Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Episode 016: Sweet Sixteen

Welcome to The Diad Presents!

This week, if you don't buy me a super expensive convertible, I'm going to throw a huge tantrum. Also, I want a giant party and you have to invite Chris H. and Chris P. I'm super serious about this. Totes.

The show can be downloaded here,

or streamed here:

And the track list below:

# - Game - Track - System - Composer
1 - Burning Angels - Title - TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine - Hiroshi Nishikwa & Makiko Itou
2 - Mizubaku Daibouken - Let's get on! We're friends!! - TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine - Kazuko Umino
3 - J J & Jeff - Field 3 - TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine - Takeaki Kunimoto
4 - Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu II - Immovable Fossil - PC Engine Super CD-ROM² - Atsushi Shirakaw, Hirofumi Matsuoka, Masaru Najakima, Meiko Ishikawa, Naoki Kaneda, Satoshi Arai & Takahiro Tsunashima
5 - Shin Megami Tensei - Shop - PC Engine Super CD-ROM² - Hitoshi Sakimoto, Naoko Mikami & Tsukasa Masuko
6 - Timeball - Labyrinth - TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine - Masakatsu Maekawa
7 - Magical Chase - Variations on a Ra Melody (taken from “Magical Chase Original Soundtrack” CD) / ラ一族の戦慄に夜変奏曲 Ra ichizoku no senritsu ni yoru hensoukyoko - TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine - Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto (??)


  1. Nah, she's really eight; she just LOOKS sixteen.

    1. I think you might have found the creepiest possible way to say something correctly about the system hardware. I guess I didn't really mention in the episode that it only has an 8-bit CPU but 16-bit for graphics.

  2. I was only thinking about the age/bits analogy, but I guess that does sound pretty creepy! Oh, you mentioned the 8-bit CPU/16-bit GPU but you didn't call attention to it. I thought I'd bring it up, since it was one of the playground taunts/print mag mantras that heavily factored into the untimely demise of the Turbografx.

    I thought it was interesting that the PCE-CD tracks you chose used the onboard sound chip instead of redbook audio. Also, I wasn't aware that the CD-ROM add-on added a channel of ADPCM.

    I'm glad you touched on the sound chip. It's definitely a distinctive sound. I've long felt the PCE audio to be a tad too homogeneous, but recent special attention by multiple VGM podcasts have me reevaluating that opinion. Man, that Magical Chase track is good. I can definitely hear Sakimoto's influence. Did he adapt Terpsichorean to the PCE? I definitely hear a lot more going on in those tracks than in a typical PCE track.

    I'm also glad you touched on the graphical capabilities of the PCE. I thought it could display half of its total color palette onscreen, so I looked it up. Apparently, it can throw out 241 onscreen colors for backgrounds, and another 241 onscreen colors for sprites, which is pretty slick. That explains why their games were often much more colorful than their Genesis counterparts; that's even more than even the SNES can do at once.

    1. The 8/16 bit split is pretty interesting to me. The system is almost straddling two generations of consoles. I’m especially interested in the perspective of Hudson/NEC. I don’t think I read anything discussing the “why” of the 8-bit CPU choice. I am guessing it was probably a balance of cost and function? Besides, in 1987, that was plenty. And I guess if they were planning on offering expansions as the system aged, they could boost it after-the-fact.

      I guess there were a few reason I stuck to the onboard sound. One, to try and keep some consistency throughout the episode. I didn’t specifically limit myself to doing this, but I definitely try to work on getting the right “feeling” on episodes. Two, I usually stay away from tracks that are too “instrument-y” for me. Redbook audio often reminds me of Japanese rock from the 90s. And three, now I have something to do in a future episode.™

      Off the top of my head, I know Ys Book I and II has some good redbook stuff. And there is a weird OST I wasn’t familiar with before the recording called Dragon Knight: Graffiti that I want to listen to more carefully. I heard some interesting, moody something that caught my ear.
      Also, there are a bunch more PCE-CD soundtracks out there. Tons of Japan-only stuff I’ve never heard of.

      If I remember correctly, you found the bass in particular to be overly similar between soundtracks. I can see where you are coming from, but I hope you found something to enjoy on the episode!

      I’m not sure if it used the Terpsichorean driver, but I wouldn’t be surprised. After you asked about it I looked around but didn’t find an answer. He might have done some other sound driver for works on the PCE for all I know. He seems like kind of a genius.

    2. Warning: speculation ahead

      In order to understand NEC's reasons for arriving at the PCE's design, you have to forget everything you know about the 16-bit generation. The PCE was designed to be two things: The natural successor to the Famicom, and the console version of NEC's popular PC-XX01 family of Japanese personal computers.

      That the PCE was designed to be a suped-up Famicom is evident: The main processor is based on the 6502 architecture, which is the same chip family as Nintendo's machine. Although FM was gaining popularity at the time, and was used in NEC's PC lines by that time, they opted for a wavetable synthesis chip that seems to have more in common with the existing home consoles than PCs. Even the controller was designed to capture the spirit of the Famicom.

      Because of those reasons, an 8-bit CPU was a logical choice. Remember, in the mid-80's, everything at home was 8-bit anyway. The "more bits is better" argument didn't even exist until the Mega Drive/Genesis was released, and I suspect that was primarily an American argument anyway(our culture seems to have more of a size preoccupation than others).

    3. And yes, it seems the bass instrument in every PCE game is the same. But all the tracks you played were distinctive, and I found much to enjoy. More than anything, the homogeneous bass makes me wonder if that was a choice or a necessity.

    4. I'm willing to buy what you are speculating about. Basically emulating the consoles that have a proven track record.

      Since the console basically flopped in America, I guess it maybe wasn't the right choice. Thinking about an alternate timeline where the PCE puts out PC98 style music is really grabbing me.