Game Music Copyrights

About the Game Music Bundle I wrote about earlier:

We’re writing this blog post with a heavy heart as we have had to make some changes to our original Retro Game Music Bundle lineup. You might notice that Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem II, Major Stryker, Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure, and the NUKEM 3D: Remixes album are currently not available.

Although we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s before Retro GMB’s launch, there are now multiple people claiming rights to certain tracks within our bundled content.

The Sound Card Variable

If you’re into game music you should check out the Retro Game Music Bundle. I put $10 on this and got FLAC versions of all this stuff.1 What’s interesting is how they went about it:

Most of the games had available audio files, or an audio test mode – one of those things we never really understood when we were younger, but found ourselves profoundly grateful for now. Some of the games had neither, and needed to be played entirely through with the music on and SFX off – Ryland got stuck with that task, and performed admirably. Then, Ryland and Josh mixed and mastered the recordings to bring out their original magic, and our designer, Amanda, created beautiful album art for each game. In the process, the soundtracks were transformed them into professional-quality albums.

PC game music from the 90’s oftentimes relied on whatever hardware you had in your PC. What was your sound card capable of?2 Just FM synthesis? Did you have an AWE32? Did you configure it right?

Because of the sound card variable, playing a game with one sound card may feel differently than playing it on another. Doom isn’t as scary when it sounds like a Sega Genesis game because all you had was hardwire capable of FM synthesis. I always wondered what the TRUE sound card was. Which audio hardware did I need to experience the game and its general MIDI soundtrack the way the developers intended?

Anything they needed to play through and record was likely one of these soundtracks. No word on what sound card was used.


  1. Ever since iTunes Match and a hard drive upgrade I always get lossless versions when possible. Their FLAC version of the Myst soundtrack is at 44/24, but it doesn’t MAGICALLY make a Mastered For iTunes version. Also, LOTS of music here – which is a bummer because now I’m having to cull my music collection to fit under the 25,000 iTunes Match limit…again. 

  2. People USED TO, and still do I suppose, spend hundreds of dollars on sound cards. Sound Blaster used to be THE name because of their sound banks. Final Fantasy VII on PC is my favorite example of this. You could have the STANDARD sound track, but if you had a Soundblaster card you could use the custom FF7 soundfont, which was basically a sound bank that made the game sound more like the PSX version. I wonder how many Soundblaster cards were sold because of that. 

Final Fantasy VI’s ‘Dancing Mad’, a critical analysis

I always liked that third movement.

…if some of it sounds familiar, it’s because much of the melody has been shamelessly lifted from Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, probably the most famous organ piece of all music history. All of this serves to set up Kefka as having achieved divinity, a point that even his appearance during this part of the fight beats you over the head with…But instead of playing this straight, all the religious symbolism is a mockery.

One-Winged Angel Salute

1Up’s Chiptuned blog showcases a bunch of arrangements of One-Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII.

I used to try learning this in high school on the piano in my music teacher’s room when I had free periods. A teacher once asked me what that “funeral music” I was playing was all about. I’m pretty sure he was getting annoyed every time I restarted the “dun dun dun dun dun dun dun DUN dun dun DUN — dun dun dun dun dun dun dun DUN dun dun DUN SE — PHI — ROTH!” part.

Varia Suite – Metroid Metal

Varia Suite

Year: 2009
Label: Silent Uproar Records
Length: 50:17

These heavy metal arrangements of themes from Metroid are pretty rockin’. Most of these are of music from the original NES version and Super Metroid, which is fine by me.

Track # Title Rating
1 Prelude (SM) ★★★★
2 Lower Norfair (SM) ★★★★
3 Brinstar (NES) ★★★★
4 Item Room (NES) ★★★★
5 Item Collect (NES) ★★★★
6 Kraid (NES) ★★★★
7 Ridley (NES) ★★★
8 Phendrana Drifts (MP) ★★★
9 Boss Medley (SM) ★★★★
10 The Tunnel (M2) ★★★★
11 Space Pirates (MP) ★★★★
12 Maridia – Escape (SM-NES) ★★★
13 Ending (NES) ★★★
14 Theme (NES) ★★★★

Double Dragon II Arranged

Double Dragon 2 Arranged

I played a lot of Double Dragon II when I was a kid. I don’t think I would have if the music hadn’t been decent.1

These arranged versions of themes from Double Dragon II are heavy on synth and guitar and should sound comfortable to anybody who had a Nintendo growing up — if they can get past the J-Pop vocals on some tracks.

Check out Low Pursuit, which I believe to be an arrangement heavily influenced by Phil Collins’s Easy Lover, and Advancing Towards Sunset.

So 80s.

Track Title Rating
1 Dead or Alive (Vocal Version) ★★
2 Unleashing the Ogre (Mission 1) ★★★
3 Low Pursuit (Mission 2) ★★★★★
4 Night Sky Tension (Mission 3) ★★★
5 Advancing Towards Sunset (Mission 4) ★★★★★
6 Escape To The Forest (Mission 5) ★★★★
7 Wicked God (Mission 6 ★★
8 Breaking The Barrier (Mission 7) ★★★★
9 Entering The Enemy Base ★★★
10 Roar of the Double Dragon (Final Boss) ★★★★
11 Miracle of the Double Dragon (Reunion) ★★★★
12 Rising Desire (Ending Theme) ★★★
13 Dead Or Alive (Edit Version) ★★
Album Rating ★★★

  1. My hypothesis is that games like Double Dragon and Mega Man intentionally used catchy music to discourage players from giving up, but games aren’t that difficult these days so we don’t need to do that anymore

Classic Game Music HD

If you’re interested in game music check out Classic Game Music HD. This guy takes old game soundtracks and remasters them with reverb and chorus effects.

I sit them out. For old game soundtracks I take the same approach as devout classical music listeners do: don’t apply ANYTHING to it and leave it as intended. For NES games that means mono with no effects.

That’s why I like NoisES so much.