Game Music Cover Challenge - Detailed Report

By Meits

Scribe (5458)

Meits's picture

14-05-2014, 21:42

Detailed report

1. Golvellius 2 Medley by Bart Roijmans

Wolf:
At least points for scale; lengthy songs are always a challenge! Basically there are three parts in this entry. There's a typically romantic piano/strings part, and actually executed well. At 1:54 the second part begins, mostly based on harp with eventually some extra flavors here and there to more or less repeat the romantic style from the first part. At 4:28 the third part starts, it's the largest part in terms of instrumentation and length. In the low key build-up I miss the larger harmony, it's now two voices that are far apart regarding their pitch. I'd strongly advice to add a few extra lines, to fill up the large hole and to suggest a harmony. I can understand it's all a matter of holding back until the heavier part starts at 5:15, but the better choice would've been to build up using a long crescendo of a reasonably full instrumentation, rather than a full presence of only two instruments. The hi-hats drag a bit, after a while. That's the risk of presenting them so clearly in the mix. As a whole, I feel it could've been at least a minute shorter. Nonetheless, it's well produced, and deserves a nominee status.

Oscar:
It is an awesome medley of the Compile´s classic, one of the best arrangements from MSX that I have heard. The music begins with the unforgettable melody played over an incredible piano with a great execution. After, during the second part we can hear a sweet harp or string instrument, this part is exceptional in my opinion. I like very much the speed of the composition, very well done. The atmosphere is wonderful. The last part is faster and powerful but it is incredibly well done. I think the cover it is almost perfect. It is the best of all arrangements without doubt.

Dandan:
The best.
Wonderful sounds. Komplete8 has been used finally good.
Wonderful arrangement.
Simply the best tune. Very professional musician.
Very high profile. I can't do better.
My special congratulations.

2. Vampire Killer - Number of the Beats by Jorito

Wolf:
If Space Manbow didn't point out already that Jorito's skills don't require a baton, then this entry will. Again: synths, guitars, and even some screaming dub-step basses; stick to that. The mid-low area is a bit too muddy for my taste – it's all in the mix, reverb most likely - but other than that, a nominee!

Oscar:
I think this is one of the best pieces of Jorito if not the best. A techno-dance-remix of a well known classic tune, very well made. Lot of electronics sounds, pads and other details and very well chosen. I like how the song begins with electronic sounds in crescendo. There is a break part with a talking dude, Jorito I suppose. (I can not understand what he says… something about Dracula, sorry) that fits really well into the music. The distorted sound is cool and after, the pad solo is very nice and well composed. Again a synthesizer electric guitar is used and sounds cool. I am changing a little my thinking about emulated electric guitars after hear how people used this kind of sound in all these arrangements. I like that Jorito compose new solos or score parts that fit very well to his music creations and respect the original sound or meaning of the original tune.

Dandan:
Creative version of Vampire killer with nice suggestions and sounds.
The Dubstep part is fantastic. Very good idea. Really good solo part in the final.

3. Undeadline - Opening Theme by Bart Roijmans

Wolf:
This is one of the better entries. The leads starting at 3:15 and 3:42 could use an extra supporting melody line, to better adjust the chord to match the main melody. The problem is that a subdominant and a regular chord (major or minor) are a bit of a clash. Just try it on keys: C E G for a chord, and an octave higher play a F-note, it's a bit unnerving. :) In this case, an F-note is best supported by a C D F-chord. Either way, the sound in the first minutes is well done.. jazzy, moody, it's a clear and well defined concept.

Oscar:
This is another great medley from Bart. It is divided in three parts, like the original intro. The music begins with slow violins and a flute playing during the storm. The quality of the sounds are very good, very real. After, some kind of electronic guitar with reverb, a Hammond piano and a harmonic plays the second part, late at night. I like very much the atmosphere created, with the slow drums. Finally the last part is very powerful, with a cool virtual lead guitar. Very good job.

Dandan:
I completely miss in my memory this tune.
The perfect vibrating strings of the first part, immediately turn it back in my mind.
The rest is sublime.

4. Space Manbow - Beyond the Battleship by Jorito

Wolf:
Compared to the more orchestral entries by Jorito, this one is more pop/metal and it appears to be a far better fit for him – stick to that! A few niggles aside, it's well produced. The few orchestral sounds present (like strings and horn) fit the mix in a poppy way. Maybe that's the perfect conclusion; Ravel wouldn't wake up for Runemaster 3, but many others would for this entry.

Oscar:
It is a great medley of a well known classic. The music begins putting your mind into space with cool atmospheric space sounds. The electric guitar, with metal distortion as lead part is cool, real guitar playing takes the song to higher level. For me, to merge real played instruments and digital composition is the key to next level covers. Cool rock drums are used, too and places a base of metal style song. I like the last part, with human chorus and the distorted guitar making a mysterious and dangerous ambient. Medleys are cool because arrangers must pass from one song to another and it is tricky, this time is well done. Good work.

Dandan:
Very good interpretation of this splendid music!
Original feel and music partition are respected and "powered".
Strings, choirs and orchestral instruments in the second part increase the beauty.
Congratulations.
Sound could be improved by doing it just a little more panoramic, it's a little flat…

5. Rune Master 3 - Journey to the Three Kingdoms by Jorito

Wolf:
During the first minutes it's all about recognizing ye olde famous Runemaster 3 themes. The action part (starting at 3:00) of this entry drags a bit. Once the display shows 5:18 (when a more quiet part starts), is feel I can breathe and focus again for a while. In a nutshell: the instrumentation in the action parts is way too dense to keep attention. This entry is a typical example of 'less is more'.

Oscar:
I think the last release of the saga Rune Master has the best score of all. Traditional chinese music style for a game based in legendary warriors. This is a beautiful orchestrated version that it could fit in a movie. There are lots of quality sounds and details. I like the pause with the flute solo that the creator added to the original theme. The global creation is dynamic, has different parts like different moments in a movie. The percussion is very well done.

Dandan:
Very good work but orchestral is not really convincing.

6. Illusion City by Destroy the Core!

Wolf:
This entry has retro all over the place; vintage synths, vintage drum machines and the production style of the 80's. Some may recognize the choice of sounds and style from early Jean Michel Jarre albums. The organ that joins in at 2:11 could have been more wet and moving, its presence is a slight bit too much compared to the rest of the arrangement. If you like a mellow/vintage variation of this well-known tune, it's certainly an entry worth listening.

Oscar:
I think this arrange is the most experimental version of a well known opening theme from Illusion City. I like how it sounds, the instruments and the effects used. It is a bit repetitive too but the loops are a bit more interesting than other compositions. I like the whole thing, remembers me some of the classics of electronic music with that analogic synthesizer sound.

Dandan:
Nice and creative sounds. Very good re-interpretation in electronic style of this fantastic music.
I really like the way it was composed and assembled in the SOUND.
A very very creative approach.

7. The Treasure of Usas - Ending by TheMysteryStudios

Wolf:
The 'Saturday' vocal (a lovely mondegreen, no doubt) reminded me a bit of a leader in the Sound on Sound magazine, years ago. Do you actually know what the vocal is about? :) Jokes aside; the opening briefly reminded me of 'I See You', the theme song from James Cameron's Avatar. The strings starting at 0:32 are a bit too nasal for my taste. Even when not being a nominee, it's still a good effort.

Oscar:
Very relaxing cover of a cool Usas theme, not arranged before I think so it is still better, clear and neat rhythm and sounds. Good to include the detail of the real female voice, I always appreciate natural sounds like this. I like how the song begins and the melody advances until the break, preceding a powerful part with a very nice arranged PSG saw old chip-tune style instrument, I love this kind of ´fusion´ between classic and new sounds respecting the spirit that remind us very good times with our MSX. I like the using of electric guitar with harmonic effect, this time is using synthesizer emulation, and guitars from synthesizer has never convinced me, but I think it is well done for this song. It is a very good cover, not boring, not too complex no too simple.

Dandan:
Nice voice and atmosphere inserts. Innovative remixing of the original tune.
Sound quality is a little too much "Midi" standard, except for the part of "Carillon" (music box) that's very good.

8. Xak II - Opening Sequence by Meits

Wolf:
Meits is the monk among MSX composers (although far from holy :)). Monks traditionally took years to copy a book with a quill, and yet they would shiver to know how Meits creates his music. Controlling synths through a custom MIDI version of Moonblaster, and then channel per channel playback.. it's daunting! In that method lies the drawback of creating notes that usually all have the same velocity and lack additional controlling. Still, relatively speaking and with all the practical obstacles in mind, it's a decent entry. At 7:17 the intro concludes with the dive through the clouds. That part sounds very nice and makes you forget the medieval production method.

Oscar:
The first challenge cover is an arranged version of Xak II intro. Quality of instruments and sounds in general are good. I like the metallic-dungeon style evolving sounds that matches perfectly the atmosphere of this saga, because Xak have lot of dungeons. Military percussion could be better (when evil forces raises), I would like more powerful. Perhaps what I do not like too much is that the song matches too much to the original score and rhythmic, seems is playing real-time from the MSX through arrange equipment, adding improvements in sound. Not bad because the original score is great but I think the arrangement could be better.

Dandan:
Not really creative interpretation of the original tone, but this was the focus of Meits I suppose. Tones and atmosphere are really similar to the original.

9. Nemesis 2 - Opening by Gryzor 87

Wolf:
This entry leaves me a bit in doubt, it's a hard one to judge. Compared to the original, a few alternative notes were added (most notably in the bass) and some extras here and there. At the same time some pitch bends were added of which I wonder whether they really add something.. maybe they do the opposite. Considering how much of it is a copy from the original, you could wonder if this is actually an entry that fits the spirit of the challenge. However: Is this entry a perfect showcase for Trilo Tracker? Damn well it is! Is it technically highly detailed? Yep! Does it pull everything out of the SCC/PSG-combination? Sure-do! As a remake (comparable with the other entries), however, I'm breaking my head as for how to rate it.

Oscar:
We know Gryzor87 is a great composer over the SCC chip. This is a well done revision of the original theme. To get a sound similar to the original (improvements apart) over Trilotracker is difficult but the creator knows very well how to make it possible. The percussion now is more complex and powerful, more real and dynamic. Instruments are cool with lot of effects and changes. Now the melody has many more enveloping ornaments.

Dandan:
Nice work with old technologies.

10. Nemesis - Roz in Space Mix by Roz

Wolf:
While the original would most probably ask for an orchestral point of view, a dance version is a realistic alternative when produced well. This entry is produced well! The only nag would be that it's a tad repetitive. The original loop was of course equally short, but there's an art in expanding a musical universe in an unexplored way that does justice to the original. In short: well produced, another nominee!

Oscar:
Good techno-dance style version of the Gradius opening theme. The rhythm base is very well done. I think there is no problem to dance this remix at late night in disco clubs. Original score has not too many notes and the creator of this arrangement used them right. The break part and after how the rhythm is restored it think it is well made (two times).

Dandan:
(no specific comments – ed.)

11. Wanderers from Ys - Feena's Premonition by Jorito and Meits

Wolf:
The one problem with this entry is the piano. It's too much, too loud, leaving barely any room for the other instruments to shine – the mix didn't help either. It's mostly the left hand part of the piano that was loud and deep enough to cloak the rest of the instruments – check for instance at 0:16. The original song kind of demands an approach with more ambiance and peace. With a remix and an alternative arrangement for the piano's left hand part (woodwinds, horns etc.) it'd rate much and much higher.

Oscar:
Very good arrangement of this masterpiece. I like very much this piano played over a background of violins and chorus. Very comfortable song and good execution of the main score. Music of Falcom is one of the most arranged but everybody knows why.

Dandan:
piano sound is out of amp !

12. Salamander/Starquake - Lizard Star by Omega

Wolf:
It could've been more. The original is a great tune to expand upon, either by using synths or by using a more orchestral approach. While the rules didn't rule out using an MSX (with a Moonsound, in this case), and while it may be oldskool and/or fun to use it, the rating could've been higher.

Oscar:
A strange medley of two great games, Starquake is a really cool game with nice music. Creator used two different techno base for both main parts and a bonus final part with more Salamander boss music. I think the whole arrangement is a bit weird, and I do not like how the final part is attached. I like the Starquake part over others.

Dandan:
Nice re-interpration. Nice more, if you think that all is coming from an MSX…
Congratulations.

13. F-1 Spirit - Hot Summer Riding by yzi

Wolf:
Another retro entry, from a synth module that was released late in the 80's, marketed as a slimmed down Roland D-50 – very slimmed down! The sounds from this machine can be described as a very small Sound Canvas, with sounds that should be placed between vintage and very early ROMplers (synths based on ROM-samples, such as the Sound Canvas). This makes it a perfect fit for this entry, originally based on SCC sounds. SCC sounds are short loops with no naturally evolving sound color. The MT-32 sounds (though larger) are somewhat comparable. It's quite a tricky tune to remake; it's all too easy to do way too much. This MT-32 version is just the right deal.

Oscar:
Arranged made over an old Roland MT-32 in a good way. I think is well done and takes profit of the module, the score is perfect with some changes and adding a few extra parts. Overall good but neither is exceptional. Play perfectly the original melody with some improvements.

Dandan:
Very Midi style tune. Nothing to say.

14. Cobra's Arc - Main Theme by FranSX

Wolf:
Like Chicago's 30, it has a keyboard vibe in its production quality. Less than Chicaco however, because keyboards usually feature Western/European ballroom genres, and this Egyptian style makes it at least fresh. More interesting than Chicago, not going to my phone however.

Oscar:
I was very surprised that someone decided to make a remake of this tune because original one is not too well done in the game, it is very simple. I like the way it was created percussion because has managed to recreate the people sitting over the drums and sound boxes making them sound with hand and after a techno-beat is added to give more strength to the rhythm. Several sounds of ethnic instruments were used like the typical snake flute Been or Punji and this make a better music atmosphere and matches the what the music wants to represent. I like very much the break with the string instrument, Kanun maybe? This is a funny fusion between the gypsies who played the piano while walk through the streets and an assortment of indian instruments. Quality far beyond from original one.

Dandan:
Too much Repetitive Percussions.
Rest is "soundable".

15. Chicago’s 30 by FranSX

Wolf:
Well, it's keyboard style. Either because it is a keyboard or because the creator wishes to recreate this typical keyboard style. In the latter case, the creator certainly succeeded! It has a positive vibe, and puts a smile on your face. Is it something I'd put in the MP3 directory of my phone? Not really.

Oscar:
Another well done arrangement. Music from 20-30´s jazz-swing from United States. I think sounds very real. Instruments are well chosen, fits into the atmosphere perfectly too. I like the nice ending fading out all instruments and leaving only one PSG chip-tune channel like the original game.

Dandan:
I enjoy when I listen this music.
I really appreciate the final PSG part.
:-))))

16. La Corona Encantada - Main Theme by FranSX

Wolf:
Like Chicaco's 30, this is one is hard to feel bad about; it's the same positive vibe. What bothers me is the PSG sound. It can be stylish to include it as a layer, but here it just distracts from the arrangement that doesn't need it.

Oscar:
It is nice to hear an arrangement from a homebrew game from Relevo. FranSX rhythmic, like rumba, are very catchy and push you to dance over a Spanish “tablao” (folkloric Spanish dance floor). Creator uses chip-tune style instruments for main part and a synthesizer drums for the base. All matches very nice, I like how everything is merged. This song is very nice to hear, lots of times played in my compact disc player.

Dandan:
Very strange mix of sounds, with some problems in tuning.

17. Wells & Fargo - Main Theme by FranSX

Wolf:
The fifth entry by FranSX doesn't make any suggestions that it's different in concept compared to his other entries. So again: keyboard style; you may find it cheesy and maybe even a faux pas. Like the others, it won't ruin your mood. But also like the others: my phone protests.

Oscar:
For me one thing is sure, FranSX should receive an award for the large number of quality entries, five! Again the composer of this arrange shows us that dominates different musical styles well. Instruments are well chosen, fits into the atmosphere perfectly.

Dandan:
This man is a happy man! He like happy and relaxing musics!
:-)

18. Desperado by FranSX

Wolf:
Unsurprisingly, the fourth entry in the FranSX pentalogy has the same keyboard sauce smeared all over the place. Like the others, it has this positive vibe you can't fault. What kinda bugged me was the gunshot. Imagine you and ten other family members visit your grandparents, and your grandpa has a keyboard and wants to play something for the family. And because grandpa thinks everyone will ROFL when they (in the year 2014) hear a gunshot, he keeps pressing the gunshot button, all smiling. In any cases it underlines the cheesiness of this entry.

Oscar:
A nice song from FranSX, western sing style one. Sound from far west and matches the concept of the original game. The main melody is made using a whistle and harmonic as main instruments and it is done right, using vibrato effect to make it more realistic. Of course banjo and guitars makes the whole arrangement more complete. In general all the synthesized instruments are used in a very real way. The rhythm is well done. It is nice that the creator added the gunshot effect like the original song.

Dandan:
(no specific comments – ed.)

19. Sweet Acorn - Not so sweet by ewsnatcher

Wolf:
When it comes to instrumentation, arrangement and mix, it's hard to see any structure or idea. Sometimes there's the suggestion of an egg worth o' ideas that could hatch, but it never does. After a few minutes, my phone said 'no'.

Oscar:
A Taito´s classic arrangement. The main score is repeated and new instruments are added in loops. I think rhythm could be better. Synthesizer sounds are ok. I think it is too much repetitive and a bit boring, like original score.

Dandan
I really don't understand the style. (there is a style?)

20. Roadfighter - From Start to Finish by Duren

Wolf:
Uhm, yes. o_O This is the type of song that keeps going, and keeps going, and keeps going, and keeps going, and keeps going, and keeps going and after that: it still keeps on going. Barely any efforts to take seriously. My phone agrees.

Oscar:
There are only a few notes in the original score of Road Fighter and this cover take profit of them. Divided in three parts, each one with a ´crash effect´ break that is an original idea but it stops to much the music, in my opinion. I like how the “out of fuel” alarm is used for making a part of this arrangement. A bit boring in general but as I said before, no much score in original game for doing a great piece. Rhythm is ok but not very dynamic. Instrument sounds are nothing special.

Dandan
Bold experiment.

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By Meits

Scribe (5458)

Meits's picture

14-05-2014, 21:49

That concludes the detailed report. What's left are Wolf's Nominees:
My nominees will eventually end up first, runner up and third in my ranking. Golvelius, Nemesis and Vampire Killer qualify above the rest, although sometimes only just by a few inches. It's not exactly easy to come up with a ranking here. Smile

The pros and cons of entries:

Golvelius
+ challenging length
+ instrumentation
- a few minutes too long; minutes with only little progression and development
- arrangement leaves some harmonic holes here and there
- hi-hats drag a bit, being monotonous

Nemesis Intro
+ interesting concept
+ solid production
- even within this style, a tad more variation would be welcome.

Vampire Killer – Number of the Beats
+ solid production
+ sound-wise it's diverse yet consistent
- a bit muddy in the mid-low part of the spectrum, most likely reverb or long envelope tails

About Golvelius; one term that keeps popping up in my head is 'uncanny valley'. While usually applied to graphics/animation there's a use for it within music too. In short: if anyone chooses for orchestration, then it better be good. If not, the uncanny valley shows no mercy. Several parts in this entry fall into this uncanny valley, the introduction starting at 4:28 most notably. It's a choice an orchestrator/arranger wouldn't make like this. Either way, it's merely a detail for which I'm sensitive.. Smile

Nemesis and Vampire Killer are close, because both are synth-based. Compared the Golvelius there's no uncanny valley for sound, because synths are synths. It's very hard to choose between these two. Nemesis has a flawless production for a somewhat repetitive song. Vampire Killer has the edge when it comes to variation. In almost identical durations, Vampire Killer simply shows more of everything.

By Jorito

Mr. Ambassadors (1761)

Jorito's picture

14-05-2014, 23:36

Great jury report, very detailed and at points also educational! Also good to read what the strong points and weak points of each song are.

For myself, I liked the feedback about my Rune Master song. Indeed, less is more, I shouldn't try to have 5-6 different lines playing at the same time in the foreground and admit that making things simpler is a good idea Smile

Thanks for the report!

By syn

Paragon (1918)

syn's picture

14-05-2014, 23:51

Nice read, and I am reminded right away that music is always subjective, since I rated most of the songs a bit different in my comments under a previous newspost of this contest, had a different top 3 (obviously due to different taste in music styles), and sometimes even totally disagree with the comments of the judges Wink (like for example I thougth the gunshot effect in franSX's song was well fitting in the song, but Wolf think its odd Wink )

It was nice to see points mentioned in the reviews that I missed myself when I listened to the entries, since reviewing songs can also improves your musical skills, so by just reading this i have learned something today Big smile

By gamemastermaarten

Master (164)

gamemastermaarten's picture

05-11-2014, 10:18

Here is all msx music of each game that you can listen. Snatcher has got to be the best music. Just as star soldier final fantasy dragon quest. Cool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixJRLC_c_WA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nF-Iy1dfeuU