Video Game Covers of Movie Scores

A brief examination of some forgotten video game music worth rediscovering, from John Carpenter remakes to interesting interpretations of 'Romeo and Juliet.'

In 1986 the French video game company Ubisoft released their debut video game Zombi, which was strikingly similar in setup to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Composer Philippe Marchiset’s Zombi theme also borrowed from horror sources and covered Charles Bernstein’s music from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

In 1986 Ubisoft also released Manhattan 95 - a game that bore a remarkable resemblance to John Carpenter’s dystopian cult classic Escape from New York.

Composer Henri Bittner’s opening sequence is pretty much a straight cover of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s incredible theme for Escape from New York. Bittner did a great job job recreating one of Carpenter and Howarth’s masterworks while putting his own stamp on the composition. His use of warm fuzz and soft synths is really beautiful, making for a unexpectedly smooth listening experience. Unfortunately, it seems like his work with video game scores was pretty limited outside of Manhattan 95.

Techmo’s popular Ninja Gaiden also used a movie soundtrack as inspirational source material. For the game’s finale, composer Keiji Yamagishi looked to Nino Rota’s score from the 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet for inspiration. Yamagishi’s reimagining of Rota’s work is pithy but powerful and the entire soundtrack as a whole is damn impressive.

The music is so badass that Shibuya, Japan-based label Brave Wave Productions recently reissued the scores from Ninja Gaiden (NES), Ninja Gaiden (Arcade), Ninja Gaiden II (NES), and Ninja Gaiden III (NES) as one massive release available on Bandcamp. The label’s website also interviewed Keiji Yamagishi in 2012 about his production process. Here’s a bit about how he came up with the scores for Captain Tsubasa and the first Ninja Gaiden:

“I used things such as sampling drums, delay, bends, vibrato, etc. to add weight and emotion to the songs. Using the limited capabilities of the Famicom, I feel that creating good audio was a very creative task.”

Last but not least we have Ron Klaren’s killer 8-bit rendition of Harold Faltermeyer’s classic “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop. The Eddie Murphy inspired 1990 game came out on several consoles but people seem to have a particular fondness for the music from the Amiga CD32 version. This is a great cover, especially when you consider the limitations of whatever equipment Klaren was working with at the time.

According to Discogs Klaren is still working in the game industry and has a few recent credits. Here is a full upload of his score for the 1989 release Battle Squadron.

The music included in this article represents just a tiny fraction of the many cover songs video game composer have cranked out over the years. Hopefully it inspires you to dig up some of your own discoveries.

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