Many people discard video game music as mere background
noise, but I've found that some game music is truly brilliant.
For instance, the soundtrack to Donkey Kong Country has some
mesmerizing ambient songs, and Chrono Trigger has a huge
assortment of techno-orchestral pieces.
In the olden days, the only way I could listen to this music was
by actually playing the game on the SNES. Now, thanks to the joys of emulation (and despite
some poppycock from Nintendo that "all emulation is
illegal") there is a much more comfortable solution: SPC
files, little 64kb (64.5kb, to be exact) dumps of the
SNES sound core.
SPC files are still a rather unnatural medium for listening
to music, and I'd much prefer to have the songs on a CD. Here's
my method; it's admittedly rather twisted, but it worksforme.
First, assuming you have a ROM of the game (of which you
already own a physical copy, right? -- SNES carts are
dreadfully cheap now, so just suck it up, spend the five bucks,
and don't be a lamer... I don't condone piracy) and an emulator
capable of saving SPC files, rip the songs you're interested in.
My emulator is ZSNES, but Snes9x has a SPC save function as
well and is also an excellent choice. Whatever you use, the
results are essentially the same. It helps a lot to have a sound
test screen in the game, as you'll have to play it otherwise to
get to all the songs. (Not that there's anything wrong with
Next, since SPCs are nearly impossible to deal with in their
native states, you'll need to obtain a program to convert your
freshly dumped tunes to a more suitable format. AFAIK, the only
program that offers such a function is OpenSPC, which
automagically converts the SPC data to an Impulse Tracker
module. Being a Linux user, I naturally have the Linux
version of OpenSPC, which works thusly:
> ospc -l -i foo.spc
... creating a file "foo.it". Of course, most game music loops
ad infinitum, so you'll have to listen to the song and cut it
off manually. No problem, because a single loop is generally
short. Four minutes is usually plenty; just leave a bit
of room to fade out later.
Thirdly, open the .it file that OpenSPC created with Modplug
Tracker. I'm saying MPT because it offers
actual reverb, which is fairly important for some SNES music.
Some songs sound disturbingly flat without a copious amount
of reverb (the DKC cave music, for
instance) so you'll want to turn it on. Go to View -> Setup
-> Player and switch on the reverb, turn it way up toward
"high", and pick one of the presets. It might take some
fiddling to find the best setting for the song (I think I
finally went with "Stone Corridor" for the cave music, rather
than the somewhat obvious "Cave"), but after a few songs it
should become easier to pick a good-sounding preset. While you're
at it: switch on the auto gain control, noise reduction, and
bass expansion, and set the resampling mode to "high quality".
The more adventurous types might want to play with the
equalizer settings as well. (Needless to say, if you're doing
this, the equalizer should be on! ;)
Now it's time to write the .wav file. Go to File -> Save as
Wave, and pick a filename. On the Wave Convert dialog, make sure
the Normalize Output checkbox is OFF (I'll explain why in a
moment) and hit Save... watch the progress bar tick by, and
Last step (besides actually burning the disc, but that's
beyond the scope here) - open the .wav in your favorite audio
editor, take a look at the ending, and trim/fade to taste. Most
songs will probably need at least a small fade, but this is all a
matter of preference. Those looking to make a more "professional"
sounding CD will likely want to limit and normalize the
songs, but since these files were all created from the same
source, the volumes should all be similar enough as they are. For
this reason, normalizing the output in MPT
would actually be a bad idea: the quiet songs are really
supposed to be quiet.
A sizable number of games have original soundtracks available
-- DKC and CT both do (the
latter being a three-disc set IIRC). The mixing and
post-processing are, needless to say, much better quality than
can be produced with an emulator and SPC ripper, and the "real"
discs may even come with some neat extras. If you like the music
to a certain game enough, your best option is undoubtedly to
purchase the original soundtrack on CD if one is available. Try
searching Google for "(name of game) OST CD". It's a
good idea to look before you roll your own to spare yourself
from going through this process unnecessarily, like I did ;)
Alternately, if you'd like to hear something completely
different, you might be interested in getting some
remixes, for example from http://www.ocremix.org/.
Many of these songs are well worth the time they take to
download, and I suggest any game music aficionado take at least
a short look at this site and others offering similar wares.