VG Music Spotlight: Genesis/Mega Drive Starter Pack

VG Music Spotlight showcases soundtracks from some lesser known video games. Everyone knows that Castlevania, Final Fantasy, or Streets of Rage are excellent. What more could be said about how great the Chrono Trigger music is? What about other games that are not obscure, but hardly mentioned in the lists of great video game soundtracks?

Today the VG Music Spotlight focuses on a few Sega Genesis games (or Mega Drive for our non-American friends).

Games on the Sega Genesis felt violent, different, and off-kilter to me. Games on the SNES were more polished on average, but there was something about the way games played on the Genesis. Sega in the 1990s was the cool kid that smoked in the school parking lot, listened to music with the parental advisory label, and had a cable box scrambler.  Some of that is due to marketing, but play some of those classic Sega games; while the framework is familiar, the look, feel, and, definitely, sound feels unique.  

The SNES sound chip developed by Sony has a clearer and fuller sound that is almost orchestral. The Genesis sounds grimy, dirty, and dangerous. Like a bootleg mixtape procured outside of a concert venue, Genesis did more with inferior technology.

X-Men - Developer: Western Technologies Inc (1993)

X-Men isn't the greatest Genesis game ever made, but it is a very good example of the style and tone that many Sega platformers embodied. There is a real sense of a style that X-Men displays and the soundtrack is no different. Right from the get-go, the music revs up and you can almost imagine the poor Yamaha YM2612 sound chip working overtime. If you aren't familiar with the sound of a Genesis, it can be a bit off-putting at first. Skip ahead to the 1:48 mark, and you should start to hear that trademark Genesis bass. The grime I wrote about earlier makes its presence known at the 4:24 mark. At 13:09, both of these elements come together to create the driving beat of the Shi'ar Empire track. Lastly, the final boss music showcases the uniqueness of the Genesis with an uncanny track that sounds almost modern.

Comix Zone - Developer: Sega Technical Institute (1995)

I love Comix Zone because everything about it screams "1995". From the spelling of "Comix", the design of the protagonist, overall comic style, and the alternative/grunge soundtrack, this is an eclectic mid-90s cultural touchstone wrapped up in a difficult side-scrolling game. Comix Zone isn't the deepest entry in the beat 'em up genre, but the use of comic panels and drawn-in enemies makes for a unique experience. I've never progressed far in Comix Zone, but it is most memorable for an awesome soundtrack. It starts off with probably a top 3 "Sega" intro, and, then, steps completely into 90s rock in a way that I'm almost certain no other video game has ever attempted. Take a listen to "Episode 1, Page 1-1" and it sounds like a B-level alt rock one-hit wonder. "Feed My Disease" is missing some angst-ridden lyrics from Smashing Pumpkins. "Last to Follow" has a more melodic tone, evoking a lost STP song. Finally, "10,000 Knives" cements Comix Zone with one of the more original soundtracks you'll ever hear from the 16-bit era and perhaps beyond.