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!

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