Hello all! Welcome back to Play It By Ear, a weekly column where every Friday I discuss my thoughts on a different video game’s soundtrack.
You can see the list of upcoming games and their corresponding playlists here. I will try to focus on lesser-known games or games whose soundtracks I feel can be a bit overlooked, but some of the bigger games may sneak their way in.
Today’s Game: Dynamite Headdy
Suggested By: Metal Walrus
Release Date: August 5, 1994
Platform: Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Nintendo Switch
Composers: Katsuhiko Suzuki, Yasuko, Koji Yamada, Aki Hata, Norio Hanzawa
Other Works by Same Composer: Light Crusader OST (Aki Hata) (1995), Digimon World series (Koji Yamada) (1999 – 2017), Gunstar Heroes OST (Norio Hanzawa) (1993)
Number of Songs: 41
Approximate Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Played the Game? In process.*
*Currently playing through the Steam version for the first time.
What Kind of Game Is This? Dynamite Headdy is a platformer game focused on a living puppet named Headdy who resides in a theater-based world. When the evil King Dark Demon attempts to take control of this world, Headdy must stop him and his minions by using his detachable head as a weapon and a means to progress by grabbing onto things. There are seventeen power-ups that swap out Headdy’s head with different heads with various functions. In an interesting twist on the typical platformer formula due to the game’s stage-based inspiration, Headdy’s health is represented by a spotlight in the corner that changes color depending on how much he has left.
Top Songs or Songs of Note (in Track Order):
This song has such a strong melody and a lot of bounce to it, but I particularly love its rocking introduction.
This one starts out quite ominous but gradually builds into an inspiring boss-fighting theme with a strong beat.
Crosswalk of Love
This one has a real jazzy quality to it that makes it feel alternately joyful and melancholic, giving it surprising complexity. My favorite from the soundtrack.
The fact that they managed to make such a rock-sounding song in the Genesis soundfont is amazing.
With the distorted voices cutting in and out, this one feels very off kilter. Combine that with a catchy repeating melody, and this is a really unique track. (Note that Maruyama is the Japanese name for a recurring antagonist in the game, renamed to Trouble Bruin in the international release.)
Tonight’s a Jazzy Night
Probably the closest you could get to a full-on jazz band in this style of music, this track is very smooth with great rhythm.
I never thought that one of my favorite remixes of this classical piece would come from a Sega Genesis game, yet here we are. Quite a fun boss fight too.
Honorable Mentions: Headdy the Hero, Tower of Puppets, South Town’s Theme, Danzen Dungeon, Hustle Maruyuma, I Sing, I Love Goldie Hawn, Hattari is Here, Dark Demon’s Song, Ballad for You
Least Favorite Songs: In general, I like almost every song from this game. There are a couple, though, that come across as extremely repetitive to the point of being annoying: Hustle Maruyama Part 2 and Mystery Spot.
It’s possible in context that they only play for a very short period of time, but I’m not sure about that.
Overall Thoughts: As I’ve been playing through this classic game for the first time on Steam, I’ve grown enamored with its bright, colorful graphical style, unusual gameplay, and stage-show trappings. All of these elements are not just present on the soundtrack but completely define the game’s musical stylings. The sound systems on many consoles from the 80s and 90s were very limited in certain respects, from the soundfonts they used to the memory available. The best composers were able to both adapt to and transcend these limitations (think David Wise with the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack), and I definitely feel like that is the case here. The soundtrack is light and cheerful at times, ominous or just plain weird at others. It’s showy – almost circus-like – and it’s just plain fun to listen to. It’s also a game with a surprisingly large number of bosses and mid-bosses, which means a lot of catchy boss themes – something I am very partial to. Honestly, the only negative I can think of is that some of the songs can get repetitive (see ‘Least Favorite Songs’), but that was an issue with many games at the time. I’m really happy I got the chance to listen to this, not only because the soundtrack is great but because it also prompted me to play the game itself and fill in a gap in my video game knowledge.
- Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the soundtrack?
- Are there any tracks, that I mentioned or didn’t mention, that you would like to further discuss?
- What game soundtracks have you been listening to recently? What’s been grabbing your attention?
- Are there any game soundtracks that you would like me to cover in the future?
And there we have it! Thanks so much for reading and listening to this soundtrack with me.
Last Week: The Mummy Demastered
Next Week: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory