Spooky Themes

It’s that time of year again! A time for all things spooky, creepy, and ghostly. A lot of great, spooky soundtracks came out of the 80s and 90s. Horror games weren’t really a thing until the late 90s–either because of lack of demand or because it’s hard to be truly scary with 8- or 16-bit graphics, or both–but there were some great tracks for Halloween nonetheless.
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Volcano Levels

Lava, like “unkillable spiky thing” and “boss with a flashing weak point,” is one of those retro video game staples that defined the era, and continues to be a major trope today. Never mind that the heat from standing on a rock floating over an active volcano would burn you to a crisp, if the toxic fumes and choking ash didn’t get to you first, lava is cool! Well, actually it’s hot; if it was cool it would be igneous rock. Anyways, volcano levels spawned some of the best game music in the 80s and 90s, and here are a few of my favorites!
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Pulseman_box_artSometimes, for a wide variety of reasons, Japanese games don’t get localized for sale stateside. Sometimes this decision makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t. Pulseman was, in my opinion, one of the latter. This Genesis title was a cool little sci-fi action platformer that gives players the role of Pulseman, a half-human-half-AI who has to save the futuristic world from an evil mad scientist (because in 1994 you were always either saving the world from evil mad scientists or evil wizard-kings; there really wasn’t a whole lot of plot variety outside of that), who also happens to be his father. It was even weirder because the voiceover (if you can call scratchy, synthesized speech coming out of a Sega Genesis “voiceover”) was all in English; the only captions were in Japanese. The only good explanation I’ve heard for this not getting localized is that the plot (explained only in the manual as far as I know) involves a scientist who creates a true AI, falls in love with her, scans his brain into a computer to be with her, and ends up conceiving a child named Pulseman who can move between the real and virtual worlds. I guess they figured this would cause too many kids to ask where human-AI hybrid babies come from and that would cause a moral panic in America, so they kept this game to themselves. But given how much game plots changed when they were westernized in that era, I feel like it could have been done. In any event, we finally got this game imported on the Wii Virtual Console, and it’s worth giving a try. And it’s definitely worth listening to the music.

Year: 1994
Platform: Genesis/Mega Drive
Composer: Junichi Masuda
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Mega Man X SNES Games

Ah, Mega Man X. Or is it MegaMan? Megaman? Well, we can all agree it’s not Mega-Man; that’s a Marvel thing. Any way you stylize it, this is a great series. Mega Man has always been known for its great music. How could a game that was originally called Rock Man in its native Japan not have great music? When Mega Man arrived on the SNES with edgier, more anime influenced X series,it was accompanied by one of the best hard rock/metal soundtracks of the era. I’ve been playing these games again in the new collection on Switch (I recently wrote about my experiences over on my other blog) and I just had to write about the SNES soundtracks!
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Jazz Jackrabbit

Welcome to the first post of Symphony On A Chip! I thought I’d set the tone for this blog (pun intended) with a somewhat obscure title from my childhood. Everyone knows Mario and Sonic music, and, while I’ll definitely cover those at some point, I hope to dig up some tunes you haven’t heard of before. Enjoy!

134301-jazz-jackrabbit-dos-front-coverJazz Jackrabbit
Year: 1994
Platform: PC
Composer: Robert A. Allen

The year was 1994, and shareware was in it’s golden age. Epic (Mega)Games was known for something other than its development kit and Fortnite. Along came this game, a shameless ripoff of Sonic the Hedgehog with a little bit of Mega Man shoehorned in. Those being two of my favorite games, of course I loved it. To take my nostalgia goggles off for a moment, the gameplay was honestly nothing special, even for the time, but the music has always stuck with me. Contrary to what you might expect from the name, there‚Äôs a surprising lack of Jazz in the game. I would describe it more as Drum and Bass, with a little rock and disco thrown in there.
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Hello, World.

Welcome to Symphony On A Chip! An all-new blog about retro video game music. I’m ChaosConstant, and I’ve been blogging about MMORPGs and other games for years over at OccasionalHero.com, but I’ve always enjoyed game music, especially that of the 80s and 90s. There’s something about the limitations of the hardware of that era that made some of the music very special. It’s not unlike how many people prefer Twitter over other social media platforms specifically because of the character limited posts.

I’m starting this blog as a part of Blaugust 2018, an initiative to encourage new or lapsed gaming bloggers to write more in the month of August. I’m not exactly what Blaugust was intended for–most bloggers are writing about experiences playing games, not about listening to their music–but I’ve been toying with the idea of this blog for a while now, and Blaugust was just the excuse to finally start it. You can read more about Blaugust here.

Everything here is very much a work in progress, and I’m figuring things out as I go. Should I say more about each track? Or did you get bored half way through my ramblings and just listen to the tracks? Please, I would love to hear any feedback, comments, and suggestions!

You can find me on Twitter at @ChaosConstant or email me at ChaosConstantBlog@gmail.com.

For a little more information, check out the FAQ section!