Welcome to the first installment of Track 2, a (hopefully) running feature where I will be showcasing some music selections from various video games. The name of this feature is derived from the old practice of encoding audio for games as CD audio tracks (Red Book audio). The first track would then be the actual game data – not recommended to be played on any CD players – and the subsequent tracks would all be playable audio tracks. Thus we learned to skip directly to track number two whenever we wanted to play our game music on our stereos.
This is not a practice often used today, with audio compression technology being all the rage. It does still see a bit of use on audio CDs though, which now and then include some free data content, but nowadays this content does not register as an actual track. My old German compilation hits CD Giga Hits 95 includes a couple of Mr. Bean episodes (don’t ask me why), and on the back of the cover I’m warned with a stern “Achtung!” that I must skip the first track on the compilation, as that’s the data track containing the episodes.
I’ll be starting off this feature with a few selections from the classic Mega-CD version of The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin, in which you tackle several classic Spider-Man foes such as Doctor Octopus and The Lizard and of course the Kingpin himself. The same game was first released for the Mega Drive, but the Mega-CD version features improved graphics, some added levels, fully-voiced cartoon sequences, and a kick ass soundtrack made in collaboration between video game composer Spencer Nilsen and the rock band Mr. Big.
So fittingly, let’s start with track number two from the game, which is an actual song with actual lyrics written specifically for the game (or so I presume) – it’s the first audio track on the CD, and also the first piece of music you’re greeted with when turning it on as this song plays during the start menu screen. None of the tracks have names (at least not names which were passed on to the consumer), but judging from the chorus I can presume it’s entitled “Swing Time”. I believe this was the second or third video game theme song I ever heard – the previous ones being the Clay Fighter song, and the opening song for Road Avenger, another Mega-CD game.
And I was surprised to find that it’s actually a male singing this song, equally as surprised as I was when I found out that the vocalist for The Apples In Stereo is also a male. Damn those rockers and their androgyne ways.
The rest of the music is all instrumental, and most of it is guitar and/or synth driven. This particular track is the most rocking of them all, causing whoever’s playing to have to fight against the urge to trade in the controller for an air guitar. Of course, if you do so, Spider-Man’s chance of survival diminishes substantially and the track may be cut short by his sudden demise. So you’d better stick to the controller.
Now, for this last track we can hear guitar and synth coming together in perfect harmony in arguably the catchiest melody line of the game.
The game also features some more moody and ambient music during the game’s cutscenes, and it’s pretty good as well! Unfortunately this music is directly embedded into the sequences and are not accessible as regular audio tracks. The videos seem to all use a variation on the same basic theme. A few of the videos from the game are up on YouTube, so if you’re interested you can watch the game’s introduction here and try to pay attention to the background music. The animated cutscenes blew my mind back in the day, though they may seem less impressive now.
It’s definitely one of my favourite games. Sufficiently so that I bought a poster of the game’s front cover when I stumbled over it in a poster store in Denmark, and I somewhat regret not buying another one which I could’ve kept off my wall and in mint condition; might not be a common poster to come by. And I definitely regret selling off my Mega-CD and all my games so that I could afford to buy a PlayStation…