In case you missed it, and I don’t know how that could happen since I’ve been talking about it all damn week, I was recently a guest on Retronauts, the best damn retro gaming podcast on Earth. Now, I don’t want to make it like they called me out to be a co-host because of my awesome knowledge on video games, truth be told, I got to co-host because I donated a lot of money to their Kickstarter. However, I think I held my own pretty well on the podcast, and most comments I’ve read about the episode seem to be of the “that guy was surprisingly decent” variety (and one asshole talking smack about my speech problem. Fuck that dude). So check out the episode if you haven’t already, and leave a nice comment if you feel so inclined!
And once you do that, check out this sick video game music!
When I went to Japan earlier this year, I was on a quest to pick up as many video game soundtracks as possible, preferably on vinyl. However, that task proved harder than I thought it would be.
Turns out that game music on vinyl is pretty damn rare, even in Japan. I went to countless game, music and other collectible stores throughout Tokyo and came up nearly empty-handed in every single one. While I was able to pick up some soundtracks on CD in stores like Disk Union and Tower Records, no one seemed to have any game music releases on vinyl. It was only near the tail end of my trip that I was able to find two game soundtracks on LP, and this was one of them.
Angelus was a game released by Square Enix in 1988, but don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it; the game was only released in Japan, and only for systems that never came out in the states, such as the PC88 and the MSX2. And unless you can read Japanese, don’t bother tracking down an emulated version, as it’s a text-heavy adventure game/visual novel. I know very little about it. In fact, when I bought it, I didn’t even think it was a game soundtrack. I thought the clerk had misheard what I asked for and that he was actually giving me an anime soundtrack, but it was so cheap (and weird looking) that I bought it anyway.
And it was a good thing I did! Because it’s a pretty great soundtrack. In fact, the music is by Koichi Sugiyama, the critically-acclaimed composer who also did the music for the Dragon’s Quest series. From what I’ve read about the game (mostly from this site), it’s about some occult conspiracy/devil worship that causes random people to become hideously deformed, and that dark subject matter really shows in the soundtrack. It has a real menacing vibe to it, like an 8-bit Omen soundtrack. It terms of game music, it’s nothing revolutionary or a lost classic, but it’s certainly worth a listen and pretty unique. It’s also probably one of the few times that a PC88 game’s soundtrack has been made available, making it a rare chance to listen to what that system’s sound chip was capable of.
In addition to the original game audio, the Angelus soundtrack also features an arranged version made using the Fairlight synthesizer. In case you aren’t aware, the Fairlight was the go to synthesizer in the 1980s, and was so ingrained with pop music in the decade that it actually changed the way music sounded for a good number of years. That awesome synth-riff in a-ha’s “Take On Me?” That’s the Fairlight. Same with awesome end noise in the “Miami Vice Theme.” Duran Duran, the Pet Shop Boys, Prince, The Cars and countless other acts from the decade also used the synthesizer on some of their biggest hits. Seriously, it helped to define the decade. Well, that and hairspray.
While I do enjoy the Fairlight version, I actually prefer the original game audio. While the two versions sound very similar, I think Sugiyama was trying too much to add “depth” or layers to the Fairlight version. It has a lot of echo, and a few tracks even have some tacked on beats. The original version, on the other hand, is very sparse and minimal, which I think adds to its creepiness. Also, since the sound of the Fairlight is so ingrained with the 1980s, whenever I hear instrumental music composed entirely on it, I picture bad late-night cable movies. But that’s my own baggage.
I hope you all enjoy it, and to all my new readers, I hope you stick around. I post a lot of random stuff here, so if you ever see one post and just hate everything about it, just wait a week, I’ll have something entirely different.
Except for my next post, that’ll probably be more Sugiyama. Although I don’t think most people will complain when they see what I’ll be posting.
A quick technical note about this recording: This is a vinyl rip, which I did using the best equipment I had at the time. However, it is a very quiet record, so you may hear some hiss/surface noise. It’s not that bad, but I found it to be worth pointing out.