Friday, November 17, 2017

Ep. 90: Bring Your Own Goggles

Have you ever wondered if AI is being too nice to you? It could be that they're just trying to give you a satisfying gaming experience. On this week episode, Josh and Emily hope to be the purveyors of another satisfying listening experience as we move through some great recommendations from the sugar crystal tip to another excellent VGM Karaoke. Also featured on this week's episode, Josh and Emily talk about cyclops snuffleupagus, real time strategy games with fighting controls, fighting games designed to teach you to type, and a bunch of other totally, awesomely regular stuff.

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This episode was made possible by:
Game Track Title Composer(s)
Space Harrier II Harrier Saga Tokuhiko Uwabo
Herzog Zwei Sleight of Hand Naosuke Arai, Tomomi Ōtani
Kentucky Route Zero Too Late to Love You Ben Babbitt
Alpine Racer Give It Together Takayuki Ishikawa
Final Fantasy Tactics Painful Battle Hitoshi Sakimoto, Ayako Saso, Kaori Ohkoshi, Nobuo Uematsu
A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol Area 4 Jun Enoki

...and listeners like YOU.


  1. Just a correction - Final Fantasy Tactics is the name of the PS1 game. The title on GBA is called Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

    1. Yep!

      Painful Battle is actually from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
      That track in particular was actually composed by Ayako Saso.


  2. The first three tracks on this episode slipped me into a nostalgic, meditative place of love and longing.

    I agree with both Josh and Cam regarding Space Harrier II. You can't beat the music of the original, but Tokuhiko "Bo" Uwabo is in rare form here. The whole thing reminds me so much of his Phantasy Star II compositions, which have a similar pattern that follows the typical verse-chorus-verse VGM mold, and then smashes in with an unexpected C part, which changes the whole tempo and feel of the track.

    Emily, you were mostly right about Herzog Zwei: I was a guest on Pixelated Audio, not Pixeltunes(episode 60). And yes, HZ is at the very core of my VGM soul(along with a few others). I wrote an email to Bryan and James, making a case for featuring HZ on an episode. They responded by saying that not only were they going to play it, but they wanted me to be on the show. And then they secretly asked Tomomi Otani on, and interviewed him via Skype as we recorded. ! ! !

    The track is beautiful....PA verified it as being composed by Naosuke Arai. I also played this one back in the day with my friend. We'd spend hours playing; our favorite thing to do was to hold off all attacks until we each built a massive defense and offence(the game let you max out at 50 units each), and then send them all into battle and see what happened. Ahhh, nazukashii......

    To Late to Love You is hauntingly beautiful. The singer is a dude, which was only partly surprising. It's not so much M83, which is unironically hopeful. It's a lot closer to mid-90's shoegazing music, which is more wistful and aching. There's a real sense of loss here. It's a direction in which M83(as much as I love them) doesn't travel. In any case, that song dug right down and unearthed those buried high school memories of self-loathing and feeling lost and utterly alone. How I miss those days.

  3. Oh, and HZ did not use the mouse, but it was built from the ground up to be used with a controller. I never felt it cumbersome.

  4. Mmmm... so many tasty sugar crystals this episode. The first Space Harrier is also strongly associated in my mind with the Sega Master System. I think it even used those cool 3D glasses. When you guys were talking about pack-in games, I thought Josh was confusing the Genesis with the Game Gear, which definitely came with Columns. However, there was a 6-pack cartridge that came with a later version of the Genesis that included Columns as one of those 6 games.

    Herzog Zwei is also a favorite. LMH taught me that Zwei is German for 2, and then I realized that a Pink Floyd tune has someone shouting "Ein Zwei Drei Vier!" (1,2,3,4) and now I always read Herzog Zwei in that voice. It also makes me think of filmmaker Werner Herzog. I haven't played the game to know what it is like, but all of these associations make me wonder if it could ever match my psychedelic imagination.

    I was going to say something about the Kentucky Route Zero song, but Emily's description of a female Thom Yorke singing over M83 is so perfectly apt, I can't think of anything else to say now.

    Thanks for reminding me of Alpine Racer! I used to really enjoy playing this game in the Union building between classes when I was in undergrad. Good times! Mine didn't have a fan, but that reminded me of an arcade game called Irritating Maze. You had to use a rollerball controller to guide a marble through an electrified maze. If you bumped into a wall, the game would make a horrible noise, shoot a puff of stale air in your face, flash strobe lights at you, and deliver a mild electrical shock. It was hilarious.

    And last, but certainly not least, another great VGM karaoke from Animite! I literally laughed out loud at "Brad, did you forget that I'm a ninja? and now I'm comin' to getchya!", and it was a hearty laugh. I agree with Key on the story-arch abilities. It's great how you manage to not only cleverly rhyme everything (nemesis/Genesis), but capture the feeling of the music passages in the lyrics, and follow a narrative over the song. Plus it was funny, and I just happen to be irritated with a guy named Brad right now, so this song was serendipitously well timed for me.

  5. "Yeah, you stand up and you ski!"

    I'm ecstatic that I got a track on the show again after a while! I'm glad that Alpine Racer track got picked, because I've been listening to that song a lot lately, especially since winter is fast approaching!

    I don't think Alpine Racer had a fan in it's cabinet. Midway's Arctic Thunder definitely did have that!

    Regarding Street Fighter II on Master System: There's an interesting interview from Tectoy Chairman Stefano Arnhold about mainly about their success with Sega products in Brazil and there's an anecdote about gaining the SFII license:

    "To approve Street Fighter II with Capcom, we hid the Master System console and handed Capcom’s manager a Mega Drive controller. His first comment was that it was a nice game but quite simple for a 16-bit release. Then we unveiled the 8-bit console. He smiled and approved the development of the game."

    That interview can be found here: http://www.sega-16.com/2015/11/interview-stefano-arnhold-tectoy/

    I really should get a copy of Space Harrier II for Genesis someday. I own the Sega Ages compilation on Saturn which had the original Space Harrier and it's a flawless conversion on there!

    Anyway, great episode guys!


  6. Josh, that game you were thinking of with the helicopter and balloons, you were probably thinking of Namco's Prop Cycle (which uses the same hardware as Alpine Racer in fact!)
    Gameplay video:


  7. The soundtrack of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has been slowly growing on me for more than a decade. But perhaps I will save that story...

    ...and comment instead on that Game Boy Bass. As far as I know, the GBA’s retro channels sound identical to the originals (though if any patrons know differently, I would love to hear about it). However, there is something unusual going on in that soundtrack: whenever the ‘bass channel’ hits a note, one of the Game Boy melody (i.e. square wave) channels also hits a note, but does so more softly. And it is done in such a way that the result doesn’t sound like a chord as much as it sounds like one note with a slightly changed timbre.

    It is a very subtle effect -- I find it difficult to hear the difference even knowing that it is there and after muting all the samples; it is most noticeable in the sustain. There could be other unique finesses present, but my point is: good ears, Keyglyph!

    1. The Game Boy Advance uses two 8-bit digital to analog converters for samples and streaming audio in addition to the legacy GB sound channels, making for an interesting combination of samples and pulse wave generators. It reminds me of how the Sega Genesis uses the Master System's SN76489 PSG in tandem with the YM2612 FM chip as a way to give it a fuller, richer sound!


  8. WHAT THE HECK. I hadn’t paid much attention to GBA tracks until recently, because the excessive static didn’t grab me. But I have been getting more and more into GBA tracks, especially with this VGMJB re-listen.

    I just don’t understand what’s going on here with this Painful Battle track. Josh is right, not only does that track sound beyond the SNES, but it’s way up there in PlayStation audio territory! I have not heard sample quality anywhere near this on any other GBA track. I’ll definitely have to check this OST out.

    1. I agree that the sound quality is incredible and though I cannot explain why, here are two factors that may be at work:

      1. The GBA has no dedicated sound chip for mixing samples unlike the SNES or PlayStation. That task is handled instead by the CPU which has to divide its attention among every part of the game. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is turn based and isometric so it may be relatively undemanding on the CPU and leave it more free to mix music.

      2. Hitoshi Sakimoto, composer and sound programmer, is a wonderful genius.

      ...still growing on me.