Grooving along to 8Bit Music Power

Well this is quite nice isn’t it? It’s 2016 and a brand new Famicom game has dropped through my letterbox! It’s even got a (very short) paper manual in the box and one of those little warning label stickers on the back of the cartridge that nobody in the history of the universe has ever read!
But the really exciting twist here is that 8Bit Music Power isn’t actually a game at all, but a complete twelve track chiptune album for your Famicom (or compatible clone) to play!

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You see, unlike a lot of every other chiptune album ever, this isn’t music that’s been composed on somebody’s fancy Korg-like musical thingummy and designed to sound like it was written for some Super Famicom RPG you’ve never heard of; this is stored data that’s then played ‘live’ by your own hardware, exactly like real old game music - you really can’t complain your chiptune’s not chiptune-y enough with this cart!

This next bit isn’t the most exciting way of displaying the track list and composers’ previous works, but after trying out a few alternatives I thought it was more important to be thorough than to just pick and choose a few personal highlights:
<8BIT MUSIC POWER>
【収録トラック数】 12トラック
【収録時間】 44分20秒
01 / 2:36 / BLACK CARTRIDGE : Hally
02 / 2:06 / PICO MY HEART : Takeaki Kunimoto (国本剛章)
03 / 2:16 / CIRCUS GAME : Hiroaki Sano (佐野広明)
04 / 3:46 / MASS PURPLE : Keishi Yonao (与猶啓至)
05 / 2:04 / NARU YONI NARU : Prof.Sakamoto (サカモト教授)
06 / 7:07 / PHASE OUT(0.8) : Saitone
07 / 3:12 / ORIENTAL MYSTIQUE : Masahiro Kajihara (梶原正裕)
08 / 3:51 / EIGHT BIT JUNGLE : Yuriko Keino (慶野由利子)
09 / 2:53 / TIP-TRACK 303 : Tappy
10 / 4:46 / KIRAKIRA BUSHI : Omodaka
11 / 7:23 / TESTPATTERN : Nobuyuki Shioda (塩田信之)
00 / 2:20 / secret : secret (listed in-game as ‘Fuwax2  + Mokox2: Tappy and only accessible  from the options ‘Sound’ menu)

Omodaka
Composer Works: (PS1/PS2)Ape Escape1/3, Fantavision, (Android)Nin tsuku, (CD)Bridge Song, Sanosa, Otemoyan, Cantata no.147, Kyoteizinc
Masahiro Kajihara (梶原正裕)
Composer Works:
(PC88/PC98)Valis, Gunbuster, (PC98)Nadia The Secret of Blue Water, (PC98/WIN/PS1/PS2)Princess maker1/2/5, (AC)Tigger Heart Exelica
Takeaki Kunimoto (国本剛章)
Composer Works:
(NES)Star Soldier, Milon's Secret Castle, Adventures of Dino Riki, Robowarrior, Starship Hector, (FC)Momotaroudensetu, (TG16)JJ & Jeff, Victory Run
Yuriko Keino (慶野由利子)
Composer Works:
(AC)Xevious, Dig Dug, Dragon Buster, Pac-Land, Phozon, Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, (FC)Sanmanomeitantei
Saitone
Composer Works:
(CD)Overlapping Spiral, Getsumen to Heiki Mina, Tekkon Kinkreet Remix, U-zhaan × Rei Harakami Kawagoe randebu- no sekai Remix, (WEB)Giniro no Hi[Leiji Matsumoto]
Prof.Sakamoto (サカモト教授)
Composer Works:
(CD)INSERT2, REBUIKD, Sakura Gakuin Mini Pati, (Android)Hero And Thousand Satan Awakening, Sangoku Tenka Trigger, (3DS)Brave Company
Hiroaki Sano (佐野広明)
Composer Works:
(Anime)Sekirei, Triangle Heart, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha[A's/StrikerS/The MOVIE 1st]
Nobuyuki Shioda (塩田信之)
Composer Works:
(FC)Summer Carnival '92 Recca, (NES)Isolated Warrior, Burai Fighter, Low G Man, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Kick Master
Tappy
Composer Works:
(8BIT)Kira Kira Star Night, (CD)WOW! WAW! TINK-SYNK-THINK, (WEB MOVIE BGM)Diggin' in the Carts
Hally
Composer Works:
(8BIT)Kira Kira Star Night, (Android)Shooting Yusha, (3DS)Mighty Gunvolt
Keishi Yonao (与猶啓至)
Composer Works:
(PS1/PCE/X68000)Asuka120%, Mad Stalker, (X68000)Neural Gear, (PC98)Kakyusei2, (AC/360)Strania The Stella Machina, (VITA)Kajiri Kamui Kagura, (WIN)Chibidol

Hiroshi Ono (小野浩)
Pixel Artist Works:
(AC)Pac Man, Galaga, Xevious, Mappy, Dig Dug, Dragon Buster, Sky Kid, Galaga88
Even just a quick skim of the list above shows there are some real heavyweight names contributing to this project that are sure to satisfy even the mightiest of chiptune cravings and also underline that this is a serious musical work and not a gimmick crafted simply to leech off of retro gamers apparent need to collect anything for their favourite hardware (an accusation I’ll happily level at some of the Sega-based indie releases that have surfaced over the past few years). The music contained in this album is varied, polished, and a genuine pleasure to listen to – I actually took the time to sit with my headphones on to listen to this album and I sat there grinning to myself for a bit in what was probably a slightly disturbing manner, which isn’t something I thought I’d be doing with this cartridge.

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But even with it all being about the music it’s not actually, um, all about the music. To give your TV something to do while your ears are being massaged by 8-bit bliss the screen will automatically cycle between a ‘live performance’ screen (displaying the track name, time remaining, and exactly which Famicom sound channels are playing which notes), a selection of interesting art and animations (you can tinker with the palettes and extra effects on screen with the d-pad), and a list of credits with an enticing ‘Press B to start mini game’ message right at the bottom. 

To make sure that the musician’s work wasn’t restricted by this little extra the games are extremely simple affairs that involve nothing more than moving a cursor about the screen either to collect coins or dodge stars. Even so, there’s a nice ‘transparency’ on the coins (that old flicker effect used for things like Neo Geo shadows) and the sprites very rarely disappear even when you’re playing on the highest difficulty and the screens covered in objects moving in random directions – all while still playing your chosen music track. Winning or losing rewards you an appropriate ‘YEA!’ or ‘NO!’ message, and then it’s back to cycling through the performance, animation, and credit screens again.
If you’d like to have a proper dig through the cart the options menu allows you to listen to all the music and sound effects in the game (including the hidden ‘Track 0’), view non-animated versions of the pixel art screens used while listening to music and play both mini games at any difficulty level. It’s a well-rounded set of extras that let you get straight to exactly the bit you wanted to see or hear without making the main menu screen feel redundant.

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Like the recent and welcome trend of releasing remastered game music on LPs taking the time to enjoy 8Bit Music Power’s tunes creates a special and unique experience – but not a practical one. I really would have appreciated (and paid extra for) some sort of download key for a digital copy (if they wanted to retain authenticity, a ROM would have been fine) or a bonus CD. This may sound like I’m missing the point of this bold release but while listening to real Famicom music through a custom-made Famicom cart is a lovely experience the music here is good enough to be appreciated on its own merits and not seen as a mere novelty ‘toy’ for retro collectors. Here’s hoping they sort out some kind of CD re-release in the near future, both for those that bought the cartridge and would like to enjoy the music while they’re out and about as well as for everyone who missed out on this limited run.

If you’d like to have a poke around you can find the official website here - http://riki2riki.com/html/0_sample_8bit.html