with clean MIDI music was Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. Sure keep in mind these midis, because they're one of the best midis made for PC.
PC MUSIC LINX
World of Game Mids - If you're looking for PC game midis, you're at right place
SUPER NINTENDO MUSIC
Do you like the game music filled with unforgettable "japanese" sense and athmosphere? Then Super Nintendo tunes would be really thing you should take closer look at, if you don't like to download big MP3s from original soundtracks (see below). But let's talk something about some facts of Super Nintendo's tunes. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES in short) was 16-bit game console which had most popularity in early 90s, so we
SNES MUSIC LINX
SONY PSX, PC & NOWADAYS MUSIC
Sometimes in 1995, with incoming of CD game format, it lost sense to use some special formats for playing game music to save space. The companies began to release music in games in normal, uncompressed wave format. These tunes have been often provided either as direct redbook audio tracks with game, playable in any CD player, or in some form of WAVE data. The good thing about that was much easier listening to game music as from Amiga times - you could just insert CD into CD player or copy some files to HDD and listen to them. The bad thing was fact that size of these files has become very big, so you could forget to make large playlists which will take years to listen as it was in C64. Playing music CD takes almost 40-50 minutes and then you have to insert another one or listen again. Fortunately, MP3 format and bigger harddisks have made definite solution for storing files, so I've started to make MP3 archives with ripped music of my own games. On the other side, this era has brought many possibilities for releasing official game soundtracks directly from game companies. These soundtracks have very big tradition in Japan, where they became very popular already in Nintendo's times. In Japan are full stores of game soundtracks and it isn't any surprise to see four or five soundtracks from one popular game. But you should be careful, because quantity decreases quality... Although there're still very much awesome soundtracks coming from Japan. So what are my favourite game soundtracks from this country? On the first place we must mention again Nobuo Uematsu, as he is something like the "god" of japanese game music, although he made music in "only" one series, Final Fantasy. But what a series it is! Every his soundtrack has so many various ideas and melodies, that I really wonder how could this man produce every year such a big and various soundtrack as a soundtrack from one FF sequel is. The best of the best was imho soundtrack from Final Fantasy VII, followed by Final Fantasy IV (although, this soundtrack came with good quality also in Super Nintendo's SPC, if you wannt to save space), then VIII, or IX - every soundtrack has 3 or 4 CDs, and every game has some more released CDs with arranged music, e.g. "Piano collection" (original tunes played with piano), or vocals etc.. Nobuo Uematsu released also his own music CD called Phantasmagoria, it's very quality work too. Very close to Uematsu is another japanese musician - Yasunori Mitsuda. His work can be seen in SquareSoft's RPGs Chrono Cross or Xenogears, and these tunes are really worth of listening. Very good work made musicians from Konami in the latest soundtrack to game Genso Suikogaiden, but also in Metal Gear solid or in almost "classic" Castlevania melodies. Then I must mention at least few other CDs from Japan that impressed me very much: Vandal Hearts 2 Soundtrack, Tekken & Soul Edge music or Jumping Flash (to mention every game genre :) ). In Europe or US is much smaller game soundtrack tradition, but the quality is comparable great. Really great soundtracks made Cryo's musician Stephane Picq and Pierre Esteve. The absolutely greatest work by Pierre Esteve are Atlantis
PC & VIDEO GAME MUSIC LINX
Synsoniq Records - The biggest european's game music distributor, look at their shop to buy some CDs...
MY FAVOURITE MUSIC TOOLS
CDex - In my opinion the best MP3 grabber, it uses Lame MP3 encoder, has convert options like WAV->MP3, MP3->WAV, MP3->MP3, doesn't do cracks in songs when grabing from CD like Audio Catalyst often uses to do and after all it's free.