So you’ve decided to hate video game music. Hey, that’s not out of the ordinary. Some kid in high school made you listen to his acoustic guitar version of “Aria de Mezzo Carattere” from Final Fantasy III (and he probably pointed out that’s actually the sixth game in the Japanese chronology before he started playing). Or maybe you saw someone’s copy of “Pac Man Fever” sitting around and actually tried to listen to it (it’s like parsley – it’s just there for decoration, don’t eat it). Or worst of all, somehow you were forced to watch an a capella medley of video game tunes (words cannot express the sorrow I feel for your innocence lost).
So there’s plenty of reasons to be hatin’ on the bleepin’. And that’s okay! But at the very least, we thought we’d make you aware of some oddball ways in which musicians have reinterpreted the tunes, re-used the software, and maybe regrown several virginities in the process of nerding harder than anyone has nerded before. We salute them for these brave contributions to society, and highlight some of their finest below…
The gents of the Protomen have one goal and one goal alone, and that is to play the best underwater rock music the world has ever seen. Wait no, that’s these guys. The Protomen instead have taken the much beloved Mega Man video game plot and made it….a lot more dramatic. Named after Mega Man’s mysterious turncoat brother, the band ‘s debut Act I breezes through an impressive range of styles in their rock opera about the two brothers’ battle and redemption in their fight against Dr. Wiley: spaghetti western, speed metal, industrial, choral arrangements, blistering blues rock and yes, even some 8-bit sounds. And did we mention there’s an Act II that tells the tale of Dr. Light and Dr. Wiley? With even more genres explored with astounding competency? This is what talented people do, folks. They rub it in your faces by using it on f’ing video game rock operas.
Of the many promising artists making Chiptune music (that is music composed using the original sounds of the classic NES/Game Boy etc.) we have to give the nod to Saskrotch here. For starters, he adds in a little drum n’ bass that makes the songs get a little crunk in the motherboard. Secondly, that album artwork. And lastly, because Saskrotch, like many of his peers, is making most of this happen with only four measly sound shapes on an antiquated approximation of the old sound boards, and still killing it. Trust me – people can do far worse with it.
Of course, there’s also people who try their damndest at living normal lives and end up being video game musicians anyways. Raheem Jarbo was a teacher and studio engineer who made a nice normal rap album in 2006. While that one didn’t make much of a splash, his second attempt was released under the nom de plume Mega Ran, and explored the wonderful world of – yep – Mega Man. The album received critical praise, Capcom offered him a gig, and he didn’t wake up the next morning in his childhood bunk bed. Random occasionally takes a break from his Mega Man themes to write about undrafted Asian basketball wunderkinds. No matter what he’s writing about (like, uh, teaching language arts?), Random’s flow is a fine knock-off of Common, and his beats are a beautiful mix of classic backpacker hip-hop and chiptune bleeps.
Video Game Orchestra
You take any sampling of classically trained orchestra musicians, and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts half of them spent all of their non-music time suckling at the sweet teat of mother Nintendo. So when a Berklee student decided to assemble a classically trained superteam together to play video game songs with a full orchestra, it didn’t take long for volunteers to appear. The Boston-based group has performed around the country, with occasional guest appearances from Nobuo Uematsu and other VG composer bigwigs. The kids might be a cover band, but trust us – they’re better than Mini KISS.
There are those who earned their nerdom through hours of hunting for GTA hidden packages and Final Fantasy chocobo races (if you don’t know, it’s best not to ask). But some nerds were nerds before the first blip of a pong ball. Mark Mothersbaugh may be best known as a founding member of Devo (you know – these guys), but he’s also a fairly accomplished composer, having scored almost every one of Wes Anderson’s movies, he also has composed the soundtracks for several video games. Through his company Mutato Muzika, Mothersbaugh has made music for games like Jak and Dexter, Crash Bandicoot, The Sims 2, and even the music in the “Get a Mac” commercial that made a nation want to slap Justin Long repeatedly about the face.
Dan Morgridge is sorry, but your princess is in another article.
Dan’s nerdom was well-established back when he wrote The Right Games for the Wrong Occasion. –>