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I don’t consider myself to be a huge Ninja Gaiden fan. I haven’t even played Ninja Gaiden 3 to this day, let alone attempt to finish any of the NES classics. However, I can’t deny that the series is part of my childhood. My love for nostalgia was more than enough to make me buy the modern “Sigma” revivals on the PS3…not to mention download the first installment for the Wii Virtual Console for old times’ sake. Anyone who played a Ninja Gaiden game would remember the responsive and extremely difficult 2D gameplay…but personally, the one thing that stuck with me during all those years is that damn catchy waterfall stage music from Ninja Gaiden 2. Seriously…that track in particular has been looping in my head for a long, long time. That goes to show you how awesome the series’ soundtracks are. While I’m not familiar with the whole source material, playing the VC version of the first Ninja Gaiden brought back fond memories…and catchy chiptune music is undoubtedly part of the experience.
And this is where the Dwelling of Duels competition comes in. If you haven’t been following my write-ups for the past couple of months, you should start doing so now. The boys over at The Shizz picked Ninja Gaiden for this month’s theme, and that includes the latest installments for the Xbox, Xbox 360, and PS3. But who are we kidding, right? If an “anti-rhetorical” question exists in the English language, then I most certainly have stated one in last month’s write-up. No one will touch the modern series’ music with a 50-foot pole…because they’re simply not as memorable and “expandable” as the chiptune classics.
A few interesting tidbits regarding this month’s compo. First off, it’s possibly the first time a specific theme repeats itself, hence the “Deux” subtitle on the main page. It’s justifiable though since the last Ninja Gaiden month took place way back in April 2004 and only 2 people entered with one collaboration track. In that sense, April 2004 doesn’t look like a competition to me. An even better tidbit is that one of the people behind that 2004 track, Ryan8bit, won this month’s competition! Talk about an iconic and fitting win.
So Ryan is obviously a seasoned veteran of DoD. You’ll notice that he’s been entering even before April 2004, and most of his earlier stuff still hold up very well today. Years of experience in guitar playing and production values have culminated to this very track. I don’t know the original source, but man Ryan really rocks the house with this one. The fast-paced rhythm guitars mix well with the various solos. Short & sweet stuff that deserves first place…although it’s not my favorite track off Ryan. Personally, I regard his Dragon Quest IV track from 2004 to be his best work due to the epic feel and various styles of music explored. He also has another cool from the Enix-based competition. His best recent work was a track he submitted in January of this year for , covering . Nevertheless, don’t let my comments undermine how great his latest entry is. It may not be my cup of tea, but I’m sure most of you will dig it.
Here are my other highlights of this month:
Wow. Now this is different. I have no idea who Akutula and Sascratch are, but huge props to them for trying out a new sound for DoD: Flamenco Acoustic Guitar Duet. Last time DoD had a Flamenco track was way back in July 2007’s “Donkey Kong Compo” by none other than thesamareye. was such a great entry, and this one is equally as good if not better. I can feel great chemistry between these two individuals, feeding off each other’s playing nicely, going through a bunch of Ninja Gaiden music. The track starts off with a nice cover of Ninja Gaiden 1’s Act 2 music, followed by a track I’m not familiar with…then enters Ninja Gaiden 2 territory mid-track. Thankfully, the duo don’t forget Act 2-2’s “Waterfall” music. Great stuff indeed and a close first place contender. No offence to Ryan, but this track is my favorite one this month.
Three way tie for third place…now isn’t that ironic? While I enjoyed jaxx and Master Hatchet’s entries, BONKERS track stood out to me more. Yet again, I’m not familiar with the source (aside from the “stage start” riff). I like how BONKERS starts off with some distorted violin samples then evolves the rhythm with some rocking guitars. After the “stage start” salute, we get a nice “progressive rock” sound through some sweet rhythm guitars and background electroinca and synth sounds. I also appreciate the loud bass and nicely-programmed drums. Overall, the track sounds like it can fit into a Star Ocean or Valkyrie Profile game. Very Motoi Sakuraba-esque indeed. My only gripe is the slight repetitiveness…although that’s how video game music should sound, especially when we’re talking about 8-bit chiptunes.
Aha…I see what you guys did there. The trio of Nario, Powelman, and Omnideth are back…with a band name change. Looks like the former PokeMEN broke up and reformed or something. Anyway, just like “Duet of Ninjas”, this track has a different flavor from your typical “DoD metalz” flavor. The trio grant us with a downbeat, chill track. While it’s on the repetitive side, I love the overall ambiance and minimalistic sounds. It would’ve been great if some of those background synths were a bit louder, but I’ll take what I can get…the bass drum and light electric guitar make up for that well. Keep up the good work, dudes. Do me one favor though, do NOT change your name to “The Free Month Men” for next month’s compo. “The MAG-MEN” will do nicely.
Oh yeah, baby! A full-blown cover of the waterfall theme music! That’s what I’m talking about. I like how Luke expands outside of the song itself with some original work mid-track. Production issues with the electric guitars aside, this is a solid remix. Sweet drums (particularly the intro), strong playing, and appropriate accompanying synths make this track the underdog of this month.
And that, as they say, is that. Next month’s competition doesn’t feature any themes or gimmicks; any game music track will do. What makes December/January’s compo so special is the fact that it coincides with an annual festival that’s popular within game music communities: MAGfest. The Music and Gaming Festival attracts “cliques” such as OC ReMix, Dwelling of Duels, composers and voice actors inside the game industry, and many video game music bands. Typically, December/January DoD compos are extremely active and can feature over two dozen tracks. The Shizz also like to feature all the entries in a live listening party sitting during the festival. So if you like game music and can play an instrument, now is the best time to enter!
For more information on MAGfest, visit their website here. See you people next month!