Sunday, August 9, 2009

Music Review: Jesse Bishop - Blaster Master (MP3)

As I've mentioned on this thing before, I was (and still am) a Nintendo freak. Back in the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System, my dad would rent games for me, and I would get right to work on beating them. The number of games I've finished for the NES (and later, the Super NES) numbered in the hundreds. So I've pretty much played (and heard) most everything the console had to offer. After a while, a lot of these games get all mixed together in my memory, and I couldn't tell you Shatterhand from Power Blade from Journey to Silius. I remember enjoying those games, but I couldn't tell you anything about them.

Blaster Master was one of those games that stood out from the pack. It was fun to play, it was challenging but not enragingly difficult, and the graphics and sound were very well done. Even after the NES gave way to the 16-bit era, I revisited this game every so often, and I always enjoyed doing so.

One thing that began to stand out to me was the game's music. The theme behind Area 1 was a driving, catchy number that set an excellent tone for the game's Exciting Adventure. Area 4 had a creepy, reptilian theme that fit its sewer setting. Area 5 was the obligatory "underwater level," and had a lovely flowing soundtrack. Area 7, the "fire level," had a rocking, up-tempo theme.

I'd been waiting for almost a decade now for someone to give this soundtrack the treatment it deserves, but the closet I've came was 1/4 of one track from the Minibosses. They did a good job with the Sewer theme, but it left me wanting MOAR. The out of the blue, on the Minibosses message board, Concatenation Records announced the release of Jesse Bishop's rocked-up interpretation of the entire soundtrack. I previewed some tracks and ended up shelling out $5 for it, and I'm glad I did!

For the most part, Bishop has done an excellent job fleshing out the original soundtrack's tunes and giving them a modern sound. Most of the melodies and basslines are played on thick, edgy analog (or analog-sounding) synthesizers. Some tracks have an electronic beat behind them, giving a discotheque feel, but most have a drum kit propelling the music forward with a rock beat. Both approaches work quite well. The synthesized sounds of Area 6 make me want to groove, the thrash of Area 7 makes me want to bang my head, and the boss music appropriately stresses me out. It feels very consistent throughout, and probably more importantly, it vividly brings each portion of the game to life.

The exception (in my opinion) is the Area 5 (underwater) theme, which has been inexplicably turned into a hoedown. It's well done, but it's a marked deviation from the rest of the collection. I can probably get used to it, but ... Yeah. I guess I just don't get it.

But overall, I really like this. Just like the game that inspired this project, I'm sure will be revisiting this music regularly for quite some time.

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