I contribute music articles to a fairly insignificant WordPress blog out there, typically writing reviews of new metal releases. 2012 has been kind of a dull year so far though. I was thinking of switching gears for a little while and writing up some articles on video game music. My aim will be to cover my favorite albums, whether they were influential or not, as well as some of the more historically significant releases. I intend to do it chronologically.
My opinions are heavily swayed by my experiences. One cannot listen to everything, and the majority of my musical knowledge is roughly boxed in by the launch of the SNES and the fading days of the PSX. I wish to start before that, and extend beyond it. [Hidden link. Register to see links.] thread provides a wealth of information, but it is perhaps a bit too inclusive for my intentions here, and anyway breaks down by system, where I would rather break down by year.
Let's take this in stages, starting with everything before 1985. What are your thoughts on vgm precursors to the Nintendo Entertainment System?
Here's what I've got, using mostly Wikipedia and Youtube:
[Hidden link. Register to see links.] (Taito, 1978) -- The first game to incorporate a continuous soundtrack, consisting of four notes repeated at various tempos to reflect the intensity of the game.
[Hidden link. Register to see links.] (Namco, 1980) -- The first game with background music. To the best of my knowledge it uses roughly the same technology as Space Invaders.
[Hidden link. Register to see links.] (Sega, 1980) -- Beginning in 1980, new technology allowed for developers to utilize many more sound channels, resulting in much less muddled background music. Carnival was the first game to apply this.
[Hidden link. Register to see links.] (Konami, 1981) -- It might come as a surprise that Frogger, for all its simplicity, featured one of the most diverse soundtracks of its time, with at least eleven unique tracks. Most games continued to stick to the single-song trend, if they employed any background music at all.
None of these, even Frogger, amount to an enjoyable listening experience. Silly songs for a silly game I suppose; Frogger's soundtrack is at least not obnoxious like Rally-X or Carnival. But it didn't take Koji Kondo to break the mold. The massive mire of the early 80s gaming market, often characterized by a mad rush to the production line with little to no quality control, had its good side too. It was during this time--in that short boom and bust of a gaming generation--that the first truly exceptional video game compositions appeared. [Hidden link. Register to see links.], released in 1982, might be the first case of music being a game's strongest feature. The player feels compelled to keep moving, driven by a sense of urgency and adventure that would be completely absent otherwise. The sound effects make an effort to acknowledge the music's dominance, seldom clashing and, with the hero's footsteps on the rock-dodging stage, even roughly synching up to add another layer of depth to the music. And Taito's accomplishments with Jungle King seem entirely insignificant when compared to Konami's 1983 musical masterpiece [Hidden link. Register to see links.]. Here, every sound effect and visual cue is perfectly attuned to the background music to a degree seldom captured even in modern games.
Super Mario Bros. revolutionized video game music, but it did not invent it.
What am I missing? What did I get wrong? And looking towards the future, what games do you feel most readily and successfully capitalized on Super Mario Bros. musical success? What persisted in spite of it? Arcade games did not simply cease to exist. And how extensive was Comodore 64 music and similar platforms at this time? Tell me what I should add to my pre-1985 synopsis, and then give me your thoughts on music in the early years of the Nintendo, from 1985 until the release of the Genesis in 1988.