Nostalgia – just reading (or writing) that word can induce a trance because of the semantic satiation. Like it or not, those nine letters have become part of how the world views chiptune and some other musical genres, especially in recent years. Putting aside if there is or is not truth in those words, today I’d like to take a slice of that cake. While the excessive romanticization of the 80s & 90s games, sometimes, verges on the cliché; City Guys break the line between the ideal good and the actual good with a bright and vibrant album that is a delight not only for the VGM lovers but also for anyone who enjoys music. So let’s take a look over ‘Silly Snake 2: Silly Snake’s Soccer Blast’ by City Guys, released through Pterodactyl Squad.
Before we get started, I’d like to provide some background. ‘Silly Snake 2: Silly Snake’s Soccer Blast’ is(/was) the sequel of ‘Silly Snake’ a landmark in the history of platform games. Its production was rushed so it could be released at the time the USA 94 Worldcup was played, and yet, it didn’t sell as expected – but the music is great, so let’s dive in.
A cheerful melody is in charge of welcoming listeners and players to their adventure. The lively rhythm, characteristic of sports games, controls the development of the track, but without causing an overload of dynamism or becoming too reiterative. The first section filled with those nice funky accents and the joyful accompaniment builds up a familiar feeling (almost like a song of The Jackson 5). In contrast, the second section presents a darker —but not somber— aura clearly marked by the distorted bass and a sustained note of the lead. The continued upbeat feeling that doesn’t drop off during the two and a half minutes the song lasts is wonderful. For a starter, this song is perfect!
‘Streets of Snake’ features a few peculiarities, aside from the genius and extremely appropriate name, which are worth talking about. The rising tension that the PSG builds from the beginning is promptly resolved by the FM patch in a burst of power – it’s like if it accumulated energy to release it in one precise hit. Beyond the mere stylistic reference; the bass plays the quintessential role of gluing the parts together in this funky flurry; all without fracturing the line between parts while adding the right amount of aggressiveness. The Groove is a quality a person can’t hide, no matter how much they try. I have the little suspicious that City Guys are one of those rare cases of “give me a bass patch and I’ll move the world”.
The strong melodic attributes this album has goes beyond the typical VGM archetype, but, at the same time, it preserves the “classical convention” of musical writing for a game. City Guys spice things up in several ways, from sound design to harmony, and the intro to this track is a perfect example of their expertise. Three notes and less than five seconds into the track, the listener is hit by some intense feelings – and even flashbacks of space scenes. This is probably the best musical quote in chiptune I’ve ever recognized. They do not just create and feed an atmosphere, they make sure to completely immerse the listener. The strong bass enhances the motion while at the time it serves as a rhythmical catalyst for the drums and as the key spot in the overall structure. The evolution of this piece of music is just pleasant. The decisiveness this track exudes is contagious and refreshing – it is a clear call to action, and it is hard to ignore it.
I have to confess that at first, this song got me. The piano sets a chilled mood that hits base when, once again, the bass brings in some tasty, tasty lines marked for the deep and warm vibrato thickening the sound. It’s then when the game changes. If I had to define this track in just one word, I’d choose movement. The impeccable transitions make the progressive march of the notes flow with a remarkable silkiness – the square waves being a core point of the whole sense of cohesiveness. The slow adding of layers adds some texture to the sound defining perfectly the three major sections of the piece in a glorious conversation between FM and PSG. That harmonious duality is that which makes the world go round. Also, the idea of Silly Snake fighting Maradona as the final boss is brilliant!
Finding balance between extremes is a challenging task that not everyone can face and still obtain the best results. Just the experience —through practice and failure— can lead to a refined product. ‘Silly Snake 2: Silly Snakes’ Soccer Blast’ is a prominent example of the aforesaid equilibrium. Its nature puts in first plane the music itself highlighting some compositional aspects using the sound design as a means instead of an end – always in behalf of the piece. The little winks to other game franchises and the frankly impressive way in which all the elements were treated, in form and substance, gives to the whole work a genuine retro flavor. So much so, it could actually pass for a game soundtrack of that era. If you like great funky bass lines, crispy fresh FM leads, and high quality-melodies, then this album is for you. So please, if you can afford it, go and support City Guys!
Thank you so much for reading. See you next time!