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Dwelling of Duels December 09 – MAG 8 Month

It’s time again for a DoD reviewOnce again we have three categories – Great, OK, and Skips. My picks aren’t influenced by the artist or by the final results, just how they feel to me when listening to them. In each category the songs are listed in no particular order.

Great

The Planet’s Dyin’ from Final Fantasy 7 – A death metal take on the prelude starts off this medley. Haven’t quite heard it done that way in a long time. Right about when you’re getting tired of the amount of double-kick, the song slows down a bit and gets gentle. The transition to the opening theme is abrupt, and needed more work, and the guitars here sound a little off. The drum sample is also woefully inadequate. Fortunately, this part is short lived as it transitions into the Bombing Run theme. The bombastic horns combine with crunchy guitars to produce a very compelling sound, though the bass tends to get lost in the mix. It finally transitions into the FF7 overworld theme for a short period of time before getting to the ending, which is the FF main theme. It’s a very triumphant metal rendition with no real complaints. This is a good case of a song that gets better as it goes on. The medley transitions really need work, though.

This Volcano is Just The Right Temperature from Mega Man Adventure ZX – Something that isn’t metal for  a change of pace. It’s well arranged and it sounds pretty good. I’ve never heard the track in question before, and it did appeal to me without knowing the source material. Got a jazzy feel and we need more of that.

Waves of Stone from Ecco: The Tides of Time – The best entry this month. The synths, guitars, and even the chorus combine to produce a thick, juicy sound that catches you right off the bat and doesn’t let go. Ecco is a series of games I’ve never played, so most of it is new / fresh to me, albeit having heard a few Ecco arrangements in the past. It also doesn’t go on forever, either – the arrangement is tight and doesn’t spend a lot of time noodling around. Bravo.

You Can Call Me Roy G. Biv from Kirby’s Adventure – A nice, gentle beginning. The guitar solo in the middle is a bit muddy and airy, though. Needs a bit more body so it doesn’t get lost within the center. Still very pleasing to listen to, then at about 3 minutes in it transitions to a bigger, more electric sound. The slower tracks this month stand out in a sea of drumbashing attempts, and props go to these guys for going this route.

Que Rico el Mono from Mario Paint – Something Spanish flavored in this entry, and it really feels like a great Mario arrangement. Horns, saxophones, piano… couldn’t hear a single guitar. A great listen and a must download.

Kid Samus from Metroid and Kid Icarus – Combining two NES classics into one track? Sounds good to me. A lot of the entries sound really good this month so differences between greats and OKs tend to be more in arrangement and general feel of the song, and this one does a decent job of melding two tracks without resorting to a medley.

Midnight Rush from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Now here’s a decent piano arrangement. Good recording, good playing, and keeps your interest throughout. Then the drums and bass come in along with a sax and an organ to develop another jazzy sound. Then it gets even crazier with synthesizers! Talk about a buildup with a unique sound. Then the piano comes back in to bring it down to earth. A great arrangement with a good sound always makes a winner.

I’m Hitting Balls from Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball – Now here’s a track I haven’t heard in forever. I loved Ken Griffey on SNES and the music was pretty good. It’s also fairly short. There wasn’t a lot of music in the game, to be fair, but what there was is represented here fairly well. A nice touch for including the organ as well, which is such a staple of baseball.

Drinking Eight Sodas Makes Me Sick from Chrono Trigger – A nice acoustic arrangement with what sounds like live piano and flute. It could use some more percussion in the background, but is otherwise well produced and easy to listen to.

Toejam & Hurl 2: The Eyes of Satan from Toejam and Earl – Big, Bombastic, and over the top is how you describe this. Definitely worth a pickup, though Ecco seems to beat this song better at its own game.

OK

The Battle (Christmas Present to all Lufia Fans) from Lufia 2 – A Megamedley. I’m not a huge Lufia fan, but I’ve heard stuff from it and enjoyed it. There’s nothing obviously wrong with this song. It’s produced pretty well and the guitar playing is good. There’s just a few parts where the guitar tone doesn’t feel right to me. The drum kits also sound a bit low rent at times. Worth a listen and will probably grow on you over time.

The Prog Race: Everything You Hear is Wanking from Marble Madness – The title describes it pretty well. There seems to be an abundance of “mash everything on the drums at once” this month and this arrangement suffers from it a bit. The guitars are big and beefy. I’m not quite sure what goes on with that lick from the Simpsons theme in the middle… I’d delete it to tighten up the arrangement a bit.

Sephiroth’s Deliverance from Final Fantasy 7 – The sound is OK but the arrangement is a bit uninspired. A lot of tracks have a very similar sound this month. You might like this one, you might not. Whatever, it doesn’t inspire much from me.

Surfside Graveyard from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins – Surf guitar has a lot of echo but this isn’t quite the sound they wanted to evoke. It’s nice to listen to, but you do have to get past that it sounds like it was recorded with wet towels over the mics.

Terra from Final Fantasy 6 – Double kick, anyone? The drums are mixed far too prominently in this track. Hey, they’re trying to go for screamcore/Dethklok style sound, but the mixing just ain’t there. It would be helpful if I could make out the lyrics, at least. These guys should check out Monkeys Disarm Your Kremlings for an example on how to do this.

Yolkfolk Rock from Dizzy: The Prince of the Yolkfolk – This drags a bit. Tempo just doesn’t feel quite right, but the sound isn’t too bad. It really picks up to something a bit more interesting about three minutes in. Worth a listen; see if you like it or not.

OMG Not Another Terra Arrangement! from Final Fantasy 6 – These Terra arrangements kind of miss the point of the original song. This isn’t bad to listen to, it just doesn’t have much to it. It’s not much different than the other Terra arrangement this month, and it still doesn’t displace Deadly Promises as my favorite Terra arrangement from DoD past. The reason I like that one more is that it’s a slower, methodical track, and that legato feel is crucial for Terra’s ambivalent character.

In Lavitz’ Name We Strike from Legend of Dragoon – If you can get past the one part of sort of out of tune guitar playing in the beginning, the rest is a pretty interesting mix of synths and guitar. If they fixed that intro, this would definitely be bumped into the Greats.

Land of Summons from Final Fantasy IV – a fairly straight arrangement of Illusionary World. An OK listen but nothing groundbreaking.

Oceanic Joyride from Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Super Mario Bros – The tremolo picking doesn’t help in the intro, but the guitar tone’s overall good. The bass gets lost in the mix with the rhythm guitar. An extra instrument to give this song a little more texture and depth would have helped out a bit. About halfway through it transitions to the Super Mario Bros. underwater theme with clean electric guitars for a quick break until it jumps right back into the distortion. Ends on a fadeout too, for shame.

Do the Opa-Opa from Fantasy Zone – Gotta give these guys credit for doing something different. This is another one of those “you’ll either really like it or you don’t.” It’s catchy and fun but the instrumentation is only so-so.

Audacity Butterflies from Chrono Cross – An OK piano arrangement. The recording is so-so but better than Resurrection. With better recording this could move up into the greats.

Adieu, Mes Amis from Sonic the Hedgehog – It’s all right, I guess. These drums just can’t compete anymore. The guitar also sounds a bit off here and there, but it’s still an OK song.

A Pie for Paragon from Axelay – One of these long songs. The instrumentation is good, but it has trouble holding my interest. It sounds a lot like general “prog synth rock” entries that seem to get lost in this OK category. The playing is well done.

Skip

THE MISSION WAS COMPLETED SUCCESSFULLY from Metroid Prime – The opening guitar tone blows and will put a lot of people off from this. There’s some interesting stuff going on later, but I always wind up fast forwarding through this.

Tingle Goes Christmas Shopping from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – This feels like a gag song, but it’s submitted as an actual song. It’s trying to parody Jingle All The Way. It’s a bit repetitive and the sound is eh.

Resurrection of the World from Terranigma – Poorly recorded piano, but the actual playing isn’t bad except from a few mistakes I hear in a few places. Nothing unique here.

Scarlet Carnage from Shinobi – Out of tune or otherwise poor guitar playing ruin what is an otherwise interesting tune.

La Fayette from Goldeneye – A terrible mix of James Bond. Sorry guys, this one’s junk. Guitars out of tune, bad general MIDI orchestra hits… blech.

Mario McCallister from Mario Paint and Home Alone – So-so instrumentation. At least it sounds like live drums were used. Just not very interesting to listen to.

Mary O. and Louie G. from Super Mario Bros. – With a little more work this could move up into the OKs. Sounds a bit plodding, and the minor changes to the Mario theme detract, and don’t add to it. Quite repetitive, too.

Graveriser from Altered Beast – This fuzzy tone combined with the strange cymbal/drums just doesn’t do it for me.

Dreams and Honor from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 – Blech. Bad guitar and boring to listen to. Try again.

Flame Mammoth’s Stage from Mega Man X – Some out of tune guitar playing and just overall… eh. Nothing inspiring with a bad sound.

All Together Now from Mega Man X, Mega Man X2 – Just not a fan of the lyrics, and the tune itself aside from the guitar is just so… meh.

A Flashing Tornado Hits Houselvania (Because of Dr. Wily!) from Mega Man 2, Mega Man 9, Casltevania – A solo guitar that doesn’t sound very good.

Alternates

Galuf’s Valiant Heart from Final Fantasy V – This sounds almost good enough to be a mainline track with a little more work. The chorus near the end of the song isn’t very good and would be better off with either better singers or being removed.

Wat? from Final Fantasy IV – Well, the title of the song is accurate. It’s a Mysidia arrangement with some silly gag lyrics. It’s pretty funny. Even has some Bobcat Goldthwait going on.

The Altered Song from Final Fantasy X – It’s some kind of choral arrangement.

Stab the Organ Fade of Justice from Star Ocean 2 – This would need a LOT of work to be a mainline entry.

Rock Band from Guitar Hero: World Tour – Quite a funny rap. NSFW, too.

Snake Leaves the DoD Listening Party from Mega Man 3 – A gag comedy routine over Gemini Man.

Rayth vs. Power Rangers from Power Rangers – Meh. What’s the point?

Paving the Way to Doomsday from Sonic 3 and Knuckles – This is pretty good and would be a part of the OKs if it was a mainline entry.

Hybrid from Mega Man 9 – Some weird chiptune/other stuff going on here. Eh.

Like a Harmony from Tales of Destiny – Eh. Not very interesting.

Dust Man (You Ain’t Gettin’ No More) from Mega Man 4 – This is wicked awesome and if it was a mainline entry it’d be right at the top. Really great work here.

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November 09 Dwelling of Duels

This month’s DoD theme was Ninja Gaiden part deux – meaning it’s the second time we’ve gone through a theme.  This is perfectly fine in the case of Ninja Gaiden, because the first theme all those years ago had only one entrant. This time, there’s  more entries to listen to, and here’s how they come down to my personal taste. This time I’m sorting things by three categories – Likes, Unlikes, and Unlistenable. Things that I like, obviously, go into likes. Things that I might not listen to all the time or have some small issues with would go into dislikes. Unlistenable is stuff that has serious issues that I probably won’t listen to again.

Likes

Ninja Gaiden 1, 2: Duet of Ninjas – Starts off with a very clean, good acoustic guitar. Then the second guitar comes in, and things come together perfectly. The recording is fine, the playing is excellent, and it’s a bit of a departure from all of our prog metal. I daresay it also fits the theme of Ninja Gaiden very well. At 3:50 it enters into the traditional Ninja Gaiden theme and the guitar playing really picks up. I can’t really pick up mistakes, or bad tuning. A better guitarist than me might, but overall the recording is excellent.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Welcome to Hell – This song means business. Guitars all around. The shredwork is quite nice, it’s hard to hear mistakes. The arrangement changes up nicely throughout the track and keeps it from being two and a half minutes of chugguna-chugguna. A lot of the DoD metal submissions could learn from this track. Plus, the ending is superb, a quality one that isn’t a fadeout.

Ninja Gaiden 2 – I am a Ninja – Good guitar tone and playing, but the backing piano is a little lacking. Otherwise, very pleasant to listen to, until 1:30, when it changes over to a higher tempo with very repetitive drums and the guitar starts going a little off. At 2:15 it changes back to a slower tempo with what I must assume is a different song – I’m not much of a Ninja Gaiden expert. The slower echoey guitar has a great mood to it. The transitions between bits are a little rough but the actual song is pretty good to listen to throughout, save for the first high tempo section. It ends on a strong point, with a heavily synth textured ending.

Ninja Gaiden 1,2: Death Hurts – It’s a medley, with synths, guitars, and big drums. There’s a lot to like with the arrangement, even if the synth strings don’t do much for me. The big, beefy guitar tone helps a lot, with several harmony layers to listen to. It’s mostly upbeat and rocking, which helps. It might not be my favorite this month but it’s not bad and does a lot of things well.

Ninja Gaiden 3: What’s a Bio-Noid? – Crunchy guitars combined with shreddy guitars makes me quite happy. It’s produced well and there’s no slop in the arrangement, and it ends on the classic Ninja Gaiden level end theme. It’s tough to find anything to pick apart – it’s just really nice to listen to.

Dislikes

Ninja Gaiden 1: I’ll Mask YOUR Devil! – A bit short, and the arrangement doesn’t seem to go much of anywhere. The audio quality is decent, and the lead being on some kind of stringed instrument (it sounds synthy, though)

Ninja Gaiden 2: Scaling the Mountain – Boring, uninteresting drum track. I do like the chiptune work, and some of the guitars are OK, but they sound a bit flat. The NES synthwork saves it from being unlistenable.

Unlistenable

Ninja Gaiden 3: The Falcon’s Plight – The synth piano has no body at all, sounds very MIDI. It needs some reverb to give it more authority. Then at 1:07 the terrible guitars come in. From a listener’s standpoint, there’s nothing really redeeming here, but it sounds like a decent attempt to get somewhere, and with some more work the arrangement could be decent.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Ominous Death – it’s a loop of the same thing over and over again. Terrible.

Alternates

Ninja Gaiden 2 – Ryu and the Super Happy Riceball Dragon – Kinda lo-fi in parts, hence why it’s an alt, but the actual song itself doesn’t sound too bad. It could grow on me.

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Dwelling of Duels 10-09 review

This month’s  Dwelling of Duels theme is Game Boy month, featuring old gameboy/GB Color games. Dwelling of Duels, for those not in the know, is a monthly game music contest where entrants submit a song based on the monthly theme. Readers then vote on the songs and the song with the most points wins.

There were only 10 entries this month, some good, some bad. There were also four joke/alt/gag songs. I’ve had a chance to listen to each track a few times, so here’s my thoughts on them. These are in no particular order, except putting the stronger ones and weaker ones into categories.

Studs

The PokeMETALLY – What would a month be without a megamedley? The playing/sound isn’t bad. I’ve never played any of the pokeymans games, so most of this music is relatively unknown to me. It does sound pretty good, but the arrangement leaves something to be desired given that it just moves on into each song without much transition. This is a flaw of most megamedleys and it is pretty hard to escape.

The Victory – Another Pokemon song, and it’s your standard synth metal fare. It sounds good, well produced, but it too is a medley, just shorter than PokeMETALLY. There’s also a lot going on, everything seems to be running at the same volume and some things are missed. It’s still nice to listen to though, so there is that.

Welcome to the Pokesphere – The chiptune it starts out with is all right, but goes on too long, I think, at just one minute. Then the arranged part comes in, with a light piano, guitar, and drum beat. It’s very relaxing to listen to and the piano playing is great. The light guitars play off of it to give a good rhythm contrast. Then a string pluck synth comes in to add another level of texture. During all of this, the chiptune drum track stays in, which does not sound out of place at all. Overall the music does sound very nice, I would have just cut the opening chiptune a bit short.

One Small Step for Aran – Metroid 2 has been criminally underrepresented in the music community and it’s nice to see it show up in a Game Boy month. Once again it’s that prog rock kind of sound. It’s well produced, though the drums get a bit monotonous after a while. Haven’t these guys heard of fills?  I have no other complaints, it’s just nice to listen to.

Droppin’ – The requisite Tetris cover goes a complete 180. I love the horns and what sounds like a ukelele in the background. The drum track overall feels like a laid back accompaniment, which is exactly what this track orders. It comes in at just over the two minute minimum. That’s the only flaw of the song – it’s too short. I really dig this one.

I’d Solar Strike HER –  Another big, flashy production. Not familiar with Solar Striker, but I like the guitar work, and the organ too, even though it could use some more dynamics. The drums have enough reverb on them to not have them sound like the drumkit that they are.

So-Sos

Bunker Half-Pipe – This starts out not so good, and the drums sound like a bad rip of uber-metal drums. Overall, while the second half is better, the whole song just feels a bit off to me.

Geysers of Darkest Shadow – Crunchy guitar tone which I like, but piano sounds flat. The drums sound like every other generic drum track I hear in this thing. The actual guitar playing sounds a bit sloppy near the end with all the meedlies.

In the Bitter Watches of the Night – The guitars have tuning problems, but the tone is decent.

Duds

Sleight of Hand – Blech. No dynamics, bad guitar tone. The drums could do with some extra lift, they sound a bit too sterile.

Alts

All the alts, save for Russian Polka Bicycle song, kinda stink. I mean, it has Russian, accordions… it did make me laugh. The others were unlistenable.

Overall, I’d have to pick Droppin’ as my favorite. It stands out amongst a sea of similar sounding songs and is a refreshing take on what might otherwise be a trite song by now.

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