Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s new, daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today we’re listening to Exact’s Jumping Flash! 2 for the PlayStation. Mind the exclamation point!
A lot of U.S. folks will remember the first Jumping Flash! as the best demo included on the PlayStation Picks demo disc (Longplay) that shipped with the U.S. PlayStation in late 1995. I sure played the heck out of it, along with (checks notes) oh, uh, ESPN Extreme Games. The pickings were slim, friends.
Jumping Flash! 2 (OST / Longplay / VGMdb) hit less than a year after launch, and like Tekken 2 and WipEout XL, it was one of those early PlayStation sequels that pretty much wiped the floor with its predecessor. Devs got more used to the new 32-bit paradigm and magic started happening. In retrospect, the first wave of 1995 games feel kinda like prototypes.
But in Jumping Flash! 2’s case it wasn’t so much a tech advancement as a creative one; the sequel featured more memorable, interesting, distinctive levels, greater playtime, funnier writing, and (saving the best for last) an outstanding soundtrack by original-game composer Takeo Miratsu.
Jumping Flash! 2’s worlds are a whimsical delight, a mix of floating sky-islands strewn with random (often household) objects and slightly more grounded setpieces such as a maze-like dojo and an underwater base. There’s even a pleasant rainy stage. Jumping Flash! 2 is less a first-person 3D platformer than a comforting cup of stream-of-consciousness soup.
But we’re here to talk the music. It’s one of those blessed games that scores each level with a unique song all its own, which pays off big time. As in many of my favorites, the music contributes significantly to the mood of each area and becomes a huge contributor to the game’s appeal.
The first thing you’ll notice is the Hawaiian influence throughout the first two, vacation-like stages (and various cinematics throughout). Stage 1-1’s track is “Jump in Hawaii!,” and I love that long twang starting at 3:07, then the vocals hitting at 3:20. (More about vocals later.) Stage 1-2—half the tracks are untitled—switches to a bit of a ska beat and lays on the bass as it builds to a very “hopping through video game grasslands” melody. Another delight.
It’s hard to go on vacation these days, but you could do far worse than soaking in the sunny good vibes of World 1.
Then you hit 2-1 in “Checking Out the Castle” (7:15) and you’re off to classical Japan, apparently, with music to match. The continual stream of loveliness only lets up for the more serious-sounding third (13:44, cool... sitar?) and fourth (18:33) worlds, but the melodies remain as catchy as ever.
Give it a listen. Better, give it a play. I submit that Jumping Flash! 2 is probably one of the best PlayStation soundtracks. Certainly one of the most fun. And unlike the more serious, “epic” scores of some modern games, it’s not generic in the least. Quite the opposite. This is unmistakably music from a 1990s video game—building on the legacy established by great 16-bit soundtracks, but broadened by new technology—and in my opinion, all the better for it.
So, those vocals. After you beat the game’s second loop to see the true ending, you get to experience a truly unique rap performed by all the cute MuuMuus you’ve spent a few hours rescuing. It’s called the “Rap la MuuMuu,” it is performed by “Bakin Takarai and the MuuMuus,” and it is pricelessly goofy. (I imagine even more so if you understand the Japanese.) Sony are heroes for leaving it in the U.S. version.
Apparently “Rap la MuuMuu” got released as a single at some point, as you can see in the image up top. (It doesn’t seem to have a VGMdb entry!) Quite a conversation piece. Just the thing to put in a conspicuously visible place during vid chats.
But there is a sad postscript to this very happy game, and it is that Takeo Miratsu died before his time in 2006, at age 46, because fuck cancer. He seems to have been more of a TV/anime composer, but he also was one-half the composition team for Sony’s big-budget RPG The Legend of Dragoon (VGMdb), so I ought to check that one out sometime.
Sorry to end on a bummer! That’s it for today’s Morning Music, and I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow. Say hi in the comments, and go take a low-res virtual vacation in Jumping Flash! 2, imo. We all deserve it.