Hey you. Yeah, you. Imagine being a gamer around… say, 1986 or so. You, hypothetical gamer (I see you trying to rock them Z Cavariccis), cram the cartridge for this Castlevania into your NES and turn it on. The first thing you hear is like nothing you’ve ever heard in games before.
The second episode of the Red Bull Music Academy Series Diggin’ in the Carts looks at the moment developer Konami arrived on the scene, changing the way games sound with both artistic and technical innovation.
Musicians like Oh No and former Famitsu editor Rolling Uchizawa reflect on how a suite of releases in the late 80’s allowed Konami to force other developers to up their game audio, using hybrid interactions between their game cartridges and the NES/Famicom hardware to generate FM-quality sound (contrast that with the narrow range of audio that you’d be able to get out of say, the 2600).
Episode 3, “The Dawn of a New Era,” looks at the shift to 16-bit gaming. Consoles like the Turbo Grafx-16/PC Engine, Super Nintendo, and Genesis allowed game music makers to get even more grandiose with their compositions, layering in multiple levels of sound. Gone were the tinny tracks from the 8-bit era, replaced instead with orchestral works with sweep and scope.
We also get to see musicians fawn over the glorious world-themed music of Street Fighter II, composed by Yoko Simomura. Each characte was given a comical but epic theme song that made you feel like you were stadium-status while plugged in. Thundercat says it best when he admits “That game’s music makes you feel like a champion even if you suck!”
More new episodes of Diggin’ in the Carts are on the way, with new installments debuting between now and October 9 on the Red Bull Music Academy site.