Editor’s Note: RPGFan has not reviewed Retro Remix Revue Vol. 1 because the tracklist did not have any RPG music, save for one Zelda track. Future coverage of the Retro Remix Revue series on RPGFan will hinge on the individual tracks chosen for arrangement.
Retro gaming has become quite trendy lately. Perhaps with the state of the world being what it is, people want to retreat back to their happy, carefree childhood days, and one way to recapture that nostalgia is through video games. Gamers all remember weekends and summer vacations spent as children glued to various consoles; like almost anyone my age, my childhood was all about the 8-bit and 16-bit days. Even in those days before MP3-quality audio, some amazing music was cranked out of those PCM and MIDI soundchips of yore and much of that music has stuck with us for a long time. Rock bands are even covering classic video game tunes alongside classic rock tunes. Some people refer to this as “Nintendocore.” So now, I am happy to review Retro Remix Revue Vol. 2, a collection of beautifully arranged 8-to-64-bit video game tunes. The performers are a who’s who of capable studio musicians, such as drummer Gregg Bissonnette, who together play a cornucopia of instruments from synthesizer to flugelhorn.
There are a wide variety of music genres represented in the soundtrack, with some pieces using traditional/acoustic instruments and others using more modern instruments such as electric guitars and synthesizers. For example, the Super Mario Bros. 3 track is old time jazz, the Castlevania III piece is guitar-driven hard rock, and the Sonic the Hedgehog piece is total ’80s. The pieces start out playing the tune as you would hear it in-game to establish familiarity and end in a familiar way as well, but the middle parts of the songs have tons of interpretation and original flourishes in keeping with the musical genre the arrangement was going for.
The “valid for RPGFan” games represented on the soundtrack are Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars. All of these pieces featured acoustic and orchestral instruments (though the Chrono Trigger piece had some prominent ethereal synths) and were all good tracks. The Earthbound piece was easily my favorite song on the album. At 8 minutes it’s the longest track, but it was thoroughly engaging the whole way through and never lost its momentum. I could listen to it all day. The Latin inspired Gerudo Valley song from Ocarina of Time was pretty impressive as well.
My favorite non-RPG piece was the old time jazz rendering of Super Mario Bros. 3 that kicked off the album and the more swing/bebop-esque Mario Paint song was pretty neat as well. I also found the interplay between trumpet and electric guitar in the Street Fighter II piece fun to listen to as well. The most pleasant surprise was the ambient Donkey Kong Country piece with some lovely flute and synthesizer interplay. This piece completely defied my expectations and I had to look at the tracklist a couple of times to confirm this was Donkey Kong Country and not an unused track from a Square Enix RPG.
Personally, I found the pieces that primarily used acoustic and orchestral instrumentation more appealing than the pieces where electric or electronic instruments were at the forefront. The more electric/electronic pieces, such as those from Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man 7, were expertly performed but did not quite grab me as much as the acoustic/orchestral pieces. But really, though, that’s just a matter of taste.
I must say, Retro Remix Revue Vol. 2 is a great album. It is very clear that everyone involved with it was passionate about gaming and just like a diner can taste “the love” in a good chef’s food, I could totally taste “the love” in this album, even in the tracks I may not have been super fond of. There’s something here everyone can enjoy. Gamers can dig it, non-gamers can dig it, and though I had not played all the games represented on the album, I still enjoyed the pieces from those games for what they were. All in all, this album comes recommended.