Jorge Mira gave us our very first MSX ReMix last year with his arrangement of SD Snatcher, and now he's back to follow it up with some similarly short-but-sweet Salamander action. While far from exclusive to the MSX (most of us know the game better as Life Force for the NES), Jorge - alias Commandcom - explains some of the differences:
"It is quite difficult for me to express into words what this track ment to me when I was a kid: It was the main reason for me to play Salamander (Ok, I'm a huge Gradius saga fan). So powerfull, so inspiring, so tragic, so on-the-edge and so BIG. Those were true emotions I felt while listening to it... BUT, as I am Spanish, here in PAL regions those games (I played what I consider the best incarnation of all Salamanders, the MSX one) played slower than the NTSC verisons. You know, they made the game at 60fps and, when translading it to 50fps, they just played the whole thing a little bit slower. Gameplay was a little bit easier and, the most important thing for this submission, the MUSIC had a slower tempo.
I am used to that slower tempo. The source track I included is the original NTSC version, wich, for me, plays uncomfortably fast. :D So that was an obvious first move, to slow it down a little, and then a little more, to find more "space" in time, you know, so it can flow in a different direction. I'm aware that most approaches to remix this track were rock-oriented, or, at least. guitar oriented. This is not my case. I've always felt it big, orchestrated, evocating."
It's really interesting the way different ports of a game have their own quirks, and how some of the tricks (or even laziness) used in localization and porting can have an affect not only on gameplay and visuals, but also on the execution, appreciation and interpretation of a game's music; there's a college thesis somewhere in there, or at least a solid essay. Speaking of essays, Jorge actually had a bit more to add:
"Ok, many many years later, came Gradius V on the PS2, made by those incredible ex-Konami team named Treasure. And that 2.5D shooter a-la-Ikaruga is not only the best incarnation of Gradius to date, but also has an amazing soundtrack! THAT is the direction I wanted to take: IF there was going to be a Salamander 2.5D a-la-Gradius V (Please, Konami, read this), this is the music I'd like to hear while playing the first stage, in which Latis is surrounded by Zelo's force and you have to fly there and save the day!
What did I use?
- Nuendo 4 / Reason 4, main tools.
- EastWest Symphonic Orchestra (Orch. Bits)
- StormDrum2 (Percussion)
- Omnisphere (Several percussive items)
- Voices of Passion (The bulgarian girl litte bits)"
Whew! Jorge's passion for video games really comes through in his submission emails, that's for sure. But what about his music? There, too, one definitely gets a sense of his detailed appreciation for the music he's honoring. This mix is shorter, and a little on the liberal side, but most judges felt there were enough source connections and loved the production. Vinnie writes:
"The arrangement forges its own path, building minimal electronic elements with some heavier orchestral stuff. Sounds a bit like Nick Singer's stuff but more emphasis on the beat. I think sometimes it gets too colored, but Jorge always pulls back on those notes quickly and the new chord at 2:12 was a beautiful alteration."
Shariq, who just joined us in Troy, NY at Genericon, marking his first official appearance on an OCR panel, added:
"It could be longer, but I think it's pretty solid. I dig it when the vox comes in. Very chill, yet it still has an edge. Great pumping piece."
That's what she said. For under three minutes, Jorge really packs a lot of variety into this piece, blending orchestral (good dynamics AND brass, to boot!) with synths and ethnic instrumentation and vocalizing. As an "artistic petition" to persuade Konami to do a next-gen, 2.5D Salamander, this is pretty compelling. Even if that never happens, though, Mr. Mira's given us another fantastic, dynamic, cinematic MSX ReMix to enjoy!
on 2012-07-30 21:59:57
Thanks for the comments!! It's awesome to read you'll still listening to this track!!
on 2012-07-26 10:29:31
Cool. I'm really enjoying the beat and slightly spooky sound to this one. Could have been a little longer, but I like it quite a lot. The piano and the percussion really make this ReMix. I do hear the spy bits, but it's a little more clock tower/dark area sounding to me for some reason, which is sweet.
on 2011-04-29 05:17:55
What I like about this mix:
- it's got a Goldeneye/Perfect Dark-like vibe throughout (action/suspense), sometimes fueled by quirks like that familiar tube wind sound 5 seconds in
- in this time signature, just enough pompous emphasis is placed on every starting third (or sixth) note to get me jamming along
- those whirly, almost offbeat synths at 0:29 - 0:32, 0:53 - 0:56, and similar nooks in the melody are like cute little sirens that add to the action
- the piano arpeggio at 2:11/2:12 contrasts with previous similar moments by adding a reflective grace to this post-breakdown section
on 2010-06-11 14:54:44
Thanks Rozovian. I really appreciate your comments!
As a matter of a fact, this track was started before the SD Snatcher's one. It came to a point where I was happy with but it lacked something (it didn't have the 'ethnic percussion' and I hadn't neither added the voice bits yet).
As almost everything I do, I must do it quite fast due to 'time constrictions'. The first 'iteration' was done in 2 days.
Then, as I was 'just fine' with the track (not really 'feeling it') I decided to give it a try at the Snatcher one and BORROWED the same arrangement file, with a lot of instruments already 'chosen' for Salamander as a template.
So, indeed, they both share more than a 'feeling'.
But it happens that the 'Snatcher one' was done even quicker: 1 and a half day and It really worked quite well! (I was more 'fresh' with this one, and had my idea even clearer about what to do).
So I decided to submit the Snatcher's one first, as I was happy with it anyway, and shelved the Salamander one. (By the way, this was like the 4th or 5th time I have done a different arrangement of it. Maybe that's why I was so anxious about it: There was so much stuff I wanted to fit that It felt like it was never ok...)
Then, like 3 or 4 moths later, I was scoring a TV documentary about some 'climatic change' theme and I had some Google Earth images in the opening scene. I just wrote a ethereal line with 'Voices of Passion' (the EastWest voice library) over some U2s-esque guitar riffs (something like the beginning of 'Where the streets have no name' meets 'Enya' and then Hans Zimmer puts some percussion over it) and it really worked!
So, I immediately recalled the Salamander one and my 'second verse emptiness trouble'.
Tried it, it was so cool. But then, the groove was still, well... 'still'. So re-thought the bass line, added the 'ethnic percussion' and had a 15 minutes discussion with my younger brother as to why 1/ the voice can't come in sooner (it ruins the surprise) and 2/why I like dull pianos.
Everything was put together in 5-6 hours, and, finally, it worked!
on 2010-05-28 06:35:46
Man, this is awesome. Again, very much a spy/secret agent/commando feel to it. The track overall is cool, the triplet rhythm, the brass stuff, the dynamics, the mix of instruments complementing each other so well, but it really comes alive when the voice comes in.
on 2010-03-27 16:10:48
I was wondering why this remix gave me such a distinct 90's feeling.
There's some Pet Shop Boys here for sure, as they've been also such a big influence in my work. I think also that, the fact this one is a 6/8, brought in some 'Can you forgive her' elements in an inconcious way...
on 2010-03-19 02:48:05
The first part of the song made me think a bit of the first Command Conquer
See, I was wondering why this remix gave me such a distinct 90's feeling. Guess I found a possible reason.
The choice and variety of instruments is great, and the vocals fit in perfectly. Just like anyone else, though, I wish this were longer.
on 2010-02-26 08:37:08
So, what will be your next project? Penguin Adventure?
XD That would be awesome. And F1 Spirit, and Treasure of Usas, and Space Manbow, and King's Valley II, and so many Konami games unique to the MSX platform that have some of THE BEST music in videogaming history. Period.
Nevertheless, as I said in an earlier post, next will be "King Kong 2 (MSX2, 1989)", first stage.
(and final, as this is an EP of 3 tracks 'Push Space Key (A Konami Tribute)')
Hope it makes it on the site for you all to listen!
on 2010-02-26 08:21:16
If you've only played Lifeforce, I would really suggest playing the MSX version of Salamander as well, since it is so much better imho!
There are quite some differences between NES Lifeforce and the MSX version of Salamander, as can be read on wikipedia:
The MSX port of Salamander is significantly different than the original and any other ports. New to this port is a graphical introduction that introduces human pilots for each ship, as well as names for each stage.
The levels are notably longer than the arcade original, and the player(s) is(are) forced to start from a pre-defined checkpoint upon death of either pilot, instead of starting where he/she left off. After level two, the player can choose the order of the next three stages.
In addition, the player can collect "E" capsules by destroying certain enemies. Collecting fifteen will permanently upgrade one of the available weapons on the power-up bar.
This port also introduced two entirely new ships. Instead of the Vic Viper and the Lord British Space Destroyer, they were replaced by ships known as the Sabel Tiger and the Thrasher; piloted by human characters named Iggy Rock and Zowie Scott. The story takes place in the year 6709 A.D.
As for the remix: commandcom did some lovely work on it!
The first part of the song made me think a bit of the first Command Conquer though , though when it reached 0:50 the Salamander feeling was awesome
It would be nice if commandcom could make an extended version of the remix though, since I certainly would like to hear some more of this classic!
So, what will be your next project? Penguin Adventure?
on 2010-02-25 10:27:01
This takes me waay back.
Lifeforce. Man, this is dredging up some great memories...
Good job on the song CommandCom. But I have to agree, it SHOULD have been longer.
*ya damn tease*
on 2010-02-24 17:41:21
hehehe I played Life Force on my NES recently for the first time. Still not sure why the planet explodes at the end, but meh. Still, a great track. Nice sophomore effort from commandcom.
on 2010-02-24 17:25:32
Life Force was released in Europe as well. And it's always been my favorite Gradius Installment. And this track is just amazing! the source is my favorite of the whole ost and Jorge really does it justice!
the slow tempo and the big, orchestra-in-space feel really does it for me... if it only were 2 minutes longer!!!
oh well, i'll have to put it on repeat then!
great work commandcom. can't wait to hear your next remix!
on 2010-02-24 13:42:10
pretty good stuff, though it took me a few listens to really get into it. excellent variety of instruments with a nice clean sound and great production. nice work!
on 2010-02-23 18:35:48
Thankyou all for your comments, really! Again, as in the Snatcher one or any other I may get into, the real genius is the original writer. Those Konami guys were (are) really talented. As the spirit of this site encourages, there's so much under rated incredible music in videogames it is hard to believe. For me it is a pleasure to revitalize some in a way it can be re-visited and re-rated so it recieves the credit it deserves.
Being said that, I allways have the a mixed feeling about what I lika passionately: I tend to be happy with what I do, but at the same time not sure if it is what I meant it to be in the first place. And in this case it is specially true, as i've tried to do this mix almost 5 times from 1992 or something. So, there was so much I wanted to transmit while being faithfull to the original that, ultimatelly, I may have failed keeping focus on the source wich, for me, is a killer one.
So I'm happy that you like what it has become in the end but please, take a listen to the original game and, with perspective, you'll find an amazing soundtrack that maybe someday gets the recognition it cries for.
Finally, I'm sorry I don't get to make them longer! I don't have all the time I'd wish for this and I must get it done as quickly as I can. Nevertheless, I'm halfway through the final one (King Kong 2's main theme, MSX2 (1989)) and that one, if accepted on this site, will be longer... a little bit longer.
BTW, I can't believe the irony of this: As I said, for me, it has been a long trip from 1992 to make this happen and... look at the ReMix number. 1992. Spooky.
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