Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Review of Themes in Getsu Fuuma Den and Interesting Facts Part 1
Getsu Fuuma Den was a game published by Konami for the NES and Famicom in 1987. Although the game never had a huge popularity, and remains rather obscure even today, it ended up influencing a lot of other games. Castlevania II has noticeable and extreme similarities, along with the NES version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme, which even reused some of the sound effects. The aspects that I find really amazing about this game, however, have to do with both its atmosphere and mood and its soundtrack. Like many other Konami games during this era, the developers took no shortage in the sound effects department. The soundtrack, while of course limited by the specifications of the time, is amazingly well-done, stylistic, and memorable. This also ties into the atmosphere of the game. While I've never actually played it, I definitely like the mood and atmosphere, as both were very coherent and well-stablished. The art direction of this game also goes very well with the color palette of the early 8 bit consoles such as the Famicom and NES. Anyway, back to the soundtrack. I'll state some of my opinions and some interesting facts about the 15 tracks of music for the game.
This is simply the sound that would play when you start up the game. The chord is an F#7sus4 chord if you'd like to call it that, but it could be more easily considered an arpeggiation of the first, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth (an octave on top) scale degrees of an F# minor scale. I think that this is the best bet, considering that this theme is repeated a lot throughout the soundtrack and often extended throughout the rest of the scale.
This song is definitely my favorite on the soundtrack. I'm pretty sure that this would have been used as a kind of introductory song in the actual game. It's a fairly simple song in A minor. However, it's amazingly composed and written, especially for a video game of this age. While a lot of other game soundtracks have the limitation of having to repeat over and over again during long stages, this song is rare and beautiful. I'm glad that the developers at Konami decided to use up some of their midi data for such a temporary and fleeting song, even if it would only be heard once. The counterpoint, the melody, the textures- especially at the end- are all amazing. This is probably one of my favorite retro video game songs of all time if not definitely my favorite from Getsu Fuuma Den.
This isn't really a song, but rather another opening soon effect. It's pretty cool, though, considering the fact that they were able to make a realistic (to some degree) sounding sword noise with explosions considering the technology they were working with.
04- Go! Getsu Fuuma
This is probably the most widely known of all the songs on the soundtrack, with the exception maybe of the final boss battle song. This was the song that would play during the overworld menu. I really like the melody of the whole thing and think that this is a great song. This theme will be reiterated a few times later, I believe. This song also sets the stage for the game's characteristic backing chord/bass pattern of a quarter and then two eighth notes, which will be repeated extensively throughout the other songs.
05- Small Shrine
This is one of the first songs to reuse the theme of the upwards arpeggiation in a minor scale. The first 5 notes are the same as in the Start theme, but the arpeggiation is extended further up the scale. The arpeggiation goes up and then down before going to a second chord and arpeggiating once again. The instrumentation of this piece is divided into two parts. First, there is the arpeggiating part on the top. There's also a lower part which plays a cool bassline with interesting glissando kind of downbeat notes. Overall, this is a cool song, which I'm sure would have been interesting and atmospheric during a smaller encounter in the game.
06- One Hundred Billion Light Years Beyond
This is probably the last song from this series that I'll write about, as this post is getting pretty long and I have a lot more songs from the OST to go through. This song is pretty cool. There aren't really too many discernible themes, but it definitely grooves well and would be fun to listen to in whatever context it might be used.
Overall, this is definitely one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time. The themes are all extremely atmospheric and go very well with the feeling of the game. Anyway, I promised I'd share some fun facts about the game. The skeletons that have bone whips in certain stages are named Shimon, which translated to gate of death in Japanese. This is a reference to the name of the main character from Castlevania, Simon. However, in Castlevania 3, the same whip skeleton is reused, but instead of labeling it as Shimon in the English manual, it is absurdly labeled, "the gates of death." I hope you had a fun time reading this. Thanks for taking the time. Check back soon for part 2.