VGM or Chiptune of The Year 2001

Please don't mind my inaccurate English, as usual...

Still I'm not good at chiptune scene. (Nevertheless, better among Japanese.) So this may become a presumptuous utterance. But I'd like to say...this year brought many crops truly for video game music and chiptune. I'm convinced of chiptune never die, but have been very disappointed about today's Japanese scene. At last there were nothing new in Japan... Anyway, VORC picked up the most impressive things of the year from top to ten. You have to check if there're any missing!
1. "FX EP" by Virt
Jake Kaufman aka Virt has already been famous as an awesome GAMEBOY musician. The MOD music disk "FX EP" is not his business, but the most surprising work. This was created as a fictitious sound track for a sequel to NES Castle Vania series (except one track). Not only the composition is excellent, but he succeed to imitate old Konami style completely. Maybe it isn't possible for today's Japanese musicians, including Konami. Virt can be the only successor to Konami of those days. This means Japanese chiptune style is dead in Japan, but appreciated in USA/Europe. So "FX EP" became a turning point of Japanese chiptune.

2. analogik, a year of the change
In MOD scene, analogik label plays an important role as well as Virt. This April, the central figure Nagz released a great work "Chinqua". It will be recorded in the history of the chiptune about both the play time (8min.) and abundant developments. After its release, analogik became silent (May). But suddenly they were back with a major change of members (September). With Vhiiula (the organizer of Big Chipcompo) at the head of the list, nice young but powerful new members won't allow looking aside next year.

3. Very active Aleksi Eeben
The activity history of Aleksi Eeben (Heatbeat) in the demo scene is over ten years. He had released many MODs since early AMIGA days. His MODs didn't contain so many chiptunes, but recently he moved his main playground to 8-bit platforms like COMMODORE 64/VIC-20 and GAMEBOY. Now he's creating music editors and chiptunes enthusiastically for them. Such a case -- a famous MOD musician requests his field at 8-bit scene -- is hard to find, but it's never retrogressive. Hear his mature technic and high quality, you'll understand his advance. In this year he showed the wits as a programmer with John Player music editor for COMMODORE64 and some developing tools for GAMEBOY ADVANCE. On the other hand, He released many recent chiptune works for 8-bit platforms at, we could know his great skills as a chiptune musician. (Perhaps you've already known his excellect GAMEBOY works in "Tom & Jerry" and "Project S-11", but the important point is now we can listen to his chiptunes on the web.) IMHO, dynamic drum'n basses "The Four Voices" and "3583 Bytes Free" for COMMODORE VIC-20 were the best chiptunes in the club music style of the year.

4. Paragon5 Tracker opened to the public
The previous Virt and Aleksi Eeben are related with the game development company Paragon 5. Paragon 5 also promoted some master scene musicians like Beek (Chris J.Hampton), Mystical (Asbjorn Andersen) KeyG (Konrad Gmurek). So it becomes an indispensable existence to think about GAMEBOY scene. Paragon 5 is also famous about their special music editor called "Beyond Tracker". This had never been allowed to be taken out of the company for a long time. But this October, finally it opened to the public, and now be spreading as the standard GAMEBOY music editor.

5. Chiptunes from new GAMEBOY generation
Paragon 5 Tracker is really outstanding, but for Windows. The other side, two definitive music editors running on GAMEBOY were also released. They're nanoloop and Little Sound DJ. Little Sound DJ is especially easy to use samples, so be involving live musicians and people haven't composed chiptune till then. They'll become the core of "vgm influenced electro/elepop" generation. Such a scene is steadily growing mainly in North Europe.

6. The pursuit of MSX music scene
Musical properties for every 8-bit platforms have been put in order for several years, but MSX seemed to be left behind. However, the situation was much improved in this year. MSX itself also grooved to the official emulator etc.

  • March NEZplug (a plug-in for Winamp/KbMediaPlayer) supported MSX-Audio. It's an external FM/PCM unit.
  • August MSXplug (a plug-in for Winamp/KbMediaPlayer) supported many Japanese local chiptune formats.
    MSX is almost only chiptune scene with some active musicians in Japan. Owing to this plug-in, we can listen to that scene on Windows. Don't miss Naruto. He's not famous, but a top class chiptune musician in Japan.
  • September GXSCC Beta 93 released.
    This quite unique software plays all MIDI datas with SCC or OPLL tones. Both of them are external audio chip for MSX. This tells us another way to make use of chip music culture.
  • October KSS Kingdom opened.
    Now many MSX-Audio tunes are available here. This site will grow as a MSX music scene central.

7. Fine COMMODORE 64 scene as usual
For all that, the most lively 8-bit platform is COMMODORE 64. Many music disks and chiptunes were released, some useful tools appeared, HVSC added over 2000 SIDs, and many other intersting things were happened this year. Among them, the following two things became the monuments of the scene.

  • C64 Portal launched (May):
    News site only about COMMOORE 64 demo and game scene. It changed the situation for scene beginners who want to know more about SID music (like me). Now today's releases and trend are easy to check on the site.
  • GoatTracker releaced (October)
    It brought the revolution to SID music. It's made possible to compose SID tunes on Windows without any emulators. Check the power from GoatTracker Compo Results. Probably, this is one big step of the music emulation.

8. mck released
For Japanese chip musician, this release may be the most impressive thing. mck is a NSF format music editor released on December. Originally NSF format is the music data ripped from NES. But with using MCK, you can make it on any text editors. Composing on text editors? What does it mean? This is a way called 'MML (Music Macro Language)', one of the standard to create chiptunes in Japan. For example:

A o4 c8d8d+16f16
B o3 g8a8a+16a16

Such a description in text file is converted to binary data by "MCK Converter" and "NES Assembler". In tracker style, this means:

00 C-4 00 G-3
01 --- 01 ---
02 D-4 02 A-3
03 --- 03 ---
04 D#4 04 A#3
05 F-4 05 A-3

European/American tracking musicians may feel complicated. However, this has spread in Japan by various reasons, and most of Japanese chip musicians feel easier than tracking. (Yes, this is one of the reason why Japanese chip musicians don't tend to enter the tracking scene.) Anyway, it had been a dream for Japanese chiptune listeners to create their own tunes on NES with MML. Although there haven't been many tunes yet, this developing scene will be interesting next year.

9. Tribute sites for old school pioneers
Owing to the development of the music emulation, Some tribute sites were completely equipped with music datas. With Chris Huelsbeck Legacy (November 2000) as a start, The Complete Works of Rob Hubbard (May), The Follin Drome (October) were launched. They're all pioneers of COMMODORE 64 music scene, so such a site for other 8-bit scene is awaited.

10. GAMEBOY ADVANCE scene started, and solutions from Virt
This March, GAMEBOY ADVANCE was on sale. Therewithal, its game music scene also started...maybe. It has already passed more than half a year since release, but unfortunately, still hard to hear about music with using full specifications. Virt's GBA tunes released on December became one of the earliest solution for such a scene. He proved himself to have already been beyond Konami. Once Konami was a leader of music for Japanese 8-bit/16-bit platforms, but today's Konami wouldn't be able to do such a good work anymore. Now, Virt comes to finish the work which KONAMI was doing. (Btw, some tunes are old good SNES Final Fantasy style.)

Runner-up. New music format of the year
VGM format for SEGA 8-bit consoles (August), and SC68 format for ATARI ST series (September). They're big features of the year. Both of them has deep-rooted popularity, so next year we still won't miss them.

Extra. VORC launched
Only three months have passed since this site started, however we feel very happy if some news were helpful for VGM/chiptune freaks.

We'd like to introduce "the most impressive things of the year in the VGM/chiptune scene" from readers.
Thank you all for sending opinions. Written by Hally (Dec.31st)