Adrian presents… acoustic guitar VGM covers

It’s been an extremely rocky past year and change. Even with life gradually inching its way back to normality, I still have lots of downtime for worries and fears to surface. So, I was looking to find something distracting and productive, and this is what I’ve landed on. Recording covers of videogame music fills this need – it’s an excuse to break out my guitar after many moons of it hibernating in its case, and a nice gentle way to ease back into playing, since during the recording process I get to correct my many mistakes. It’s also been a real learning experience on the editing side of things. Most of my audio experience comes from recording and editing the podcasts on this here Very Very Website, but music is not something I’ve spent any great time with.

Most of all, I love the music. Even when using crummy samples, old FM synths and generally dated tech, great videogame music still sounds great to my ears and I listen to it all the time. I don’t claim to be able to fully replicate, let alone improve on the beauty of the original tunes, but I hope my interpretations are at least interesting to listen to.

Without further ado, I’m excited to share the songs here. I’ve done six so far.

I’ve put them in a playlist from the most recently recorded to the earliest recorded. I’ll keep adding to this playlist over time, but as of today the playlist contains:

  1. Frontier Village ~ Dali from Final Fantasy IX
  2. Overworld from Super Mario Land (plus the game over music from Super Mario Bros at the end)
  3. Call at a Port from Terranigma
  4. Castle Damcyan from Final Fantasy IV
  5. Boundless Ocean from Final Fantasy III
  6. Places of Soul from Legend of Mana

I haven’t uploaded it, but to get started I did a test run, a recording of one of my fave VGM pieces, Crysta from Terranigma. It’s a lovely song but there was a lot of background noise and I wasn’t happy with how it turned out in the end. Even so, it proved really addictive to work on, so here we are now.

For anyone wondering how I do each of these, it turns out there is a fantastic community and repository of guitar music over at gametabs.net, highly recommend it. They’ve done the heavy lifting for me in terms of transcribing these songs and thousands more. It’s thanks to this site that recording each of these tunes only takes a few hours rather than several days!

I hope you’ll enjoy listening! The songs I’ve covered so far all have a relaxed feel, and I plan to keep that going forward. This is the kind of music I put on in the background while working or studying. You can find my YouTube channel here – if you like what I’ve done so far, you may like to subscribe to keep up with any new recordings.

An action lover’s dream duo: Touhou Luna Nights and Crimzon Clover World Explosion (Switch)

These two indie games are so up my street it’s ridiculous, it’s like they were both tailor-made for me and that is a rare feeling indeed. Touhou Luna Nights is like Castlevania Symphony of the Night had a baby with Metal Slug. With the added bonus of time manipulation. Crimzon Clover World Explosion is a terribly named but extremely well done modern shmup. (Apparently weird names are mandatory for modern shmups.)

Let’s discuss Touhou Luna Nights first. A Metroidvania with time control; honestly it’s one of those great ideas that makes me say, “wow, I can’t believe no one did this before”. I say that, and actually there is another recent indie game called Timespinner that, as implied by the name, does in fact mess around with time. Even so, it’s such a strong idea you wonder why it’s not been done before in mainstream games. Continue reading

Games as escapism during tough times

We are living in troubling times. Here in the UK we are in our third national lockdown to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, and, with no firm end-date, who knows how long it will last. It’s both a trying and tiring situation, although there are silver linings with the vaccine rollout. Bingeing on all manner of media entertainment and struggling to muster the will to regularly exercise are my two main symptoms of lockdown limbo. And I know I’m not the only one. “Normality” seems a long way away, and with the chilly winter in full flow, quality escapism provides some small relief.

This post is about comfort gaming with a good old fashioned 2D game. Continue reading

Contra: Hard Corps is a hidden ura-Treasure gem

Contra: Hard Corps looks and feels exactly like a Treasure game, before Treasure was born. A great solo or two player co-operative experience, hyperquick pace, relentless action, boss fights galore, kaleidoscopic visuals, wacky and inventive designs – these are the hallmarks of Treasure game design. These qualities shine so brightly in Treasure games like Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier, and it turns out these are all are present in the Megadrive/Genesis’s sole entry in the Contra series, Contra: Hard Corps. Continue reading

When Akon worked on Sonic the Hedgehog

I just had to share this fun bit of Sonic trivia that gave me a good laugh today. (And you know it’s going to be good because Sonic the Hedgehog is involved. Sonic’s involvement is a must for trivia to be considered good in my book.)

This story begins with Sonic 1 and 2 for the Megadrive/Genesis. We’ll get to Akon later, rest assured. Now, the music for the first two Sonic games was written by Masato Nakamura. Nakamura was the lead composer for a popular J-pop band called Dreams Come True. I’d vaguely heard of Dreams Come True but hadn’t ever listened to them until recently. I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the early Sonics have easily some of the most iconic videogame music there is, that Dreams Come True look to be a really good band. I know basically nothing about J-pop but this group makes me want to know more about J-pop. They sound a bit like classic Michael Jackson but with a great female vocalist.

Here they are performing live in 2014. Look out for Nakamura on bass!

Around the time of Sonic 2’s release in 1992, it seems Nakamura decided to use a melody from Sonic 2 as the basis for a Dreams Come True song. The melody he used shows up in Sonic 2 in a few different places: it’s most developed form is in the ending music, but there’s a short form of it used in the options menu. Here’s the ending, which has the fullest version.

Personally I always liked this tune but have to admit it never jumped out to me as having potential to be a pop hit. Well that’s why I’m not a superstar music producer, clearly…

Is it cheesy? Sure, a bit. But all things considered, this is a cracking arrangement and performance. I find the English vocals by Miwa Yoshida especially impressive – she sounds completely comfortable and natural singing in English despite (presumably) not being a native speaker.

This would be a nice story on its own, but unfortunately I have promised Akon content, so here goes. More than 10 years after Sonic 2 and Sweet Dream (also known as Sweet Sweet Sweet), the game commonly referred to as Sonic ’06 saw a number of bands and acts hired to record songs for the soundtrack. The results are both amusing and cringeworthy, like with one of the game’s main themes performed by Zebrahead:

Zebrahead remind us here in the chorus, lest we ever forget: in Sonic’s world, life is an open book and compromise does not exist. Sega knew that, which is why they hired then-superstar Akon to remix Sweet Dream by Dreams Come True for Sonic ’06! 

In this one remix everything comes full circle. The scales have fallen from my eyes and life suddenly seems somehow complete.

14 years after Masato Nakamura walked away from the Sonic series, he returned (in a fashion) for this oddity of a game. To recap: a song from Sonic 2 was arranged and performed by a Japanese band. Akon covered the band’s song and contributed those ridiculous autotuned vocals that made him a household name in the mid 00s. Sega then put the end result in Sonic ’06 and a trivia is born.