Desert Arcade Discs – Part One: Sega Edition.
Hello, I’m Mentski, and I’m an arcade addict. At least I would be if arcades existed anymore.
Since the age of about 5, I was obsessed with the monolithic boxes in the corners of pubs, clubs, and chip shops, with their flickering bright coloured screens and plinky-plonky little ditties. It didn’t help that my mum would give me a few coins to keep me quiet – “There you go, go play on the machines”. Cheers Mother, you ruined me for life.
Arcade games always seemed to be located at the nosiest of places. Somehow though, I recollected every tune I heard. Embedded into my memory forever. Do you want to know some of my favourites? Ohhh go on then.
In this part – Sega. From Space Harrier to Sega Rally, with a lot of stuff in between. I’ve decided to do Sega all in one part on its own, because the made so many good arcade soundtracks, quite frankly they deserve it.
1: 1985 – Space Harrier – Main Theme
“Welcome to the Fantasy Zone – Get Ready!” – Get ready we did, this game possibly the first game of Sega’s with an “epic” memorable soundtrack, the first to use their “super-scaling” 3D techniques, using what at the time was rather powerful, dual 68000 arcade hardware – far beyond what any other arcade producers were making at the time. This, of course, stretched to the sound hardware, too, with far more complex sounds and composition than the average bleeps and bloops you’d find in other games from 1985.
The Space Harrier theme is what you hear non-stop through the game, the ditty isn’t very long, and is repeated indefinitely, aside from a few pieces of boss music at the end of levels and the bonus level song. As short as it is, it really puts you in the mood to take on your endless quest through the Fantasy Zone. Remember – Many more battle scenes will soon be available!
2: 1985 – Hang-On – Main Theme
Another track that endlessly repeats, and isn’t very long, yet feels totally right while racing along on your little red, white and blue motorbike, hanging on for dear life around corners.
Did you know the sit on motorbike version of this game actually had added sensors in it, that gave you more grip on the corners if you hung on tight to the bike? Cunning, eh?
3: 1986 – Enduro Racer – Main Theme
Another track that plays all the way throughout the game, however, this is the first track to have a more complex song structure than endlessly repeating a few bars of music. This is where Sega truly hit their swing when it comes to arcade music.
Of course, this also means, being a timed game, that you had to be really good at the game to get to hear the tune in it’s entirety. Notice how at about 2:13 the song takes a very different tone for a while, building up to another staple in later Sega games – the bridge section with a synth “solo” over the top of it, where you can imagine the composer tinkling the ivories, going all ad-lib over the track.
4: 1986 – Out Run – Magical Sound Shower
Magical Sound Shower. The One. The Only. An amazingly put together track, and quite possibly, without exception the most well known piece of arcade music ever.
Anyone that heard it, instantly fell in love with it’s Latin charm, The aim of the game, of course, is having to get to at least the 3rd level of the course so you can hear the marimba bit at 2:19.
Many people consider the trip you take through 5 levels of OutRun as “The Beautiful Journey”, and there’s no better song to listen to as you make that journey. Sure, Passing Breeze and Splash Wave aren’t bad songs, but neither of them have the same pull to me as Magical Sound Shower.
5: 1986 – Quartet – FM Funk, OKI Rap
The first game on the list not to be developed on one of Sega’s dual processor boards, Quartet was made for the precursor to Sega’s System 16 hardware, which was used for Sega’s standard, non-dedicated cabinet games for the best part of the late-80’s. As such, the music is a little more plinky-plonky, and not so much of a musical journey, but it still ruled. Something about it just made it feel funky.
Moreso than the game, in fact. Quartet the game wasn’t the best thing that Sega ever released, in fact, I’d probably say the Master System version trumps the arcade version in almost every way apart from the quality of the music.
These 2 tunes were later remade for 1991’s Spider-Man: The Videogame for it’s 2D platforming sections. The version of OKI Rap on that game is a far better listen without the over-abundant use of sampled speech. As a little bonus, here they are!
Continued on page 2…