Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today I’m seein’ red: Virtual Boy red, as we’re checking out a soundtrack of unusual provenance on Nintendo’s misbegotten 1995 misstep. (Hey, that was also my nickname in high school!)
Galactic Pinball (playlist / longplay) stands out for a few reasons, not the least of which is it’s a very good pinball game by 1995 standards. Four tables, an interesting 3D effect (thanks, Virtual Boy), and a few cool Metroid references (a lot of its developers worked on Super Metroid!) make it an obvious winner among the unlucky semi-portable’s tiny library.
It’s also a good demonstration of what a Virtual Boy game can sound like. Which is to say, kinda beepy, kinda chunky, and with some scratchy digitised voices thrown in for pizazz. (“Welcome to space world, let’s go!” exclaims the title screen.) The system’s VGMPF wiki page has a little info on its hardware, noting it has one noise and five wavetable channels — a couple more than the NES — but suffers from “lack of bass range and frequency precision.”
Sounds about right:
Nintendo / RBM95 (YouTube)
It’s good, though. (That first track sure is reminiscent of classic Metroid.) I like this sort of rustic electronic sound: primitive, dirty, but plenty expressive enough to convey some great melodies. Most of the brief pinball fanfares are excellent, but If you wanna hear the more developed, lengthier cuts, check out “Moon Man Fandango,” “Milky Way Wormhole,” “Cosmic,” “Galaxkull,” “Alien,” “Lucky Star,” “Gunpei’s Voyage,” and — (lovely synth sweeps in these two) — “Colony” and “One Million Chance.”
The soundtrack’s credited to Super Metroid’s Kenji Yamamoto and Masaru Tajima, who made his debut here and later co-composed Metroid Prime Pinball. Super Metroid’s co-composer Minako Hamano is along in a support role, too. The space family’s all here!
Indeed, you’ll find Samus’ Super Metroid theme, VB-ized, in “Flight of Aran.” Neat, but it’s not even a highlight in a game with the legit great tunes Galactic Pinball has. Hearing these spaced-out, atmospheric tracks makes me long for an alternate future in which the Virtual Boy actually made sense and got to thrive a little. I wanna hear more.
That’s a wrap for today’s Morning Music! I wonder if are there are other Virtual Boy games worth listening to? I’ve only played a few. Anyway, discuss life, the universe, and space pinball in the comments, and I’ll see y’all back here tomorrow.