Monday, October 6, 2014

Game Scores - Jackal (NES)

Time to go to the land of Obscure, at least obscure from my point of view as I have only seen the NES game Jackal out in the wild in one place and I have never seen the arcade cabinet either.  This is a game that I played and borrowed form Delaños frequently, but due to my not great video gaming ability, I was unable to finish the game, or at least I remember being unable to finish the beast.

Since the soundtrack to Jackal is somewhat limited (clocking in at a second or two over four minutes), let us start off with the music from the first stage, title "Stage 1 & 4."

"Stage 1 & 4," as you could surmise from the title is the music that you hear in the first stage of the game.  For me, even the chugging bass line at 0:07 seconds reminds me of a not-s0-well carburetored engine.  The music is even timed to line up with the arrival of the jeep, which I find brilliant considering this is a straight up action run-and-gun that came out on the NES in 1988 (arcade cabinet was released in 1986).  What is interesting is that in the arcade version, the same music is still present, although it sounds very subdued and unlike the NES version, the chugging does not line up with the arrival of the jeep.

As for the melody, I cannot place it as being reminiscent of anything in particular, although it suits the game and action perfectly.  And what perfection those 32 seconds of music make!  Yes, this main theme from stages one and four lasts only 32 seconds, which probably should not come as a surprise, again considering this was 1988.

"Stage 2 & 5" is the longest track from this unreleased soundtrack, clocking in at around 1:26.  And this was not Shinya Sakamoto's first foray into military run-and-guns mind you, having worked with Konami in 1985 on Rush'N Attack (aka: Green Berets), which is why the music to "Stage 2 & 5" might have conjured up the memories from the first stage in that game; well, at least for myself it does.

By now you may have noticed the similar "bum-ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-dum" beat running through each of the previous two songs, as it will in the third, even though the melodies are all different from one another.  Again, possibly reminiscent of the sound of the jeeps, but this beat, I feel, keeps the player in the game, having a consistent and familiar beat running throughout the game.

Finally, "Stage 3 & 6." There is that beat again!  Like "Stage 1 & 3," this track is only about 32 seconds long and personally, the least interesting of the three songs used for the six stages in this game.  There is not one thing that I do not like about it, I just find the main melody to be not quite as catchy as that from the first two tracks.  It could also be that since the songs are broken up as 1 & 4, 2 & 5 and 3 & 6, that I heard the first two songs more frequently than I did the final track, probably never or at least rarely making it to the sixth and final stage.

So, more-0r-less, that is the main score to Jackal, although there are also the tracks for the boss battles, the prologue,  the credits and game over, but for a game that centers around drive-and-gun, the music for the stages has to be interesting enough to keep the player playing through similarly designed stages, breaking up the monotony and tension of not being killed.

Good music does that and Shinya Sakamoto's score is exactly what Jackal needed.


P.S. And for anyone wondering, "Jackal" refers to the type of vehicle used in the game Jackal, although fighting with the ferocity of a jackal is also perfectly valid.

P.P.S.  Just to note, this article started out as a MIDI Week Singles post, focusing on the music from "Stage 1 & 4" but while writing, I realized that the rest of the score was equally important and for the most part, just as catchy and nostalgic.  Half way through I decided that this would have to be turned into a "Game Scores" post instead.

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