May 15, 2007
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In 1987, Konami released the iconic run ‘n’ gun title Contra for Arcades to much success. The title became more famous for its NES port a year later, but in many respects the original version was superior. This extends to its music too and, for the most part, the arcade music featured somewhat deeper synthesis compared to their thin chiptune versions on the NES.
Opening with a brief yet memorable title fanfare, Kazuki Muraoka soon brings the goods with the first stage theme “Fight of Jungle”. With its punchy chord progressions and lively chiptune melodies, it definitely adheres to the light-hearted sound that Konami had developed up to that point. It’s not quite as memorable as equivalents from Castlevania or Gradius, but makes up for it by capturing the heroic feel and fast pace of the game adequately. It’s also considerably longer and richer than its counterpart on the NES.
There are plenty of other enjoyable compositions on the soundtrack. For example, “Maze Fortress” and “Jungle Juncture” develop the sound of the first stage theme with their hard-edged chord progressions. “Thunder Landing” and “Great Heil-Ruined Base” meanwhile show a strong rock influence and really throw gamers into the heat of the battle. The former has become a particular fan favourite thanks to its potent melodies and sounds much better here than its NES counterpart. The ending theme “Free World” is also a charming piece that reminds one of Gradius.
That said, the soundtrack does have its problems. Konami has priced this digital download at quite a high price, even though it features just 20 minutes of music. What’s more, many tracks on this release are very brief and perhaps better reserved for stand-alone listening. In a further example of bad presentation, “What is This Place” is corrupted by voice samples and sound effects throughout its playtime. It would have been better if Konami created a new recording of the arcade sound source rather than rehash sounds recorded for previously released compilations.
Overall, the music for Contra is among the most enjoyable old-school game music out there. Kazuki Muroaka offers plenty of punchy and memorable ideas here, while making the most out of the arcade’s sound source to offer substantial compositions. However, it’s presentation is not really adequate here and it may be better to explore this music on other releases, such as Contra Spirits.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.