Rock Out to Retronauts Episode 7

Retronauts 7 cover

People still talk about how much they liked the game music history episode of Retronauts we did many many years ago under the 1UP aegis and have asked many times for us to do another… and, as it happens, James Eldred of Lost Turntable put some Kickstarter backer money on the table to co-host an episode of the show. Since James specializes in music preservation with a strong interest in video games (check out some of the cool rarities on his site), it seemed natural for us to revisit the game music topic. This episode is much lengthier than the old one, exploring the evolution of music in games… and I made a conspicuous effort to avoid covering too much of the same ground as in the old show.

Retronauts backer James Eldred of LostTurntable.com joins Jeremy, Bob, and Ray to talk about the highs and lows of the history of video game music in this nearly two-hour ramblefest.

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This episode’s musical inclusions:

  • 0:05 – Retronauts Vol. III Main Theme
  • 15:01 – Snafu (MIDI arrangement)
  • 17:34 – Rally-X
  • 21:04 – Gentle Giant “Time to Kill”
  • 20:18 – Silver Surfer “Level 1″
  • 31:52 – Bionic Commando “Tune 5″ (C64 version)
  • 37:54 – Psycho Solder “Main Theme” (cassette version)
  • 45:12 – Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance “Successor of Fate”
  • 50:27 – Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin “Invitation of a Crazed Moon”
  • 54:27 – Techno Cop “Title Theme”
  • 1:14:48 – Symphony of the Night “Unused Track”
  • 1:16:28 – Vib-ribbon “Universal Dance”
  • 1:20:45 – Spyro the Dragon “Alpine Ridge”
  • 1:34:26 – Tempest 2000 “Constructive Demolition”
  • 1:38:23 – Streets of Rage 2 “Back to the Industry”
  • 1:40:27 – Chrono Trigger: The Brink of Time “Chrono Trigger”
  • 1:42:24 – Sexy Parodius “Pastoral March”
  • 1:44:53 – Evergrace “Castle of Regression”
  • 1:47:45 – Chase H.Q. “Main Theme Flexidisc Remix”
  • 1:51:20 – Castlevania: Dracula Perfect Battle Selection “Beginning”

You’ll have to excuse the sound quality of the Snafu sound embed — I wasn’t able to get original game audio, so I had to convert a MIDI recreation, which doesn’t sound authentic. The Athena song isn’t the one ripped from the game but rather the version that appeared on a cassette tape pack-in with the Japanese Famicom release of the game. And as for Gentle Giant… well, that prog rock episode happened for a reason, you know?

44 thoughts on “Rock Out to Retronauts Episode 7

  1. Great episode about one of my favorite topics, gents. Shout out to your guest as well, he had some interesting insights to share.

    I can actually remember the first time when I realized when my small mind sort-of recognized “game music” as a thing: Sonic 2’s boss battle theme. I can still remember holding up my cheap-o cassette recorder to the TV and listening to that theme over and over again on my walkman.

    A few points:
    1. Yuzo Koshiro is my lord and savior. You can’t deny the house-scene inspired beats from Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage but my personal favorites remain the work he’d done for Actraiser. That soundtrack’s incredible, the orchestrated version even moreso.

    2. No disrespect to the copious talents of Uematsu-san, but in some ways I feel like the fact that he’s become so popular has cast some of Square/Square-Enix’s other composers in his shadow, you know? Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work on Tactics is held in high regard but he just doesn’t have the kind recognition that Nobuo does.

    3. This is likely old news to the kind of people that listen to a show like this, but just in case: if you enjoy console music and want an easy way to listen to your favorites, getting a plug-in & sound files is pretty easy and saves you the hassle of tracking down sketchy torrents.

    Sites like snesmusic.org, Zophar’s NSF Archive (I can’t believe this site’s still around…) and Project 2612 are good places to get the music itself, GEP is a good plugin for foobar (there are others and standalone players as well, of course).

  2. The first game music album I ever bought was the soundtrack to Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, not on account of the game, but because I was really into Amon Tobin at the time.
    I actually bought the game because of the soundtrack, which kind of turned out to be a mistake, because stealth games and I never get along.
    Great music though.

  3. Great episode. James set a high bar for kickstarter hosting. He could have been on the show show for this topic without having been a donator I think. Ughh I hate when people rag on the Genesis sound and give the bad examples to prove it (granted you also gave it some praise as well). There were a lot of great Sega Genesis tracks. Basically the stuff from the West had that grating sound. Stuff from Sega (Japan), Technosoft, and others were really good. But the system did lend itself to hard hitting soundtracks. STI and European developers were hit and miss. With the occasional western developed game having a decent soundtrack. But that Technocop track was the worst kind of Genesis metal squealing.

    I am also pretty sure Yuzo is my favorite game music composer of all time.

    And I should say I listen to most of my retro game music on VGMpire. Great game music podcast. And OCremix for well remixed stuff.

  4. There’s no easy way to say this, but it needs to be said – James Eldred does not have a voice for radio. Sorry.

    Also guys, for a show dedicated to music, there was too much talking and too little music.

    • For the record, I have a neurogenic/motor speech disorder, and went to speech therapy to treat it for about 20 years.

      In more formal environments it’s nearly undetectable, especially when I check my pace and talk slowly. I’ve even just got a job teaching conversational English, so while I may not have “a voice for radio” my voice is apparently good enough to teach ESL students. Also, as a writer, I’ve done a few hundred phone interviews over the years, and it’s rarely come up. More often than not, people tend to think I’m from New York or something.

      However, I was a bit nervous and anxious during the recording (as anyone in my shoes probably would be) and I struggled a bit, so I sound worse than usual in my opinion.

      But yeah, I’ve worked damned hard to overcome this disorder. Maybe you can start to work hard to overcome being an insensitive jerk.

  5. Great podcast guys. I just started listening to these podcasts. I listening to the Retronauts podcast 99 off 1up and it caught my interest. Do you allow questions for the podcast? I have one or two to ask you guys.

  6. Great episode and overall novel approach on a popular subject. Also a VERY knowledgable guest I must say.
    I was expecting having a guest host to somewhat “dumb down” or slow down the pace a little bit. But this guy was a great addition to the regular crew and I feel a lot more information, music suggestions and trivia was conveyed as a result!
    Meaty episode, good job! : )

  7. I’m always down for some video game music discussion. I was sad when Ray left 1UP and the Sound Test ended. Anyhow, I’m a huge fan of Motoi Sakuraba, especially his Valkyrie Profile work. “At the Bottom of Hell is Distortion” probably tops my list.

    That said, what I’d really like to do is evangelize King of Fighters music. Yes, you may remember I’ve done this before. Yes, I’m going to do it again. Check out “Rhythmic Hallucination“. Now check out this completely different arranged version. I also recommend “Rumbling on the City“, “Still Green” and “Goodbye Esaka“. I really feel KoF’s music doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

  8. Great episode. It made me miss the Sound Test podcast all over again. I know Ray has a lot of projects now, but if he wanted to I’m sure he could get funding to relaunch it.

  9. While I was hoping for a little more music, I did love this episode. James seems to be a wealth of information and what he added was awesome.

  10. Really loved this episode, and I’m not a huge follower of game music. Funny enough, the Dracula Perfect Battle disk is one of the only game music CDs that I own. Nice to hear it.

    I’d like to hear James come back; he’s very knowledgeable and I think he really added to the show. Though, as someone also from Toledo, OH, I might be saying that because I’ve shared a similar personal Hell. Either way.

  11. Great episode, and as someone else said already, it made me miss the Sound Test. I’d certainly throw in some dough to kickstart that thing again.

    And kudos for the mention of the LucasArts IMUSE system too (I think that’s what it was called). I’m a huge Peter McConnell fan, and it was nice to hear about his stuff. Well done to you all. :)

  12. I’m not an expert on music composition, but another game composer that I think maintains kind of a “classic” sound in his music is Norio “NON” Hanzawa from Treasure. Maybe it’s because he still works primarily in a synth style that’s reminiscent of the digital noises of FM synthesis.

    Some of his works include Gunstar Heroes, Mischief Makers and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. I believe he’s also working on Gaist Crusher.

    And before that, when he was with Konami (as part of the Konami Kukeiha Club that you mentioned), he did some work on Castlevania: The Adventure, and composed the arcade version of The Simpsons.

  13. Episodes like this are why I donated to the kickstarter, and why I will gladly donate again and again. Great episode, all four of you. Definitely my favorite of volume 3 so far.

    I guess I should put something substantial in here beside gushing. Jeremy and James probably took my top two favorite composers, so if I had to pick someone different as a favorite, I’d go with Yoko Shimamura. Everything of her’s I’ve heard just blows me away, and I’m kinda surprised no one mentioned her on the show.

  14. This podcast took me five hours to finish! I kept stopping at the breaks and listening to the various soundtracks mentioned.

    While I avoided Silver Surfer as a kid after hearing that game was really bad from a friend (who unfortunately received it as his ONLY birthday gift back in January of ’91!) I have to say that it contains an amazing soundtrack!

    Keep up the great work!

  15. Great episode guys. I had no idea that the demo versions of Sonic 1 & 2’s songs had been released. Anyone know of anything else similar to that happening?

  16. This is only tangentially related to video game music, but I wanted to share to see if anyone else had had similar experiences.

    I often will turn off game music and either watch TV or listen to music while gaming. I’ve done this since I can remember, and while it means I’ve missed out of some classic game soundtracks (I played through most of Final Fantasy 3 and Chrono Trigger on the SNES while watching the Cooking Channel in my youth), it has also created some indelible links between games and music.

    The biggest example for me is Mega Man 2’s Wood Man stage and the opening riffs of Sweet Child of Mine by Guns n’ Roses. It must have just been on the radio once while I was playing as a kid because for years I used to think that the stage’s music and Sweet Child of Mine were similar. But they’re aren’t. They do sync up quite well together, though.

    Does anyone else have any pop music that they associate with a game that isn’t actually from the game or am I the only one who did this as a kid?

    • Does anyone else have any pop music that they associate with a game that isn’t actually from the game

      I always associate Sonic CD (the special stages in particular) with the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After because my mom bought a new stereo and that album the same day I bought the game. Now whenever I hear that acoustic guitar riff at the beginning of the song I imagine Sonic looking off toward the horizon in one of the Time Stones stages.

      • Welp, screwed up the formatting there.

        I also meant to say ‘the guitar riff at the beginning of Mr. Jones and Me.’

  17. Excellent episode! I have to say I feel James did an excellent job as a co-host, lots of good insight and conversation in this one.

    I’m a little bummed that nobody mentioned Nobuyoshi Sano, he’d have to be my absolute favorite vgm composer. Just has an incredible sound that has always really connected with me. I’d have to put Manabu Namiki and Zuntata close behind him but that opinion is likely skewed by my love of shooters.

    You guys also got me feeling really nostalgic talking about recording cassettes of vgm straight from the speakers, I specifically remember doing that with Sonic 3 back in the day. I also spent a lot of time rocking out to sound test menus, definitely remember loading up Mega Man X just to listen to Zero’s theme while doing stuff in my room.

  18. Loved the discussion and the cool talk about weird obscure stuff.

    One of my favorites is this insane 80s arrangement of the Nazo No Murasame Jo theme.

    One of my favorite contemporary composers is Akira Yamaoka. I think one of the only reasons that Grasshopper games are able to work at all has something to do with the in your face dumb guitar rock that Yamaoka peddles. He rarely fails to bring a big dumb grin to my face.

    • I love Akira Yamaoka, but I was honestly somewhat disappointed when he more or less replaced Masafumi Takada at Grasshopper. Takada has a very unique style that just fit in with their style so well.

      I do have to say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised by Yamaoka’s work on Killer is Dead. It’s still no Killer 7 but the soundtrack stood out to me a bit more than I had expected it to.

  19. I’m a huge fan of Tim Follin’s compositions. Even though they were mostly for terrible games, he did some absolutely fantastic stuff on the NES and those 80s computers, even ones that by all rights should not have been capable of music period. And his Genesis Time Trax soundtrack is really a thing of beauty – as far as I know, it’s the only FM synth soundtrack he ever worked with.

  20. It’s a shame that the US didn’t really have the C64 experience quite the same way Europe did. It was such a widespread game system at one point. And it spawned some fabulous music on a very pleasant sounding hardware. Chris Hulsbeck is a name I’d like to hear mentioned in a future episode. :)

  21. Really enjoying the music episodes, specifically because, for the most part music is not something I typically stop to think about in games. Knowing more about that aspect lets me more fully appreciate the whole package.

  22. I do love music-heavy episodes! By the way, did you know that Portrait of Ruin and “Gallery of Labyrinth” (the JPN version) have different soundtracks? The compositions are the same, but they feel different. PoR has a heavier synth sound, for sure. In a way it’s Castlevania III all over again, but this time I think the US got the better music.

  23. Before 3D graphics became ‘the thing’, the best argument put forward for the advantages of CD-Rom was the audio. As someone who invested in both the TurboGrafx CD-Rom attachment and the Duo, I was deeply impressed by the music found on Ys Books I & II, and the ‘butt-rock’ of Lords of Thunder.

    I feel like a significant turning point came with Road Rash 3D on 3DO. It wasn’t just that it was one of the first titles with licensed music as we commonly understand it, but it tried very very hard to be culturally relevant and important. Having a game that played ‘Spoonman’ was at least as impressive as any of the pseudo-3D graphics that the game put out.

    It was a precursor to what we would eventually get with Wipeout XL, which I think the podcast very correctly identifies as hugely significant. It charted (which may or may not have been a first for a gaming soundtrack in North America), and the music so perfect fit with the aesthetic of the game in general, including the Designers Republic graphic design (relevant to fans of Cabaret Voltaire and Warp Records). Where Road Rash 3D is somewhat painfully embarrassing to look back on, Wipeout XL manages to stand up as a perfect nugget of nostalgia for how well it encapsulates and represents that particular moment of time.

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