Let's rollback time to the 1980's this week on the Midweek Music Box and talk some Atari 800 platforming. There are so many great tunes out there from the past 10 to 20 years, sometimes you forget about the beginnings of video game music and need to see how far we've come...and how sometimes programmers worked with so little and created something epic, or should I say Epyx?
Yes puns are on the plate as well as Atari, so let's take some time talking about the theme from a gaming classic, Jumpman! but before I get too far into it, I have to say, I love the little jig that Jumpman does during the intro of the game and song. You essentially have the main character dancing to his own theme song, then immediately runs off screen, and into the action, showcasing the awesome time you're soon going to have....
But then I would immediately hit the reset button just to hear that awesome little ditty again and see Jumpman do his thing. I don't know if that was really good for my family's Atari 800, me just arbitrarily hitting the reset button like that. Truthfully, I didn't really give it a second thought because--ooo! Here it comes again!
Isn't that just great? Granted, the composer didn't have much to work with, we are talking about an Atari 800 after all. However, rather than having an excuse of "limitations of the time" the composer created a seemingly simple ditty that gives a bit more than many modern tunes create while having the benefit of a full orchestra. It's bouncy and peppy and crescendos at just the right moment and even has a great little finish. Sure it doesn't have much in terms of length, but it does tell you all you need to know. You are in for a fun time and a bit of an adventure. Yes, it's great when a game like Skyward Sword or Kingdom Hearts gives you a full throat-ed orchestra to help clue you in to the emotions of a game, but it need not always be that way.
Shouldn't fun game music, regardless of length, trigger just the right emotions? Jumpman's theme feels so adventurous, so full of energy, so...well, joyous. Yeah, in the game you're disarming bombs. Yeah, even a small misstep means that you go tumbling down to the bottom like you're part of a human pachinko machine. Yeah, you're dodging sentient bullets that seem content to amble along until they notice you in their path--then BOOM, it's murder time! But dang it, that opening song is so peppy, so hummable/whistleable; it's few short notes convey everything you would want from a game.
A bit of excitement. A bit of action. And a whole lotta fun.