Any gamer who grew up with a Nintendo console, whether it was the NES, SNES, N64, GameCube or the Wii, will no doubt be flooded with memories at the sheer mention of these historic systems. The music of your favorite games is undoubtedly synonymous with these memories. YouTuber Evan Puschak, who also goes by Nerdwriter1, has broken down the method behind the music of the SNES in his comprehensive and concise video.
The video offers an enhanced understanding of how composers crafted charming melodies to accompany some of the world’s best titles on Nintendo’s home console from the early ’90s. It commences with an explanation of the two sound chips, which co-operate with each other to create and compile a collection of sound effects and music within an entire game. Notably, these sound chips were developed by Sony which, on a side note, is a meticulous detail after the infamous Nintendo PlayStation fell through — a conceptual system which arose prior to the SNES and PS1 bearing existence at the time, which was discovered and reported on in recent years.
The SNES is compared with the NES in terms of evolution during the video breakdown, highlighting exactly what a composer would have had to work with throughout the SNES era. While the SNES provided musicians with the ability to use more sounds simultaneously than its predecessor (thanks to a greater amount of channels), it was still a meager amount of memory considering that it had to store the entirety of every single piece of audio within the game. While it was a huge step forward since the NES days at the time, audio still had to be constructed creatively considering the small sound storage size, with the amount of memory a staggering 100 times smaller than that of a typical three-minute MP3 in today’s world.
The astounding creativity of video game composers comes to light in the video, pitching the example of what David Wise had to tackle when he worked at Banjo-Kazooie developer Rare at the time. David has carefully curated melodies reliably throughout a career which spans more than 30 years, including games such as Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Yooka-Laylee and Snake Pass. There is insight on how he worked around the extraordinarily restrictive limitations of the sound chips to achieve astonishing and memorable tracks, regardless of the mammoth restraints. His remarkable music innovations within Donkey Kong Country are among a list of tunes that remain etched into the heads of those who experienced the game at that time.
There is a plentiful supply of alluring music within SNES games like Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country and A Link to the Past. After watching the video, I found a renewed sense of appreciation of the talent and wizardry of video game composers such as David Wise and Koji Kondo that has only furthered my fascination with the art.