Sunday Sesh: That Nindie Life
Yesterday, while cruising the internet, doing my usual thing (and definitely not just scrambling to find something to discuss in this Sunday Sesh), I opened up a Bandcamp tab and was greeted with a splash page informing me that Bandcamp is running an exposé on Nindie soundtracks. What’s a Nindie? I’m glad you asked, friend. Grab your favorite sword and shield combo, pull on your best overalls, dust off that combat visor, and get ready to travel into the wild west with me, because in this Sunday Sesh we’re talking Nintendo Independent Game Soundtracks (or Nindie OSTs, if you will) and chilling out to some sweet retro vibes.
Despite Nintendo losing a lot of support from big AAA third-party developers (like Activision and Ubisoft) this past console generation, the quirky Japanese gaming giant is still holding strong and has actually succeeded in developing a unique matrix within which independent game developers have succeeded. This enticing environment is largely due to the intuitive, even experimental controls of the Wii U and 3DS consoles and the complementary nature of the Nintendo eShop system. The Wii U may be in its final days, paving the way for the NX, and although there are few first-party titles being dropped before the next console’s big release date next March, a whole slew of delightful Nindies are parading through the tear rent open by the FANTASTIC Shovel Knight. Titles like Jotun, Azue Striker Gunvolt 2, and Hive Jump look to be capitalizing on the open market system and the delightful old school sensibilities that drew us to the House of Mario in the first place.
But you aren’t here for the retro games, you’re here for the sweet jams, and thanks to the Bandcamp cover story, I have several for you.
SteamWorld Heist looks like an action-packed strategic sidescroller in the vein of Metal Slug with a heavier emphasis on tactics and using your robotic team wisely. Interestingly, the sci-fi visuals are paired with the unlikely combination of a real-life folk group called Steam Powered Giraffe. Acoustic guitars evoke the unadulterated adventurism of a fantasy wild west setting while plaintive, oddly human voices croon about dripping oil and soaring through the skies. It’s a befuddling but ultimately endearing match, and this wonderful soundtrack summons memories of playing old games like Sunset Riders while simultaneously recalling more adult moods conjured by bands like Giant Squid. Delightful!
Runbow is an intense, highly acclaimed multiplayer platformer that will surely leave you reminiscing for the the innocent days of yore when you and your pals sat around the NES in your parents’ basement, quaffing down pizza and Mountain Dew while seeing who could finally clear World 8 of Super Mario Bros. 3. Intriguingly, the game features an original soundtrack from Dan Rodrigues that makes excellent use of frenetic jazz club and big band instrumentals to give you a sense of pace and feeling. The major chord strings and walking basslines juxtapose with those sprightly steel drums and spirited horns to transport you to a land of unlimited imagination. This soundtrack is equal parts Goldfinger and Freakazoid and makes me just want to get up and save the world while looking undeniably cool and in control while doing it. What better choice for a competitive platformer like this!
Gunman Clive 2
Speaking of Sunset Riders, Gunman Clive 2 is a western-style platformer featuring a stoic gunman out for justice. The excellent soundtrack, written by composer Arne Hörberg, is an orchestrated piece of flinty grandeur. Although the album sounds deceptively like a retro 8-bit track, there’s a surprising amount of nuance here, including acoustic guitar, bongos, and jaunty strings that add a ton of flair to what could be an otherwise dusty proceeding. Tracks like “The Cowboy Is Back in Town” would certainly make any young player feel like Clint Eastwood opening fire on a saguaro-lined stagecoach inn, and if that isn’t as cool as a cucumber, I don’t know what is. Oddly enough there’s a bit of retro-synth (and some weird Hot Chip resemblance) here too, but the music is inspiring and fun and never loses its pace. Where’s my six-shooter?
In this Sesh I’ve highlighted three newer Nindies, but perhaps there’s a classic retro game soundtrack that really does it for you. Please share with the class in the comments below!