Intellivision In Hi-Fi

Intellivision In Hi-FiMore or less an album songs performed by or inspired by the Intellivision video game console, Intellivision In Hi-Fi is an affectionate throwback to the days when video game music was anything but hi-fi. To come even close to approximating a popular piece of music was a feat, and achieving true polyphony, even in just a flat, synthesizer-esque tone, was pure luxury. Intellivision was the first home game console to manage this level of musical sophistication, and even so, it only did so on the most primitive of levels – no attack or decay or anything as fancy as sounds intended to emulate acoustical instruments. But even with that extreme return to the basics of making music, Intellivision game designers pulled off some real winners – the jazzy chase music heard when Snafu drops from a four-player game to a two-player death match, the catchy theme (coined by a then-unknown musician named George “The Fat Man” Sanger) from Thin Ice, and the sticks-in-your-head-and-stays-there music from Shark! Shark!. All of these and more appear on Intellivision In Hi-Fi.

There are also numerous Intellivision-generated ditties from never-before-heard programmers’ concept tests and a few aborted works in progress. These include classical pieces such as “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known to many as the theme from 2001), and more decidedly modern works along the lines of the James Bond theme and a McDonald’s jingle, among others. (It’s interesting to note that a James Bond video game was later made, but not for the Intellivision, and not by Mattel Electronics, the company that originated the console in 1979.)

To round things out, there are a few more tracks which are either songs about the Intellivision, or are reinterpretations of classic Intellivision musical themes on actual instruments. This along brings us to George Sanger’s surf-rockin’ “Surfing On Thin Ice”, which is in itself a good reason to buy this CD. Jazzy interpretations of music from Snafu and Shark! Shark! also prove to be entertaining. Confusium provides two tracks featuring copious samples of Intellivision sound effects and vintage TV ads starring George Plimpton; the first of these opens the CD to great effect, while the latter is simply too bloody long and wears out its welcome. (At nearly 15 minutes, I find it hard to sit through the whole thing without skipping to the next track.) Best of all, however, is Michael Schwartz’s “My Intellivision”, an appropriately new wave-flavored pop tribute to the machine, sung from the perspective of someone who pines for his long-lost Intellivision.

3 out of 4Naturally, this CD is really for those who are already enthusiasts of the game machine in question; Intellivision In Hi-Fi doesn’t feature gobs of stuff remixed into a more modern form, opting instead to give you the actual beeps-and-boops sound of the original hardware. I’m a fan of both approaches, but this album’s diverse sampling of original sounds and reinterpretations should have something to please just about everyone.

Order this CD

  1. Compare This! – Confusium (5:03)
  2. Snafu (1:33)
  3. Shark! Shark! (0:29)
  4. Buzz Bombers (0:29)
  5. Mind Strike (0:24)
  6. The Jetsons’ Way With Words (0:21)
  7. Melody Blasters (Blasters Blues) (0:31)
  8. Thin Ice (Carnival Of The Penguins) (0:43)
  9. Billiards Blues (1:34)
  10. Surfin’ On Thin Ice – The Fat Man (3:06)
  11. Also Sprach Zarathustra (0:47)
  12. Scooby Doo’s Maze Craze (0:32)
  13. Thunder Castle Songs (1:29)
  14. Lounge Shark! Lounge Shark! – The Tilton-Tate Orchestra (3:21)
  15. Maple Leaf Rag (1:21)
  16. My Intellivision (1982 Mix) – Michael Schwartz (4:38)
  17. James Bond Theme (0:37)
  18. You Deserve A Break Today (0:36)
  19. Linus & Lucy (1:14)
  20. Blow Out (0:58)
  21. Yogi’s Frustration (0:23)
  22. Rocky & His Friends (0:16)
  23. The Bullwinkle Show (0:19)
  24. Snafu City – The Buddy O Trio (3:12)
  25. The Closest Thing To The Real Thing – Confusium (13:58)
  26. Tron 1.1 – Tom Kahelin (7.49)

Released by: Intellivision Productions / Retrotopia.com
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 55:42

Super Xevious – video game remixes by Haruomi Hosono

Super XeviousVideo game music legend Haruomi Hosono turns his remixing talents to some of Namco’s classics with this EP-length CD single. Curiously tagged Super Xevious, this remix CD essentially revolves around the music that game shared with its predecessor, Xevious. Hosono stretches the game’s few signature tunes out to a whopping eight minute remix; as you might expect, there’s quite a bit of musical repetition, but the music evolves by the layers of rhythm and other elements Hosono piles on top. A somewhat shorter remix of Hosono’s remix is included as the last track.

The track of music from Gaplus is essentially a layered reworking of the third-level music from that game; nothing is really changed from the original game music, but again, elements are added over the top 3 out of 4of it. A very brief track of music from Tower Of Druaga is also included, though even at its short length, this track doesn’t exactly invite repeat listening.

Perhaps a bit pricey for its meager running time, Super Xevious does include some interesting remix material that is, for the most part, a fun listen for fans of the 80s arcade classics.

Order this CD

  1. Super Xevious (8:51)
  2. Gaplus (5:20)
  3. The Tower of Druaga (1:47)
  4. Super Xevious – Gust Notch Mix (3:46)

Released by: Scitron Digital
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 19:47

Minna Daisuki Katamari Damacy

Minna Daisuki Katamari Damacy soundtrackWhen it hit the U.S. in 2004, Namco’s offbeat Playstation 2 sleeper hit Katamari Damacy had barely undergone the rigorous “localization” that most games from Japan are put through before hitting the English-speaking market. Numerous objects in the game were covered with Japanese lettering (nothing essential to the game play, mind you), and the game’s distinctive soundtrack was sung in Japanese as often as it was sung in English. And somehow it worked. So the question is: how do you top that?

The sequel game, Minna Daisuki Katamari Damacy, deftly sidesteps a lot of sequel expectations by being a self-referential tribute to the original game – and to some extent that includes the music as well. Several of the new tracks are tributes as well, putting a new twist on the signature tune of Katamari Damacy, ranging from a hilarious a capella rendition to a medley of all of the original Katamari songs as “sung” by sampled animal sounds – dogs, cats, ducks, elephants, etc. It’s a nice acknowledgement of the original, and at the same time, it’s having some fun and not overdoing it. Other songs like “Katamari On The Swing” split the difference, dropping references to the Katamari theme in during the chorus of an otherwise original number.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some cracking good original songs though. In particular, I have to single out “Everlasting Love”, a punchy, upbeat number by Alisa (of Sailor Moon fame) with occasional bits of English peppered in throughout its Japanese lyrics, and featuring some fantastic guitar and vocal work. English or not, video game music or not, “Everlasting Love” is, hands-down, one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard this year, and it’s hard not to have a smile on one’s face while listening to it, and perhaps even harder to resist the urge to go back and listen again. “Disco Prince” throws a solid dance beat into the works, and other tunes repeat Katamari‘s effective use of styles that just don’t get a lot of airtime these days.

rating: 4 out of 4As good as the music is, now that I’ve heard it, I can’t help but wonder how much fun the game is. The good news is that, while the soundtrack isn’t likely to see domestic release in North America, the game itself is slated for a fall release. Even if you don’t feel like having the CD shipped from Japan (even though, if you liked the original Katamari soundtrack, it’s worth it), you’ll soon have a shot at hearing the music in the game itself.

Order this CD

  1. Introduction (0:24)
  2. Dokaka – Katamari On The Rocks (6:37)
  3. Asuka Sakai & Yu Miyake – Overture II (1:16)
  4. Shigeru Matsuzaki – Katamari On The Swing (4:40)
  5. Illreme- Kuru Kuru Rock (5:10)
  6. Alisa – Everlasting Love (4:45)
  7. Kirinji – Courageous Soul (5:32)
  8. Beautiful Star (3:08)
  9. You – Angel’s Rain (7:11)
  10. Katamari Robo – Houston (4:16)
  11. Kahimi Karie – Blue Orb (5:00)
  12. Yuusama – Katamari Holiday (5:37)
  13. Nomiya Maki – Baby Universe (5:06)
  14. Kenji Ninuma – Disco*Prince (7:01)
  15. Scorching Savanna (5:32)
    (featuring John the Dog, Bigmouth the
    Duck, Yuuhi the Cow, Pe the Goat, Booby the Pig, Sexy the Cat and Nyuu the
    Cow)
  16. Katsuro Tajima – The Royal Academy of Katamari (3:36)
  17. Kitomu Miyaza – King of King’s Song (4:41)
  18. Hidden Track (0:15)

Released by: Columbia Records Japan
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 79:47