As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers.
The post for today is going to be a short one.
If you haven’t heard of Tim Follin… oh. You haven’t? Well, that’s okay I suppose. Then my aim is to shed some light on a video game composer that blew my goddamn mind. It’s well known that NES music is extremely melody based; the technology at the time only had so many channels to work with and catchy melodies are what make classic songs so memorable, so we can understand that the NES did what it could with what it had.
…at least that’s what I thought before I heard this:
Tim Follin, as far as I can tell, did not make the music at the same time as the game. They rarely have anything to do with each other so the games that they’re attached to aren’t very memorable. Unfortunately, the side effect of this was that people didn’t hear these songs because no one bothered to pick up the game in the first place. I’m not going to give Tim Follin’s full biography here, I’d rather we let his work speak for him.
(I’ll be focusing on NES games because they’re the ones that are the most memorable to me, even though Tim Follin did music for multiple consoles).
Pictionary – Title Screen
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Alex, this is Pictionary. Why did anyone try so hard composing a soundtrack to Pictionary?” That’s easily one of my favorite things about Tim Follin songs: he focuses less on creating an apt Pictionary theme and instead opted to work the sound chip for all its worth.
Silver Surfer – Level 1
Anyone who has seen the Angry Video Game Nerd review of this game knows that it’s
not exactly the greatest game anyone has ever made basically garbage. It is a fast paced side scrolling shooter, so the soundtrack here actually matches well with what’s happening in game. It’s interesting that this song has the opposite effect of normal VGM; I don’t need the context to appreciate this awesome song, and I feel as if my experience might be hindered by the dodgy gameplay of Silver Surfer. It gives a sense of a “celestial battle,” even if that’s not very evident from the game itself. If you listen to this music and just imagine a Silver Surfer game, it’s probably better than the one they made. That’s the power of Tim Follin’s music. It’s used to power your imagination.
Solstice – Title Theme
Until about 8 seconds in, everyone I force to listen to this song doesn’t seem to realize why I had them listen to it (“force”?? tmi, Alex – EDITOR FRANK). Once it gets there, though, you are in for a wild ride with the main theme of Solstice. I don’t even know what the hell this game is about, but I don’t care at all. Tim Follin takes the system that does basic music to a whole new level. Who knows, maybe Tim didn’t have any idea what the game was like either, but it doesn’t matter – because when you program a full progressive rock song into an NES cartridge… holy hell, Tim Follin… you are a beast.
Many remixes I’ve heard of the NES style actually sound much more primitive than this. I’m not really known for my huge love of progressive rock, but this song blows my mind out of my skull at the 8 second mark every. single. time.
Like I said earlier, I wasn’t going to give you the backstory of Tim Follin. I wanted to give whoever reads this a taste of what I loved about these songs. It’s true that I’ve never played any of these games myself (it’s probably why the post is so short for today), however I have a deep respect for Tim Follin and all the work he did with VGM, not because he created the victory theme to Final Fantasy or composed 1-1 from Mario Bros, but because he pushed the envelope farther than you’d think possible. I had never seen anyone take the NES sound chip to the limit quite like him, so hopefully people have learned about an awesome composer who did amazing things with the technology he had.