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!
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’s 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.
Good menu music sets the stage for a game, and Jazz Jackrabbit pulls this off nicely. It’s got a big, in-your-face feel. It’s also one of the more complex tracks in the game, which is a shame because you’re really only there for a few seconds while you load up your last save.
This is the World 1-1 or Green Hill Zone of Jazz Jackrabbit. That all-important first level that invites you in with bright colors and peppy music. I really like the rhythm section on this one (is that supposed to be rototom?) and the dueling melodies.
My personal favorite music in the game. It’s got a groovy bass line, and some really cool harmonies. Plus the level it was in featured a shameless ripoff of those pneumatic tube things from Chemical Plant in Sonic 2, along with running around inside what I believe was supposed to be a giant computer filled with lasers.
Don’t listen to opponents of DLC who try to tell you that oldschool games were always sold complete. Back in the day, computer stores sold disks full of shareware games (or you could wait hours to download them for free over dialup) that had a few levels with in-game ads to let you know you weren’t getting the full experience. The only difference was that, instead of paying $2.50 for horse armor, you had to mail a check away to some P.O. box and wait weeks for shipping and processing to get a floppy mailed to you with the rest of the game.
The two levels above were among those included in the shareware version of the game, which I played to death until my parents finally bought me Jazz Jackrabbit CD (that’s right, we had a fancy computer with a CD-ROM drive and built-in 56k modem), which came with all of the episodes, which seemed like an endless amount of content at the time. Jungrock is a happy-go-lucky little tune with a nice bass line that is found in one of those levels.
This level’s music was a nice break from all of the danciness (is that a word? Well, it is now) of most of the soundtrack, offering a nice flute-like sound. I love the way the way it kind of echoes and harmonizes with itself. It also has a nice use of panning. I just wish it looped better.
I thought this was an interesting, unique track. It’s got a strong disco feel to it, with a weird lead synth that almost sounds like vocals. I especially like the bridge section at 1:47.
Man, if this isn’t the most 90s synthpop thing you’ve heard all day, I want to listen to your playlist. It’s got a nice hip-hop beat, a cool trance synth, random laser sound effects, and, to top it all off, a synth voice saying “J-J-JACKRABBIT,” which no doubt pushed the limits of what my Soundblaster card could manage.
In another page ripped straight from Sonic’s playbook, Jazz also featured a bonus level that involved running around in a 3D environment trying to collect all of the shiny things. I don’t think it got you a whole lot (just an extra life I think?) but it was fun, and you got to listen to this cool track while playing it.
This track has always made me think of a racing game. I guess that’s what they were going for, since you spend most of your time going so fast that you crash into walls and waste all of your time (which is exactly how I play racing games).
There weren’t a ton of bosses in this game, but when you loaded into a boss level, you knew you would be going up against the evil, princess-kidnapping turtle, (because apparently these writers had zero creativity) Devon Shell, because this bass-heavy hard rock track started playing.
I hope you enjoyed some of the tracks here! It was hard to pick only a few, because I love this whole soundtrack. It just feels so unified, without sounding all the same. I actually ended up with more than I meant to. One of these days I’ll have to write up the sequel, Jazz Jackrabbit 2, whose gameplay was better but whose soundtrack was, in my opinion, not as good.
Where to buy
I bought the soundtracks to Jazz 1 and 2 legit from somewhere, but I can’t find them. I think it might have only been in some kind of time-limited bundle? Lame.
Oddly enough, the soundtrack to the unreleased Jazz Jackrabbit 3(D), composed by the same guy as Jazz 2, is available for purchase, so if you want to support it, you can do so here: https://www.amazon.com/Jazz-Jackrabbit-3-Alexander-Brandon/dp/B00P10KTZA/