I finished off my blog post on the original cartridge hoping that the stellar soundtrack contained within would one day end up on a CD or in some other more readily-listenable format, because the music was good enough to stand on its own and deserved better than to be mistaken for a retro collector’s gimmick – as you may expect when the staff list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of classic gaming. I never expected the Magical Chiptune Genie to grant my wish but they have – and then some!
We should of course start with the most important bit here – the music. You’ll be pleased to know that the original album’s available in full (mp3 format), including the semi-hidden ‘00’ track and two all-new exclusive remixes too. Everything sounds exactly as it did on the original cartridge, retaining that lovely raw sound of fuzzy noise and clear beeps that made the original tunes such a joy to listen to. At this point even if you only wanted the music files bunged on a CD you’ve already got more than you hoped for, and for around half the RRP of the cart too. But this fabulous ‘enhanced CD’ isn’t done handing out treasure yet, with an .exe containing an auto-loading (Japanese language) VirtuaNES/ROM mash-up (ever so slightly altered to show ‘for Sound Book’ on the title screen) , a plain .nes ROM to use in your favourite emulator of choice, the music stored in .nsf for use in any chiptune emulator you please and even a few tracks in .mml format for the more technically minded/musically capable among you. I think it’s fair to say that whatever you were hoping for musically from this release, it delivers.
But wait, there’s more! The cherry on top of all this digital content are .png files of fourteen beautiful illustrations from the book, all at high high resolution (1500x2100+). The vertical orientation of the images makes them pretty rubbish PC wallpapers, but perfect for your phone.
The book? Oh yes, there’s a full colour eighty page book included too even though the CD has already more than justified the sticker price (2000 yen plus tax). You’d have though RIKI would have run out of content at this point considering the wealth of goodies lurking on the CD, but there’s a nice mix of behind the scenes information, ‘roundtable’/interview style content, illustrations, pixel art and a peek at some work-in-progress images. It’s all neatly split into relevant sections so if you only want to look at pixel art (including base sketches and animation sheets/alternative palettes), or if you only want to read about 8Bit Music Power itself, then you can. The entire production’s infused with a clear passion and infectious enthusiasm that’s obvious and enjoyable even if you can’t read a word of Japanese.
This release is absolutely the perfect follow-up to the original and now out of print cart – the pricing is more than reasonable (about $20USD/£15 GBP new from Amazon Jp – yes they do ship internationally) and it makes full use of the CD+book format to create something that’s both everything a newcomer could possibly need while still being more than worth owning even if you do already have the cartridge sitting in your Famicom’s cart slot. Just as the original rose far above and beyond the usual homebrew fare – the sort of thing that you honestly wouldn’t look twice at if it weren’t for the novelty of being on your favourite old format – this book-sequel-collection-everything also exceeds every expectation and more than fulfils its duties as both a worthy companion piece as well as an all-in-one catch up for anyone without the cart or unable to play it. Buy it. Then buy another for a friend. Then preorder stablemate Kira Kira Star Night DX and look forward to whatever RIKI decides to create next.