It was a Megadrive game that I got into, where you played a motorcyclist that had to beat up other motorcyclists with bats and chains and stuff. It was excellent, and because it was about bikers, the soundtrack is this really crude imitation of heavy metal, so you get these amazing “power chords” but made with the chunky sounds like you get on a cheap Yamaha keyboard. Then, maybe because the people composing the music didn’t really know a lot about biker gangs, you’d get these disco bass arpeggios. Ridiculous. Because the Megadrive was a 16 bit console, the soundtracked was really actually played in real time – so, the music was not a file selected from a disc, but a set of MIDI sounds played by the computer, which meant that when you did something that made a sound, like swung a chain or whatever, the bass would cut out. It was so rude but so cool. That’s the thing that I find hard about games no is that they’re very fleshed out and cinematic, but I don’t want to play a film. Maybe that’s why I picked these five, not the usual classics of video game music – there’s no Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy or whatever.
This is one of my favourite games ever actually. Just so fully realised. Me and my friends I spent so many hours after school killing each other on the multiplayer, but the great thing about the music was how spacey and spooky some of the single player levels were. There was this unbelievable level of tension in the music. It had this weird quality to it, this metallic sense. The sound effects were incredible as well – the shouts sounded really inhuman, which gave the whole game this screwed up, strange atmosphere. And like Road Rash, because it was still a cartridge-based console, you couldn’t have people speaking on it – they had to use subtittles, which kept that weird distanced feeling you got from older video games.
I just played this game a few times, but the weirdness always stuck with me. It was just too weird to be true – it was like two rappers from outer space, and the soundtrack was full of this DX7 sound effects and had this weird swing to it, almost like an electronic P-Funk swing to it, like Steve Wonder transformed into a crude computer game. It’s also the fantasy side of the game that I loved – the sheer oddness of the story that really drew me in. It could never be made now. And though I’ve seen some amazing games, I don’t want to play a film, I want to escape into and explore this other world for a bit. I was always more of a SEGA person all along, and this may sound strange, but SEGA games always seemed more realised, more fantastical, more far out, more challenging, more concept-y.
I got the Master System one Christmas, and it’s still my favourite console. Even though most people had the Mega Drive by then, I just loved Sonic, which came built into it – the soundtrack was so full of hooks and sounds and action and it worked so well with the graffics and the background. I’d love to find out who wrote it, I imagine it’s just a team of crazy Japanese guys.
+ Klonoa 2 – Lunatea’s Veil+
I’ve never been able to listen over and over to music – I’ve always wished I could, but I prefer music that’s just so full of hooks and melody that you get pulled in instantly and want to explore the whole world. That’s what I love about video game music. I bought this game by chance from those second hand bins, it never really took off – but it’s absolutely mindblowing and really engrossing. The plot is pretty standard – you have to save the princess from a sky pirate who is turning the world into darkness – but the level of sophistication and effort that’s gone into it is just amazing. the soundtrack moves from blissful atmospheric tracks to JPOP to hip hop to world music in the same sequence. I found out that they released the soundtrack from the game on CD in Japan – and it’s 72 songs long! Like, halfway through the game, you’ve got to go through all all the levels again but in this darkened world, and there’s like minor chord adaptations of the main songs – it’s just so emotive and totally sucks you into the game.