Tag Archives: retronauts radio

Retronauts episode #103: A game music primer

Since moving over to a weekly schedule, the Retronauts podcast has been tackling classic game music reviews once a month. We sort of jumped headlong into this venture without really stopping to explain some of the basics of collecting and listening to classic music, though. With this latest episode, we’ve tried to remedy that oversight by bringing aboard pro-level music enthusiast/collector/blogger James Eldred of the sites Lost Turntable and Mostly Retro to go over some of the essential basics of getting your retro game jam on… regardless of the size of your budget or the depth of your enthusiasm. From free listens to high-cost hi-fis, this episode breaks down the fundamentals of collecting or simply enjoying retrogame music in the modern age. Think of this as a companion piece to the high-fidelty classic gaming episode, but with a specific focus on music.

As a backup feature, I’ve also included an in-depth look at two recent music LP releases: Ship to Shore’s Darius and DataDiscs’s absolutely stunning Gunstar Heroes double vinyl set. Both are worth looking into for fans of game history and music, but I’d go so far as to call Gunstar Heroes essential.

MP3, 49.3 MB | 1:40:07
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Episode description: Game music expert James Eldred shares some helpful advice on finding and building a collection of classic soundtracks. Plus: In-depth with Ship To Shore’s Darius and the DataDiscs Gunstar Heroes set.

Music in this episode comes from the two featured soundtrack releases (Darius and Gunstar Heroes). They’re direct vinyl rips, even… albeit highly compressed and normalized and downsampled in order to fit podcast requirements, so that doesn’t matter at all. Also, James asked me to note that the Ship to Shore Darius LP release does not contain arranged versions… an understandable mix-up, given that he’s basically been doing a Darius soundtrack kegstand recently. Drunk on Zuntata.

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The ridiculous new frontier in game music fandom

Next week’s episode of the podcast — the one currently up on Patreon for cool people who support the show that way — will be another Retronauts Radio entry. This one’s a little different than usual, though. While it does present an overview of a few new classic game music releases (DataDiscs’ Gunstar Heroes and Ship to Shore’s Darius), the bulk of the episode consists of music collector and expert James Eldred walking me through the basics and the ProTips of collecting and enjoying game music, whatever the preferred format.

Mostly, we cover the ins and outs vinyl LPs, compact discs, and digital releases. However, there is one other music format that gets a brief mention, and, well… it’s frankly kind of ludicrous.

As it happens, James was kind of enough to share an example of this format — which, it turns out, has become all the rage over in Japan of late. He had a copy of Symphonic Suite: Dragon Quest IV on hand that he didn’t want anymore and passed it along to me. It comes in a nice-looking plastic clamshell case imprinted with the game’s logo in gold, a typical Dragon Quest class act for sure.

At first glance, this looks like a very nice, minimalist CD collection. Alas! That is not the case at all. Instead, you open up the set and find…

…cassette tapes? Yes indeed. This is an aspect of classic game music releases I’ve never really thought to consider before; I didn’t start importing game music until the late ’90s, by which point the CD ruled all. And while I’ve occasionally spotted vintage game music LPs from the early ’80s, it never quite occurred to me to question whether LPs were the primary delivery format for game soundtracks and arranged albums in that late ’80s interim period as vinyl faded but CDs hadn’t quite gone mainstream.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The late ’80s was when I began acquiring music I liked in earnest, and I wasn’t buying records; the format was already on the outs by then. I certainly couldn’t afford CDs at that point. They were incredibly expensive circa 1987, like $18-25 apiece… and that’s in actual 1980s money, not inflation-adjusted prices. So like most kids, I bought cassette tapes of the music I loved. More portable than records, half the price of CDs, and easily copied and swapped with friends, tapes were the de facto music format for teens between the mid ’80s and mid ’90s. That’s 10 years of tape dominance! And while Japan tended to be ahead of the curve for consumer tech than the U.S. in that period, it’s not like our respective markets were that different. So of course Japan had a booming cassette tape music market… which means, of course, that commercial game soundtrack releases were shipping on tape as well.

Not only that, but as the Symphonic Suite demonstrates, they were being treated with the same love and respect as any other format. Enix put some real effort into these tapes, disposable as the format may seem. Both of the cassettes come with elaborate fold-over liners that wrap around the outside of their respective cases. The set also contains a booklet of sheet music in case you want to play along to the recordings with the your own personal orchestra, as well as some stickers and other ephemera.

According to James, tape collecting is the hot thing in Japan right now. I know there’s a bit of hipster interest here in the states in reviving the cassette format, but it seems Japan beat you guys to the punch. Not only are vintage tapes incredibly sought after, they’re also incredibly expensive. I’d never seen a cassette section in Japanese music shops prior to my visits this year — which isn’t to say they weren’t there, simply that they didn’t stand out — but now entire walls are given over to the format. Would you pay $20-30 dollars for a used tape manufactured in 1991? A format that degrades with use and time alike? I wouldn’t, but evidently quite a few people would.

For a very brief moment after opening up this soundtrack box, I had an urge to pick up a handful of vintage game soundtracks on cassette — literal game tapes, if you will — as I figured it would be a cheap way to add a few amusing curios to my collection. But no, vintage game soundtrack cassettes run anywhere from $20-50 (and up) depending on condition, scarcity, and desirability. That’s far too steep to work as a whimsical pick-up, I’m afraid. I’m only too happy to leave cassettes to the cassette collectors. Nostalgia may be a hell of a drug, but I’d definitely have to be high to pine for the days of fragile, noisy, clumsy tape cassettes.

Besides, I only have the one tape deck these days.

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Retronauts Episode 94: Classics new and old on Retronauts Radio

Another week, another episode about Castlevania. I guess I lied last week when I said I’d be limiting Retronauts to a single Castlevania episode per year!

Of course, this isn’t really a Castlevania episode. It’s Retronauts Radio number four, and it just so happens that this month’s musical highlight comes in the form of a Castlevania III double-LP album. I cannot tell you how much I adore this new release — it’s a far cry in terms of quality from Mondo’s disappointing first Castlevania vinyl release. Each disc contains a different version of the music (one NES, one Famicom), and the source files are not the existing CD issue of the Japanese soundtrack… which is to say, no sound effects and weird foley elements. I highly recommend it.

The other selections for this month include:

Everything we covered with this month’s Radio installment is stellar, so I hope you’ll forgive the indulgent length of this episode. In addition to highlighting great recent music releases by way of tune samples, the fourth Retronauts Radio involves a lot of back-and-forth conversation about the games and soundtracks between myself and this episode’s guest: Jack Menhorn of Boss Key Productions. Jack works with video game audio for a living, so he brings a genuine expert perspective to the discussion.

Everything this month is also a vinyl release, something I prefer to avoid with Retronauts Radio. I know that only a minority of listeners collect game vinyl, and I don’t want anyone to feel like this show has a high buy-in cost. It just so happened that this month involved a huge amount of great classic game music arriving on vinyl. Don’t worry, though: Next month will include only one LP-exclusive selection, along with a couple of new CD releases, a new (!) Famicom cartridge release, and BraveWave’s upcoming Ninja Gaiden remaster (which will arrive in multiple formats)

Episode description: Boss Key Studios audio expert Jack Menhorn joins Jeremy for an in-depth discussion of the latest new releases of retro- and retro-style game soundtracks: Mondo’s Contra III and Castlevania III, Brave Wave’s Shovel Knight, and DataDiscs’ Galaxy Force II!

MP3, 52.0 MB | 1:53:17
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This week’s music selections are… well, I kind of feel like this one kind of speaks for itself. If you’re interested in picking up any of the soundtracks from this month, the links are all above. And if you’re curious to play the games from which the music comes, you can pick up: Castlevania III and Contra III on Virtual Console, Shovel Knight on any current platform you can name, and both Galaxy Force II and Thunder Blade as excellent 3D Classics remakes on Nintendo 3DS.

Finally, thanks again to this episode’s sponsors: BarkBox, Audible, Dell, and Casper Mattresses.

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Retronauts Episode 93: Castlevania goes portable (Igavania edition)

Another week, another episode about Castlevania.

(Nah, just kidding, I’m limiting myself to one per year. But I will be resuming my Gintendo Castlevania marathon soon…)

This episode sees our favorite Castlevania fanatic (Shane Bettenhausen) return to the Retronauts flock to share the good news of portable Castlevania games. In summary, this episode touches on six games:

  • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA, 2001)
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA, 2002)
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA, 2003)
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS, 2005)
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Nintendo DS, 2006)
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (Nintendo DS, 2008)

Though honestly I could easily manage a full episode deep-dive on at least half of them.

Did you notice the depressing part of this episode? That’s right: Only one of these games fails to pass our 10-year cutoff mark for being deemed “retro.” When Bloodstained arrives next year (presumably), it’s gonna be a one-decade celebration since the last good and proper Castlevania release. Man.

These games are synonymous for me with an incredibly important period of my life. I imported Circle of the Moon and a GBA right before I moved away from the place I’d lived for more than 20 years to attempt to start a new life. I imported Harmony of Dissonance with the negligible cash I had after that attempt failed. When I picked up Aria of Sorrow, it became a much-needed ray of light in a dark time in my life, right before I landed a job in the games press. And the DS trilogy became landmark moments in my advancement in the press: Importing Dawn of Sorrow gave my wild-eyed claims that the DS wasn’t all bad some heft; Portrait of Ruin gave me a thrilling opportunity to get my hands on a game months before its release thanks to my insider connections; and Order of Ecclesia arrived at the point at which I’d been around long enough that I was happy to defer reviews of games in beloved series to other people because I’d already had my say about those franchises and didn’t want to crowd out alternate perspectives.

I love these games, and it has taken an act of will for me to power through editing and posting this episode instead of just nipping off to play through them some more.

Episode description: Castlevania superfan Shane Bettenhausen joins Bob and Jeremy to discuss the next set of vampire-slaying classics to go under the retrospective lens: The series’ six “Igavania” entries for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS.

MP3, 52.0 MB | 1:48:28
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This week’s music selections come, naturally, from the games in question. Each discussion of individual titles is accompanied by some of that’s game’s best tunes. Composers include Michiru Yamane, Yuzo Koshiro, and more.

Finally, the big change for the show this week is the addition of in-show advertisements. It’s a new experience for us, but we’re big fans of paying our bills! So a big thank-you to this episode’s sponsors: BarkBox, Audible, and Casper Mattresses.

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Retronauts Episode 90: Yeah, it’s about music again

Things have changed with the podcast of late (NOTE: The back catalog pay wall is now down, hooray), but what hasn’t changed is that we keep putting out rad stuff every Monday. Such as this third Retronauts Radio entry, which takes on a different form than the previous two episodes:

Namely, it’s a conversation between myself and Bob on only two topics. One is the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: 30th Anniversary Concert CD (that link leads to CDJapan, as it appears to have sold out on Amazon). The second is more of a music-themed Retronauts topic discussion; rather than tackling a recent music release, we’ve instead delved into the history of Nintendo’s incidental music.

The second topic was inspired by Bob’s recent Wii retrospective and all the fantastic music that appeared in the system’s channels, as well as my “Nintendo Power” Game Boy flash ROM Gintendo stream. Both reminded me just how much love and care Nintendo invests into menu and system music, which is an area most developers and publishers put very little effort into. So we go hunting through the history of Nintendo incidental music, including some exotic imports, and come up with our best findings. As with all of our music-themed episodes, I hope you enjoy it!

Episode description: Bob joins in for a slightly different episode of Retronauts Radio! We discuss the recent CD release of the 30th anniversary Zelda concert series and look at the history of incredible incidental music in Nintendo’s non-game apps.

MP3, 41.9 MB | 1:25:23
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Music in this episode comes from precisely where we say it does, basically. The Zelda CD, Game Boy Camera, Mario Paint, etc. etc. The one mystery track is the outro, which is the “Elegance” Hanafuda 3DS theme’s music. Which is rad, and whoever suggested it (sorry, I lost your name!) is also rad.

And be sure to save the artwork above to add to your download, since (once again) PC1 weirdly doesn’t retain individual episode artwork when we upload the files.

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Episode 86: Retronauts Radio for February 2017

Welcome to the second monthly Retronauts Radio! Last month’s trial episode went over quite marvelously, so it’s back for a return engagement and will become a regular feature unless there’s some sort of angry mass uprising against it.

I appreciate all the feedback that came in after the trial episode. For the most part, it really seems like everyone enjoyed the show. There were no real complaints of, “This is terrible and I hate it,” only minor suggestions for improvements that were balanced out by an equal number of people indicating their satisfaction with that particular aspect of the show as it was. As such, I’ve made only the most modest of tweaks to the format this time around.

First, I’ve tried to splice in a greater number of tracks for variety while giving each track more time to breathe. Hopefully you’ll find the balance between play time and monologue works more to your liking.

Secondly, I have made an effort to cover an equal mix of music releases that are available for pay and for free. This is not an ad or a paid sponsored podcast or anything, so I’m not obligated to cover any particular release. Instead, I hope to highlight recent retro game music releases for both collectors (in this case, the vinyl issues of Revenge of Shinobi and Castlevania II) as well as music available for free or for a modest fee (the Etrian Odyssey remixes, SEGA’s Spotify dump, and ZODIAC). My hope is that each episode will highlight something that will appeal to everyone, regardless of their tastes and budget.

Our second Retronauts Radio looks at notable retro-themed game music releases for February: Castlevania II, a Final Fantasy Tactics tribute, Revenge of Shinobi, Etrian Odyssey remixes, and a ton of SEGA jams! Art by Jon Stachewicz.

Libsyn (1:41:34, 70.8 MB) | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

Here’s the time breakdown of the episode, and where you can find the included tunes for your own enjoyment.

  • 0:00:25: Introduction
  • 0:01:40: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest [available via Mondo]
  • 0:11:22: SEGA on Spotify [freely available for streaming via Spotify]
    • 0:11:42: Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure
    • 0:12:32: Out Run
    • 0:17:39: Jet Set Radio
    • 0:19:38: Sonic Rush
    • 0:21:18: Rhythm Thief redux
  • 0:24:40: Revenge of Shinobi [available via Data Discs, $]
  • 0:34:01: Etrian Odyssey FM synth remixes [freely available via Yuzo Koshiro’s Twitter account]
  • 0:39:24: ZODIAC: Final Fantasy Remixed [available for purchase via Materia Collective or on Spotify]
  • 0:56:49: Skies of Arcadia [freely available for streaming via Spotify]
  • 1:07:05: Outro — Sonic Rush

So: I hope you enjoy this second Retronauts Radio episode. Please feel free to ping me on Twitter (or wherever) over the next couple of weeks to let me know about interesting new releases that would be relevant to next month’s episode. Thank you!

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Retronauts Episode 83: A trial run for “Retronauts Radio”

A bit of an experimental episode today as part of our incipient full-episodes-every-week initiative. I’m calling it “Retronauts Radio,” and that should give a pretty good indication of what you’re in for here. It’s all music, all the time.

Rather than take the same shape as previous music-centered episodes of Retronauts, however, this isn’t a themed “mix tape” or study of a single composer or company’s output. Instead, I’ve taken a more timely approach: A look at notable classic game music releases over the past month or so. This time around, that works out to be a mix of some recent game music LPs, some online-only remixes, and some classic game re-releases or remakes with tunes worth highlighting. I’d like to make this a monthly feature, drawing attention to notable recent soundtracks once a month or so. For logistical reasons, Retronauts hasn’t dealt much with timeliness since we moved to Kickstarter, but the shift to a weekly schedule and my full-time commitment to the project makes that kind of mindset a lot more feasible now, and this seems like a nice way to approach it. Time-sensitive, yet still timeless. Because when is great music not worth a listen?

If this goes over well, it’ll become a regular feature, a part of our standard monthly mix of episodes. (If not, well, back to the drawing board.) I can see where there’s room for some fine-tuning now that this episode is assembled. We’ve received plenty of positive feedback from early-access Patrons already; it sounds like most people would prefer longer samples of music, and it probably wouldn’t hurt for me to bring a second voice into the mix. I will definitely take those suggestions into consideration, along with any others you’d care to leave in the comments section below.

While we usually post Retronauts episodes in mono to keep file sizes down, I went ahead and made this one stereo. Hope that’s cool. I went to the trouble of ripping several hours’ worth of music from vinyl to include this episode and thought you might appreciate as much fidelity as an MP3 can offer.

It’s an all-music episode of Retronauts as Jeremy looks at recent classic game soundtrack releases of note. Includes looks at Panzer Dragoon, symphonic Final Fantasy, Castlevania: Dracula X, and more!

Libsyn (1:08:16, 99.6 MB) | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

This is where I typically give a quick mention to the music in the current episode, but since this episode is all music, let me break it down for you a little more thoroughly. I’ve also included links to online store fronts where you can procure these albums for yourself, should you so desire. We’re not getting a kickback here or anything — we just love sharing great game tunes. Enjoy!

  • 0:00 | Intro [just me talkin’]
  • 2:45 | Zuntata: Taito Sound Team | Taito Classics Vol. 1Night Striker [Ship to Shore Media]
  • 3:32 | Panzer Dragoon [Data Discs]
  • 23:55 | Final Symphony [Laced Records]
  • 42:05 | Scarlet Moon Christmas Album [Scarlet Moon Productions]
  • 48:35 | Metroid Resynthesized [Luminist]
  • 52:57 | Wild Guns Reloaded [PlayStation Network]
  • 55:13 | Castlevania Dracula X [Virtual Console]
  • 1:01:16 | Retro pick of the month: Double Dragon for NES [Virtual Console]
  • 1:07:38 | Zuntata: Taito Sound Team | Taito Classics Vol. 1Elevator Action Returns [Ship to Shore Media]

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