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Jul. 8th, 2021

One of the things that help makes a video game a favorite of mine is the sound effects and/or in-game music. I don't think would enjoy playing games like Commando, Frantic Freddie, Mr. Do's Castle, or Gyruss as much as I do if they didn't have such great music. These tunes are up-beat, toe tapping gaming masterpieces that lifts my spirit every time I hear them, and are well suited to the games for which they were made.

There are some games that I enjoy purely because for their sound tracks. I'll load them up and just let the intro/title music play and not even play the game (okay maybe a quick game or two before resetting). Games like Tiger-Heli, Bionic Commando, and Frogger immediately come to mind.

However, it wasn't until the early 2000s, with my discovery of Commodore 64 emulators and the availability of .D64 disk images making their way on to the Internet, that I learned about this whole NTSC vs PAL thing. I had no idea North American and Japanese made Commodore PC operated at a different speed/frequency than the rest of the world. Nor did I know that games written on a PAL system would run faster on an NTSC system (or sometimes not at all). This surprised me and explained as to way some disk images that I started to download off of the Net would not run on my C64 or 128.

The real shocker to me was to hear how some of my favorite games sounded on a PAL system, thanks to the use of emulators. I've played many of these games since the 80s, so I knew their tunes by heart, so imagine my surprise to hear Commando for the first time at PAL-speed. Yuck! It just sounded so uninspiring to me. I mean, Commando is a frantic run 'n gun game, with bullets and bombs flying every which way. The tune I've known so well for so long suited the hectic pace of the game so well. But, at PAL-speed, game play seemed so much more sluggish to me.

Although the PAL-speed version of the tune might have been what the original composition was supposed to be, but as far as I was concerned, it was so very wrong. The NTSC-speed is much more appropriate for the gameplay, I never played (or listened to) Commando at PAL-speed ever again.

In fact, from my point of view, many games developed on PAL systems just sound better to me on my NTSC Commodore. Maybe it's because of all of the sugar I consumed as a kid, but the faster tempo of NTSC just sets my toe a-tappin', which greatly improves game play.

Several of my favorite modern C64 games also sound much better on my NTSC system; that is, if they are capable of running on it. The soundtrack for the game “Steel Ranger” is such an awesome experience. But, when I try to play it at PAL-speed, I just feel like it loses something in the translation. The faster tempo might not have been what Lasse Öörni intended, but it just sounds so good and makes the action of the game feel so much snappier. And Richard Bayliss' music for his game “Let's Invade” brings a lot more life to the action of this remake of “Space Invaders” when played on my NTSC C64.

Don't you think the NTSC version suites the scenario just a little better than the PAL version?

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I know that it may detract from the game maker's original vision, but in most cases I just prefer the faster tempo of game soundtracks when played on my NTSC system. To play the games that I've been playing for the better part of thirty years at PAL-speed just sounds wrong to me in so many ways.

But, is this some sort of request of mine for game developers on PAL systems to change what they're doing? Absolutely not! If they chose to compose their tunes at a faster tempo, then the music would be playing too fast on NTSC. So, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm just saying, in my opinion, games play better on NTSC. ;)

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blog/2021-07-08.txt · Last modified: 2021/09/08 19:06 by David