Bit Brigade – DuckTales

I’ve written about Bit Brigade before. They’re a Georgia-based rock band that performs painstakingly faithful adaptations of music from Nintendo games from the 80’s and 90’s. Or more specifically Nintendo Entertainment System games. And they are thorough. They will perform every track from their chosen game (and a few extras from adjacent games when the occasion calls for it)

Their live show is pretty much identical to their recorded output but with one major piece added – a fifth member whose role is to speed-run the game. The band then performs whatever music would be playing in the game (they use a modified ROM with the background music turned off) For fans of retro games (and especially retro game music) this is mana from heaven.

DuckTales is Bit Brigade’s eighth release and a double whammy of nostalgia. Not only is it a beloved Capcom game from 1989, but it’s based on the Disney cartoon which ran from 1987-1990. If you were born in the 80’s there’s a good chance you know all the words to the DuckTales theme song – which happens to be the first track on this record.

Capcom games released in the late-80’s and early-90’s are renowned for their spectacular soundtracks. Sometimes jazzy, other times downright metal. But always memorable. It’s little wonder that this is the third Capcom game tackled by Bit-Brigade.

Everyone I know who listens to retro video game soundtrack music on the reg (and I assure you, it’s a niche group) has particularly fond recollections of the “Moon Theme.” It begins with an ethereal riff followed by dreamy swells before giving way to an upbeat and downright life-affirming melody.

I also particularly like the “Transylvania Theme” with its sinister big-band vibes. Let me remind you – the whole thing is carried out via two guitars, a bass guitar and a standard drum kit. So you have to imagine the trumpets. But they’re there.

It’s sadly a too-brief experience. DuckTales is a brisk playthrough – only six stages total – and the last stage re-uses the Transylvanian motif, so there isn’t much music to mine here. To pad out the experience an extended version of the “The Moon” is appended at the end – effectively doubling the album’s 11-minute runtime. But as great as that Moon theme is, I’m not sure I need to listen to it five times in a row.

Bit-Brigade is in a precipitous position: their recordings are meant to be a document of their live performance which is in itself a document of a game playthrough. Thus they’re limited to games which can be beaten in less than an hour and feature enough musical content to keep things interesting. They’ve been using DuckTales as an appetizer of sorts. A recent stop through Toronto saw them pairing it with another Capcom title: Mega Man 2.

The same holds true for the album. It’s a delicious starter, but you’ll soon find yourself hungry for a bigger course.