Archive for the “C64” Category




Here we go – not a new release per se I’m afraid! – I wanted to re-do the mastering on my previously arranged piece using the knowledge I’d gleaned from Putzi, but also didnt like the ending of my original take.  One day whilst re-listening to the tune in the car I had a sudden notion of what would work… so I went with that… hence the title :)

This features the indomitable Anna Black once again with some ethnic vocal performing :)





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Currently working on two new compositions.  One of these was quite inevitable:

One of my all-time fave movies, with some of my all-time fave music!

I’ve wanted to arrange some of the music from the film since like.. FOREVER.  I recently sat down and actually tried to do something with it at last, aided by the actual sheet music!

Anyway.. here is the tiniest tiny little preview to give you an idea of the slightly C64 stylings I’m going for:

Russell Lieblich’s 1986 C64 rendition for the game:


My arrangement (based on the original score) :

Link removed – am near completion of the song now :)


Still to decide what I’m going to do about the vocal part – whether to sing it myself, or go with something else.. hmmms


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Mine latest invenchion!


I was talking to a friend online the other day about the music of Tim Follin when I remembered a piece of music that wasn’t from the C64 that I *thought* was by him.  When I remembered the title eventually, I realized that in fact it was an even more unique non-c64 composition from Martin Galway, C64 musician supremo.  Martin had composed music on few other formats. Notably the Sinclair Specturm, but also the GameBoy and SNES.  One of the unlikely games that Martin collaborated with others on was Ultima: Runes of Virtue II.






The original Gameboy music:



Meanwhile, here’s my arrangement, which was inspired by a bit of Mass Effect, Blade Runner, and well..  spaceysynthiness in general :)



This being a non-C64 remix I will not be uploading to so will not have my normal captive audience :D

Retro-Cronie Kenz posed the question of “What if Galway had released the tune on the C64?” – so I created a hypothetical version of the tune :D  It takes some liberties with the C64 hardware… er… 6 SID channels anyone? ;)



A music video.. of sorts :D

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…as requested by the ever awesome just for existing RETROGAMER magazine!

In no order, they’re just my faves in general:-


1 – The Last Ninja.

Or should that be Last Ninjai? Ninjas?  Anyho0 – the trilogy of games that showed off what the C64 was capable of both in terms of scale, art and especially music!

2 – Green Beret

Yes I know, you’re thinking this is going to read like my top 10 music list, and whilst there is a mutual association between the nostalgia, the music, and the game…  Green Beret stands proud as a pretty arcade-perfect conversion of the original game.. certainly at least as hard!

3 – Beyond the Forbidden Forest

A game that genuinely had me jumping in my seat back in the day, that infernal toothy wyrm of doom thing coming up and turning you into a fountain of blood.  Genuinely creepy, cinematic music, and whilst not perhaps the best define graphics, they certainly make up for it in variety, and scale.

4 – Wizball

I remember buying this at the time and wishing I could show it to games programmers a few years earlier in order to show them the black magic voodoo that was possible on the C64, like some kind of timetravelling futuriest.. “IN THE FUTURE… THERE WILL BE COLOUR! AND MUSIC! AND LOTS AND LOTS OF SPRITES!”
Stupendous simple concept. Whacky, slick and gorgeous execution :D

5 – Creatures 1 & 2

Cheating a bit with the two entries, especially as both are quite different.  But both games are absolutely stunning and have demonstrate the C64 at the peak of its achievements in graphics capability and gameplay dynamics. Some of the cutest music and characters EVAR.

6 – FireAnt

A guilty pleasure of mine motivated a bit by nostalgia as it was one of the first C64 games I played.  Simple in design, addictive to play.

7 – Turbo-Outrun

A close call between the original outrun on the C64 and Turbo.. the original was flawed in its conversion, but undeniably fast to play.. but Turbo-outrun won in the sheer slickness of its presentation. Unforgettable music, impressive visuals, and very smart code squeezed in bits into 64k :)

8 – Nebulous

Unique design concept. Beautiful graphics. Yes.

9 – Barbarian

Seminal slash-em up. 2-player heaven.  Single player.. well..  it was the 2-player game but with a tacked on story idea. Lots of gory fun, with a very clever graphics implementation.  The ambitious sequel whilst amazing in its appearance, art design and scale, disappointed – at least the tape-version anyway.

10 – IK+

The *other* Fighting game of note..  not International Karate, but its perfected sequel IK+.  2 player + 1 player AI fighting.  Crazy flying ball+dustbin lid combat. Trousers falling down. Fantastic cacophonous sound effects and music. Beautiful animated backdrop.


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As alluded to previously, this game is notable to both my beloved Boffin and myself as we both had the game on our trusty C64′s back in the day.  I however did not own the game, I think I borrowed it from a friend who never liked it much, eventually hoarding it never to return it :)

Rambo – First Blood Part II was an ocean game released in 1986, and was one of those early games responsible for my starting to stalk the games that Martin Galway composed the music for, often regardless of the quality of the game in question… the music was the thing of importance! :)

However, Rambo itself was an entertaining, if somewhat short game, or at least it was for me due to an inexplicable exploit I found in it – more about that later though.

As previously mentioned I very quickly became a fan of Martin Galway’s music, and so it was with much joy that I encountered the loading music in Rambo.  Successfully guessed that it was Martin’s work too after it loaded based on former listening to Green Beret , and to a lesser extent Kong Strikes Back ! Accompanying the loading music ofcourse was the loading screen – still a wonderment to me coming from the BBC Micro only earlier that year.


ARGH! His face be melted!


Trivia: The loading tune includes morse code spelling out the names of the game’s production team – and not just done as music, actual code that converts the text into the musical morse as the tune plays!






Upon loading the aural treats continue with a dark title theme that took direct inspiration from the Jerry Goldsmith actual film score – tho I didnt realise this until later, after bizarrely seeing the film after encountering the game!

Starting the game you are confronted with a Taito Hypersports style high score name entry screen for you to enter your name on, accompanied by a superb sounding electro-drum beat :)  After the first 14 second play session followed by death, one tends to just skip name entry however ;)

Bang! into the game, which is a multidirectional scroller with our little hero Rambo ambling about a sparsely vegetated jungle :)  For such a totey wee sprite he looks good tho, with his ickle-little high res overlay :)  Baddies fare less well with their little blocky- selves, and their bullets that move.. well.. in bullet-time :D  But this is a good thing, as this game is HARD.  You die in seconds, and thats it, game over!  This is due to a single energy bar thing that decreases if you come into contact with enemies or their bullets.


Energy and alternative weapons (toggled by spacebar) are depicted quite neatly by a sprite overlay going over the main screen near the bottom.  This allows the entire screen to be given over to the view, which is nice.


You are expected to proceed north, finding extra weapons if you’re lucky, getting thwarted and downright enraged by sticky foliage that you have to feel your way around, whist still dodging the ADHD suffering baddies and their slo-mo bullets.

Supposedly you need to find the enemy camp to the north, find a way in (I found going all the way to the back of it and in from the there easiest) where you must dodge Davros-a-like baddies firing from the top of watchtowers – tho you can blast them with your explosive tipped arrows (I originally thought they were bazookas, until I saw the film)

Nipping a bit into the camp you find a wee dude tied to some poles, you release him by walking over him.

At this point my memory got fuzzy, and I assumed I needed to continue into the camp to FREE THE rest of the CAPTIVES! I spent a good while in the emulator cursing the game when I found the little prison shed I remembered they were kept in, trying to remember how to get them out… then I remembered that in fact I had to head way north and GET TO THE CHOPPA!

At this point I’ll mention the in-game music which is ofcourse also fantastic, albeit sounding like a slightly confused version of Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the bad, and the ugly” – but is in fact a pseudo-cover of the Jerry Goldsmith score from the film.  Its a fantastic piece of music with some really memorable hooks, but you need to be an awesome player to hear it in its entirety (but not too awesome, as at the breakpoints in the game it interrupts the tune and restarts it) or cheat, or play the SID in sidplay :)

Anyho0!  We GET TO THE CHOPPA! and are treated to another Goldsmith inspired Galway-ditty which sounds superbly sinister, along with a message:









So… south! south Miss Teschmacher! – er I mean Rambo!  So off we fly in our beautiful balloo… choppa… to a convenient little “H” helopad.. tho in theory you could use this opportunity to fly aboot unmolested and listen to all of the tune :)




But no, land we must, and there we are out and about in the camp vulnerable again.. but THIS time we can go down to the little hostage shed, and free their ghostly little ickle spriteages.

This is accompanied by one of the more memorable jingles covering Goldsmith’s score.




So off our wee hostage chums trot offscreen – presumably to the helo – and we proceed to follow them.  Upon entering the chopper another breakpoint screen informs us that the baddies have sent a gunship to chase us down.

This is accompanied by a RUSSIANS ARE BAD MUHAHAHAHAHA tunelet :)

Sooo…  at this point we are expect to fly North to where safety awaits at the end of the map, and/or to take down the gunship when it finds you (which it does after about 4 seconds!)

The enemy gunship hounds you like an angry wasp however, buzzing around you and ending your little quest faster than.. something really quick.




I’ve never been able to destroy the enemy gunship, but nor have I been able to legitimately avoid it either…  but I’ve completed the game ;)

Dont ask me how I could possibly have discovered this, as I have no memory of how I found this out at all but…

If you have two joysticks plugged in – one in port one, the other in port two (the one you play the game with) – when you get to this point in the game if you push one forward, and the other back and maybe a little diagonally you cause the game to have a wee bit of a seizure… and propel your helo northwards at Airwolf turbo like speeds… often whilst facing backwards!

I’ve tried this in an emulator just recently when I was writing this blogpost… and it works in the emulator too :D  - tho its a bit more difficult to do using the keyboard emulation! :D

Interestingly this seems to be a hardware bug in the C64 somehow, or maybe the programmers use the memory locations the other joystick port represents for something since its assumed to not be in use.  I remember Green Beret had a similar – tho less useful – result by pushing right on one, left on the other: Our green beret does the moonwalk!



when I shared this post with one of my friends whom I grew up with who was also a C64 nut in the day, we shared the following conversation:

  [14:36:34]  John says:
heh i believe it was i who discovered the joystick bug in a fit of rage
 [14:36:43]  Kate says:
lol no way :D 
 [14:38:25]  John says:
rage from playing ended up in joystick being thrown and as it was a cheetah 128or 
somecrap they weight of the base pushing against the stick created the downward
direction. then seeing it intermittantly turbo when pushing up on the live stick
ended up in further testing 

So! Credit goes to @Johnfeshie for the hacktastic find of olde! :)

So with the aide of a hack, we fly north, reaching the base, and saving the day, only to be told that more POW’s need our help and must go back and do it all over again :)

RAMBO was an entertaining game, though very limited in long-term appeal due to its simple structure, and frustratingly easy rapid deaths.  It was another one of those games however that you were happy to own on the merits of its music.  I remember an issue of Zzap!64 posted a little program listing you could run which allowed you to play all the music and soundeffects outside of the game.


By the way, whilst all right-thinking individuals quite rightly would only listen to the music in-game, there was an option for Sound Effects… which had the best baddy-death sound EVAR. “Blewewewewerg”


One last little Kate-specific quirk for you – before I got myself a C64 disk-drive, i endured tape-loading just like everyone else… and Rambo turned out to be quite the swine to successfully load.  It seemed fine for a while.. then would refuse to load…. unless….

..and I’m not making this up…

..and dont ask me how I discovered this either…

it wouldnt load unless I – rather than doing the normal C64 SHIFT+RUNSTOP combo to shortcut the load command – typed in:


*AND* I turned the datesette upside down for loading.










If I did both those things… it would load.  If I didnt… it wouldnt.

Yes, I was a troubled youth…. but thats 100% totally the TRUTH!

Trivia: The loading music from Rambo was selected to be on the earliest example of C64 remix albums – DATAHITS – where it was rendered with reverb/chorus, drums, and some more instruments :)




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I recently realized that I must be officially “old”.  Why?  Because here I was, dismissively passing judgement on all the “youth of today” with their abysmal fandom and taste in movies with regards the Twilight films.  Its like – seriously.. what the hell? what a load of poo, sparkly vampires, undersaturated colourization, teen pop rebel tunes… get a grip!

Then I remembered being 12/13.. and being obsessed with a certain film in the cinema – so much so that I think I went to see it five times, learning the songs, memorizing the script… at one point even contemplating stashing a tape-recorder into the cinema with me so I could record the soundtrack – certainly a very early example of movie piracy that would have been lol.

David Bowie hadnt been on my radar at all up until that point, aside perhaps from being mildly keen on ” Ashes to Ashes ” after seeing the video on an episode of the Kenny Everett show !  However… suddenly here was this beautiful man dancing with muppets, and singing songs that really “got me” lol.

So!  Just like the twilight fans of today I wanted to sook up everything to do with this film that I could – and when Activision released a game based on the film for the C64.. I didnt wait for reviews (I had just started to read Zzap!64 around this time) I pleaded my Dad to buy me the then quite extortionate £9.99 for the game on tape (I wouldn t get a C64 disk drive until around 1990)

Fortunately, I was besotted with the game.. at least at first, its delivery mechanism would ultimately be its downfall for me!

Labyrinth as a game is quite groundbreaking.  It is really the first of what would become the defining genre of game for LucasFilm (or LucasArts as they would later call themselves) – a genre that was tweaked and improved a year later for the likes of Maniac Mansion .  Essentially a point’n'click adventure featuring big bold colourful graphics, and very varied scenes of the like that hadnt really been seen on the C64 (or anywhere!) before.

The game was notable also for having somewhat odd diversionary introduction.  It played out much like a then standard text adventure, but with selectable choices of verb and noun through an interface.  This saw you navigating your way through a street to a cinema, choosing a film to see.

UPDATE: Twitter chum and cool Captain-Kirkalike avatar’d Paul_Monk informed me that this intro section was written by none other than the late great Douglas Adams! 0.O

Eventually Jareth – Bowies character would appear in a lovely full-screen graphic, talking to you via text bubbles, before whisking you away to the world of the Labyrinth.

Here the graphics of the game come into full play with your chosen character (quite unusual and great for me back in the day was the choice of male or female character!) appearing on screen in a large form which you controlled with the joystick (in port 1, weirdos lol)





In the game proper it presents you a cool instant familiarity with the film, in that you are standing outside the walls of the Labyrinth, which go on forever (looping around) – you can tell this from a handydandy little radar display strip at the bottom which shows you in relation to notable items or NPC’s – and later on, exits/doors.  Below this you still have the verb/noun interface thing (Try adumbrate Jareth!)

The character animation is pretty good, and the scrolling also smoothly done.  Here knowledge of the film does you well with regards figuring out how to proceed into the game.

At this point I need to tell you that I had to be very very patient with the game.  Playing it from disk has enough delays as it is – but I was playing it from tape back in the day, and the multiload was a nightmare, as you might expect from a game with such big graphic use.  In particular the fact that the next scene starts immediately after load without warning, leaving you enough time to see that you’re in a new place, and a goblin guard who immediately moves to capture you.  If he does, its into the oubliette with you!

Inserting a nickle into the handy slot provides you an escape back into the labyrinth, and onwards – this can happen a lot!









Now here’s the tragedy of the tale.  Not only did I have to endure the abysmal loadtimes of tape, but I alas encountered a flaw only a couple of weeks into play.  Not long after progressing past hoggle, the brick hallway, the hedgemaze, the wise man, and the bog of eternal stench – I ran into “The persecution of Hoggle” – a section where you have to pac-man style run around a pseudo-3D maze, toggling floor panels in order to free Ludo, whilst avoiding the goblins – this section only ever loaded once for me EVER.  A problem with the tape, or possibly the heads of my C64 datasette (this was before I knew anything about head alignment) prevented it from loading in future.  Exasperated I got Dad to take it back to the shop for another copy.  Alas, they didnt have another copy, but allowed it to be swapped for another AAA class title.  Dad, not knowing what to do, accepted this option – what else could he do? – and selected another game.

Starglider .

Not at its best on the old 64 that game, but it was at least an entertaining package, featuring a novella that padded out the story and allowed you to imagine the game to be greater than it was (much as I had done with Elite on the BBC previously – playing the game from my “control room” (bedroom) and retiring to my sleepchamber (bed, which also doubled as my escape pod) when safely docked!)

However, I always wished to have Labyrinth back again so that I could finish it.. but ofcourse I never did, and whilst my Labyrinth fandom would continue for many years afterwards – eg the delight I had at finding the CD soundtrack in HMV’s Oxford St. store in London when I worked there in 1994!) – I would forget about the game until fairly recently when I popped the disk image into an emulator.

Curiously, I found the game still tediously slow in the loading dept (about 1 minute between sections – bearing in mind it can quickly(?) bounce between them) – but this was eased in Vice64 by a CTRL+W to engage 2000% warp speed emulation!  Despite this I found the game could be frustrating, especially the goblin-avoiding sections, where you would have to emerge from corridor doors sufficiently ahead of them and start running lest you get bunged into an oubliette!

My attention span is not what it was, and I got as far as the Ludo section again, in a kind of triumph… but havent yet gone back to progress further.. I hope to tho, its like one of those things I must do before I’m 40 !

A word on the game’s technical merits or otherwise:

Graphics are pretty excellent – large, colourful and full screen – very nice to see such good use of large sprites on the screen – and not chunkovision expanded ones either.  Also, a good sense of 3D is created via the use of some nice forced perspective scenes (see the Ludo in the maze bit)

The graphics come at the cost of heavy multiload sections tho.  This game was really unworkable on tape, at least in its basic design.  The game has a non-linear nature about it that cannot really work well on a tape load.  The game was designed for disk in the first instance, and is best played there.  Its a shame that C64 disk drives were so prohibitively expensive in those early days (especially in the UK) – had they been provided by default or cheaper it could have accelerated and changed a lot about how the C64 developed as a commercial gaming platform.  Disk plays well enough, though even then the load is slow.  Even better would have been a cartridge version of the game!

Audio is minimal in the game, as most information is relayed as text bubbles spoken by characters, with just the odd sound effect for footsteps etc.  The music is pretty abysmal from a technical point of view, but from a “THATS SO COOL!!” point of view of a 12/13year old at the time it was awesome since it was the music from the much loved (by me anyway!) film :)

Russell Lieblich would compose much more interesting music in other projects (ALIENS dropship level for example) but retain a simplicity of instrument/synthesis that was highly prevalent in a lot of the U.S developed games for some reason.

I’ll come back to Labyrinth some time to finish it, but for you I’ve provided a fantastic youtube C64 longplay video so you can see it.. I refuse to watch it as I dont want to spoil the game ;)



…and yes… I *did* want to be  Jennifer Connelly in that ball gown, dancing with Jareth!






Video of the game being played start to finish:


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First of all…. 10 is not enough LOL :D

Matt Gray: The Last Ninja 2 – Level 1 (subtune2)

What? Lame to start the same as part 1? NO! In the same way that LN1′s first level theme was so defining of the game, so it is also true of Matt Gray’s hitting the big time with his massive scores for LN2.  The loading tune is almost a prelude to this piece, but this is so much more powerful, and such a different approach to a soundtrack than the first game.  I dont think any of the pieces in the first game featured drums at all per se…. here Matt’s HUGE drums bash the beat of the modern day adventures of our Ninja mate into your head :)

Honourable mention goes to the level 2 loading tune as well, which I have always had a soft spot for :)

Now, to cheat a bit – Reyn Ouwehand also did a completely amazing set of music for the 3rd game in the series with his own unique style, but closer in mood to the first game’s ambience. Level 2 (“Wind”) is probably my favourite.


Two amazing remixes come to mind.  One is Reyn’s own Asian Legends but my own favourite is Markus Schneiders cinematic take on several themes from the games – and that goes for all the ninja games :)


Wally Beben: TETRIS


(Recording courtesy of Stone Oakvalley !)

You have no idea how annoyed I get when I hear people talking about the “birth of 8-bit music becoming popular” in reference to Nintendo’s incarnation of the game.  First of all… It WASNT, you f***s, and secondly there is only ONE Tetris soundtrack.. and that is Wally Beben’s C64 18+ minutes opus for the 1988 game.

A very odd piece, feels like a kind of post-modern futureretro Native American chant, with a mystical, ethereal quality, yet underpinned with a grungy dirty sound that defies proper description.

C64 Tetris was my first encounter with the game, and as such it remains my favorite, but mainly because playing the game was an almost Zen-like trance experience because of the music.  It was a magnificent artistic choice on the behalf of the programmers of the game to have music at all in the game, since by the game’s nature it could end up being repetitively annoying . To combat this Wally Beben made a score epic in length.  I had in mind it was about 10 mins long, but its in fact closer to 20, and has distinctive tonal, ryhthmic and melodic changes throughout its length.

My favorite moments are the slow build,the lonesome whistle in the first minute, then at 3:00 this impossible sounds kicks in.. is it a guitar? is it a chord? It’s a sample (4th channel) is what it is – tho this was completely lost on me back then – its such an odd sound, its more like something that would be created by bonding 2 or more SID channels together with a filter.. and that’s maybe why it works so well.  5:58 – everything goes up a notch, with a sense of urgency conveyed by the querulous lead instrument.  My favorite moment occurs @ 9m:30s another change of rhythm, a pounding beat punctuated by those chords.  More lush progression @ 11:28ish – and thats what this piece is all about – progression, the closest non-chiptune I can think of might be Tubular Bells, or something by Phillip Glass.  14 mins in we get something akin to a Morricone style, pseudo-western.   The use of the 4th channel samples here is magnificent – carrying all the rhythm and beat through its use of staccato and held notes.  The piece loops around 19 mins or so, which is nice for the game, but I would have loved it suddenly ceasing with a “sudden cessation of sound” ;) with some sort of pseudo-echo/reverb signifying the loneliness of the piece… but maybe thats for a remixer to do ;)


Well – not a tune popular with remixers as such judging by how few have attempted , but then the piece is a huge commitment – it wouldnt work just to remix a part of it.  My fave of the bunch tho is Kraku’s stab at the piece – he’s covered the first half of it (stops just before my fave bit :( ) and has done so pretty respectively, but not definitely in my opinion – no one has yet.  I might have a go yet myself.. but my wee brain has a hard time trying to imagine what instruments would do justice to those big sounds.


Jeroen Tel: HOT ROD (Subtune 1 + 2)

Another 4-channel piece… and you might have thought I’d gone with Turbo Outrun… but no.. I prefer the tune and melody of this piece.  Samples are sparser and more subtle than TOR’s title piece (tho another special mention to the glorious titlescreen of said game! )

No, for me the combination of the sampletastic intro tune, and the wondrous bouncing beachbuggy of a tune that is the main title hit the nostalgia spots in me just right :)


Only one I can find – the late and wonderful Skitz did a fairly low-key arrangement , but it hits all the right spots with its authenticity – the choice of piano lead later on in it is magnificent.

No-one has yet tried the title theme.  So many tunes, too much lazy moi :D


Steve Barrett: Trojan Warrior (subtune 1)

Download/listen to the MP3 – courtesy of Stone Oakvalley


No, really!  Its a bit out-there I know, but in terms of tuneful quality its a beautifully constructed piece of music.  

I remember buying the game (it was a £1.99 job back in the day) – an odd Nemesis clone featuring a dude on a flying horse if I remember correctly.  I seem to remember the horse being superbly animated.  But it was the music that won me over instantly.  Both the title theme and in-game piece were very good, but it was the title in particular that has stuck in my head all this time.


Obscure tunes rarely get remixed, alas. (I’m just as bad, what I remix is about *my* nostalgia, no-one elses lol)

Dr Future did one tho – and its pretty good (aside from HORROR THE HORROR! – an incorrect chord in the main section, should be a minor, not a major) and I’m grateful for the remix, but I’d love a more authentic take on it.


Oh god oh god I’m up to my 10th tune on this stupidly small number of faves… hmmm… what shall it be….

Jammer: Mr Marvellous

A contemporary (2006) C64 tune ! :)  Some of the things these heroes of the retro revolution are pulling from the olde C64 are just amazing.  This is one of a few tunes that had me agog when I first heard them, completely nonplussed as to how they could do this.

Cheating again, I’ll group in some more in No.10:

and most especially 0.O:



…. Yes.. I’ve ommitted Wizball, Phantoms of the Asteroid, Monty, Platoon, Batman, et all.. but 10 tunes! and to make them a mix of the obvious and not so obvious… HARD! :D

Let me know your faves, and why :) – and not just C64 either – I plan to talk about Amiga tunes later on :)


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That is to say, my own personal fave top 10, for varying reasons, and in no order! I’ll do this in two halves, as I didnt expect to rattle on so much about each tune :D


The Last Ninja, Subtune 6(or Level 1 in the game)



Few game soundtracks have evoked so many memories for so many people than the Last Ninja series (just look at the number of remixes ! ), and for me the first holds a special place.  I was 13 or 14 years old by the time I saw the game, already a nerdy geek, with a very small number of friends who could mutually understand the gravitas of the 12 individual soundtracks that were rendered in a mere three channels of SID chippyness. The limitations meant nothing to me tho, as in my mind the sound was much grander, and so evocative, so emotion generating.


Of all the themes in the first game that first level was a real showstopper, and went on to define the Leit-Motif of our Ninja protagonist.  This is demonstrated clearly by the inclusion of the theme in Matt Gray’s soundtrack in the sequel (last level, giving a sense of nostalgic anchoring to that which had gone before) and in Reyn Ouwehand’s Last Ninja Remix (a somewhat cynical game rehash of the sequel with jazzed up graphics, but some nice tunes)

I would’ve easily suggested the entire soundtrack of the game, but focused on this particular tune :)


This is a difficult one, as I’m quite fussy – and to my mind no remixer has yet done justice to the piece.  Yes there have been innumerable dancey arrangements, but none that seem to me to properly capture the essence of the original, which is – lets face it – a difficult one since its clearly oriental in theme and tone, but with a beat and drum that lends it more to a 70′s Enter the Dragon kind of sound!  I like Putzi’s alternative take on the piece, and Pthomi’s guitarous take.. but for me the purest interpretation so far is Chris Holm’s somewhat General-Midi sounding interpretation!  I’d love for someone to cover this piece with some really lush instrumentation, but retaining the feel of the original.


KnuckleBusters – in game – subtune 1

What a tune! Raw, aggressive, funky, and one of the most memorable basslines ever :) Love it. Some of the sounds Rob Hubbard pulls from the C64 in this piece are just fantastic, from wailing synthy screams, to that impossible to describe drum sound!  A long piece, but one that tells a story, a countdown – with the song literally counting away seconds at the end.

I remember the game being an odd largely bafflingly unplayable creation, but completely surpassed by the music (title et all) but this in-game piece was a thing of industrial synth aggressive urgency.  Key fave points include the Miaowlike wails @ 1:40, the most awesome bassline evar(tm) @ 2:10 followed by the return of the miaows. Impossible Synthy teethbearing sound @ 2:39, THOSE drums immediately following, the funk kicks in @ 2:56.. a less agressive bridge appears @ 3.26… swings down back to the main beat.  Genius. Then oh god 9:35 the urgency steps up a notch with a stinger bass and catwail, progressing towards the madcap accelleration towards a pseudo-climax @ 15:28.. followed by a descending tempo, moving towards a 1-second beat that perfectly matched the closing seconds of the time-constrained game – yes, you were expected to finish the game in 16 minutes 43 seconds :)

the tune is like someone’s idea of good sex :D – I didnt say mine!


Now this is more of a remix than a cover in that its a mishmash of the themes, but its the only cover I’ve heard that approaches the overall sound how I imagine it.. by which I mean a grungy narky bass, kickass drums, and overall shouty nature :)

Marcel Donne’s (commercial) cover is more traditional, and I like it, tho it lacks the harshness I prefer in the other remix:

Amazon link to Marcel’s version


Martin Galway: Green Beret title (subtune 10)

A personally important piece this one :) My first computer was actually a BBC Micro, my father brought it home one evening (“For doing the accounts”) and since we had them in school at this time, I was the nominated expert :D  Soon the machine gravitated to my bedroom and I was able to enjoy such greats as ” Lemming Syndrome “, ” Elite “, ” Revs “, ” Podd “, and ” Doctor Who ” !  One thing about the BBC was it had very limited sound.. I think 2 waveforms “DOO” and “KRRK” !  In early 1986 when the BBC micro had an unfortunate accident, it was replaced with a C64 :)

My early C64 games were quite limited in the audio dept… FIRE ANT (kr-kr-kr-kr-squeeb) and Cave Fighter until I saved a hugemongous £9.99 to buy my first AAA(!) title (100% machine code!) – Ocean’s Coin-op conversion: GREEN BERET ! Now, not only did this conversion of the game trounce my friends ZX spectrum version, it had music composed by Martin Galway.


Awesome animation courtesy of!

Now remember, I was a recently elevated BBC Micro peasant, so when I was hit with the triple-whammy of

1: Loading Picture,

2: Loading Music,

3:AMAZING SOUND – it was quite the monolith to the monkeys of 2001…

However… whilst the loading tune impressed, it was the actual music of the title theme that blew me away. To mine ears the instruments were fantastic, the tune magnificent.  I remember being baffled that my mum thought to disagree when I would play back the music (recorded onto tape!) to her proudly!  I still remember happily “Doo! DOO! Doo! DOO! Doo-doo-DOO-DOO!”-ing along to the end of the tune with its drums :)  But from a musical point of view it just really struck a chord with me, and amazed me with what was possible from this little beige box!  The drum kick in @ 1:15, followed by the lush melody, then the doubling of the lead instrument @ 1:48, and then that oh so beautiful high @ 2:00.. with the doubleback arpeggio giving way to the aforementioned drums :)  This is the game that made me want to be a musician myself :)

Random Trivia:  When playing this game back in the day I used to stab the enemy in time to the in-game drumbeat! Stab-stab-stabbitystab-stab-stabstab !

Also – my other half (“The Boffin”) had a near identical C64 coming-of-age, except her experience was with another Galway tunage: Rambo!


Once again (for me) there is not yet a definitive remix I’ve heard, but the one I like best is Sonic Wanderer’s Distant Dreams. Mainly because I like his nice choice of instruments, its got a nice synthy, laserdancey sound I like, plus his own personal touch both in terms of melodic expansion, and additional layers of instrumentation.

Notable mention to Allister Brimble for his orchestral take on the piece, which I think is cool and mighty, but doesent give me that hairs on the back of the neck rising feeling the original does with its melody.


Tim Follin: Ghouls’n'Ghosts (all of it, but especially subtune 11/last level)

See below for download/listening link

Now… in much the same way that Green Beret was a revelation to me in terms of what the C64 was capable of over its other 8-bit rivals… Tim Follin’s amazing work on C64 Ghouls’n'Ghosts did the same thing all over again over what was possible versus other C64 audio, and that includes the technically awesome sounds made possible with samples and the like.  Follin’s work here is not only technically stunning (use of synthesis and instrumentation) but also quite genius musically, on par with the dramatic flowing works of Danny Elfman – and thats a disservice to Tim, but there is a similarity in styling.  Another reference might be John Williams’s score to “The Witches of Eastwick”

G’n'G had some stand out pieces, the harpsichord title theme featuring “must be a sample” sounds of screams, and howling wolves.  The wonderful OoomPah-OoomPah level 2 tune, the downright creepy tinkly level 4 theme… and then the absolutely mad, wonderous, musically masterful final level.  I cant begin to comprehend composing something so flowing as this piece on something so “mechanical” as a C64 (few modern sequencers either!) – it really sounds like something scored and played by musicians in an orchestra, rather than a synthetic chiptune!  To this day the warm, filtered isolated bass line in this piece gives me a warm fuzzy feeling :) The later parts have that manic Elfman/Williams-esque sound to them that is so distinctive, and so different to most other game soundtracks in complexity and storytelling.

Now, to present this tune to you I’m cheating a bit, I’m going to link you to a recording I made of the piece with per-channel reverb + echo, because to me its what the game should have come with in the box, some kind of  cartridge sound-expander to allow the music breathing room in the soundscape :)

Kate’s recording of Ghouls’n'Ghosts level 5 tune

  Kates Ghouls n ghosts recording  



NONE! As it should be :)  I cant imagine hearing it any other way than the original (or with FX as above!) – there are however, some pretty nice remixes of the other tunes in the game, special mention to Nada’s laidback lounge tracks :)


Maniacs of Noise/Jeroen Tel: SAVAGE! Intro

(sorry – this guys nice recording bafflingly has a speaking clock near the start!)


Ok.. had to get a 4-channel SID in this first 5 somewhere :)  I had already heard some 4-channel tunes on the C64 and not really though about it… Arkanoid , Combat School , but aside from maybe SKATE OR DIE they had been merely “nice” – then I heard Savage, and lo, I was agog. 4 Channels?  Sounded more like 5.. no.. 6!  Not just Zokks! or burps! – the first 30 seconds of this track is nothing but 1-channel of C64 samples playing! Amazing, hadnt heard anything like it. The Maniacs of Noise would become kind of a hit factory (in a good way!) with games over the next few years by doing title tunes of this calibre for games, often making a game a “must” purchase even when the game itself was poo – but this was often the way with C64 games, especially those composed by Martin Galway or Rob Hubbard.

Its not just the sampled instruments that make this a great piece tho – freeing up SID channels by having drums+bass interspersed on the sample channel meant that 2 voices could be used for a single instrument, giving rise to some truly startling instruments of any description. (@1:15) Then you have absolutely masterful use of the sample channel (@2:03) – thats just one channel playing (one track polyphony) – absolutely amazing.

@3:34 – giving all the SID voices over to playing a single lush chord… but backed up by the samplechannel underpinning everything.



One only, and very good :)   Chris Abbot did a very authentic take on the piece which sounds great, but it can’t compare to the technical wizardry presented in the original.  However, there were some other great tunes in the game which have been covered, my favourite is level 2′s pseudo-disco jive.

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