Creating the sound of Mega Drive

Music has always been a big part of video games. From the earliest soundtracks of Commodore 64 to the CD quality output of the first Sony PlayStation this genre of video game music has been developing as time has progressed. PS1s sound cannot be classified as chiptune. We are here going to concentrate to earlier sound worlds of consoles and especially to Sega Mega Drive. If you didn’t already know I am going to also mention that Mega Drive and Genesis are basically the same. The name Genesis was used in USA. But the consoles are the same.

Commodore 64 wasn’t as powerful as Mega Drive. It still plays a big role in the development of video game music. Many good principles of making music were first introduced to music producers when there were C-64 games soundtracks created. Back in 80s the music was generated with applications called trackers. It differs in many considerations from music production today. Today it is common for a musician to have a fairly powerful personal computer, software and a keyboard and a microphone. At some times producers used hardware synthesizers and even samplers (mainly hip hop). Today it is common to have virtual intruments that are called VST instruments or to put short VSTi’s. There is also effects which are called VST effects.

So how does modern music production relate to retro games music? It is interesting because many artists or hobbyists are still interested in the worlds of sounds that were created over 20 years ago. They still sound freash. Even if they have this sort of a retro feel. It is still interesting how they actually managed to get quality sound out of these primitive devices. This sound is actually a genre that is called simply “Chip Tune”.

I am going to tell you how you can basically build this sound and compose as original chip tune artist. You first need a VSTi host app. I prefer free one so you can download a program called LMMS (Linux Music Making Studio) that runs on both Windows and Linux. I prefer also Linux and VSTis don’t even work today on Linux. Then you will need a proper free VSTi. We are going to use a synth called Genny. You can see this posts featured image. That is the GUI of Genny. Don’t be afraid of the look of this image – it has many ready-made presets so you don’t necessarily have to make your owns.

In LMMS you load a thing called VeSTige. That’s the actual host for VSTis. Then, if you have already Genny’s .dll-file downloaded, you can load it up to VeSTige. It’s that simple. Feel free to change presets and play sounds from your MIDI- or even regular keyboard. Nice! If you have any difficulties just try to search with Google for additional tutorials and tips. I am not going to tell you everything about VSTis and LMMS, but I am very sure that you will find information about these if you proceed to create your own tunes with these tools. This was just a few words about generating some chip tune music. Bye, for now!

Sonic The Hedgehog

Just stopped my daily evening routines, or maybe I had some free time, to play some Sonic The Hedgehog on Sega Mega Drive. This was actually my first game on this platform. And actually it wasn’t on the original system but on Retro Trio HD. I haven’t yet figured a way to get HDMI out of my Mega Drive. I should really dig into that some day. There might be a converter available for that specific purpose. But let’s get back to the game.

There exists tens of games that have the name, Sonic The Hedgehog, or at least Sonic, as their title. This was the first of them all. It was 1991 and Sega desperately needed some kind of a front figure or mascot to compete with Nintendos Super Mario. So Sega really made an effort to produce a quality game that would be able to compete with Nintendo. Sega had this issue of having a powerful console, more powerful than Nintendo then had, but it lacked good quality games. Nintendo had their Mario, Castlevania and Bubble Bobble games. Mega Drive games were thought to be too repetitive and not so appealling. That was partly true and even today this matter comes to mind when comparing these two gaming consoles.

So Sega made its best to bring to the game something different and in some way they even succeeded. Sonic was basically a platformer, just like Super Mario Bros, but it extended this concept a bit. Sonic had abilities Mario couldn’t even dream of. It could spin and it’s speed increased as it ran a little bit forward. It collected rings instead of coins. When an enemy hit Sonic, or the other way around, it lost all the rings it possessed. And…you could collect some of them back after you had been stroke by an enemy. This was something unique that had never seen before. Sonic had a wider and more approachable personality than Mario had. Sonic was maybe even cooler than its competitor.

As a game Sonic The Hedgehog isn’t as playable or enjoyable as for example Super Mario Bros 3. Even Bubble Bobble, that didn’t have these games scrollable screen, stands out as a better platformer. If you compare it to some good platformers that were released on later, newer, consoles, it loses to them. But Sonic has its own fans and it is clearly the most approachable mascot for Sega. The one thing you remember this company of. So it is honorable that they created this well known character.

I paused my life for a moment and played Sonic for about two hours today. I just had to take that picture with my phones camera and tell you a bit about this remarkable game. After all this the start. I have some other very interesting games that are having this blue hedgehog inside them. One of them is Shadow The Hedgehog that is a game I recently bought for original Xbox. And I’m now lucky enough to have a working Xbox 360 and I’m very satisfied that the game works on it also. Another very interesting game, which has Sonic, is Sonic Adventure, that was released on Dreamcast almost ten years after the debut of Sonic. So maybe I’ll tell you more about this character later. I have to go but we are going to continue with this blog in one direction or another as soon as I have some more time to spend and to write more…

Service Games – The Rise and Fall Of SEGA (Book review)

Sam Pettus wrote a book about “the rise and fall” of Sega. This book was published in 2013. Sega has been releasing some games but the latest console was DreamCast. And it was released in 1998. So the book is some years old but if you think of this subject, how Sega conquered and commanded the markets first with Mega Drive and later with other consoles, you find out that this content is not outdated. It might be currently relevant as being part of console gaming history. And in my opinion – this is something that every gamer should know about. So what was and is Sega and what kind of an impact it made on gaming and how it can be seen even today?

This book begins the journey to Segas history from the beginning to the fall. The first console released was SG-1000. I have never seen this console. The breakthrough for Sega came as Master System, a well-known gaming system, was released. This was the beginning of console war between mainly Sega and Nintendo. This happened in 80s as there first appeared to be two greatly popular gaming consoles on the same market. Atari 2600 was already considered older console and it was replaced with these newer consoles. Atari had its consoles but they couldn’t compete with Sega and Nintendo.

Sega was active and brought many machines to use in arcades. As Mega Drive was released at the end of 80s Sega promised to bring, finally, arcade quality gaming to mainstream consumers homes. The war raged on and the battle continued. Nintendo brought SNES to markets a few years later. These systems all failed to compete with PlayStation that conquered home gaming console markets from the middle of nineties to the end of the decade. But that’s enough of 3D gaming and PlayStation. Let’s get back to what happened inside gaming world in late 80s and 90s.

So Sega had Mega Drive, that was called also Sega Genesis in some parts of the world, and Nintendo had to compete with its NES that was not as powerful as Mega Drive. NES challenged Sega by making some quality games as Super Mario was the main character to lead Nintendos effort to beat Sega. Sega later came up with Sonic that was the main character and represented Sega in this battle. Nintendo tried to make games that were more propriate for children. Their main focus was to bring high quality games and make them be as non-violent as can be. And in some way they succeeded in this. Sega released games also that had violence in them.

Sega had its success with Mega Drive. They had a bad strategy with pricey products that consumers weren’t so interested in. So there was SNES released by Nintendo. Sega released 32X and Sega CD that both failed to gain popularity. After that Sega came up with Saturn that had a tough job to compete with PlayStation. And after that Sega gave its very strong effort to bring to the markets potentially the best console ever made. And some definite fans of Sega are saying that they accomplished just that.

DreamCast did sell but it didn’t sell enough as Nintendo had released N64 and PlayStation 2 was on it’s way. DreamCast ended up selling “only” 9 million consoles worldwide. For a comparison I can tell that PS2 sold more than 100 million consoles. So PS2 sold more than ten times more. So it clearly was a failure for Sega. They ended manufacturing the console as it had only been in the market for just a few years. At the same time PS2 sold steadily and continued in producing. There are many reasons why Sega failed. And many of them were not that they made mistakes but in fact the case was that they had to compete with some very good console manufacturers like Sony and also Microsoft that released also their console at the beginning of the century.

This book is very good. I had fun reading it. It tells you the whole story of Sega as a company and opens up some ideas of how they succeeded and finally failed badly and left the gaming console industry. If you are a Sega fan this is an important piece of gaming history. I am myself a big Mega Drive fan beginning from games and music that was made with and for it. This is not, I repeat, a paid or other type of commercial but more like a recommendation for gaming and Sega fans around the world reading this blog. We will be back, soon, with the next article.

Golden Axe series

My experience with Golden Axe series begins as I find this series second game for Sega Mega Drive. Mega Drive was already very popular as it had more power under its hood than NES. These memories bring me back to the beginning of 90s. As a kid I didn’t understand so much about ongoing console wars between mainly SEGA and Nintendo. Their gaming consoles got released one after another. First NES was released in 1983. Then there appeared Master System. Then Mega Drive got released. After that SNES was released. This war got started some years after the crisis of video games occurred. In 1978 everything looked fine. Atari 2600 made its way to many homes. There were so many bad games released and it eventually left game developers with empty hands. But this crisis that lasted some years was over as Nintendo released its Entertainment System.

So Mega Drive was the console to have back in my childhood. Golden Axe 2 was the sequel to the game that had been released already on Master System with also Mega Drive version being produced. The game caught my attention and I think it strongly influenced me to buy this console a moment later. Even today I think Golden Axe II is one of the best games ever released on Mega Drive. When I now play it I think it’s still worth playing for some hours. If I could modify it, I’m not sure if it is even possible, maybe it is, I would add some roleplaying features and theability to develop the character that you choose to play as. It already has many moves and characters have different qualities. It was good so see a female character also.

Soundtrack of this game was very inspiring. It brought tension to the game and along with amazing graphical effects affected and appealled to me as a kid growing up. My little brother also loved this game. I don’t know what’s up with him playing all these violent games. It sure was only fantasy for us and all players that ever got involved in virtual axe swinging. Back in the day there weren’t so many limitations as there is now. You didn’t have this large sticker on every damn piece of video game that tells for every human being that “this game is so and so violent, so brutal…” and so on. It left the decision to parents solely. We played these games as the graphics were poor. Only limitations were that we had to study and go to school and to practise some sports. And back then gaming went after those. I don’t know how this relationship with gaming is doing right now in my life. I think it’s not a thing to worry.

So the first Golden Axe game was released on Master System, Mega Drive and also on Commodore 64. Many gamers had also an opportunity to play it in an arcade. It was also released on PC. So there were many gaming systems that it made its impact on. There was second and third game released on Mega Drive. There was a game released on Sega Saturn, but I really didn’t get into that so much. There was also newer game released on PS3 called Golden Axe: Beast Rider in 2008. After that we haven’t seen any new game in the series. This game is all about action in fantasy world. It brings the player to this world that is a mixture of fantasy and medieval. You swing your axe, ride with a dragon, fight against evil enemies and release spells as you collect your mana and health. I recommend this game when you are getting to know Sega Mega Drive keeping in mind that this game and system are both retro stuff. If you hate retro this game is not for you.

8BitDo M30 2.4g – Wireless Gamepad for SEGA Mega Drive

If you thought that there wouldn’t exist a wireless gamepad for Mega Drive, well, you were wrong. 8BitDo is known for its innovative gamepads for, i think, any platform. You can find a controller for SNES, NES or MD and maybe PC, Switch or one of those Classic Mini consoles. They have also brought us some USB-Bluetooth dongles that I for example find very useful. Prices of these products are low so you can clearly understand why they are so popular. Gamepads and differents kinds of other accessories are also widely available at least here in Finland and many gaming stores, the small ones also, give you an opportunity to buy these products.

I found this model, “M30 2.4g”, very nice and easy to use. You just basically plug the USB-dongle in to your original Mega Drive, make sure that controllers battery is charged, and start playing. Some games allow you to modify key mappings but some don’t. There’s three buttons, “A”,”B”,”C”, and another three, “X”,”Y”,”Z”, axis-button, start-button, one trigger-button on left and right and also three other buttons. You connect the controller wirelessly by pressing blue start-button.

I remember and can still feel how bad the actual, original, controllers felt. Compared to them this is something I find amazing. Price of this product was as low as can be. It was only about 25 euros. I think right now this product is not available. And again, this is not a true commercial. I am just very content about 8BitDos product and happy to write this kind of content to my gaming blog. Be sure to check out any of this companys products. I’m telling you this because I found other interesting equipment for “hardcore” gamers. A while back I found a USB dongle for PlayStation classic that allowed replacement of controller so you basically could plug in any Bluetooth controller. I didn’t buy it so I don’t have any knowledge on how to use it and I am not sure if it supports PC controllers or Xbox ONE and PS4 controllers. So this was just an example and you can find more information from their website. Here’s the link to it: https://www.8bitdo.com/

So how can you find these amazing products? You should check your local electronics shop or at least its website. There is also a shop on 8BitDos homepage. In Finland their products are widely available in smaller game shops and also in bigger, globally influential, stores. As I have told you, my dear reader, already, these accessories are widely available. I found my gamepad ultimately pleasant. I didn’t even know you could produce gamepads for Mega Drive with wireless functionality. And the gamepad is very confortable to hold in your hands.

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