Sunday, June 23, 2013

Collins Audio Supplement Supplement 2-1: Beginnings of Home Console Audio History

Continuing to listen to the audio of the games in Collins' Game Sound to make sure I've really heard the progression of audio gaming history.  Here are the links I've been exploring recently.

Pong for the Atari.  Very primitive, but iconic, sounds....

Space Invaders for Atari.  I think I've mentioned this before on the blog, but comparing the original arcade sound against the Atari sound below shows the big contrast in the audio capabilities of the different mediums.

Tapeworm for Atari.  Here she's pointing out how bizarre the theme song is at the beginning of game play, based on the limitations of the Atari tuning.

Burger Time for Atari.  Collin's contrast here is how the two audio channels available with the TIA chip for the Atari VCS didn't allow the bass and the treble voices to sound in the same key.  Again compare the arcade version and hear the missing bass line-- the second channel is used instead for sound effects.  This game definitely doesn't have the same harmonic unity that would arise later.

Up 'N Down for Atari.  Wow.  Collins explains that the music is "changed from a bluesy F-sharp minor groove to a very unsettling version based in C minor with a flattened melodic second."  That's basically a music scholarly way of saying it sounds like shit.  This is quite possible the worst game audio I've ever heard.  The port of this music is incredibly dissonant and shows very little care for being a positive audio experience for the player.  Was there QC with this game audio?  Give a listen to the arcade version to clear this from your ears and I hope you won't ever hear the Atari version again.  I warned you:

Super Mario BrosThe Legend of Zelda, and Mike Tyson's Punch-Out for NES.  I've featured both of these on the blog before, so I'll skip posting videos on the page, but these games and their music are dear to me.  The NES audio setup with five channels, two pulse waves, one square, a noise, and a sample channel possible (but rarely used) were classic.  MTPO made use of the sampler channel for the scratchy sounding speech.  Gauntlet 2 used this feature a bit more successfully, although I'm still not able to understand what is said very easily.  Not a game I know, it's interesting to me that there's really only music at the beginning of each level.

Ultima (III) for NES.  Here's an early RPG I don't know.  Collins points out how in the battle music, all three channels of the NES sound were used to create chords.  Definitely a different compositional approach since all the voices sound in homorhythm.  Contrast this with the counterpoint in the overworld music.

Castlevania for NES.  Castlevania's battle music uses the bass voice as the melody and arpeggiation in one of the square wave voices to fill out the harmonies.  Again, I've already featured this game on the blog I'll skip posting a video about it here, but here's a link to gameplay.

Metroid is a game I never played but definitely want to.  One of my good friends in undergrad would always go on about how great the music to Metroid was.  I watched a longplay of the game about a month ago and definitely was impressed with the audio experience.  Collins includes an excerpt of this longer interview between Alexander Brandon and Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka.  If you watch a longplay of Metroid, notice that there's not really a melody until you beat the game... that's by design, of course.  Give a listen to any portion of the gameplay, and then switch over to around 50:25 to hear the contrast. I also learned from this interview that the Famicom had an additional audio channel from what the NES did, so the music sounds slightly different on that system.  Compare the end of Metroid on the Famicom with the below NES video to hear what I mean.

Manic Mansion for NES.  This is an incredible game that I was terrible at but loved.  Hope to play it again soon.  Here Collins is pointing out uses of the noise channel.  Here it is radio static and a skipping record.

Journey to Silius for NES.  Collins says that this is an "example of samples taking on the role of bass, such as in Journey to Silius (in which the triangle channel is used like Linn drum toms.)"  I don't know this game well at all, but below is some gameplay and here's a link to the soundtrack.

Contra for NES.  Uses sample channel as percussion.  I've featured this game before, so I'm going to leave it at that with a link to gameplay if you want.

Crystalis for NES.  This also uses the sample channel as percussion.  This isn't a game I know at all, so I'll have to give it a more thorough listen soon.  For now, here's a link to the soundtrack and some gameplay below.

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