Monday, May 25, 2015

The [proposed] new week on Nerd Noise Radio

On our Twitter feed we have for the past month or so had a week that looked like this:


Mon-Thu: No theme, just share tracks. Anything goes so long as a) no soundtracks, b) no reusing tracks featured in the last six months, and c) no FACE-OFFs.

Fri: Replay Friday - self explanatory, right? Anything can be refeatured - tracks or soundtracks, only nothing new.

Sat: Soundtrack Saturday - also self explanatory. Only soundtracks.

Sun: Theme Sunday - once again, intensely self-explanatory. Every post has to fit some topic. Could be genre of game the music comes from, could be series of game, could be system, could be composer, or could be something geeky, like yesterday's Theme Sunday, which featured only tracks that use prominent FM. Also, FACE OFFs could be a theme, like weeks before yesterday's "PC Engine vs the World"


That's the week as it stands.

But not only in the name of having tighter themes, but also to satisfy my burning urge for good alliteration, here is what I'm planning to change our week to:


"Mishmash Monday" - This is the old no theme M-Th, exactly like the old M-Th.

"Tech Tuesday" - Some geeky, tech related theme.

"Wayback Wednesday" - Formerly known as "Replay Friday", otherwise unchanged.

"Theme Thursday" - Formerly known as "Theme Sunday". Focus is narrowed only to something not-tech (like composer, genre, series, system (system can work for both Tue and Thu). Also, no face-offs, and only video game music (no chip tunes, covers, or other kinds of VGM-related-non-VGM)

"Face Off Friday" - self explanatory, I found a way to work my beloved FACE OFFs into twitter!

"Soundtrack Saturday" - in every way unchanged from before.

"Scene Sunday" - Chiptunes, Covers (whether they're chiptune covers of [quote unquote] "real music", or [quote unquote] "real instrument"/"real band" covers of VGM, or heck, even chip covers of VGM (I.e. a YM2612 version of an SNES track), and non-VGM music somehow connnected to VGM either by sampling VGM, being sampled by VGM, being clearly inspired by VGM, clearly an inspiration to VGM, or simply non-VGM music composed by VGM composers (I.e. VGM composer Martin Iveness does non-VGM under the name Atjazz).


I'm going to wait a week or two to implement any of this on Twitter, though. I want to give people a chance to tell me they don't like it, and either offer alternate suggestions, or ask that things remain the way they are. I want to give people a chance to "vote no", that does NOT involve "voting no" with the "unfollow" button, if you know what I mean.

But barring significant outcry, within the next week or two, this will be the new face of Nerd Noise Radio on Twitter!

Like? Dislike? Disdain? Too complicated? Or sheer genius? Blow up the comments!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Supplemental - Nerd Noise Radio weighs in on Playstation 4 vs XBox One!!!

A lot of ink is spilled over which of the two premier flagship modern consoles reigns supreme. While this blog is dedicated almost entirely to video game music  - with a STRONG emphasis on retro gaming, and/or video game sound hardware, no video game related topic is completely out of bounds, including considerations on console wars, and video game hardware at large. Remember, I have a big series coming that tackles the 16-bit console wars in as much depth as I can muster. So, I thought I'd wade in to the current gen controversy as well. 

I won't go as deep into the nuts and bolts of the hardware here as I do with old school systems....simply because I don't understand it to quite as deep a level as I understand the old gear. However, I do think I know enough to say what I want to say here. Feel free to correct me in the comments if you think I'm wrong, but know that I'm gonna be much quicker to listen to someone who has both systems over against one who only has one or the other. The urge to fanboyism (or even to simple bias) is very strong here when you've only got the one, and that's going to temper your response most likely, ergo, it's going to temper my reception.

I have both systems, but have not had either one for an incredibly long time. I got the XB1 Jan 31st or Feb 1st of this year as an early birthday present, a couple days ahead of my 35th birthday. The PS4 I got about a week and a half after that as a "tax time goodie." So that means my time spent only owning one or the other was less than two weeks long, not long enough to really develop a bias for or against the one I've had ever-so-slightly longer. 

In addition to having all the free games for both systems that PS+ and XBLG have offered since Feb, Assassin's Creed Unity and Black Flag bundled downloads on XB1, and The Last Of Us Remastered bundled download on PS4, I also have, as of this writing, four disc based games in hard copy for XB1, and five for PS4, thanks to a surprise delivery from my brother that I received about this time yesterday. I have Destiny, C.O.D. Ghosts, Drive Club, The Order 1886, and now, Final Fantasy XIV on PS4 (thanks, Jesse!), and Titanfall, Halo Master Chief Collection, Forza 5, and Sunset Overdrive on XB1. The only purchased Game downloads I've done are Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge, both on PS4 (with gift cards from my brother - thanks again, Jesse!)

I've had these systems long enough to have logged many hours on each, and have a lot of fun. But I've not had them long enough to where I have definitively come to conclusions on anything major. I mean, as it concerns my simple, subjective preferences on super-duperficial things like which console physically looks better sitting on a shelf, which gem cases look better, and which controller looks and feels better, okay, fine. I give all of those to the XB1. But like I said, these are perhaps the VERY LEAST important of all considerations, and hardly anything that settles such a contest. Still, my point in saying so is simply that these are the ONLY areas so far where I can really say "here I stand, I can do no other."

Now, I know the common wisdom says the PS4 has the more powerful graphics hardware (and ergo, better graphics), while the XB1 has the more powerful multimedia hardware (and ergo, better multimedia). Now by that, I don't just mean that the XB1 just has better multimedia services, but no, XB1 really has the better multimedia HARDWARE itself, as the foil to PS4's better graphics hardware. Or so the composite of spec sheet implications and the battle cries from each side of the aisle tells us.

I have to grant that the PS4 has been graphically outperforming the XB1. It's not a night and day difference, I'd say...but it certainly is a consistent difference. So the graphic advantage has indeed gone to the PS4....SO FAR! I also understand enough about the GPU hardware to know WHY this is. The PS4 is indeed superior at "conventional" ("load all") graphics generation, and as such, it's going to perform better in that environment. It just is.

But, a lot of noise has been made about the "tiled resources" method of graphics generation (which also goes by other names), and what kind of game changer that it could possibly be. 

As a primer, "tiled resources" are simply that instead of loading the entire area's objects and textures all at once, you load teeny, tiny portions, and tile them "Matrix" style all over the screen dynamically, theoretically reducing the need to load large bits of data all at once, or hold all of it in RAM. A practical advantage would be, say you have a texture. In either the conventional "load all" approach, or in "tiled resources", it's gonna have a lot of detail up close, and less detail far away. Well, let's say [and I'm completely pulling numbers out of the air here] that the texture that you see up close is...8MB. Well, in the load all, when it's far away and less detailed, guess what? It's still that 8MB texture, even though it doesn't look like it. In tiled resources, you can achieve the same effect with the same 8MB texture up close, but for the less detailed distance view, replace it with a lower detail, say 2MB texture, and you just swap on the fly with a new tile as the graphics call for it. Supposedly, Microsoft had a tech demo showing a moon scene that looked identical to a 3GB moon scene, running on something crazy small like 16MB. That kind of outrageous difference seems perhaps a little far fetched to me. But regardless, even if exaggerated, it DOES capture the basic benefit of the technology. Use less RAM for the same information by constantly tiling the image rather than loading it all at once. That's the ultra-basics of it. 

I know that both systems will be capable of it, but since zero latency ESRAM, lower latency DDR3 GDRAM, and higher CPU clock speeds will be a higher premium than the heavy lifting DDR5 GDRAM with T.R., then at least in abstract theory, XB1 should not only be able to hold its own with T.R. against the PS4, but actually may even be able to do it BETTER - possibly leveling the playing field...or heck, even turning the tables altogether.

Still, a lot of unanswered questions remain. 1) Will Tiled Resources really enable either system to really produce significantly better graphics than the current load-all scheme they currently employ? 2) Will Tiled Resources be so resource demanding that either one of these consoles, which are essentially mid/upper-mid level PCs be able to really take advantage of it - or is this just a super gamer PC trick? 3) Will XB1's theoretical advantage in T.R. really turn into an actual advantage, or will things like PS4's significantly better shader hardware still keep the ball in Sony's court? 4) Even assuming BOTH a) Tiled Resources really do produce better graphics than "load all", AND b) XB1 really has the advantage there, there is still the question of whether lazy programmers, and/or their profit hungry supervisors will utilize it enough to really turn the tide in the war. It seems pretty obvious to me that tiled resources will take fancier cuts in the kitchen, will "the chefs" feel like doing it? And lastly, 5) Even assuming all the above, and assuming it is used 100% of the time, and XB1 finally proves that it, not Sony is the ultimate graphics machine...will it all still be too little too late to change the tide of popular opinion that has [to wildly mix metaphors] "crowned PS4 in stone " forever ago?

Who knows? At this point, I am not sure anybody really does. But until all of this is settled, I'm maintaining a "wait-and-see"/"jury's-out" stance on graphics, except of course to concede that PS4 has the clear early lead.

As far as the multimedia is concerned, I know the spec sheet favors the XB1 clearly. And popular wisdom seems to believe that features and services bear out that hardware edge. But the jury's still out for me here as well, in this case simply because I haven't really immersed myself in the multimedia offerings of either system enough to get a sense. I get a vague impression that XB1 may have an edge, but I can't say for sure. And even if it does, let's see what Sony can cook up in the future. I think Windows 10 is probably only gonna make things worse for Sony in this regard, not better...but again, let's wait and see.

So all that to say I am agnostic when it comes to the supposedly settled matters of this current generation's console war, and unsettled on all other matters except the most supremely trivial and subjective. 

The field is wide open to me. 

The spec sheet is pretty clear, but if I've learned anything from the 4th generation, my home, and the place where I come closest to even brushing up against "expert status", it's that spec sheets can paint very misleading pictures without telling a single outright lie. The spec sheet paints the Super Nintendo as performing roughly twice as well as the Genesis and PC Engine, when in fact it was pretty neck and neck (and in several ways was actually INFERIOR). I don't doubt for a second that everything in the PS4 and XB1 spec sheets in itself is factual. What I do withhold judgment on is whether or not we fully understand all the real world implications quite yet. How are these things really going to do when they're finally firing on all cylinders? Let's wait and see.

But even if all the conventional wisdom of the supposedly settled matters all comes out to be completely right, it still doesn't answer the question of who's ultimately gonna win, even just the hardware war itself, let alone the actual console war. 

Looking back to the third generation of gaming, if we compare the hardware of the Sega Mastersystem, the NES, and the Commodore 64, the C64 had the weakest graphics hardware of the bunch by far, but it had the best sound hardware. The Mastersystem was the polar opposite, best graphics hardware, weakest sound hardware by far. NES came in a very respectable 2nd on both counts. Which one is the best piece of hardware overall is highly debatable, and perhaps a bit subjective (the imperfect analogy here would be PS4 is Mastersystem, and XB1 is NES).

Well, I suppose [assuming both conventional wisdom maxims are true] the legacy of  which system had the better hardware will ultimately come down to two questions (which are so interrelated as to almost be two sides of the same question): 1) Will this generation be more remembered for its graphical prowess, or for its multimedia feats? and 2) will there ultimately be a greater disparity between the two's graphics or between the two's multimedia. If the answer to both is multimedia, then the XB1 will win, and its slightly inferior graphics will be more or less a non-issue. If the answer to both is graphics, then the converse. If one answer is multimedia, and one answer is graphics, then I suppose it would go to whichever one the generation is best remembered for. Which one will that be? No idea. Once again, too soon to tell. And again, this is all just assuming the maxims are right. They may yet prove to not be.

I think it will be like the 5th generation. The general consensus on the 5th generation is that the Sega Saturn was by leaps and bounds the best "2D" system of the bunch, with Nintendo 64 coming in a distant last, and the PlayStation a decent 2nd. But when it came to "3D", the tables were turned entirely, with N64 on top, and Saturn at the bottom - PS1, of course, once again, in the middle. However, since 3D is what everyone focused on for 5th gen, or since "that's what 5th gen is about", if you will, the Saturn went down in history as the underdog of the pack, even though it had a dramatic lead in 2D. Well, I think that's how history will paint the 8th gen console war too - just depending on whether graphics or multimedia prevails - and, of course, what we learn about the system's final graphics and sound capabilities.

But ultimately, the quintessentially middle-of-the-road NES didn't soundly dominate the 3rd generation like it did, or the quintessentially middle-of-the-road PS1 the 5th gen on their hardware merits relative the other systems, but because of their software. And so it will be here. Which one of our current systems will be remembered as better hardware may indeed come down to graphics vs multimedia. But the one that will ultimately win the war will come down almost entirely to software. 

Right now, I hate to say...but have to say, that neither one of them are doing very well in this department. Both libraries are roughly parity in being dominated by games that not only both systems share, but are also games that are either just scaled up versions of PS3/XB360/WiiU games, or scaled down versions of PC games...or indie games - not that indie is necessarily bad in itself, in fact, some of the most interesting and wonderful games out there, and certainly the lion's share of the retro-like games are indie. I am absolutely in love with Shovel Knight, and am quickly getting there with Axiom Verge. But a system dominated by ports, and/or by indie IS a bad sign. It means the console exclusive mainstream library is weak. While certainly not devoid of some seriously good games, both platforms' proprietary marquee collections are abysmally small, with no clear winner one way or the other. I suppose just by virtue of the multiplats looking a tad better on PS4, it currently has the lead. But it's still a pretty sad state on both.

The good news is is that 2015/2016 will be a time of tremendous growth for both systems in this regard, and maybe by then, an idea of who's going to win may just begin to emerge...but for repeat my now beat to death's too soon to tell.

All I can REALLY say for now is that I'm super happy to have both, am super excited to be able to go on this journey with the systems to see who comes out on top, thrill at the fun I know I'll have on both systems regardless of who wins....oh yeah, and [in my personal opinion, at least], console physical cosmetics, gem case cosmetics, and the look and feel of the controller all go to Xbox - not to mention, the XBoxOne is by reason of "no contest" the undisputed winner of the "Saint Patrick's Day Celebration Wars" it, Sony! ;-)

What do YOU think of the burgeoning console war? What do you think of my analysis? Nothing stands between you and weighing in in the comments section! I'd love to get your feedback!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Twitter "Replay Friday" 05/08/2015

Just as the name implies, this is sort of a weekly "mini-greatest-hits" of the Twitter page. The tracks don't have to be taken from the same week, though, and as such, are not just redundant of "The Week of".

Here's this week's "Replay Friday":

Streets of Rage - Genesis - Stage 8 theme:

Castlevania II - NES - Full Soundtrack:

Final Fantasy X - PS2 - The Burning Sands:

Contra: Hard Corps - Genesis - Jurassic Dope:

and finally:

Ballblazer - Atari 5200 (etc) - Theme of the Grid (NTSC):

And that was this week's "Replay Friday" over on the Twitter page! See you next week!


For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:

JP / EU Mega CD:

US Sega CD / Windows 95:

And so finally, in the case of the Sonic CD VERSION OFF:

Which version was the original? The Japanese/European version is technically the original. But I think the US version was released around the same time….with a completely redone soundtrack (minus the Past Time Zone themes, which were not changed, since they were hard coded in the ROM’s PCM.)

Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: The US SegaCD/Windows 95 version is the familiar version for me. I got this game sometime in 1994, very shortly after renting it. I wasn’t even aware the Japanese version had a different soundtrack till probably the early 2000s…and I didn’t get to hear that version till probably the 2006 area, when I found MP3s for download off the internet. I didn’t get to play the game with the JP tracks till the Christian Whitehead version of the game came out for Xbox360/PS3/iOS/Android, and that wasn’t till like 2012 or so.

Sound hardware preferences disclosure: N/A. They’re both Sega CD. In fact, they’re both Redbook Audio (aka, playing of the disc like a music CD and not even using the Sega CD internal sound hardware.)

My verdict: The Japanese/European version.

Why? Just as music in a vacuum, I actually thing I have a very slight preference for the US version (though they are SUPER CLOSE - despite being so “from different planets” different). But I think the JP version is just a MUCH more fitting theme for the level. It’s the game’s obligatory pinball level. The US version almost sounds BGM for rescuing endangered wildlife from danger, and doesn’t say pinball at all. While the JP version perhaps doesn’t SCREAM pinball, it certainly makes a lot more sense than its rival in that context. Especially for as high velocity and high energy as the level is. Also, the Japanese version is just a million times more “16-bit Sonic” than the US version. The JP version is the same Genesis games soul, only using more advanced hardware. Whatever else we could say about the US version, for as great as it is….it's just not Sonic at all….it’s something COMPLETELY different. Also, since both versions use the JP’s past themes, the US version only has three tracks that fit a theme (present, good future, bad future), and then this odd stand-out in the past. The JP version, by comparison has all four versions fitting each other perfectly. This JP track is the perfect compliment to the past theme that I’ve listened to in bafflement for all these years. Lastly, there’s no pretension to the JP version. Everything is synthesized, and everyone knows everything is synthesized. Nobody’s trying to fool anyone. However, with the US version, while the electric guitar is a real person really playing a real electric guitar, everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING is synthesized. However, they’re trying their best to make it sound like NOTHING’s synthesized. While the trick totally worked on me as a pimple-faced, “Holy Crap! CD-Rom is SOOOOOO awesome” 14-year old, who likes his burritos poolside [see the Wolfchild VERSION OFF], this 35yr old sees right through it, and is not amused.

Was this a close contest? All that said, yes, this was as close a contest as any of these. They’re both just SOOOOO great, and I’m perfectly happy to waste tons of time listening to either of them! :-)

CLOSING: Okay, so those are my takes on the FACE OFFs from the “INTRODUCTION TO VGM FACE OFF” blog post. Please, light up the comments sections with your input. Whether you agree with me, whether you think I’m nuts. I don’t care! I want to know what you think, and which tracks you like best!


VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 9 of 10: Ghouls and Ghosts Arcade vs Amiga VERSION OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:



In the case of the Ghouls and Ghosts VERSION OFF:

Which version was the original? Ummm….the Arcade!

Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: While I knew ABOUT Tim Follin’s redone Amiga soundtrack for this game, and even was familiar with the Stage 3 and 4 themes from said version, I don’t think I’d ever really listened to the Stage 1 track til I posted the FACE OFF PRIMER blog post. So it’s brand new to me. The Arcade version, while I haven’t spent a ton of time with this particular version, it’s virtually identical to the Genesis version, and not that far off from the Supergrafx version, or the Stage 1 theme from the NES Ghosts and Goblins, or the SNES Super Ghosts and Goblins, both of which I’m also well familiar with. So the Arcade version is still the familiar one here.

Sound hardware preference disclosure: While there are still great differences between the Amiga and SNES sound hardware, they still remain the next closest things to each other. Also, the  YM2151 OPM FM chip in the Arcade version is very similar, but almost universally regarded as superior to the YM2612 OPN2 FM chip in the Genesis. So, in a round-about way, this is almost kinda like an SNES / Genesis contest. But since I like this OPM a little better than Genesis, and since I like SNES a little better than Amiga…and since I like Genesis a little better than SNES, this makes the Arcade sound hardware my clear preference.

My verdict: Amiga version.

Why? Because EVERYTHING! First, the Arcade version, in my opinion is a very weak usage of the OPM. Second, the Amiga version is an incredibly STRONG usage of the Amiga sound chip. Third, the Arcade composition is more cartoony than scary, and if it fits the vibe of being in a graveyard in a storm at night with zombies rising from the ground, and giant birds in the trees trying to kill you at all, it’s just barely. Meanwhile, the Amiga version is dark, and spooky, and ambient, and fits the vibe so much better! Also, while there are hints of the Follin hand on this track, this is perhaps the LEAST Follin sounding piece of Follin music I’ve ever heard (the earlier parts almost remind me more of Crateria from Super Metroid). It’s amazing through and through.

Was this a close contest? The Arcade vs PCE 1943 Kai TRACK OFF was not close at all….but it was way closer than this one. This one’s an absolute LANDSLIDE in the Amiga’s favor!

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Week in Twitter 05/04/15 - 05/07/15

Hi Kids!

As I have mentioned before, I want to have more interaction and overlap between the blog and the twitter feed. I'm sure I'll think of ideas later that are better than what I currently have...or perhaps one of my readers may have an idea worth its weight in gold, and we implement it.

But for now, on the "blog-to-twitter" side, when I post a blog entry, I point people to it in a tweet. what I'm thinking of on the "twitter-to-blog" side is thus:

- Repost the tracks shared on "Theme Sunday" as a blog (I've done this once before.)

- Repost the soundtracks shared on "Soundtrack Saturday" as a blog.

- Repost the tracks shared on "Replay Friday" as a blog.

- and finally, Repost all the "ordinary" tracks that appeared on the "ordinary" Mon-Thurs of the week.

If anyone has any ideas that I can pursue to further/better link the blog and twitter page - OR, if you think one or more of these ideas should be abandoned, please, light up the comments.

Meanwhile, here's our inaugural "The week in Twitter..." post. These are all the tracks that were shared on Twitter this past week M-T:

Super Star Wars - SNES - Intro and Theme (May the 4th be with you!):

Streets of Rage - Genesis - Stage 8 Theme:

Kid Icarus - NES - Underworld Theme:

Rockman and Forte - Super Famicom - Tenguman Theme:

F-Zero - SNES - Mute City:

Metal Stoker - PC Engine - HES 73 (Unknown Track 73):

Phantasy Star 2 - Genesis - Restoration:

Guacamelee - Multi-platform - Forest del Chivo:

Street Fighter 1 - Arcade - Bonus Theme 2:

and finally - Spellcaster - Mastersystem - Adventure Screen:

So, let me know, gang! Great idea, terrible idea - the compiling of the week's twitter tracks into a blog? It seems like a great idea to me, but I don't know if that's sage wisdom on my part, or the ravings of one who doesn't know how to work the internet unless you guys pipe up and let me know! :-)

In either case, I hope you enjoy the music. I try to keep things a good mix of all systems, styles, and eras, with a smart mix of famous and obscure tracks, and an emphasis on 8-bit, and most especially, 16-bit era music. Hope you like this week's offerings.


VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 8 of 10: Wolfchild SNES vs Genesis VERSION OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:



In the case of the WolfChild VERSION OFF:

Which version was the original? Well, ultimately, neither of them. The Amiga version was the original version, and since I have no idea which came out first of the SNES and Genesis versions, I guess we’ll call that a draw. However, since the Genesis version features a Matt Furniss retooling of the Martin Iveness Amiga original, while the SNES and Sega CD version feature versions of a COMPLETELY new soundtrack, I guess we’ll call the Genesis version the original.

Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: I somehow happened upon a copy of the Genesis version in the summer of 1994. This is the summer after finishing middle school, and before starting high school. This is the summer of Black Hole Sun, and my discovery of Grunge and Metal in general (my parents kept us relatively sheltered before this), this is the summer I got braces, this is the summer Taco Bell introduced the seven layer burrito, and this is the summer I discovered a particular one of the countless swimming pools in the Des Moines metro, one that I still frequent all these years later. The Genesis version of Wolfchild, as well as Shinobi III, and a handful of other games were the soundtrack to those days and those things, and will forever bear an inseparable cross-association (both Wolfchild making me think of those things, and those things making me think of Wolfchild.) I was vaguely aware of the SNES version at the time, and played it once or twice with the sound off at a used game store. But it wouldn’t be till the very very late 90’s that I’d actually get a copy of the SNES version, and it also wasn’t till then that I heard the soundtrack.

System hardware preference disclosure: [THIS IS A VERBATIM COPY/PASTE OF MY ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION FROM THE STREETS OF RAGE VS SUPER ADVENTURE ISLAND VIBE OFF POST] Back in the day I was exceedingly pro-SNES in pretty much every way - including sound system preference. In 2003 or so, I began to find myself changing my preference to become pro-Genesis in most ways, but didn’t become pro-Genesis in the sound department till about 2009, 2010 or so. I ended up as strongly pro-Genesis on sound as I was pro-SNES way back when. While I would still call myself pro-Genesis now, I’ve been finding myself drifting back towards the center on the matter of late. Frankly, smack dab in the middle is precisely where I want to be. These two systems’ sounds are such a give-and-take, pros-and-cons trade-off, that I really can’t call them anything but a “tie”, a “draw”, a “stalemate”…you pick your word, I guess. So, if that’s where I am objectively, I’d really like to be there subjectively as well. I guess we’ll see where I am in the next year or so. There’s SOOO much more that can be said about Genesis sound vs SNES sound. A few years ago I wrote a series of articles about the 16-bit console wars that appeared in an online magazine that’s now defunct (and the website pulled down). The articles went into a lot of depth on the matter. At some point in the future, I plan to dust those off, retool them for the blog medium, and post them here as a series. I guess I’ll save the in-depth SNES vs Genesis talk for those posts.

My verdict: Genesis version.

Why? First, let me say that I love just about everything about the SNES version. It’s a fantastic track! It’s actually the only track where I prefer the SNES version to its Sega CD counterpart (though the two are surprisingly close to being identical). Let me also say secondly that really neither version does a tremendous job of matching the feel of the level they take place in. They take place in this old decrepit temple filled to the brim with large bugs (including man-sized cockroaches that walk upright and fire projectiles at you) as well as spike traps and boulders. Neither of them really capture that vibe. BUT, I think the SNES version misses it by an even larger margin than the Genesis version. As catchy and punchy as the Genesis version is, there’s a certain darkness to it, and the plinky melody is a bit exotic sounding, fitting the old temple vibe just a bit better than the splashy jazzy slap bass SNES track. Also, while I have nothing to complain about at all with the composition and arrangement of the SNES version itself, it just doesn’t seem as inspired as the Martin Iveness via Matt Furniss Genesis version. Plus, come on, the pimple-faced 14yr old sudden-metal-head in me still loves his seven layer burritos poolside with his favorite jams!

Was this a close contest? ABSOLUTELY! I really came sooooooo close to just punting and calling these a tie.

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 7 of 10: Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf vs Check Mii Out Channel VIBE OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:

Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf - BGM 2:

Check Mii Out Channel - Wii - Contest Results Parade:

In the case of the Arnold Palmer’s Golf vs Check Mii Out Channel VIBE OFF:

Which version was the original? Roughly two decades separate these two tracks. Probably better than 50% of gamers experiencing the Check Mii Out Channel theme when the channel was active were not even alive when the Arnold Palmer track first wafted out of the usually monaural single speaker of the old faux woodgrain CRT box TVs.

Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: That said, I was not aware of the Arnold Palmer Golf game music till probably 2013, 2014, where I first heard this Check Mii Out track in 2008 or 9 or so.

System hardware preference disclosure: This is kind of a toughie. While it’s undeniable that the Wii sound hardware is exponentially more capable and advanced than the Sega Genesis, it also lacks that magic that made the 4th gen my favorite era for VGM. Namely, sound hardware that was advanced enough to do some really amazing, and complex things…but still basic enough that you could take absolutely nothing for granted. The Wii’s hardware is so powerful that it can effortlessly do ANYTHING…but when anything’s easy….nothing’s special. So for those reasons, I guess I’ll say Genesis.

My verdict: Check Mii Out Channel. 

Why? While I love the crisp punchy purity and simplicity of the Genesis track (complete with charming PSG “plinks”), there is just something special about the magic mix the Wii track finds. It’s got pizzazz, and propulsion, and is just so much “bigger”. Also, while there’s a crispness and cleanness in the simplicity of the Genesis track, the Wii track fits perfectly with the old Wii system menu/channel suites’  loosely held theme, which is the “squeaky-cleanest-in-a-totally-good-way” thing I’ve perhaps ever encountered in all of video-gamedom [subjective, I know]. It’s like the crispness of opening a can of pop, and the cleanness of white shower wall tiles, and mid-2000’s Target soap commercials…and I LOVE IT! Also, maybe there’s the nostalgia element as this channel was a fairly big part of the early days of us owning a Wii, and also, while the Genesis game is halfway between 20 and 30 years old, you can always play it on an emulator, or if you’re lucky enough to own a real Genesis…you can play it for realz! When Nintendo shut down the Wii channels, this thing in a very real sense died. With the Check Mii Out channel, there really is “no going home.” And that’s very sad, and perhaps makes this music, and the vibe of the channels, and everything associated with it just more special to me.

Was this a close contest? Yes. I had to listen back to back several times before I could really make up my mind.

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 6 of 10: Super Adventure Island vs Streets of Rage VIBE OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:

Super Adventure Island - Blue Blue Moon:

Streets of Rage - Dilapidated Town:

In the case of the Blue Blue Moon vs Dilapidated Town VIBE OFF:

Which version was the original? Streets of Rage came out one year earlier than Super Adventure Island (1991 vs 1992), so it’s the original.

Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: This is familiarity vs familiarity in a sense, as I’ve known of both for a comparably long time. In fact, I’m not even 100% sure which one I experienced first. However, I’ll call the SoR track familiarity, and the SAI track novelty since I’ve owned a copy of SoR for more than two decades, and have never owned SAI, only rented it. Therefore, I’ve heard Dilapidated Town many more times than I’ve heard Blue Blue Moon.

System hardware preference disclosure: Back in the day I was exceedingly pro-SNES in pretty much every way - including sound system preference. In 2003 or so, I began to find myself changing my preference to become pro-Genesis in most ways, but didn’t become pro-Genesis in the sound department till about 2009, 2010 or so. I ended up as strongly pro-Genesis on sound as I was pro-SNES way back when. While I would still call myself pro-Genesis now, I’ve been finding myself drifting back towards the center on the matter of late. Frankly, smack dab in the middle is precisely where I want to be. These two systems’ sounds are such a give-and-take, pros-and-cons trade-off, that I really can’t call them anything but a “tie”, a “draw”, a “stalemate”…you pick your word, I guess. So, if that’s where I am objectively, I’d really like to be there subjectively as well. I guess we’ll see where I am in the next year or so. There’s SOOO much more that can be said about Genesis sound vs SNES sound. A few years ago I wrote a series of articles about the 16-bit console wars that appeared in an online magazine that’s now defunct (and the website pulled down). The articles went into a lot of depth on the matter. At some point in the future, I plan to dust those off, retool them for the blog medium, and post them here as a series. I guess I’ll save the in-depth SNES vs Genesis talk for those posts.

My verdict: Dilapidated Town

Why? While I absolutely love the thick muddy bass, and organ, and while I like the mix of darkness, and levity Blue Blue Moon brings, and while I like how tight it is (tighter than Dilapidated Town, for sure), I like how Dilapidated Town doesn’t try to marry dark and light, but just doubles down on Urban plight, despair, and the fear of being out on run-down back streets alone after dark. It’s also crisper, and punchier, I like the lead organ voice way better than the lead voice in BBM, and I like the sparse, but clever use of the PSG. I do like the bass better on BBM, though.

Was this a close contest? This was a VERY close contest. I actually changed my mind on this two or three times before finally landing where I have. Ask me again in six months and see if I still have the same answer.

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 5 of 10: Mega Man 2 vs Blackbelt VIBE OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:

Mega Man 2 - Wily’s Castle 1:

Black Belt - Boss:

In the case of the Mega Man 2 vs Black Belt VIBE OFF:

Which version was the original? Well, I think Black Belt came out a year or so before Mega Man 2, so that makes it the original.

Familiarity/Novelty Disclosure: The Black Belt track is definitely the novel one! I first played Mega Man 2 in the dawning days of 1990 (and it's a remote possibility that it may have even been that final post-Christmas week of 1989). In fact, the guy who ran the counter at the local "Drug Town" actually did a big no-no for us. He opened a copy for sale, and rented it to us. I don't remember anything about the guy except that his name was Bill. It wouldn't be too much longer before we actually owned the game. I got my first Mastersystem in the summer of 1998, just a month or so after graduation High School. I remember finding the idea of "an 8-bit Sega" aka "a Sega NES" paradigmatic, though in retrospect, I had been at least superficially exposed to an awareness of its existence much earlier. Black Belt was one of the games that came with it. So, while this song has been a part of my long-term-memory for closer to 20 years now, the Mega Man track has been for closer to 30...and was present during much more formative years.

System hardware preference disclosure: I definitely prefer the NES sound system. Outside of TIA (Atari 2600/7800), and whatever Channel F used, the SN76389 is arguably the most basic, and the most limiting of all the sound chips used in gaming. Three square waves, no flex duty ability, really basic white noise, the inability to pitch very deep, and the ability to use periodic noise, but at the expense of having to sacrifice two channels for just the one. Heck, even vs TIA, that’s still an open question which one’s more basic, I guess: TIA only has two channels vs the SN’s four. And also the TIA had SERIOUS pitch issues, where the SN did not. But the TIA was known for so many wild and diverse periodic noise tones that even with rock solid tonality, and double the number of channels, the SN is so plain and samey by comparison. The NES sound system is so much more advanced. It has two flex duty pulse wave channels (12.5%, 25%/75%, and 50%, which is a plain square wave), a triangle wave which produces a much “smoother” sound than square and pulse waves, almost as smooth as a sine wave, but with a little more character (not as much character as the square/pulses, though). It was typically (but not always) used for bass. The NES also had a more robust noise generator, AND, albeit ultra low grade, it had a dedicated PCM sampler channel. The NES sound system can be used to incredible effect. However, to be fair, there is a certain cleanness, and crispness, and singsonginess to the SMS that is really hard to match on the NES (and would be out of the question on TIA).

My verdict: Black Belt!

Why? While the Mega Man track is much fuller, much more iconic, and with a much greater sense of propulsion and inertia, I just love the crispy, ultra-80's sing-songy melody of the Black Belt track. And the melody is not only more complex in the Black Belt track, but more front and center in the mix. It definitely puts its best foot forward.

Was this a close contest? EXTREMELY! I am so close to going the other way on this one…but gosh, I still find myself loving the Black Belt track just a tad more.

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

Monday, May 4, 2015

VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 4 of 10: 1943 Kai Kaisen TRACK OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:


PC Engine:

In the case of the 1943 Kai Kaisen TRACK OFF: 

Which version was the original version? The Arcade - by approximately four years!

Familiarity/Novelty disclosure: The PCE track is the familiar version. I've never actually played either version. But I discovered the PCE one maybe three-six months before I was even aware it was an Arcade port.

System hardware preference disclosure: Mmmmm, I really wanna call this one a tie. I like Wavetable and FM about equally. But if you held a gun to my head, these days I’d probably have to say I actually like Wavetable just a little bit more. The Arcade version uses the YM2151 (OPM), the premier FM chip, though, and has more channels (so you probably could say the Arcade sound hardware is "more advanced", but somehow the PCE manages to sound fuller, and sound like IT has more channels, even though it doesn't. I'm gonna punt and say I just can't decide. 

My verdict: PC Engine wins!

Why? Several reasons: The PCE sounds MUCH fuller than the Arcade version. Though it only has six channels to the YM2151 OPM's eight, the PCE, as I said earlier, easily gives the [albeit false] impression that IT has the more channels, not the other way around. The PCE features really nice ADPCM sampled percussion while the Arcade version uses really thin FM percussion. The bass is fuller, richer, and more compelling on the PCE. I also like the pearly and whistly voices used in the PCE version much better than the [by comparison] "blend-into-the-mix-and-get-lost" Arcade equivalents. Furthermore, the PCE version in particular REALLY invokes very late 70's / very early 80's "elevator fusion" music, such as Larry Carlton's 1982 Sleepwalk album. That is lost somewhat in the more edgy, serrated, thinner Arcade version.

Was this a close contest? Frankly? No. The PCE mops the floor with the Arcade here, in my opinion. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still like the Arcade version well enough. But I LOVE the PCE version. It leaves the Arcade original in the dust.

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

p.s......May the 4th be with you! (I'm sorry...I had to.)

Sunday, May 3, 2015


For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:



In the case of the Mega Man 1 TRACK OFF: 

Which version was the original version? NES - DUH!

Familiarity/Novelty disclosure: The Genesis version is definitely novelty. I first played Mega Man 1 in 1991 at age 11. I actually got a copy not too much later. I still have that same copy....I've never even played Wily Wars.

System sound preference disclosure: I definitely prefer the Genesis hardware to the NES hardware.

My verdict: Genesis (via Wily Wars)

Why? It retains the vibe of the original perfectly, only it's much richer, and fuller, with more going on, but nothing more going on. Nice use of the PSG keeps the old school sound there, but the FM dominant voices also bring it to the next level.

Was it a close contest? DEFINITELY!

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up!

VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 2 of 10: Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu TRACK OFF!

For the Introduction/explanation to this mini-series, here's Part 1.. The original VGM FACE OFF Primer post this is all based off of can be found here. For your convenience, here are the tracks again. Please listen to them BEFORE reading my write-up:



In the case of the Jackie Chan Action Kung Fu TRACK OFF: 

Which version was the original version? I -THINK- the TG16 was the original, and the NES version was the port...but I won't swear to that!

Novelty/Familiarity disclosure: TG16 version was the familiar version, but barely, as I had only discovered it maybe a few months before the NES version.

System sound preference disclosure: I definitely prefer the TG16 sound to the NES sound as a whole.

My verdict: TG16 wins!

Why? Yes, the melody is clearer and more front and center in the NES version, and I actually do think I prefer the slightly slower tempo on it. But The TG16 wins for me because of the richer harmonies, the amazing ADPCM sampled drums (when it really tried, the PC Engine/Turbografx was amazing at sampling, avoiding both the scratchiness of the Genesis, and the muffle of the SNES), and the more pearly "plinkly" embellishes in the chorus, as well as the pearled harmonies in the verse. Of all those winning elements for me, I think the real clincher is just the richness and extra depth of the harmonies (sometimes consonant, and sometimes dissonant).

Was it a close contest? Mmm, close-ish, maybe? The NES version really is pretty great! But the PCE version is even greater!

So, what about you? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm totally nuts? There's a comments section. Light it up! 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

VGM-FACE OFF PRIMER ADDENDUM: Part 1 of 10: Introduction

Back on April 18th, I posted a blog that gave a primer on what will be a very important facet of the Nerd Noise Radio blog - the FACE OFF! Basically, we have three different “kinds” of FACE OFF, the “TRACK OFF”, the “VIBE OFF”, and the “VERSION OFF” (again, I totally punted on the name “VERSION OFF”. I’m 100% welcoming of any suggestions for a better name!). I won’t repeat what these types entail since that post does so in detail. However, I shared three FACE OFFs for EACH KIND (so, nine FACE OFFs in total….math goooooooooood!) 

I said that I’d share my own personal verdicts for these in the comments section. Well, come to find out, there’s a character limit in the comments, and I blew way past it. So, today I’m starting a 10 part series working my way through these contests, and rendering my verdict. I’ll have two posts to kick us off tomorrow, two posts to round it all out a week from today, and one post each weekday in-between. For your convenience, I’ll include the tracks again in each one. Please listen to the tracks BEFORE reading my write up.

Also for your convenience, here's a link to that original primer post.

Okay! So see you again tomorrow with some FACE OFF action! 


Saturday, April 25, 2015


Most of you know about the Gimmick soundtrack. Most of you know that it features a special chip in the cart that enhances the sound capabilities and adds more channels. But what exactly does it add to the NES's stock sound system to make it sound so good? Well, believe it or basically just adds an Intellivision sound system.

The SUNSOFT 5B, which was a modified version of the Sunsoft FME-7, contained the Yamaha 2149 PSG, which is functionally identical to the General Instruments AY-3-8910, which appeared in the MSX, several arcade cabinets, and of all things, the Intellivision. It's generally felt that the AY and YM slot in-between the SN76489s and POKEYs of the world on the one hand, and the 2A03s and SIDs of the world on the other words, it's generally held to be an inferior sound chip to the one in the NES.

But what Gimmick proves for us is that even though it's inferior, the inferior, paired with the superior produces something FAR better than what the superior can produce all by itself.

A lot of people, I think, assume that the FME-7 added the sampled bass channel, but no, this is just stock 2A03. NES has a 1-bit PCM sampler that does a really crappy job of sampling...but can do it - without tying up any other resources in the sound chip. You will occasionally hear it produce percussion (think Super C, or Super Mario Bros 3), or it will be used for short voice clips, or for sound effects, but it was VERY rare to hear it used "musically". As far as I know, only Gimmick, Batman: Return of the Joker, and Fester's Quest use it for bass guitar (though the bass is so poor that it's almost unrecognizable as a bass guitar sample, or anything that began its life organically, for that matter)

What the YM adds is three more square wave channels (they can do 25% and 85% duty pulse waves too, but I do not think they're used that way in this soundtrack). Big deal, right? Well hold on. Not only does that bring the total number of channels to eight (same as SNES), but it completely frees the 2A03 up to just use asymmetrical pulse waves on those channels, and not have to worry about plain square, while still keeping those wonderful square tones in the mix - moreover, the square waves on the AY/YM are a little "rounder" and more "haunting" sounding than the purer, but blander squares of the 2A03. So, these three extra square waves turn out to be a huge boon after all!

The typical sound scheme of this soundtrack is 2A03 PCM bass (with the PCM also pitching in a little sampled percussion in-between bass notes), the white noise handling the lion's share of the percussion, with the triangle wave - usually used for bass freed up to mostly devote itself to supporting the percussion with portamento falls "tom fill" drums. The 2A03 pulse wave channels, not needing to produce plain squares can just stay in 12.5%, 25%, and 75% pulse wave mode for tonal diversity and inflection. And then, as I said before the YM brings a trio of their haunting, phasey, wonderful plain square waves.

In fact, the soundtrack doesn't deviate from this scheme til about 2/3rds of the way through, when "Just Friends" starts at 19:23. This track features a square wave bass (provided by the YM), subtle sampled percussion, YM rhythm squares in the melody and harmony register, NES pulse waves, and if I'm not mistaken, the triangle wave is buried up in the squares (it might also just be absent).

Next up, at 21:11, is my favorite track of the whole game, "Sophia". It starts with NES sampled percussion, and a YM bass line with a pair of  square waves (to get the fatness, phasey-ness, and warmth) until the bridge at 21:37, when it drops to just a single square wave, since that one is needed elsewhere. And then, at 21:49, the chorus comes, which features NES sampled bass once again. The chorus also features a double melody of NES triangle wave, and NES pulse wave. Even cooler is the plain triangle wave solo at the very beginning of the track at 21:17. Keep in mind a few things: the triangle wave has a really smooth sound, that kinda meets square and sine in the middle, if not even leaning closer to sine (though it has overtones unique to it that neither sine nor square have), and that it's normally used for bass or drums, so you don't often get to hear its soothing call in the upper register.

Paradox, and Innocent go back to the Gimmick Standard sound font, but Siesta features NES sampled drums, YM square bass, and a triangle/square double melody (a la Ironsword).

Goodnight is close to the Gimmick Standard font, only with the obvious exception of very wonderfully overt triangle wave harmony arpeggios. Also, just before the chorus, the bass briefly goes from NES samples to YM square before going back again right away. And then after the chorus, it goes back to square for a bit before returning once again to samples. Great interplay between the two bass modes. Also worth noting, at no point in this soundtrack is the triangle wave used as the primary driving force for bass, as it customarily is on standard 2A03-only stock NES/Famicom sound hardware. :-)

The very last track, the unused one, goes back to the standard Gimmick sound font. Nice way to round us out.

So, now that you've heard all about it, why not actually hear it? :-D

Gimmick, for the Famicom - who knew NES and Intellivision could sing such a lovely duet (though it's probably more accurate - albeit a whole lot less fun- to think of this as an NES/MSX duet instead).


Thursday, April 23, 2015


The Konami SCC add-on chip in most Konami games for the MSX is EXCEEDINGLY comparable to the HuC6280 in the PC Engine / Turbografx16. They're both wavetable synthesis (among the few, the proud). And just as the YM2610 (OPNA used in the NEC PC88 / PC98) is the closest thing to the Sega Genesis outside the Sega Genesis (only a little better in every way), the SCC is the closest thing to the PC Engine/Turbografx16 outside the PCE/TG16 (only, better in some ways and worse in some ways).

SCC has higher bit-rate wavetable (8-bit instead of 5-bit), so the individual voices are a little bit cleaner and more nuanced, but it couldn't sample (PCE can sample on any channel), could only use four distinct wave shapes at once over five channels (where PCE could use six wave shapes at once over six channels). It also had to rely on the MSX's built-in AY-3-8910 PSG for the percussion (white noise), where any percussion, be that sampled, wavetable, white noise, or any combination thereof are all done on-chip on the PCE.

Which chip is better overall is debatable (though most people, myself included would probably give a slight edge to the PCE/TG16). THIS soundtrack though, is not only probably the best argument to the contrary, but is just a TOTALLY KILLER soundtrack qua music!

I hope you'll enjoy it!

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake - MSX (SCC)

To give you a better taste of the SCC vs the PCE, I will include both the SCC and PCE versions of both Nemesis (Gradius), and its sequel Salamander (Life Force). Note the SCC's cleaner, more nuanced "rounder" sounding individual voices (as opposed to the slighter rougher, buzzier voices on the PCE)...but also notice the presence of nice ADPCM sampled percussion on the PCE versions, vs the very NES sounding AY-3-8910 PSG percussion on the MSX...

...but for as different as they are, I'm sure you'll agree they are FAAAAAR more the same then they are different!

Let me know in the comments which chip's sound you like better overall.

Nemesis (Gradius) - MSX SCC version:

Nemesis (Gradius) - PCE version:

p.s. what do you think of the PCE Wavetable version of the Konami jingle as the beginning of this video vs the more famous Genesis FM and the SNES ADPCM versions? I personally like the PCE version the best of the three! What say you?

Salamander (Life Force) - MSX SCC version:

p.s. the MSX version features a few tracks that are not in the PCE version - such as Operation Seedleek, Prophet Fire, and Odysseus. While these may well be the best tracks in the game, keep in mind they're not canon, and make your version comparison accordingly.

I could not a full OST video for the PCE version, but the whole thing is available as a playlist. However, since I haven't found a way for Blogspot to play nice with playlists, I'm including just the url. Please open in a different window and listen.

Here's the PC Engine version (playlist).

I think these videos make the point of the comparison, but just in the name of beating the comparison to death, Let me leave you with just one track from Snatcher "Endless Pursuer" - MSX SCC vs PC Engine. The MSX video is much louder, but that's the quality of the video, and no reflection on the versions themselves. Please factor that difference out.

Here's the MSX version:

And here's the PC Engine version (which incidentally, at the time of this posting is my cell phone ringtone) :

So, what's your verdict on MSX SCC vs PCE? The comments section is open. DISCUSS!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


The VRC6 is an interesting little beast. While it's technically still PSG, like NES, and nothing at all like the Wavetable Synth of the PCE/TG16 or SCC, the fact that saw and saw variants, as well as all sorts of asymmetrical pulse waves were pretty commonly used on those wavetable systems still causes the VRC6 (which adds a sawtooth wave channel, and two extra flexable pulse channels - eight duty cycle options against the stock 2A03's four actual, three effectual options) to have at least a vaguely PCE'ish sound. 

In fact, since these VRC6 channels are PSG, they are actually "higher fidelity" than the 5-bit bitrate samples of the Wavetable of the PCE, or even the 8-bit wave of the SCC.

But even if VRC6 does vaguely resemble a PCE sound, two things to keep in mind: a) it's NOT the same technology underpinning those sounds, but rather, the same basic technology which brings us the stock NES chip, and b) there are so many sound modes available to Wavetable systems that this chip only cracks a fraction of them. 

So it's like a student chef mastering 10 of his master chef's 400 recipes, and even improving on them slightly (aka the higher fidelity of PSG). He can do as well, or perhaps even better in that narrow band, but can't even begin to compete with the depth and breadth of the master. Well, that's what it's like for VRC6 vs PCE/SCC/N163 etc etc.

Things to keep in mind as you listen to this both technically, as well as musically magnificent soundtrack - Mouryou Senki Madara!

The Japanese version of Castlevania III (Akumajou Densetsu - lit. Devil's Castle Adventure) used the VRC6 (in addition to the stock 2A03), while the US NES version (you might know it as "Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse") used just the 2A03 by itself. Compositionally, both versions are the same, but of course, the NES version had to be retooled to use just the stock channels.

Technically, the JP version is more advanced...but does that translate to a more enjoyable experience or not...YOU DECIDE!

We'll start with the original, Akumajou Densetsu!

Now, here's the Akumajou Densetsu soundtrack retooled to remove all traces of the VRC6 for US audiences - leaving only the stock NES Ricoh 2A03 -  the version we all know and love....Castlevania III.

Which one do you like better? Let me know in the comments. Initially I still liked the US 2A03-only version better (and again, I go both ways on familiarity vs novelty)...but the more I listen, I think I might be beginning to shift the other way.

Now that we've heard from Madara, and Akumajou Densetsu (as well as its US 2A03-only counterpart), that leaves us just ONE other official release to use the VRC6, Esper Dream II. 

Listen to all three of these, and you've heard every thing that ever officially came out for the chip (though there is a ton of GREAT stuff out there in the chip tune and remix scene keeping the chip alive that I'll leave for you to plumb for yourself).

Esper Dream II:

So, what do you think of the VRC6? Tell me in the comments!


Monday, April 20, 2015

THEME SUNDAY - 04/19/2015!

Every Sunday over on our Twitter page (@NerdNoiseRadio) is something I call "Theme Sunday". It's pretty self explanatory, really. All the posts for that day will be of a theme - either the same system, or the same franchise, or different versions of the same track, or one of any number of other possible common elements.

I think I'm gonna try making a blog post out of them also, see how that goes.

So, for this first Theme Sunday, I decided to go with something super easy and obvious. I'm sure NOBODY will have any trouble figuring it out (though later ones may be super hard, you never know.)

Here are the tracks. What's the theme?

X-Men (Arcade) - Ethnic Cave and Flame

Batman (PC Engine) - HES 7

TMNT 2 - The Arcade Game (NES) - Winter's Here

Spider-Man vs the Kingpin (Genesis) - Peter Parker's Room

Justice League Task Force (SNES) - Wonder Woman


...Silver Surfer (NES) - Level theme 2 guesses?

Also, give me some feedback. Rebroadcasting the "Theme Sundays" from Twitter on the blog...good thing? Bad thing? What about "Soundtrack Saturdays" and "Replay Fridays"? Let me know!