Game Music Revue: Famicom Music

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Famicom Music 

  • Credited Composer: Nintendo Sound Team (Koji Kondo, Hirokazu Tanaka, Yukio Kaneoka, Akito Nakatsuka)
  • Released May 25, 1986
  • Label: G.M.O./Alfa Records
  • VGMdb Information Page

This was the first compilation release that G.M.O records put out after the original Video Game Music, and way to start the show with the showstopper guys.

This is a collection of Nintendo music from 1986, so this is obviously a collection of some of the most influential and important video game music of all time.  The album opens with all the music from Super Mario Bros. and closes with the audio from the original Legend Of Zelda. I mean c’mon, you can’t get much more classic than that.

But in between there’s some good stuff too. All the original music and audio from Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong, Wrecking Crew, Donkey Kong Jr., Excite Bike and the original Mario Bros. is present and accounted for (as well as all the original NES sports game in one medley track). Although, to be honest, some of it is presented in a way that isn’t entirely appealing to the ears. Most of them are just straight rips of gameplay audio. This means that instead of the music you get the music mixed in with random other noises from the game.

In the case of Super Mario Bros. and Wrecking Crew, it actually works out fine. The sound effects aren’t all that annoying, and are even occasionally mixed to accompany the music in fun and unique ways. But for games like Balloon Fight, the sound effects are more grating than anything else, and actively work to take away from the music. Of course, that’s better than games like Excitebike, which pretty much didn’t have any music at all, meaning you get to listen to the sound of an 8-bit motorbike engine for about a minute and half. Thrilling. At least the audio to Zelda is 100% clean, with no gameplay noises to be found at all.

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Like many game music collections of the era, there are a pair of arrange versions on here, and they’re the real reason to hunt this sucker down. One is a radical (in all senses of the word) reworking of the Balloon Fight theme that combines a wonderfully clean faux steel drum synth effect with some down and dirty electronic beats. It also includes a mid-song breakdown of game audio effects and breakbeats. It’s pretty deep, is what I’m saying.

But the star of the show is an arranged version of the Super Mario Bros. music that I believe is 100% unique to this release. It features those same faux steel drums (which would become commonplace on Mario releases over the years) but it also features a pretty out there beat and even some random industrial sound effects thrown in for good measure. I wish the liner notes to the CD included more information about the instruments/synthesizers that were used in the recording of these arranged versions. They sound entirely bizarre and unlike any other synthesized recording I’ve ever heard. It’s incredibly impressive stuff.

This is a must own for game music buffs, so luckily enough, it’s still pretty easy to get. While the original G.M.O. release is long out of print, an identical re-release by Scion Entertainment is now available and can be found routinely on eBay and Amazon for reasonable prices. Vintage LPs and cassette tapes occasionally pop up online as well, but those can for go a bit more.

It’d be worth it though, how many people do you know who have the Mario Bros. theme song on tape?

 

 

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