Saturday, June 27, 2009

8-bit Music

Not too long ago I wrote about how fans of video games were remixing old game tunes. Today I'm here to talk about a different animal. There is a talented culture of composers who have chosen old-school game system sound as their instrument of choice. The style is called 8-bit and sounds like NES music on speed. These artists have truly pushed 8-bit sound technology to the limit and cranked it up to 11.

Some of these composers use original Gameboy systems to compose and perform their synth-symphonies. The types of music can range from lovely melodies to thumping hardcore electronica but all summon deep feelings of nostalgia as the music is powered by the bleeps and bloops of gaming music past. Some artists include vocal sections, traditional instruments or both as well as the retro sounds.

Personally I find 8-bit music incredibly fun to listen to. To check it out yourself, head over to LAST.FM and look up artists like Bit Shifter, YMCK or 8 bit to name a few. Its cool stuff.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Death of an age

For ages there was one constant in gaming: Nintendo's hand-held systems were backwards compatible.  The Gameboys were always able to play the games that went all the way back to their roots.  

The original Gameboy was like some sort of gaming demigod.  It was, and as far as I know still is, the single most successful hand-held game system ever made.  With it's green and black screen, huge size and 8-bit processor it dominated the market of hand-held gaming.  The basic Gameboy evolved over the ages.  We saw the Gameboy, Play it Loud Gameboy, Gameboy Pocket, Gameboy Lite and Gameboy color.

When the Gameboy Advance came out, it was a quantum leap.  Jumping from 8-bit to 16-bit meant the games could now be equivalent to Super Nintendo games in graphical prowess.  The cartridges for the Gameboy Advance were shorter than the original Gameboy's cartridges but had the same shape at the connector end.  Because of this, the old cartridges could fit in the same slot.  Nintendo included the original Gameboy's processor aswell as the new 16-bit processor so that the player could enjoy the entire library of original Gameboy games on the new system.

The Next step in the Gameboy's evolutionary cycle was the Gameboy Advance SP.  The SP featured a much slimmer size and a clam-shell design.  It also featured a much needed improvement to the Advance's backlight.  The SP was, by most players opinion, the ultimate iteration of the Gameboy.  The pinnacle.  It was the best of all worlds.  It could play the old games, it was small enough to fit in your pocket without being conspicuous, it could play the new games and it had a well lit color screen of ample size.  Truly a masterpiece of hand-held gaming design...and the last of its kind.

The next Nintendo hand-held was called the Nintendo DS.  (note: its not called a Gameboy)  The DS boasted 32-bit processing and dual screens, one of which was a touch screen.  It did have a port for Advance games was would not play original or color Gameboy games.  This was the first step in the Gameboy's death.  The next system to carry the Gameboy name was the Gameboy Advance Micro.  It was designed to appeal to the hip crowd and looked like a candy bar cell phone.  It was indeed "Micro" and looked like a smaller version of an original NES controller but with a screen in the middle.  It was only able to play Advance games though.  

The Gameboy SP was the last of an age.  For a retro gamer like myself it was a sad day when I realized that I could no longer buy a "new" system to play my old games on the go.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mushroom Madness

I came upon a really amazing site one day that sparked retro joy in my retro heart.  Its called MUSHROOM-KINGDOM.COM and its got some rather cool features.  The coolest part of this site is its "Mushdraw" tool that lets you create custom Mario mushrooms.  Its got some R-B-G sliders for different aspects of the mushroom so you can make any crazy combination of colors you want.

Once you make your mush-masterpiece it gets saved in the Mush-bank where other people can view it and vote on it. 

You'll be amazed how much time you can lose playing with this.  It's actually extremely addictive.  And as an added bonus, you can click on the music box and turn on Mush-radio while you play.  Mush-radio is a little music player that has a collection of Mario tunes.

All in all its a nifty little site.  Check it out!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Music by Geeks for Geeks!

One of the great things about video games is the music.  With older games, the composers were forced to be extremely creative so that their music was catchy and enjoyable yet simple enough to fit on a cartrage and be played by the systems limited hardware.  To this day, just a few notes of the original Super Mario Bros theme causes all sorts of nostalgic emotions to well up in me.

It would seem that I am not the only one afflicted by this geeky love of video game themes of yesteryear.  In case your not in "the know", there is a massive community of game music lovers who produce remixes of their favorite old game tunes and put them online for all to enjoy.  Perhaps the largest and most well known haven for such geek maestros is OCREMIX.ORG.  I've been perusing this treasure trove of tune-age for many years now and I'm not ashamed to admit that VG remixes have become my favorite kind of music.

There are literally HUNDREDS of songs from HUNDREDS of games at OCREMIX.  If you have trouble deciding what to listen to, you could always head over to RAINWAVE.CC.  Its the streaming web radio sister site to OCREMIX.  You can just turn it on, sit back and enjoy the ultra geekness of pure VG music love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Hey there!  My name is Ev.  I'm not old enough to remember using punch cards on a computer but I am old enough to remember a time before there was such a thing as a cd-rom.  I lived through (and remember) the 80's and can clearly remember a time when my favorite game was Joust for the Atari 2600.  There was a time when computer and gaming technology was considered a fringe hobby and were not the multi-billion dollar industries they are today.  I remember these times and feel that it gives me a very different view on the industries than todays young tech-savvy noobs.

Here on my blog I'm going to talk about both of these industries and give you the perspective of a gamer who feels a little forgotten by todays ultra hip, turbo charged tech industry.

Hope to see you around!