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!


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