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Game music of the day: Toki Tori

Welcome to GamesRadar's daily blast of all things pertaining to the ever-growing field of game music. Each post will introduce new sounds, games, composers and fan-made remixes of gaming's greatest aural achievements.

April 16, 2010

Game: Toki Tori (Game Boy Color)

Song: Forest Falls

Composer: Chris J. Hampton

Above: “Forest Falls” from Toki Tori

After looking at the box shot above, you might have the same reaction I did when it slid across my desk nine years ago: “Ugh, what the f**k is this?” The newborn-chick protagonist screamed “baby game,” and the art looked unpolished. Worst of all, it was for the Game Boy Color, a platform nobody in their right mind wanted to bother with now that the Game Boy Advance had been around for a few months.

On the other hand, it was published by Capcom, which meant it probably wasn’t crap. It was also released just after Sept. 11, when everyone was angry and depressed. Maybe something simple and cheery was the way to go.

Above: What, indeed

It turned out Toki Tori wasn’t just simple and cheery. It was also a clever, relentlessly charming puzzle game that looked sharp and fluid by GBC standards. More to the point, it laid down some infuriatingly catchy tracks, like the above theme to its first set of levels. It starts off all chirpy and simplistic, but listen for more than a few seconds and you’ll hear composer Hampton use the GBC’s four available sound channels to create a melody that’s unexpectedly nuanced and fun.

Above: Just like this!

It also goes on for a lot longer than your average piece of 8-bit background music, running almost a full three minutes before it starts to loop. (Given the shortness of the levels, though, all you’ll normally hear while playing is the first 30 seconds or so, which is unfortunate because that can get pretty damned annoying after a while.) As emblematic of the game as it is, Forest Falls isn’t the extent of what Hampton can do; check out the game’s intro, to which the music lends a weirdly desperate, sinister tone.

Sadly, the rest of the world didn’t have to pay attention to dopey-looking games as part of its job, and so Toki Tori was widely ignored and rapidly fell into obscurity. On the upside, its failure to catch on means it can be found on sites like eBay for as little as $6. Please note, however: the GBC Toki Tori is not to be confused with the 2008 WiiWare/iPhone remake. Although the remake looks a lot nicer and is mostly identical from a gameplay standpoint, it trades in its happy chiptunes for soft instrumental tracks that don’t even sound at all similar. Bah!

April 16, 2010

Simian Acres by Graeme Norgate

Tal Tal Mountain Range by Totaka, Ishikawa and Hamano

A real horse asks real questions about human nature and hentai

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.