virt experiences wet dream, scores Contra 4

As CHz reported over at ThaSauce, arrangement scene old-schooler turned professional game composer Jake "virt" Kaufman was outed in the current issue of Nintendo Power as being the composer for Konami's upcoming Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS. (Here's hoping they at least stick with Contra IV/4 in the title, and don't drop that in favor of just a subtitle.)

While unable to comment much beyond confirming his role on the upcoming shoot-them-motherfuckers-up (loosely translated, "schmup"), Jake backs up the Ninty Power interview and assures us that we'll be rocked by new themes as well as rearrangements of classic themes from the Contra series.

I personally can't wait until Jake has a chance to score another console game a la 2005's Legend of Kay, but congratulations to Jake on a dream project that's a major footnote in his growing career.

OneUp Studios: The Extra B Stands for BYOBB

OneUp Studios recently hosted their latest BBQ, marking the event's 5th anniversary. I was invited by Mustin to the 3rd (honored, to be perfectly honest), and ever since then it's been open invitation. I :'-( every year I can't make it to Arkansas for the festivities. One day though...

Be sure to check out the OUS forums for information on how everything went. The OneUps themselves (OUS's cornerstone band) have been given new life since all but calling it quits last year, and will be performing at this year's Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).

Nice new OUS gear, by the way. Remind me to buy a black medium-size shirt.


Dale muses on "Fail"

OneUp Studios co-founder and OC ReMixer Dale North has a new post up at Destructoid on America's history of crappy video game art and animation. Clearly the Mega Man series is in there. The video accompanying the post is tough in some cases (EarthBound? It's different, but what's wrong with that one?), but the gist of it is that Japanese art that's much more relevant to games is passed up for oftentimes non-sequitor art, usually resulting in cases of "fail."

Best moment of the video for me:
An iconic picture of Pac-Man is shown midway through the video: "Oh man! How are they gonna fuck that up???"
Seconds later, the Atari box art: "Dear LORD!"

Oof. I also don't believe I've ever seen anything as comparatively anti-septic and bland as the American box art for Breath of Fire III after the vibrant Japanese art.

And say what you will about the US-based cartoons being poor. You still watched them. Never ever heard of that DarkStalkers cartoon until now. Don't forget though that the Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoon segments and Mario 3/Mario World cartoons by DiC were really strong all things considered.

One thing that could be noted for the present is that, with the foothold that manga and anime have on pop culture nowadays, a lot of the showcased art deemed unpalatable to American consumers back then is significantly more permissible. It remains to be seen what that'll translate to for future releases, but hopefully the days of Mega Man I's American box art are basically behind us.

A long-time gamer, Dale's been really active at Destructoid, so be sure to check out his regular updates.

Composer Spotlight #1: Hiroyuki Iwatsuki

Hiroyuki Iwatsuki is the master of the generic beat 'em up track. What does that mean? Well let's find out!

Works featured in this post:

  • Choujin Sentai Jetman (NES)

  • Ghost Sweeper Mikami: Gokuraku Daisakusen (SNES)

  • Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GB)

  • Pocky & Rocky (SNES)

  • Shin Kidoesenki Gundam Wing - Endless Duel (SNES)

  • Spanky's Quest (GB)

  • The Ninjawarriors (SNES)

full list of works


One thing to note about Iwatsuki is that it's hard to get his "sound," so to speak, because he frequently collaborated with other Natsume sound team members, most notably Iku Mizutani and Haruo Ohashi. However, four out of his six chiptune works were solo ventures, so from these we can get some insight into the man's usual style.

"Area E"
Choujin Sentai Jetman (NES)

"Stage 1"
Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GB)

We can already see some similarities in the structure of the songs. Each loop has three basic sections: an intro, main body which ends in an upward sequence, and high conclusion. Both songs also have a driving bassline and percussion too. We'll see the tripartite structure and backbone in the next two co-composed samples from the SNES.

"Crazy Woods"
Ghost Sweeper Mikami: Gokuraku Daisakusen (SNES)
co-composed with Kinuyo Yamashita

"Last Boss"
The Ninjawarriors (SNES)
co-composed with N. Tate

I've been hand-picking tracks on purpose to reinforce the first sentence in the post, that Iwatsuki is the master of the generic beat 'em up track. All four games featured so far are side-scrolling/platforming beat 'em ups. More important, though, is how similar these songs are; the games Iwatsuki has worked on are chock full of songs just like these that grab you and yell out, "Beat up enemies to me!"

However, what I like about these soundtracks are just how eminently listenable they are. "Generic" does not automatically mean a song is bad; despite the four songs I picked being mostly interchangeable with one another (discounting the synth qualities of the three platforms), each track has its own decent melody and hooks, variety, and development. If these types of tracks are up your alley, then you should definitely check Iwatsuki out, because there are lots more tracks just like these.

Now that I've talked about how his music is all the same, let's look about some of his work that actually does sound different!

"Staff Roll"
Spanky's Quest (GB)

"Haunted House"
Pocky & Rocky (SNES)

Shin Kidoesenki Gundam Wing - Endless Duel (SNES)
co-composed with Haruo Ohashi

So in addition to beat 'em up tracks, we also have almost Kirby-like ^___^ness, almost RPG dungeonness, and almost technocrapness. I used "almost" and "-ness" in all three of those "genres" because each track does manage to still retain a little bit of the Iwatsuki flavor. Staff Roll and Haunted House have pumpin' basslines, and Airport still gets you ready to kick the crap out of something. Iwatsuki has a consistent style in his works that just rocks.


A plug for "Music from SSX Blur"

The Song of the Week competition (Week #98) currently has an entry from Tom "Junkie XL" Holkenborg from Nettwerk/Electronic Arts' recent Music from SSX Blur album, the track being "Wanlong Mamoth".

All I can say is that, after hearing it, I'm really disappointed that I didn't have a chance to attend the Washington, DC part of the album release tour at GLOW on April 21st. That was back before I had my current (and thoroughly enjoyable) job, so all of my attentions had been going towards job hunting.

Nonetheless... :'-(

Great track, and I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the album.


Dhsu Presents: Doujin Spolight

Hey guys, it's your friendly neighborhood Dhsu here: ReMixer extraordinaire and Asian debonaire. My job is to familiarize all you gaijin with video game arrangements made by our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun. These arrangements are commonly referred to under the umbrella term "doujin" (i.e. amateur or fan) music, and are closely linked to Japan's large "DTM" (or "DeskTop Music") community. The recently-posted "Dignity Ark" by Ryo Lion is but one example of what the majority of Western ReMix-lovers are missing out on.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the relative inaccessibility of doujin arrangements: in addition to the obvious language barrier, the doujin community doesn't have (at least to my knowledge) the equivalent of dedicated, centralized submission sites like OCR or VGMix. The closest thing would probably be sites such as CREATOR BACKER that keep track of the myriad personal sites run by the artists. Also, like their American counterparts, Japanese arrangements aren't all good, so it's a task in itself to sort through all "bleh" stuff. What's worse, the arrangements that actually turn out to be amazing are often available only as part of albums sold on the artists' websites.

But hey, that's what I'm here for! I'll be your tour guide of sorts to the wonderful world of doujin music, sharing sites and various other finds that I've come across during my own travels. I did a Doujin Spotlight feature at ThaSauce too a while ago, so the 2 whole people who ever went there will know the drill. ;)

As I close this post, I do have a small confession to make: namely that I typically only check arrangements for games or sources that I'm familiar with. Since I'm a bit of a Squaresofgt, that means mostly Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. Although that's pretty much the only thing Japanese people remix anyway, aside from Touhou and hentai games. :P Oh yeah, and the Ys series, but nobody's ever played those.


Other people besides Liontamer might post here too sometimes

Apparently I've been given the ability to post here. I'd better make the most of it before Larry fires me for making fun of his stench (like that of an African elephant) or pubefro (no modifiers needed). D:

I'm CHz, sometimes known as 'Ili Butterfield. I'm one of the folks who runs Song of the Week. Spiel:

Song of the Week (or SotW, for short) is an online, ongoing, weekly event. The purpose of this event is to promote the proliferation of quality video game music that is seldom heard amongst the society of VGM fans.

I just updated the site with this week's winners about two hours ago, so check Week 97 and all the previous weeks out and see if you like what you hear. Maybe even participate if you have the time.

But anyway, why am I here? Well, since the scope of this blog is not just video game remixes, Larry wanted contributions from people who know more video game music than just a couple of tracks from whatever lame 2D fighter they played ten years ago. Since I owed him a lifedebt for saving me from a Nicaraguan death squad, I agreed to help him out with this "VG Frequency" thing.

So what can you expect from me? I don't know either! Presumably something about video game music! My original ideas were composer spotlights on lesser-known guys who aren't totally obscure (like, say, a Motoaki Takenouchi vs. a Nobuo Uematsu or Nobuo Ito) and looks at overlooked works by big-name composers, like the Hanjuku Hero series or DynamiTracer by Uematsu. But I'm not that organized, so I might end up just making things up off the cuff, kind of like this post!

I've gone on far enough here without any actual content, so I'm just going to end this post with a song I really like. It'll give me a chance to test this cool Flash MP3 player dealie. It also could be a preview of my next entry...?!

"Energy Generator Lab (Stage 5)"
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (SNES)
Hiroyuki Iwatsuki


How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 6: Joining the Establishment

The coolest aspect by far of working at OC ReMix has been the job of helping select which tracks are posted. Especially as a listener/non-musician judge, being invited on board the Judges Panel validated the extent of my fandom for the amateur video game music community. Getting into the stories of my time on the panel will be cool for those insterested enough of the inner workings of the site, so I might as well lead off with how I ended up joining them.

Dain "Beatdrop" Olsen had recently stepped down from the panel after his second go-round, again for a lack of time. Long-time judges Ari "Protricity" Asulin and Binnie "Digital Coma" Katti were pretty merciless in pointing out that they thought he was a shitty judge for being so inactive at the end of both of his stints. I wouldn't know firsthand, but their complaining was probably a significant reason that pressure came down on Beatdrop to step down.

Myself having been on the panel for almost 3 years, I can tell you that the collective mindset of the panel never dwells on a loss. When someone resigns or is removed from the panel, it's unfortunate, but the gears immediately spring into motion for selecting a replacement. At the time Beatdrop left, several people were immediately brought up. JigginJonT likely would have been invited had he had the free time to join, but told whomever asked him about the opportunity that he didn't have the time. In the end, the two serious candidates brought up were Jack "Adhesive Boy" Ryerson and myself.

If you ask me, Adhesive Boy got a raw deal when he was nominated. If you listen to his material, you'll find that he's an A-grade arranger that's come out with some really impressive and creative pieces. By the time of his second posted ReMix, Treasure Hunter G 'Linoleum Stalactites', I had felt that he was on the road to making it onto the panel if he continued on that level, as he was only bound to get better.

When it came down to him or me, I ended up winning out, but at the same time, the potential to simply take on two new members was there, so AB and I weren't in any direct competition. After I joined though, I learned that close to the end of the selection process, the panel collectively decided they didn't need two people (which would have put the panel size at a then-unheard of 12 members). On top of that though, two mainstay judges felt AB made calls that nitpicked details and missed a lot of the big picture, and unfortunately that was it.

I was nominated by Protricity after a brief AIM conversation. From the looks of it, he had read the summer music reviews I had maintained for VG Frequency as he told me that he had the impression that I was enthusiastic about the community's music, but was able to call and spade a spade and be honest about when something was weak. I'd never find out that he was actually the one who nominated me outright until I joined.

Because I had always gotten along well with Gray "GrayLightning" Alexander, and he was my main source of communication as to what was going on in the judges panel, I had assumed that he had been the one who put my name forward. In actuality, he had reservations about me because I was already devoting so much time to college and the VG Frequency radio show there; he was wary of a someone coming on board who wouldn't make the panel something of a priority.

Digital Coma had bigger reservations about my objectivity but was ok enough to give me his support. I wouldn't know it until years later, but a long vote on one mix in my third day on the job caused him to go on a rant in the private judges chatroom on how I ended up being a terrible choice.

Vigilante intially had a bad vibe about my objectivity as well, but after he got a hold of me on AIM and gave me some test songs, I ended up with his strong support. Paraphrasing him, he could tell that I was capable of giving critical opinions and not trying to figure out what he wanted me to say. I forgot the other songs I listened to, but my first vote was one of the test batch songs Vig asked me about, Koelsch1's Valkyrie Profile 'Blind Eternity'. I figured it was worth it for my first vote to be a submission I would remember. My first YES vote went to a young up-and-comer by the name of Andrew "zircon" Aversa, for his very first passable submission Chrono Trigger 'Calamitous Judgement'.

When I was finally selected for the panel, djpretzel messaged me that night and made the official invitation. While I was secure in my skills, I was ecstatic that I was selected. As a non-musican, the fact that I had won the support of a very talented and selective group of musicians was especially gratifying.

Five hours later, after talking with djpretzel about the responsibilities of the job, getting congratulated by my new collegues, and reading through all the old topics and policy debates in Judges Discussion, I was ready to go. In my first four days, I had voted on everything there was to vote on, which was around 35 submissions.

After seeing my opening flurry of voting, Gray immediately warned me about working too hard and risking burnout. I dunno if he had ever seen anyone come in and annihilate the queue like that. And as soon as djpretzel posted the next flood of submissions a few days later, I voted on all 20 of them in 16 hours. There's no way I could do that nowadays, but my overall work ethic remains the same to this day. If a submission comes through the panel, I've voted on it 99% of the time.

Working these past three years evaluating OC ReMix's submissions has been almost nothing but fun. There have been plenty of internal squabbles, bouts of panel ennui, emo artists, ignorant assumptions by outsiders, and straight up crappy subs to weather. Depending on how forthcoming I am, you'll get to hear bits and pieces of all of that stuff if you stick around the blog. At the end of the day however, I'm currently one of only 10 people on earth who decided what you hear at OC ReMix. It's an envious job if you have an open mind and really, really love video game music.

And ever since I found it, I've really, really loved video game music.

Let's talk about someone other than me now.