I must be getting old, because these days I’m actively seeking calming music to play me off to dreamland in the evenings. I already shared my go-to sleepytime album a few months back, but while checking out related and recommended albums after last month’s review I stumbled onto a release from a tiny German label called Dead Bison. I was intrigued – they’ve got almost no web presence and just three releases through the last three years, I’m not even sure how they popped up aside from Bandcamp’s recommendation algorithms being very, very good. ‘Driving East’ by Natsukashii is one of these three releases, and by halfway through the first track I had experienced a relaxing calm so pure I knew this had to be what I’ve been looking for.
Sup y’all? =) Following up last month’s fantastic conversation with stig, I’ve another thoroughly engaging read for you good folk with yet another silly talented friend of mine (how do I find myself surrounded by these amazing people anyways, geez….).
If you’ve been in or around the chiprealm for a good few years now, you’re very likely familiar with Boston chip duo BR1GHT PR1MATE. Then again, if you’ve just gotten into it all in the last year or so, maybe not so much. This is largely because the talented team of James and Lydia Primate have both been deeply involved in the creation and development of a very unique indie game called ‘Rain World‘, which just released via Steam and Playstation. Today’s interview features an in-depth convo with James about his work on such. Really good stuff once again. Read on below.
Video games and their soundtracks have a very symbiotic relationship. The game has to portray a setting while the music breathes life into it. The music has to set a mood while the game has to have characters and settings that match it. Some games and soundtracks don’t quite get that right, but RushJet1’s soundtrack to 1001 Spikes is not one of those instances. The game itself is an update of an Xbox Live Indie Game titled Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes, so the original compositions for the first 7 worlds were by Misoka; RushJet1 just updated them for this release. The rest are all his, including the Key versions that play when you collect the Key for the stage (which is required to unlock the exit to each stage), and there’s quite a few musical allusions present in the guest character themes.
Oh Mr. Video Game, you’re totally not referencing anything whatsoever…
The thing about character themes in this game, though, is that you don’t hear them all the time. No matter who you choose, the first world always plays that character’s theme as the stage theme. Aban’s Theme, in particular, comes in several different flavors based on the outfits he wears. One such example is Ninja Aban, where he dons an outfit similar to Ryu Hayabusa’s from Ninja Gaiden. While in that outfit, his theme takes instrumentation cues from that game. Mr. Video Game (exclusive to Nintendo systems) takes his theme and turns it into something from a familiar land of fungi. There are more than just alternate outfits, however, as several characters from other indie games appear. Commander Video from the Bit.Trip games shows up, and in the first world you can hear his theme, complete with the soundscape heard in his games of origin revealing itself once you collect the Key for that stage. Curly Brace from Cave Story also shows up, along with a tune from that game accompanying her.
I’ll take on all the darts, flamethrowers, and bottomless lakes if I can keep hearing this great music…
Beyond that each world has its own theme, in terms of both music and appearance. For instance, the third world is full of water, and the matching theme, Mysterious Water, does indeed have an aqueous quality to it. The following world is quite the opposite: full of fire and heat, and its theme, Lava Stream, burns with a similar passion. Its Key version burns even fiercer. But no matter the setting of the area, each song captures a driving rhythm, fitting Aban’s determination to get through these deadly ruins alive. Even Frozen Wasteland, the theme of the 8th world and the first main world theme composed solely by RushJet1, has that sense of courage, of conviction, present in its rather deliberate pace. 1001 Icicles, world 9’s theme, prominently features the title theme for the first time in gameplay. This reference back to the first song you hear when you boot the game up is masterfully done, especially considering the song’s title.
Oh dear everything appears to be completely on fire. Including me.
There are also a couple of bonus adventures in the game. The first, Tower of Nannar, plays over 8 stages with 2 boss fights, and each stage has its own unique theme. While the ridiculous difficulty of the main game may not be fully present in these stages, their music is just as amazing. The Dungeon, theme of the first stage within Tower of Nannar, is a rather dark track that picks up about half a minute in, but fits the mood of the stage and the story of Tower of Nannar (wherein a girl is kidnapped from a nearby town and Aban must save her from the cultists who did it) quite nicely. Echo Chamber, the theme for the following stage, is rather atmospheric and sets the tone wondrously. Once you get to the second world the tone picks up; The Quest brings back that driving rhythm that can be heard in the main game, and that rhythm continues through the rest of the stages. The other two short adventures, The Golden Vase and The Lost Levels, have unique title themes but the stage themes are taken from the main game.
LET’S A NEW PARAGLAPH!
All in all, The Music of 1001 Spikes showcases great songs from a great game, each capturing the steadfast tenacity required to navigate each stage the songs play in. If I had to use one word to describe this soundtrack, I’d use “resolute.” One needs to be resolute to navigate each stage, to not give up. Similarly, each song has a resolute core. Though they may have different vibes or energies, the songs all share that resolute feeling at their heart. And being resolute is a very good thing to be, to never back down (unless necessary); something I’m sure many of us can relate to. Until next time, game on!