The Melodic Mailbag: Metroid Metal, Journey, Journey, and Why We Love ChiptunesAnd we're back with another Melodic Mailbag! Where we answer musical questions from our friendly Kotaku Melodic readers. Let's get right to it.


Dan asks: I was listening to The Beatles and it got me thinking: Which game do you think honors its band inspiration more: Journey (the 1983 videogame, not the 2012 sand one) or The Beatles: Rock Band? As a bigger question, how would you like to see a band honored through a video game?

Well, if we're straight-up talking honors the band, I'd have to say that The Beatles: Rock Band wins that one. But then again, I've never quite warmed to that game like I did to Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3, and I really loved Journey. So… well, Journey DID make me not want to stop believing, as I noted in my made up back-of-box quotes on my review of the game. So let's say it's Journey.

As for your second question… I'd love to see a game that honors the music of Duke Ellington. Seriously! They did something like that with Eternal Sonata…why not make a game that does the same thing with Duke's music? It'd be amazing. The whole soundtrack could be Duke stuff, which would be easy since the dude wrote like five billion pieces of music in his lifetime. So, yeah. Duke Ellington video game, please.

Adam asks: I thought of this thanks to Owen's topic on Metroid's "Brinstar" theme. How he said that no instrumental version has done it justice. There was those in the comments that disagreed and thought that Metroid Metal's remix did it justice. I myself like it, but I have to agree on Owen here. Do you think that there is a version that does it justice?

Well, while it's hard to get into saying big proclamations like that (who knows, maybe some underground band has a great version!) I can't say I care too much for this version of the tune. Like a lot of these metal covers, it starts out strong but then runs out of gas midway through.

So, not bad, but it's still not as good as the original. So, I like to think of Owen's post as a challenge.

Maybe some musician reading this right now can prove him wrong?

Corey asks: What do you think the appeal behind chiptune music is? Is it really nostalgia, or is there some type of objective way to judge it? For the most part it seems generational, just like rock and roll, disco, hip-hop, and rap have all been. So that explains why various parents and grandparents don't have any affinity for it, because it wasn't a part of the culture. Do you think it is the literal beeps and boops that attracts us to this style, or do you think it's the simplicity of video game music?

Cool question. I've wondered about this a lot. As it pertains to modern chiptune music and not classic game soundtracks, there are a number of things at play. Modern chiptune music uses the sounds with which our generation is familiar to make new music—the musical qualities of good modern chiptune music are no different than any other genre. Good melody, interesing song, cool beat. etc. I do think that the reason that older people might not dig chiptune music is that they're not as familiar with the tones and sounds as we are. And yeah, surely some of the appeal lies in hearing melodies played via sounds that make us think fondly on our youths. But most modern chiptune music isn't all that simple, really! A lot of it is as complex or more complex than instrumental music.

When it comes to judging classic game soundtracks, things get a bit murkier. There may be no longer-lasting emotional tie to a game than its music. When I hear a song from one of my favorite childhood games, it's like… man. You know how your sense of smell is super strongly tied to your memory? So you'll smell something like, the same kind of mulch they had at the summercamp where you grew up, and you'll almost physically transport yourself back there?

Well, most games don't have smells, so their soundtracks are the closest we get. So it's really hard to be objective when judging the soundtracks from games like Monkey Island and Mega Man.

But that's a topic for further study, and for another post.


That wraps up another Melodic Mailbag! Thanks to everyone who sent in emails. If you've got a question for next time, send them to me at kirk@kotaku.com and put "melodic" in the subject line. Don't be shy! And remember: suggestions are valued, but questions will be more likely to get published. Looking forward to hearing more from you guys.