Review of the Month; 8bit Music Power Final

This one has been in the making for some time, mostly thanks to Amazon Japan never shipping my piece. I had to resort to proxy services to get a new copy and the sound jack expansion elsewhere. Rather than keep bitching, let’s jump to the review right away and start with the usual stuff on what’s on the outside.

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World needs more pastel blues

To refer back to the review of the first 8bit Music Power, nothing has changed on the outside of the package, just like with Kira Kira Star Night DX. The box is very tight and overall decent thin cardboard. The cartridge’s wrapped in plastic as per usual standards, and I am relieved that Riki has followed through with higher cartridge standards overall. They re-used the same mould they used with Kira Kira’s cart, probably because that’s the best non-licensed cartridge out there. It’s close to a real thing, but still not quite there. Rather than go over those again, please do refer yourself to the previously linked posts to check what I’m referring to.

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Now that’s a look that raises consumer trust

Columbus Circle released the 8bit Sound Adapter for the Famicom alongside 8bit Music Power Final, which allows the you to connect your Famicom to speakers or headphones.

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Not perhaps the most attractive package, but does it’s job

The build of the adapter is really tight. Much like Famicom games themselves, it has no screws and is held together either by tabs or glue, which means I can’t open it without some visible damage. The headphone jack is the standard 3.5mm in diameter, so having a 3.5mm-to-RC cables is a necessary if you’re intending to use the device with speakers.

The design is modelled after the second player controller from the original Famicom with speaker and volume slider. The slider is a bit too tiny, much like the device itself, and is surprisingly rigid. It’s not a slider that you can just flick. The maximum volume isn’t too loud with earphones, but loud enough to warrant lower levels for comfortable listening. However, it does require you to turn the volume up quite a lot with speakers. I usually need to keep sound levels between 18 and 21, but with the Adapter I had to go around 37 for proper listening.

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A blue LED turns on when the machine is in use and the adapter is functioning. Here I have connected an extra adapter so I can use my Sennheiser phones with 6.24mm  jack

The sound quality with the adapter is probably what you’d expect for something that really just passes the sound through itself and does not modify it in any way. It’s clear for sure, but not exactly crystal clear and there is static noise coming through during silence. Nothing major, we’re talking about a thirty years old machine after all.

The best thing about the device is that it’s not bound to work just with 8bit Music Power Final. You can use it with any software that doesn’t require some other device in the expansion port, and with base Famicom it really does upgrade the sound like no other. Outside upgrading your machine with some sort of digital output, 8bit Sound Adapter should be on your consideration list for Famicom gear. It’s a lot cheaper, smaller and far better option than the old Famicom S.D. Station from Hori.

As for the 8bit Music Power Final itself, the sound selection as well is superior to its predecessor. While there was only four songs out of eight in the 8bit Music Power that were truly worthwhile tracks, Final racks up the amount of tracks to eighteen. Out of these eighteen, none is terrible and all can stand up to repeated listening, more or less. SEXY-SYNTHESIZER’s POP TRACK is a bit self-repeating, but doesn’t stay its welcome too much and does stand out as the perkiest of the bunch, though it has harsh competition from Bun’s Ks2?VirtualStage1. It’s followed by Manami Matsumae’s I am seeing things, which sounds more like a collection of jingles than a proper self-contained song. Matsumae’s known for her run with loads of Capcom titles, like Mega Man, Area 88, and Final Fight.

Some of the songs do have a distinguishing flavours to them. Some of the songs have a strong Konami flavour to them, while others seem to steer away from big house sound and nostalgia. ZUN’s Mysterious Shrine for example sounds exactly what you’d expect him to produce for a Famicom title. A definite Touhou-like song.

Of course, there are new names as well. Yu Shimoda’s name should be familiar to anyone who followed him under the name YS, and he has been best known for his arrange titles. Mega Man Zero fans have been enjoying his works in Ippo Yamada’s songs, while Motoaki Furukawa should be familiar to Bemani, Gradius, Salamander and Policenauts fans. Junya Nakano on the other hand comes from the Square-Enix side of business, known for his Front Mission, Tobal No.1 and  Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. The list of composers really range from names that a Western enthusiasts would recognize to those that say absolutely nothing. While some tracks do have a similar sound and can meld together a bit too much, they do stand out from each other nicely. Some moreso than others.

Much like with the original 8bit Music Power, the PV for Final shows what you’re getting. While everyone has their own taste in music, I can say that Final manages to eake out to the top between the two with better compositions and superior selection of songs. Better build quality helps too.

Personally I can’t pin point one favourite song outright

However, the larger amount of songs does mean that the image gallery has been removed, and perhaps for the better. There are no minigames either. The whole album is dedicated to songs ans songs only, which has altered how the system works a bit. Previously you had menus to choose from, but now the album boots directly into Play mode, which you can control with the controller. You can lock the controller from making any inputs as well, and there are set of commands you can do blindly with the controller the D-Pad in combination with A and B. Nevertheless, simply booting into Play mode does mean you can just pop a cartridge in and have your headphones connected to the machine and listen while you’re doing something, like writing review of it.

You can still disable channels like before, and playing around with the songs can be fun on its own right for some time. However, you still can’t rewind or fast-forward in the middle of a song, but that has still more to do with the format than anything else. At least you can repeat and shuffle.

There’s the usual Riki styled visualisation running on the top half of the screen while all this is playing out, and the graphics are surprisingly varied even with repetition. While original 8bit Music Power is clearly the main point of inspiration here, influencing elements from Kira Kira Starnight DX are strong. All this really makes a really nice set of three titles, if you will.

While I had strong reservations with the recommendation of 8Bit Music Power, I would recommend Final to whoever has any interest in the title. It’s still a niche product at best and is aimed to long-term enthusiasts, so the production run and aimed market is probably very limited as is. A positive evolution all around that does warrant checking out.

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Look ma, no controller!

You can check Riki’s own webpage for more info in 8bit Music Power Final.

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