Color Me Shocked!

Although they were making a movie about video games, when it came to Pixels, composer Henry Jackman and director Chris Columbus wanted to steer away from the 8-bit sound one associates with Super Mario style boing-boing, opting instead for a symphonic score.  What were they thinking? As revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “we discovered early on that 8-bit music made the whole thing pretty silly,” according to Jackman, who apparently thought the goal was to underscore Adam Sandler’s gravitas.

Could an 8-bit buggy-ride to nostalgiaville been exactly what the film needed to connect with the boomers who actually played those videogames, but stayed away from the film in droves? Clearly, the bit-picking raises more questions than it answers.

The point is, today “some adventurous composers still attempt a chiptune style,” and 8-bit gametracks have “even become a standalone genre,” according to rateyourmusic.com, which helpfully compiled a “Top 39” list of the best 8-bit game soundtracks of all time. No. 1 with a bullet: “The Legend of Zelda – Link’s Awakening.” Excepting the main overworld theme, “this is all original music, over 70 tracks. This makes this OST [gamer-talk for “original sound track”] even more realized than ‘A Link to the Past,'” writes Zeronumus, the somewhat anonymous curator of the list. “Every dungeon has its own theme, ranging from haunting to harrowing, and even one-time story events are graced with particularly fitting melodies.” Indulge your senses by clicking to hear Tal Tal Heights, Face Shrine or The Restless Ghost.

Meanwhile, at retrogameaudio.com, it’s argued that the distinction among bits is somewhat meaningless. While many associate the 8-bit sound with NES, “the problem with this is that the NES doesn’t primarily sound the way that it does because it’s 8-bit, it sounds the way it does because of the particular kinds of sounds it uses.” Digressing to a discussion of sound synthesis before asking us to “consider Amiga music,”  this helpful compendium is packed with useful information, whether your interest is scoring videogames or soothing space invaders (or, for that matter, irritable minions).

As for Jackman, he turns his attention back to earthly cares, wrapping J Blakeson’s apocalyptic 5th Wave and prepping for the Russo Bros.’ (Anthony and Joe) Captain America: Civil War. 

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