How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 1: The Games

I thought it would be appropriate to give some background on myself and why I decided to start a blog about video game music. Or, more accurately, how my girlfriend (a woman you'll hear more from known as "The Lady") encouraged me to start a blog about video game music. It's been a relatively long road getting to VGM listening as a life's hobby.

I was never big into video games as a kid. I loved the ones I did have, but never owned too many or spent way too much time playing them. In short, loved 'em, just not fanatically. And it continues that way up until the present day. I don't own a Wii, a PS3 or an Xbox 360, though I've played Wario Ware: Smooth Moves for a few minutes and loved it.

My uncle bought my (fraternal) twin brother & I an NES in 1988 for our birthday, which came with the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge (naturally). Despite playing Nintendo together at the same distance from the television, my brother's eyesight stayed 20/20 and mine started getting worse for whatever reason. I needed glasses in 1st grade (didn't end up getting them until years later).

The music of Super Mario Bros. definitely stuck with me and remains an instant bit of nostalgia, but while it planted a seed, I never sat down and tape recorded the music like a lot of colleagues I know.

Other earlier memories involved:
*a friend of my brother's, Nnamdi Ifejika, having a ton of NES games, which allowed me to sample a lot of 'em and get to know bits and pieces of several titles
*3rd grade, where my friend Eric Hole had a huge Nintendo Power strategy guide and letting me borrow it for a few days, as just reading about the games was amazing enough
*playing the Sega Master System, particularly the footbag portion of California Games, at my uncle's house (the one who bought us the NES)
*playing Duck Hunt at a brother's friend's house and chancing on a sweet spot in Clay Shooting that allowed me to hit each target no matter where it was on the screen; I eventually got nervous around Round 90 after I sportingly let one clay pigeon almost get away, then somehow got nervous and tried to shoot it directly
*Receiving both Super Mario Bros. 3, and the excellent Nintendo Power Strategy Guide for it in 1990
*Playing the SNES at Dave Riccio's house back when it first came out, especially Street Fighter II years later
*Choosing Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a birthday present (a difficult choice at the time, an excellent choice in retrospect)
*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV
*My friend Hayden Mixsell bequeathing me his Sega Genesis after moving onto the Nintendo 64, hooking me up with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Streets of Rage 2 in the process

It's difficult to encapsulate the entire mish-mash of games of my childhood, but so many of them had really memorable themes, Streets of Rage 2 in particular. Some of Pilotwings comes to mind. Road Rash. Super Mario Bros. 2. Street Fighter Alpha had a really big impact on me. There's a big list eventually waiting to be recollected.

It wasn't until Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Napster in 2000 during my freshman year at Emory University in Atlanta, GA that I really got into trying to find video game music. As far as I knew, back in the relative infancy of the internet, there weren't any concentrated websites to buy game music let alone simply find it. But on a whim, I figured that if mainstream music was available, maybe somebody had some video game music from games I used to love.

There was no luck finding Street Fighter II, but Street Fighter Alpha 3's "Brave or Grave" came up once somehow and I decided to check it out. I'd never played the game at the time, but I loved the track. In retrospect it's not an A-grade piece of work, but the energy was pretty crazy the first time I heard it. I was gradually able to amass most of the soundtrack by searching for Street Fighter Zero 3 and becoming lucky when certain users would show up. Karin Kanzuki's theme "Simple Rating" quickly became my favorite, along with Cody's "Stripes," Vega's "Crimson," and Cammy's "Doll Eyes."

A friend of mine who lived in my freshman hall, and who I stayed friends with throughout my 4 years, Dave Share, had a Sega Dreamcast and quickly got me back into the Street Fighter game series, far and away my favorite bunch of games. Eventually, I was playing Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK (truly a dream game when I first saw it) and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, loving each one of the soundtracks even more than I loved the games.

It wasn't until 2001 that I became interested in spreading the word on VGM through the radio. That'll take us to Part 2...


BlueToYou said...

Stallion, eh? How about instead, "Video Game Pwny." Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Nice first blog.

Atmuh said...

Hey I liked this, kinda reminds me of me except I am/was much more of a nerd. I look forward to more.

Pavo Miskic said...

Now this makes me want to play you in 2D fighters

But, Nice Work, A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ will read again

Unknown said...

Interesting story thus far, It is pretty cool to see how your music history has progressed.
I'll keep up with this, I can totally relate to being more of a fan of actual game music than a lot of the games. It's also impressive your dedication to doing radio shows, pretty awesome stuff.

Dhsu said...

White on black is kind of hard on the eyes.

But then again, so is Larry. :D