The idea is solid; release an album of chiptunes on the actual hardware. There is an idea there, a niche idea for sure, but when done properly and executed well it should yield pretty damn good results. 8bit Music Power Seemingly does things well at first, but in the end it feels like lacking in quality.
The packaging itself at first looks pretty good. The cardboard is a bit thin, but for collectors this shouldn’t be an issue. It’s a tightly packed piece for sure and it feels as such in your hand.
8Bit Music Power’s box is a tad smaller than your standard Famicom, box, a thing that will make it stand out in your shelf or among other Famicom software, and not in the good way.
The reason why the packaging is different size the real standard sized FC boxes is because the box is just large enough to accommodate the cartridge itself. FC games come inside a plastic tray to keep them in place and add further shock protection, and this is something the 8bit Music Power should’ve done. It would’ve made an impact to the packaging cost, but seeing this is a niche product as it is, they could’ve taken the hit. The same things can be said of the manual, which is just a two page pamphlet repeating the same info that’s on the back of the box with obligatory information.
The cartridge itself looks for the part at first glance. It’s neat, clean and the right size. However, it is very light and uses cheap and shiny plastic. You could snap it with your two hand without any troubles. It reminds me a lot of these extremely cheap Chinese knock-offs that not even Poundland would stock. The print quality on the label is excellent, just like with the box, but where the label has been put on doesn’t deliver. It simply doesn’t feel right or pleasant to handle. The Everdrive I reviewed last month has far better plastic than this.
Furthermore, whatever method has been used to produce these shells is not all too accurate. The design of the halves leaves a visible groove to the shells and the edges on the shells have sharp extra material. However, because of the cheapness of the plastic, these sharp points won’t cut, but you will feel them every time you handle the cartridge.
Popping the cartridge open doesn’t take any effort, and I wish I hadn’t checked what’s inside. As you can see, the front of the PCB has two chips, which I assume are flash memory.
All the logic the cartridge needs resides in that black blob. Under that blob of epoxy resin lies an IC, which handles all the logic the software needs. The two soldered wires, diodes and that cap don’t look too reliable and all this reeks of cheap. I didn’t expect them to produce their own FC cartridges to the same effort as with Everdrives or with official carts, but something better than this for sure. I can’t help but feel disappointed that the build quality doesn’t just feel, but is also visibly this low.
The music itself is what you’d expect from a Famicom/NES. As this is a music album rather than a game, your enjoyment will vary on what sort of tunes you like to listen to. For reference, I tend to favour songs that have a driving force and concentrate on the melody and beat rather than trickery.
There are eleven listed songs, all from different musicians. There is some range between the songs, some employing tricks that Tim Follin and his brother made known on the Commode 64. Some of the songs tend to rely on technical trickery, while others are more robust in their sounds, sounding almost something that you could hear in a high calibre FC/NES game. The composition level varies and because of that four to six are something that can withstand repeated listens. Even from that promotional trailer you can hear the difference in how things sound. Personal best from the album would be track seven, Oriental Mystique by Masahiro Kajihara. Some of them work as great background even if they’re not all that good songs and grow on you with repeated listens, but few just irritated the living shit out of me.
One of the interesting thing this album allows you to do is to turn off the individual channels. Some of the songs almost sound better with just one or two channels on, and it’s fun to mess with them now and then. However, you can’t forward or rewind any of the songs, so you just gotta listen them from the start to the end.
There is more music on the cartridge in form of few short jingles and me Option music. Of course, numerous sound effects are included, most of them used inside minigames the listener can play. They’re nothing worth of mentioning separately, but they visually pleasant.
Overall, the visual representation is beat, and while it doesn’t push the FC to its maximum. There are 41 different pictures, ranging from initial screens and logos to full-blown full screen illustrations. Some of these are impressive on their own rights, whereas others just let you down in terms of visuals. A lot of them are just big pixel reproductions of famous paintings and the like. Sticking with the original productions would’ve been the better choice, even if it had meant to cut down the amount of pictures.
Should you get this? If you’re a big fan of chip tunes and the core idea sounds appealing, search for your best deal. I would still recommend picking some samples off the Youtube or elsewhere, because the build quality did not meet my expectations at all, and as usual with your normal music albums, only few of the songs are actually good. Despite the chip tune market being niche, I wouldn’t outright recommend this to anyone without reservations.
You can check RIKI’s own website here for news and other stuff regarding the album.