My family were packrats. For the longest time, we’d just hoard things that we might need someday. But as time goes on, we’re slowly culling away those things we held onto, often times just books and old toys we no longer need. Often times it’s just stuff we didn’t need to hold onto, but some of it was fairly sentimental.
During this process of unearthing storage, we discovered a bunch of old things I honestly thought we tossed away, like the Sega Dreamcast keyboard, various board games and electronic toys. But there was one thing that we found that suddenly caused a wave of nostalgic feelings: A kid’s cassette boombox.
This is the “My First Sony” CFS-2050 cassette boombox, released around 1992-93. My First Sony was basically Sony trying to make music players that were more child-friendly, with a red-yellow-blue color scheme. This one also came with a microphone that could be used for recording onto the tape, or just doing amateur karaoke. It could also double as an AM/FM radio if that’s more your thing.
Much like a lot of old hardware, the system came with problems when it was unearthed out of the storage tub it was in: The tape mechanism didn’t work at all. One of the most common problems with cassette players of this vintage is that the belts that handle playback have disintegrated, turning into rubber goop upon use. Indeed, after trying to use it once, one of the belts broke off and just wrapped itself around the motor. The other belt was still on the cassette deck, but I figure it wasn’t gonna be long before that too would end up breaking.
I am not really much of a repair person, but this thing’s held a bunch of memories to me that I couldn’t toss it away. A brief web search made me find the service manual, which had the part names for the two belts, which I was able to find thanks to a website that sells replacement parts for old music players. (I’ve linked the site in question at the bottom of this post.)
After removing the old belts and using rubbing alcohol to clean off any residue that might be still be on the wheels, I replaced the belts. After testing it opened up with a tape I had, it sprung to life and started playing music again.
Let’s say you’re a fairly notable game composer. You’ve worked on some bangers and lesser-known hits. You got a good pedigree of work, and you’re suggested to work on someone’s new game. Life feels good.
Though, sometimes your creativity fails you. You struggle to make a new composition and the game’s about to go gold. So you dig into your back catalog of previous works, adjust the tempo and change a few instruments, and bam, you got a new song.
What do these two games have in common? You’re about to find out.
I call this “Game music recycling.” It’s a phenomenon that has existed for a long time, even outside the video game realm, but I’m particularly interested in the gaming side specifically.
Now I’m gonna lay down some ground rules for this. They’re not particularly complex, but they’re to avoid things that wouldn’t really count. So here they are:
The tracks in question have to be in a commercially released game. Bobby Prince released a handful of demos of licensed music for Doom that later got reused in later games, but since those weren’t made to be commercially released, they don’t count.
The recycling has to come from the same composer. Tim Follin basically redid the theme to Starsky & Hutch for the NES game Treasure Master, but that’s more of an homage than anything.
It has to be a full song. A composer throwing in a jingle from another game they made as a tribute doesn’t really give me much to work with.
It must come from different games in different franchises. There will be an exception with this first entry, but this is to avoid the obvious of someone blaming a composer for using the same theme in every game.
For this entry, the recycled music are all from composers based in Europe. American and Japanese composers have done similar recycling, which I’m gonna save for future entries. Let’s get started.
This first one was one I didn’t really know about until someone on Twitter pointed it out fairly recently.
I have never played a Sid Meier game. Basically simulations that require me to complex strategy to succeed really bores me and at times feels like it has too high of a skill ceiling to really enjoy anything out of it. It’s why I’ve never played Civilization. But the original Pirates! seemed to have a modest following, and got ported to a bunch of different systems, including the NES in late 1991.
While it was released on several platforms, there wasn’t a distinct soundtrack for each, thus each version has their own unique set of music. This was ported over by Rare, who pretty much one of several go-to contract developers for NES games throughout the late 80s-early 90s. David Wise, at the time Rare’s sole composer, made a simple little ditty for the game’s main menu as you planned out your pirates story.
Cut to a few years later. Rare works on what is one of the biggest games of the year, Donkey Kong Country. The final boss, King K. Rool, takes place on a giant pirate ship. Naturally, this was the most fitting place to rearrange a small tune made for a port of a Commodore 64 game. While it does borrow part of the melody from the Pirates! tune, it does go off into its own tune after that.
The tune would get a second arrangement in the game’s sequel, Diddy’s Kong Quest. Called Snakey Chantey, the tune is a much more deliberate homage to that specific menu track, this time with a bit more of a jazzy sound to it.
Until I was made aware of this, I only had two entries for this article. I’m a strong supporter of the “rule of threes,” and two just felt too little. Then this started making the rounds, and gave me a third entry, anda good starting piece. Thanks to TheBalishChannel on Twitter for finding this one.
Here's an interesting bit of a trivia that I'm sure not even Tomori Kudo knew while arranging the song for #SmashBrosUltimate! The hook/intro to DKC's "Gangplank Galleon" is actually lifted from one of @David_Wise's previous compositions in RARE's obscure "PIRATES!" game for NES: pic.twitter.com/Tu2iEymDDR
If there’s one thing I need to improve on in my life, it’s to write something in the moment. I’ve bought plenty of games, played a bevy of mods, grabbed other assorted things for potential blog fodder…
Then I do nothing with it. This has happened more often than not, but only because I get the problem of being an ideas person and rarely act upon them. I’ve been slowly improving on this front, at least more than I was years ago.
Which brings me to this post about a game mod. I played this on a whim back in 2018, and thought it was pretty neat. While I’m currently wrapped in a few other things right now, I thought I’d write something quick for this month.
A few years back, I wrote an article praising the wonders of Red Book CD audio. CD audio tracks that would play in certain games, fromPC classics like Half-Life, to even Sega CD games like Sonic CD. Unfortunately, modern technology is not too kind to the concept, as it often struggles to work properly on modern devices. In some cases, digital re-releases of games like Starsiege: Tribes didn’t even come with the CD music, removing part of the ambience.
There have been solutions thanks to source ports and game updates. For instance, playing Half-Life on Steam has all its music files as MP3s, so if the game (or a related mod) calls for that CD track, it’ll play it without needing the CD.
Looks just as good as it did in ’96.
Which brings me to a classic in Red Book audio: Quake. One of the earliest PC games to use it, popping in the CD would fill your ears with weird ambient music by Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. Modern source ports such as Quakespasm actually support playable CD tracks in MP3/OGG formats, which means one can rip the soundtrack from their copy of Quake – or just find it on the internet, I doubt id and Zenimax care these days – and play it easily, proper looping and all.
There’s a handful of Quake map packs that come with custom soundtracks tailor-made for the level pack, such as Travail. Others outright replace the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack with different ambient tracks, like EpiQuake or Quake Epsilon. But what if I told you someone replaced Nine Inch Nails music with Nine Inch Nails music?
Ha! Now I won’t be burned by hot slag. Take that! (Oh wait, now I can’t get out…)
“Ghosts I-IV for Quake” is an interesting mod. Replacing the original 1996 soundtrack with the entirety of Ghosts I-IV, an album by Nine Inch Nails with nothing but ambient instrumentals seems like a good fit. In a sense, Ghosts I-IV is a spiritual successor to the original Quake soundtrack, even if there’s little similarities in style.
The album itself is interesting: Frustrated by their record label, Trent Reznor severs his contract with Interscope Records and decides to go independent – for a while anyway – and released this under a Creative Commons license. This license is how the mod exists without lawyers getting involved, as it’s a free mod for a commercial video game.
Shooting switches with the power of magic pellets!
There is one other feature of this mod: There’s no monsters or weapons. Now there’s mostly empty levels with switches, lifts and other assorted things, but nothing to shoot. With god mode turned on. In a sense, this changes the perspective of the game entirely. No longer a straight explosive romp, it’s strictly an exploration-based affair.
I’ll admit that my interest in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has dropped off in recent months. There not being a lot of major updates is the main reason, but also because I love when they announce new music kits. Just when I thought Valve was basically saving 2017 to be the “year of CS:GO,” they drop a bomb on us:
A bunch of gloves that are rare as a god damn knife, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about those darn music kit!
I know this whole project sounds silly, but I’m always interested in what musicians Valve can cajole into this project. This time, it’s all lumped into a $7 case called “The Radicals Box”, and they’re all “StatTrak” versions so any time you get an MVP in a competitive match, your teammates and enemies will know how awesome you are.
This time, we got seven more music kits. Three of them are from bands from Red Bull Records, which I covered previously, while three more are from a different record label, Hopeless Records, the band that notably had artists like Taking Back Sunday, Sum 41 and Yellowcard. Sadly those bands aren’t featured here, but instead we get the B-tier bands on their catalog. The last remaining kit is from a returning musician, and it fits with the theme of rock and metal. (Hint: It’s not Daniel Sadowski.)
Like before, I’ll link to a YouTube page and the CS:GO Stash page so you can listen along. That being said, let’s get rocking.
DESCRIPTION: Beartooth is back for round two. This new music kit hits harder and is even more aggressive. We’ve also made the MVP anthem extra heavy so your opponents feel really bad after they’ve lost to you.
Our first returning act, Beartooth has another pack based on their newest album, Aggressive. Their last music kit was one of those that took a while to warm up to, but this one’s actually damn good. All the tracks are various cuts from the album, in instrumental form. “Loser” highlights as the main menu track, and their other singles “Aggressive,” “Always Dead” and “Hated” contribute to various parts of the kit from action cues to bomb timers. But they even went for album cuts for the remaining sections, such as “Censored” being one of the round/action cue timers.
Since these are the instrumentals, they really do highlight the rocking metal feel of the tracks without someone screeching over them. This also didn’t take long for me to like it, compared to “Disgusting”, which took a while for me to warm up to.
VERDICT: Recommended. A lot less harsh than Disgusting, and is quite catchy in spots.
Blitz Kids, The Good Youth
British Pop/Punk band Blitz Kids brings you the perfect music kit for rushing B while thinking about those night drives you had with your friends in High School. This kit is for going fast and feeling young.
Another Red Bull Records contributor, Blitz Kids’ appearance here is a bit of an odd one. An alternative rock band, the music kit name and the songs are all from their second and final album, and their sole one with Red Bull Records.
Notice I said “second and final album.” Yeah, Blitz Kids disbanded in late 2015. I seriously hope that the disbanded band members are getting royalties from this kit, otherwise it’d be pretty scummy to make money off a band that’s no longer active.
The kit itself features “Run for Cover” as the main menu track, and much like the Beartooth kit above, Red Bull Records opted for lots of album cuts to round out the kit, such as “On my Own” being the bomb timer, “Sometimes” as the Choose Teamcue, and “Keep Swinging” being one of the action cues.
I like this kit because it’s got that nice alt-rock feel, with occasional synthesizer breaks and string sections, giving it a nice, grandiose feel to the music. Though, using the same song, “The Soul of a Lost Generation” as both the Win and Lose Round cues seem a bit off since they sound too similar. It’s not a deal breaker, but certainly weird.
Again, I hope Red Bull Records vetted this with the previous band members, otherwise they might be in legal trouble. It would be funny for a music kit to become “contraband” like gun skins did, though…
VERDICT: Like alternative rock? Want something a bit lighter than the harsher metal fare? This will work. Recommended.
DESCRIPTION: Hundredth is bringing heavy to the world with their unique take on melodic hardcore. Break free or return to Dust with this perfect soundtrack for fragging the unworthy.
Our first collaborator from Hopeless Records, Hundredth is who you’d expect: Hard riffs, fast pacing, screeching vocals. If these guys were around just five years earlier, I’d see them being prime Rock Band Network candidates.
Now, at this point I’ve been lauding Red Bull Records and their PR/mixer guy using the entire album for various tracks in their music kits. I wish I could say the same about these guys.
First, no instrumentals, so these are the first music kits where we having singing and actual lyrics. Second, only three songs encompass the entire music kit, and they’re all album singles, and finally, lots and lots of awkward choices for tracks because they’re not instrumentals.
“Break Free,” “Unravel,” and “Inside Out” are the three songs used here, and they just seem so chopped together that they sound awful. It doesn’t help the “screechy heavy metal” is not my kind of genre, so this is one I have a hard time recommending to anyone, unless you’re familiar with the band itself. At least the MVP Anthem is probably enough to annoy people.
VERDICT: So lazily put together. Screeching vocals ruining good music, and using three songs to mash up into 6 minutes of music feels slapdash. Not recommended.
About a day or so after I finished writing the last post about Counter-Life, I took a nap. When I woke up, I found out about this:
More CS:GO music kits.
Not only more of them, but practically doubling the total number of music kits from 16 to 30. I nearly fainted after that. This time it seems we’re getting a big variety sampler pack, from returning artists to new contributions from notable film composers, to even an interesting collaboration between Valve and a record label. In addition to the new music kits, they now added “StatTrak” variants that keep track of the times you’ve become the MVP in competitive matches. It seems a bit silly, almost like a joke someone made to Valve without saying they were kidding afterwards. But if you want it, it’s there for $6.99 if you want them, or on the marketplace for cheaper.
Since I’ve written about the previous ones before, it’d be remiss of me not to continue the tradition. Like before, I’m gonna write how I felt about each one, mentioning some of my favorite tracks, and whether or not it’s worth the $5-7 to grab, with a quick verdict at the end.
Now in the last collection, I had made videos of the new kits, but this time I passed on doing that. It’s not that it wasn’t fun to make, it’s that considering my meticulous nature for making these things, I would’ve taken a month to work on something that’s already been eclipsed by other YouTubers for lesser effort. So for the sake of this, I linked to other YouTubers or CSGOStash if you wanna listen along.
So without further ado, let’s get started…
AWOLNATION, I Am
DESCRIPTION: AWOLNATION Alternative Rocker AWOLNATION brings you a music kit for the ages. This kit is jam-packed with an eclectic selection of tunes and includes cuts from singles ‘I Am’ and multi-platinum hit ‘Sail’.
Over the past year or so, we’ve gotten fairly notable electronic musicians: Noisia, Feed Me, that sort of jazz. For this series of kits, Valve teamed up with Red Bull Records to bring three notable artists from their label, including AWOLNATION.
AWOLNATION (yes, in all caps) is a notable artist because of their multi-platinum award winning song “Sail.” A lot of this music kit features tracks from their recent album Run, though it’s all instrumental with the occasional shout here and there.
Alas my knowledge of the band comes from “Sail” and little else, so I had to hunt down what songs were used for each track thanks to Spotify.
The kit is named after one of the songs, “I Am.” Surprisingly, it’s not the main menu track as expected, but another track from the album, “Windows.” Other songs like “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”, “Run” and “Jailbreak” are used for the Action cues, Bomb Timers and Lost Round/10 Second Timer, respectively. “I Am” shows up as one of the action cues, whereas their biggest hit “Sail”, the only song from their previous album, shows up as both an action cue and the MVP Anthem.
Yep, once you frag dudes and get the MVP, everyone will be hearing the keys along with Aaron Bruno yelling “SAIL!” at the end. It’s worth it just for that alone.
VERDICT: Recommended just on the MVP Anthem alone.
DESCRIPTION: Beartooth brings an agressive [sic] back-to-basics hardcore stomp that gets crowds moving and breaking stuff. A perfect soundtrack for your no-scope scout frags. Rock ’till you’re dead.
Here’s Valve/Red Bull Records collab number two. Beartooth is a metalcore band by Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack! fame. (Just so we’re clear: We’re talking about the Attack Attack that did that awful guitar crab-walking to a song called “Stick Stickly,” not the Attack Attack from Wales that’s the infinitely superior band.)
I’m fairly picky about my taste of music. If there’s anything I hate about metal sometimes, it’s a guy screeching incomprehensible words into the microphone. If that’s all the talent you need to be a metal singer, then I should be auditioning to be one right now. Thank god the music kit is strictly instrumental, which unearths some pretty decent metal underneath.
All the songs here come from their 2014 album Disgusting. Their single “In Between” serves as the main menu track, whereas other songs like “Keep Your American Dream” and “Body Bag” are the action/round cues. There’s some pretty okay metal on these tracks, and if you loved stuff like Skog’s Metal from the original set of nine, this is right up your alley. I’d be okay with them releasing more stuff like this.
VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace for cheap. Great for those who want more rocking in their CS:GO soundtracks.
Daniel Sadowski, The 8-Bit Kit
DESCRIPTION: Daniel Sadowski creates the first ever 8-bit Music Kit for Counter-Strike complete with authentic 8-bit sounds.
Our first returning composer, and I honestly wasn’t expecting him to return for a third time. This is Sadowski’s third music kit for CS:GO. This, along with the DOTA 2 music kit he also did recently, makes me think he’s practically a official composer for Valve considering how much he contributes to their games recently. It’s great, really.
Considering the name, you can guess this aims for a chiptune approach, which is drastically different from his previous offerings (Crimson Assault and Total Domination). While we got fairly close to chiptune with an unused MVP track in Feed Me’s High Noon, this is the first music kit to actually go for the retro game music approach, and he does a fine job here.
Some of my favorites include the Start Round, Choose Team and Start Action tunes. A lot of these fit right in line with NES-era music, which I consider to be a fairly difficult thing to master.
After hearing this, I’d love to actually see notable chiptune composers have their take on chiptune game music for CS:GO, such as Rushjet1, or Danny Baranowsky. If someone like Sadowski can make a solid retro game music soundtrack, I’d love to hear someone else’s take at this.
VERDICT: Recommended. Good for those who love chiptunes that actually are chiptunes and aren’t just someone adding samples to crappy MIDIs.
Darude, Moments CSGO
DESCRIPTION: Yield freely in the soundscapes of Finnish producer Darude’s familiar musical flavours and tones. Enriching yourself with access to a heavy fusion of progressive overtones and scores of tingling melodic structure from the sounds banks of one of dance music’s most renowned pioneers.
Ah yes, Darude. That guy who made that “Sandstorm” song that got popular in the early 2000s. Then it got popular again because Twitch chat users thought it’d be funny to go “DUDUDUDUDUDUDU Kappa” and make “Sandstorm” jokes on DOTA2 and CS:GO matches. It seems Darude has taken this in stride, at one point DJing at The International 4 after party and pretty much trolling the entire crowd by teasing “Sandstorm” the entire night before finishing it as the encore.
I’ll mention this upfront: No, “Sandstorm” is not in this kit. The kit itself has tracks that sound like “Sandstorm,” but none of the tracks are actually “Sandstorm.” Rather, it’s a unique track made specifically for the game, though it’s titled after his most recent album. Despite being named after an existing Darude song, “Moments,” it sounds nothing like the music kit featured here. In fact, I really couldn’t find the song he used here, so it’s likely an original composition named after his most recent work.
A lot of the tracks have the same catchy beat to it, with additional instrumentation where appropriate. The first Start Round/Action has good instrumentation, and I like the slowdown touches on the Round Loss and Deathcam cues. But a lot of it sounds similar, which is slightly disappointing, but hey, this is a bigger get than when DOTA2 got deadmau5.
VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace on discount. It’s not Sandstorm, but Darude made a good enough substitute.