Hey! Listen! Bound Together
There is a game for the Super NES that holds a very special significance to certain gamers, including myself. The mere mentioning of it can reignite the very passionate love for this cult classic. Earthbound.
Earthbound, considered by many fans to be one of the most significant games ever developed for a multitude of reasons. One of the many reasons is the much revered soundtrack from Keichi Suzuki and Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka. Together they created some of the catchiest, and creepiest music for the SNES, or any other game system for that matter. Not to mention the fact that this game packed in so many tracks that they almost didn’t fit into the game itself.
We are not here to talk about the phenomenal original soundtrack though. I would like to present you with the 2006 Earthbound fan compilation Bound Together (wushuplaya.com/boundtogether/). This tribute brings together over 30 amazing video game remixers and musicians from every corner of the internet. This amounts to over 40 tracks that are as amazing as they are varied.
Trying to go through every single song on this compilation is a daunting task, but rest assured that each song does a great job standing out, grabbing your attention, and keeping you glued to your headphones. Every individual is likely to come away from the album with a different list of favorite songs so forgive me if my brevity makes me skip over some of your favorite tracks in this collection. Anyway, let’s blow some dust out of the slot, and fire up this tribute to a 15 year old masterpiece.
We are introduced to the album by ktriton and his opening track Soup to Nuts, which starts off like a dusty old record but quickly proceeds into a nostalgic jazz version of the title screen and opening themes. This upbeat groove would be right at home in the Runaway Five’s (Earthbound’s very own in house jazz group) set. Infused with the jazz vibes we get some well placed cuts and breaks to keep things lively until we end with the sounds of the night that started it all. From there we dive right into Shael Riley and his ridiculous ROM Schtick, his rendition of the info entry screen. With lots of random instruments, vocals, and noises, this song definitely stands out and evokes the colorful, charming style of Earthbound in musical form.
From that stellar introduction we skip ahead a few songs to Medical Insurance by Joshua Morse. The song starts off with an interesting store atmosphere that transitions into the song seamlessly, and injects more of that Earthbound charm into the album. Midway through the track we are presented with some fine piano and wind work as the store noise shifts softly into the background. At about two minutes in we finally purchase our belongings and head back out into Ness’ small town of Onnett with an upbeat piano/guitar fronted ending to the song. We find our way from those soft tunes to find out that Joe Cam Stole Our Bike! At least that is the name of the hard rocking bicycle theme rendition by Ailsean. With banging drums and wailing guitars it’s hard not to rock out to this amazing remix. Even original composer Keichi Suzuki considers the Bicycle Theme his favorite track from the games soundtrack.
For fans of Earthbound, it is easy to remember first entering the town of Threed, with it’s unnervingly dark vibe and music. Mazedude’s track Zombie Lounge takes the towns dark theme and creates a hauntingly dissonant track that adds just enough new elements to keep it catchy and approachable. This track is one I would consider high on the list of difficult to reproduce songs, but Mazedude really nails the tone of the original song while making it his own. Amazingly, one of my favorite musicians Shawn Phase of Temp Sound Solutions (whom I will write about on The Start Screen one day, I swear) has also covered one of my favorite songs from Earthbound. That song is Santa is Dead, better known as the Winters theme. In Shawn Phase’ signature style he combines chiptunes and rock to recreate the snow covered lands of Winter in a captivating lo-fi fashion. These two songs are a definite high point for me on this very creative album.
We leave the distant lands of Winters to lie on the beach front thanks to The OneUps and their amazing jazz rearrangement Summers. Starting off smooth and relaxing, and working it’s way through a few fine solos, the song suddenly bursts into a lively upbeat arrangement, bringing the track home. Next up is the stellar medley Sailing to Da Market by Cromkayer. We greet the ocean with a laid back acoustic rendition of the Boat Ride theme, which only appears once in the game, before you are attacked by that dastardly Kraken. These relaxing, mellow sounds fades out near the halfway mark. Now we touch land in Scaraba and the music shifts to some island style rocking complete with electric guitar, bongos, and trumpets. The song closes with some enthusiastic bongos in another of many moments that show off the diverse range of musical influences on both the remixers as well as the original composers.
Da Black Market by Crazy Crakaz. What can really be said about this one? It’s a rap song about Earthbound that just has to be heard. Cussing, violence, Nintendo Power, it’s all in there. After that irreverence, we take a sharp turn into disturbing territory with Kaijin and his track, Scars. A slowly winding desert theme shifts into a guitar driven industrial rock track that creates an ominous mood. Evoking a fear and uneasiness of an unknown land, up until we reach an uplifting break in the mood as we close out the song with gentle guitar work and high chiming bells.
An incredible fusion of styles create the slow paced, but evocative Inspired from Less Ashamed of Self.
This next one also has to be heard, Mustin’s Flying Man. The song is based on another track you only hear in one small part of the game. Mustin takes this cameo track and gives it the full treatment, including lyrics originally written by Shigesato itoi, the writer and creator of Earthbound, for the original Mother game for NES. The songs uplifting lyrics and playful melody, with backing vocals, distortion, kazoos, and scratches create a memorable and well crafted song, especially within the context of the game. I will include the music to this particular track at the end of the article in a youtube video for your enjoyment at the end of this article as well.
We are nearing the end of the album now, but there is no shortage of fine tracks. Well known chiptune artist, remixer, and video game composer virt lends his distinct musicianship to the album with the beloved Get On The Bus. This six minute epic includes some of the most well known themes in Earthbound, and comprises them into one enormous show stopping medley. With a jazzy big band atmosphere we go through a beautiful re-imagining of the Photograph Music, Bus Music, and of course, the very memorable Runaway Five bus theme. All these songs are combined in an incredible and unforgettable way that will just bring a vivid recap of the game flooding into your mind.
This is where we reach the final ending of our long winding journey and look back on everything we have seen and done to get where we are now. To help us with that we have Dhsu and his amazing title track Bound Together, which is his piano arrangement of the walking home theme from the end of the game. The soft track hits some strong high points as well and really helps punctuate the entire adventure. This leads to the true final track, the amazing Dale North remix of the Earthbound credits theme. More piano lead melodies combine with heartfelt vocals (once again written by Itoi) to create a haunting melody that is left lingering even after the track is over. The song starts off with soft piano but slowly swells into a more robust track with sweeps of winds here and there until we reach the vocals near the end of the track. This leaves us with an enduring melody dripping from the last refrains of the piano, bringing this soundscape to a close.
Looking back on all of it, I hope the music from this compilation filled your mind with many classic memories of your first foray into the world of Earthbound, as well as enticed you to learn more about some of these fantastic artists. If you have yet to play Earthbound, then what are you waiting for? The game stands tall as a brilliant piece of electronic entertainment that still resounds with many gamers to this day. You owe it to yourself to sit down and experience it from start to finish, although that is a talk for another day. For now, just head over to wushuplaya.com/boundtogether/ and download this incredible collection of pure nostalgia and aural talent.