8-bit sound goes above ground

January 19th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

“Retro” is the ears of the beholder. For some, it extends to the clang and twang of  electric guitars; for others, it’s the primitive chirp of a computer chip: that crazy 8-bit sound. And as every genre has its revival, it would appear that the latest incarnation of retro music is moving above ground, appealing to both older listeners nostalgic for the classic games of their youth and a younger generation embracing the lo-fi spectrum of electronic music.

Case in point: Namco’s Taiko Master Dondon Number Two, released for the Wii on Jan. 14, features the song “Family Don Don,” composed by chiptune whiz kids YMCK. Making music since 2003, YMCK are creating quite a niche for themselves in the game market. Earlier last year the band rearranged 8-bit classics for the Nintendo DS game PiCOPiCT, whose pixellated graphics also hark back to the dawn of the home-computer game.

While YMCK are leading the pack (they were even invited to remix Ayumi Hamasaki last year), other chiptune bands are enjoying moderate success in the burgeoning 8-bit scene. For a sampler, check out Fami Mode at Star Pine’s Cafe in Kichijoji, Tokyo, on Jan. 30.  The largest retro-gamer music event of the year in Japan will feature live performances from bands such as Consumers and Sexy-Synthesizer, in addition to a retro gaming battle and an indoor market selling old cartridge games and other 8-bit merchandise. If you’re fan, grab a Fami Mode ticket today, as they’re sure to go fast.

While Namco and Nintendo provide a satisfying hit of nostalgic fun with their retro style games, for some, it’s no substitute for the real thing. If you’d like to experience Japan’s vintage games then you ought to head down to the 8bit cafe in Shinjuku. The bar, which often has chiptune music on the stereo, has an impressive collection of Famicom and Super Famicom games and titles like Street Fighter II, Mario Kart, Pacman, four-player Bomberman and Puyo Puyo. The popularity of this venue and new retro-style games should prove that pixel power is holding sway with both the old and new generations of gamers.

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One Response

  1. YMCK blow my mind away. If you are really interested in Japanese chiptune you need to go through and sample all the artists on this page:
    http://www.hearjapan.com/store/genre/1/40/chiptune
    OMODAKA and Saitone in particular are simply amazing! OMODAKA has to be the most unique thing I’ve ever heard. Think the tightest chiptune you’ve ever heard and enka being combined. Sounds like it’s terrible but it is done perfectly and the videos are trippy as hell!

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