Lesser-known Video Game Soundtracks: New Ghostbusters II (FC)

So, I promised I’d add some more content and I’m serving it up right now.  In this post, I’m going to talk about New Ghostbusters II, a game scored by a composer who makes his living writing music for a puffy marshmallow and mishandled by a company who owns the rights to various Disney and Warner Bros. characters at different times for different games and different countries.  And wait.  What exactly makes this “New“?  Let’s find out.

After finding “success” with a multiple-platformed  Ghostbusters game, Activision decides to release another game based off the popular movie franchise.  To quote Bubsy:  What could possibly go wrong?

Activision decides to publish the game in 1989 and uses Kemco Corp as the developer.  And this is where things decide to go horribly wrong.  Kemco and Activision are unable to secure the rights to the game for release in Japan.  This results in the game being released only in the US and EU.  Another company is able to produce a Ghostbusters game in Japan and does so.

Before I continue, I think to understand the mishap with the Ghostbusters franchise we need to step back and look at the fine history of the company that is… Kemco.

Kemco is known for some very very good games actually (Lagoon, Shadowgate) so I’m not trying to knock Kemco here… but sometimes you just have to.  Kemco is LEGENDARY for developing games, losing the rights to characters, and swapping the sprites while not changing gameplay.

For instance, Kemco is responsible for the entire Crazy Castle series.  I think nearly all of us, for whatever reason, owned Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle for Game Boy when we were little.  Today, if we spoke to friends from Europe or Japan about Crazy Castle, they would probably have no clue what we were talking about… until we explained the premise.

Kemco released Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle in Japan as Roger Rabbit, a game based off the hit movie at the time.  However, Kemco lost the rights to Roger Rabbit’s likeness shortly after producing the game.  With a forthcoming release in the US and now lacking a main character for the game, Kemco acquired Bugs Bunny’s likeness and was able to use that to produce the game here in the US as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle.  Wait, there’s more.  Kemco was not allowed to produce Roger Rabbit but still wanted to keep releasing the game in Japan… so they went and acquired MICKEY MOUSE and re-released the game in Japan as Mickey Mouse.

So.  Mickey Mouse, Roger Rabbit, and Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle are ALL THE SAME GAME.  They continued this trend throughout the Crazy Castle series.  My personal favorite is Mickey Mouse IV:  The Magical Labyrinth.  The game was called The Real Ghostbusters in the US.  In Europe, the game was called Garfield Labyrinth.  So yeah, in one game you get the cartoon Ghostbusters, Mickey, and Garfield.  Good grief!  (Funny I should mention Charlie Brown… they released a game called Snoopy’s Sports Spectacular here in the US.  In Japan?  The game was called Donald Duck.)

The point of that last rant was to prove the Kemco makes bad or at the very least QUESTIONABLE decisions.

So anyhow, Kemco, aided by Activision, releases Ghostbusters II in 1990.  The game is instantly panned as one of the most difficult games for the NES and does not sell well at all.  To make matters worse… here’s the soundtrack:

(credit: GBelair)

To quote… well, AVGM probably says it best without saying anything at all:

WHAT!?  This is awful.  The “composer” Mark Van Hecke just arranges the music from the movie and does so poorly.  Like, he uses DPCM drums to the point where you can’t even hear the melodies.  “Higher and Higher” isn’t even in time to the beat!  (And they sold this to us for $50 in 1990 money.  And I probably would have bought it if I had the money just because it was Ghostbusters… but still! ) This disappoints me in ways that I cannot really express.

LUCKILY FOR THE JAPANESE AND EUROPEANS (and not people in the US), Hal Laboratory Inc., the company that secured the rights to produce the game in Japan, creates a different version of the game called New Ghostbusters II.  This game features completely different (and much more… chibi) gameplay.

As an additional bonus, we are treated to the first game ever composed by Hal Laboratory Inc’s very own Jun Ishikawa.  You may know this name as he is the composer for the entire Kirby series.  Yey!  So what does Ishikawa produce for this game?  Well, Ishikawa also does some of his own arrangements of the tunes from the movie, including the main theme, “Flip City”, and “We’re Back”.  Let’s take a listen:

(credit:  explod2a03)

This is how to cover movie music.  He recreates the music with an expert’s touch.  He doesn’t just cover it: he uses the 2a03 to bring the music new life.

Now, let’s see some of his originals:

How Kirby is this?  Wow.  In fact, it’s often compared this Kirby track:

(credit:  jumpropeman)

Another Kirby-esque track.  Still, really awesome.

Want to pick up a copy of this game and play at home?  Good luck.  The game is considered fairly rare and sells on eBay for $80-$95 depending on the source.  I’ve been looking to pick up a copy for months now but have been able to locate a “good copy” at a “good price” (IE one that has the manual+original box and isn’t $20 to ship from Hong Kong via boat).

Anyhow, I hope you liked this post.  Comments welcome as usual.  I’m working on many other posts right now too so keep checking back for new stuff in the next couple weeks!

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

One response to “Lesser-known Video Game Soundtracks: New Ghostbusters II (FC)

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