Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mary's Magical Adventure's soundtracks

Do you sometimes question why every song in Mary's Magical Adventure has a normal and 8-bit version? If so, that will require another trip to the past, as while the chiptune music wasn't in earlier "World of Kirbycraft" versions, there were multiple soundtracks to choose from, using basically the same ACS code as Mary's Magical Adventure v1.95! Come with me to the past to see where it all began! It'll be a long post, but it'll be fun...

The World of Iffy Music

In the beginning, there was no menu, and Xane declared it was bad.
Back in the first downloadable version of World of Kirbycraft (click here to view alpha v1.0's release info in a new window), believe it or not, the soundtrack system was already implemented! It wasn't obvious because no music played by default and there were no menu options to change the soundtrack yet, but there were two commands you could type in the console to listen to the three strange soundtracks:
  • puke 254 # - This runs script #254, which sets the "requested song" variable for the current player to the number specified at the end. Here are the songs in v1.0:

    1 - Ocean Base Zone Act 1 (Sonic Advance 3)
    2 - Miscellaneous #1 (World of Kirbycraft animated series)
    3 - Miscellaneous #2 (World of Kirbycraft animated series)
    4 - Miscellaneous #3 (World of Kirbycraft animated series)
    5 - Uther's Lab (World of Kirbycraft animated series)
    6 - Mysterious (World of Kirbycraft animated series)
    7 - Special Stage Completed (World of Kirbycraft/Mary's Magical Adventure)
    8 - We Can Do Anything (Ojamajo Doremi, sang by Onpu)
    9 - Otomehakyunitomarenai (Ojamajo Doremi, sang by Doremi)
    10 - Dokidoki no Maho (Ojamajo Doremi)
    11 - Half Point (Ojamajo Doremi, sang by Onpu)
    12 - Arigato (Ojamajo Doremi, sang by Momoko)
    13 - Tempest Valley Zone (SRB2 Mystic Realm)
    14 - Aerial Garden Zone (SRB2 Mystic Realm)
    15 - Special Stage (Sonic Robo Blast 2 v2.0)
    16 - Jingle: Fight (Tomodachi Collection)
  • xane_soundtrack # - This chooses which soundtrack is used during the game. Changes to this apply after closing the console. Here are the three soundtracks:

    Normal (0) - This is the standard soundtrack, how the game was meant to be heard. The other soundtracks were added for anyone recording videos for YouTube and other websites picky about copyright. (Famous by Puddle of Mudd was going to play during the final boss battle, similar to the movies that preceded this game's creation, after all!)

    MIDI (1) - This soundtrack is, as its name suggests, comprised of MIDI versions of the songs. Video game music used VGMusic MIDIs while the Doremi songs used the MIDIs that were used in SRB2 Demo 4. The neat thing about this soundtrack is if a keyboard is connected to your computer, it can play the MIDIs while your computer handles the sound effects. Xane did this with his Yamaha PSR-E413 once and it was a neat experience. If a song was "copyrighted" in the normal soundtrack, like Famous, it would instead play a similarly-awesome song from a video game.

    Weird (2) - Who even knows why this soundtrack was added to the game! This soundtrack uses MIDIs that were forced to use a Pok√©mon RSE soundfont that mainly contained drum samples. While some songs were neat to hear, most sounded like someone loudly hitting a drum near your ear endlessly! Just...listen to this weirdness; The folder this soundtrack's contained in may be named "3_INTERES", or "interesting", but this soundtrack is mostly called "weird" for good reason!

Later Versions

It's supposed to say "Standard; May cause strikes on YouTube!".
Anyways, now that that's out of the way, now you know about the first three soundtracks that were added to the game. In later versions, an iffy-looking option was added to the options menu, but no new songs were added beyond those sixteen.

Starting with v1.6, after the game was renamed to Mary's Magical Adventure, the two soundtracks you may be familiar with are the only ones in the game, the weird one removed from the game.  At this point, the MIDI soundtrack was still in the game, but only had iffy recreations of songs like "The Nightlife" and "Jingle: Fight", the latter being notable because the MIDI version of it inspired the chiptune version, which in turn inspired the normal soundtack version to be replaced, essentially kicking out a copyrighted video game song. Nowadays, this jingle is named "Burned Bridge".

After this version or a later one, the MIDI soundtrack was removed; If an easy way to make MIDIs from modules ever exists then Xane will try using it. Don't mention OpenMPT's MIDI exporter as it isn't that good, especially with long waits which throw the whole MIDI out of sync. (Hopefully I'm not confusing that with XM2SMPS, a Sonic custom music converter...)

Odd Drums

One thing that may seem weird in the chiptune soundtrack are the drums, so I'll talk about them. You see, the chiptune soundtrack isn't pre-rendered or faked in any way; The file the game loads this music from is an NSF file named CHIPTUNE.nsf (NESMUSIC.nsf in older versions). This is a file made using 0CC-FamiTracker, which makes Famicom music.

One limitation of NES/Famicom music (other than the oddly-specific channel sounds/behaviors) is how the samples are compressed. The NES/Famicom plays really-compressed DPCM samples, which only store the difference between each chunk of each sample. For whatever reason, it can only store if the waveform goes up or down one on each frame, so things like drums become very hard to make out and voices...those developers shouldn't have tried putting voices where they don't belong, in DPCM; As I said in the fourth World of Kirbycraft movie, "You can't understand this. DPCM sucks!".

This is what causes the drums to have their odd sound in the chiptune music in Mary's Magical Adventure, though what makes them really bass-heavy (easily heard with good speakers like ones found in vehicles) is unknown to me. How different are the drums when heard by themselves, you may wonder; Well, here's a comparison using a drum loop from a new song, starting with the chiptune soundtrack:

You could probably tell that was a bunch of Roland Sound Canvas samples and a really noisy sound three times. I'm sort of a hypocrite, not liking Sound Canvas' cheap-sounding samples, but I still use those samples in 8-bit music because they are so clear despite the compression! Anyways, here's the samples I used, though in their original, uncompressed forms:
Notice how the Sound Canvas samples stay pretty much the same but the other drum sounds way different. I'm not absolutely sure about that drum sample's source, but I got it from Fight Trap, another one of my songs which I assume it comes from.

Anyways, thanks for reading this very long post; Hopefully this makes up for the recent absence of blog posts!