Video Game Music w/ the James Episode 5 : Jazz Jackrabbit

When I think oldschool Epic Games, the first thing that comes to mind naturally is Unreal Tournament.  Originally I was going to tie the the composer, Alexander Brandon to Jazz Jackrabbit’s music, but I would have been mistaken.  From what I researched, Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is credited to Brandon, but the first is to a guy named Robert A. Allan.  Regardless, the soundtracks to both games kick ass, but I’m here to talk about Jazz Jackrabbit.

I miss the days when they were still called Epic Megagames…

For those of you who don’t know, Jazz Jackrabbit is a PC platformer developed in 1994.  Many elements are borrowed from Sonic the Hedgehog, with the inclusion of a gun and various types of ammo to the mix (long before Shadow would infamously bring guns to the Sonic universe might I add).

The first sign of really good music occurs quite early actually, when you get to the second area, Tubelectric.

I don’t care if its a different composer, I’m totally getting an Unreal Tournament vibe.  The level itself is pretty bland, but this was the point where I realized I was in for a musical treat.  The world right after turns out to be my favorite in the game, and while this track does get a little on the repetitive side, there’s enough going on melodically to keep things interesting.

One of the more mellow tracks in the game.  The best melodies can be found in the bass, which is where this piece shines.  It is a little too mellow for a game where  you’re a rabbit shooting the hell out of everything, but it really sets the atmosphere for the computer world it’s set in.

Technoir delivers exactly what you expect of the name.  From the laser sounds to the cheesy robotic voice, it’s one of the better tracks of the game.  I can’t take the drum part after that section seriously though, feels too out of place.  Otherwise a very solid track.

I have a bit of a soft spot for this track.  Essentially, this is a really dark, gloomy cave theme topped with very bright synthesizer sounds.  It somehow has a very dark and a very bright presence at the same time.  What makes it so wonderful is the variety of emotions I feel at the same time while listening.  With the atmosphere, this would have been my favorite song in the game if it weren’t for….

Holy shit!  I think I had to pick my jaw up from the floor after listening to this one the first time.  The buildup is slow, but powerful.  Instrumentation is light and changes up until just the right place to start the climax section where all the instruments come in and the whole dark nature of the opening suddenly brightens up for the final passage, which is also more melodic than the earlier sections.

It’s creepy and relaxing at the same time.  Probably because the harmonic progression in the low instruments is so slow that it comes off almost like a sacred organ piece.  On top of that is the synthesized melody that has a very staccato feel to it, and gives the mandatory tense feeling that it requires.  The last section adds a very slow sacred sound to the highest voices, a factor in that brightness I was talking about earlier.

Not only is Medivo my favorite track in Jazz Jackrabbit, but it’s also the most influential, giving me a lot of good ideas for when I decide to compose something.  Also, if you can find a good quality version of the “Orbitus” track around Youtube, check it out — the one I found sounds like a terrible monaural recording (the stereo effects in particular toward the end of the loop make the track stick out), otherwise it would have been here too.

Enjoy, and see you next VGM w/ the James!

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