Been a while since I posted one of these. Today, let’s look at Joy Mech Fight, a strange fighting game developed and published by Nintendo for Japanese release only and scored by one of Nintendo R&D1’s lesser-known composers. Let’s go!
Joy Mech Fight was released on May 21st, 1993 for the Nintendo Famicom. Nintendo was looking to make a game that could capitalize on the success of Capcom’s Street Fighter II, which had already carved its place in history in the arcades and had been released for the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo nearly a year earlier. It was one of Nintendo’s first direct fighting games (Nintendo’s Urban Champion was a fighting game of sorts and released nearly 10 years earlier). It featured true one-on-one versus fighting. The game had a staggering 36 playable characters, a number that stood for many years until topped by SNK’s King of the Fighters ’98, which featured 38. Very ambitious for an 8-bit release, for sure.
Why they choose to try to use the Famicom to produce a fighting game over the Super Famicom is confusing to me. There are really no primary sources for information for this game other than the game itself unfortunately. Maybe it was cheaper? We can only speculate.
We are presented with fighters that are made up of many smaller floating sprites, similar to the Super Smash Bros’s Fighting Polygon teams. Wikipedia seems to indicate that the sprites such as the ones used in Street Fighter II were far too big for the Famicom to render and thus, it was decided that the smaller, segmented sprites would look smoother.
Here’s some gameplay so you can judge for yourself:
It’s pretty cool. There’s actually a story mode and plot and what not. If you want more info, check out the Wiki article.
The composer for this game is Hideaki Shimizu. … Who? Exactly. He usually works for Nintendo as a Player Character Programmer (Super Mario Galaxy, Donkey Jungle Beat, et al.). To be 100% accurate, Hideaki Shimizu is credited as the “sound programmer” for Joy Mech Fight. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wrote the soundtrack. For example, Hideaki Shimizu is the sound programmer/arranger for Super Mario 64 and Koji Kondo is the composer. I searched for a long time and I couldn’t find any info to prove one way or the other. Many just assume it is Shimizu and without the direct source to look at, I’ll just have to trust the internet (perhaps to my own folly).
So what does he serve up? Well, it’s actually a really interesting soundtrack.
Some notes while you listen:
- Joy Mech Fight uses stock 2A03 sounds and some sampled 1bit drums. The 1bit drums are aided by aggressive use of triangle patterns that serve as both percussive hits and the bass line. The use of staccato automation on the 1bit drums plus the boosts given by the triangle give the game a very percussive feel.
- A lot of the music for this game has Japanese anime chords, if that makes sense. You’ll recognize them the second you hear them. It creates a lot of drama. I feel like at any moment, the game could break out into scenes from Gundam Wing….
- The sound effects… well, it’s like someone just took apart Rockman 3‘s entire sound roll and cut and paste them into this game. If you didn’t hear them in the demonstration of the gameplay above, go check it out. It’s really funny. When you hit your opponent, you may think you’ve actually been hit and knocked back if you’ve played a lot of the Rockman/Mega Man series.
- Many people have tried to compare the soundtrack of this game to that of Rockman, actually. While I get what people are talking about, this soundtrack definitely has its own unique feel.
- Rockman tends to rely heavily on the noise channel and triangle drums. It does not use sampled drums; instead, it has (what I call at least) “crack and tear” noise channel and triangle “booms” for big hits. It usually has one voice heavily programmed and automated to sound like a jazz/rock lead with a secondary instrument that picks up and follows The triangle is also frequently used in the higher range of its capability. The music is much more straight ahead and the feel rarely changes from song to song.
- In Joy Mech Fight, each channel has its moments in the spotlight. Some tracks are led by triangle based melodies with pulse/square backups. There’s also very little “crack and tear” noise channel as the noise channel is kept extremely short to create an effect and not necessarily a sound. We see heavy use of DPCM and different sampled drums. The beat and feel changes very frequently both inside tracks and from track to track. Overall, there’s also greater variation in terms chords and feels. That being said, it is also somehow a lot less busy than Rockman.
- Part 2: 4:51 is AWESOME. Skip there right now. You’ll thank me. That thumping bassline is great. So is the next track. It’s amazing the kind of groove you can get with just 3 polyphonic voices sometimes. I’m rockin’ out.
- The soundtrack makes me wonder if Hip Tanaka was somehow involved. There’s something so… familiar about it. I’ve heard these chords and this programming before. Is it just that Shimizu has done the programming for a lot of games and I’m used to hearing how he arranges the instruments? Or is it that there’s another composer behind the scenes here? I’d be interested in your thoughts. If any of you ACTUALLY know if Shimizu composed this, I’d be really excited to know!
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this lesser-known soundtrack. Let me know what you think!