Remastered Ninja Gaiden Soundtrack is Revelatory

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For those who can remember, the technological limits of the 1980’s meant that games on the 8-bit NES sometimes forced kids to use their imaginations to fill out the whole picture.

At the time, games like “Super Mario Bros.,” “The Legend of Zelda” and even “Pokemon” in recent times undoubtedly had fantastic soundtracks that suited the adventure. But hearing it these days through the lens of nostalgia may keep it in that context; definitely good but tied to the memory of bumping blocks and collecting coins.

Then there’s Ninja Gaiden, the infamous game that while it had groundbreaking dramatic cinematic cut-scenes (by NES standards), its difficulty, many say, coined the term “NES Hard.” But while it was known for its difficulty, it was also noted for its music.

This month saw the release of a complete remastered soundtrack from Brave Wave records of both the “Ninja Gaiden” soundtrack as well as its sequels “Ninja Gaiden II” and “III.” When before an NES game’s music could only be heard through tinny speakers of a huge cube of a TV, now it can sound fresh on its own terms through a set of modern speakers or headphones.

The original soundtrack, composed by Keiji Yamagishi and Ryuichi Nitta, was notable for its heart-pounding action music that helped propel the player through a gauntlet of enemies, but it was balanced too by the slower emotional pieces during the cut-scenes, their impact made even more impressive by the limited instrumentation.

Obviously there’s still a taste for old-school video game music, as Brave Wave has continued to release classic soundtracks, such as for “Street Fighter II in recent years. Additionally, many of these un-remastered soundtracks had only been available in Japan, which allows for even more mainstream exposure for today’s audiences.
To go along with the recent vinyl boom, a few companies have also released the vinyl soundtracks of other classic NES and SNES games such as “Castlevania III.” It’s long overdue that this music that most kids just heard in the background while beating up bad guys is now brought to the forefront and appreciated for its artistic merit.

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