VGM Entry 34: Stormlord
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)
There were only so many things a musician could do within the limited capacity of the Commodore 64, and though a rare boundary-breaking exception or two snuck by, I think that by 1989 most music sounded like a rehash of the same old thing. It wasn’t declining in quality, but it was getting a little repetitive, while many of the best musicians were moving on to other platforms or beginning to burn out. The amount of games I feel inclined to exemplify diminishes in turn.
Dominator (System 3, 1989), composed by Matt Gray, is a perfect case in point. It was a solid four-song work that incorporated a lot of standard C64 innovations while remaining pretty laid back. It’s definitely a pleasant listen, and in a way it reminds me of Jeroen Tel’s work on Cybernoid II the previous year. It is one of the best Commodore 64 soundtracks of 1989 that I’ve found, but it offers absolutely nothing new. There’s no stylistic innovation here. It doesn’t employ the SID in any sort of novel way. It’s just a catchy tune in C64 style. That’s all well and good, but if the whole SID musical movement was defined by constant experimentation and expansion then it was surely by 1989 well in decline.
Part of Jeroen Tel’s real claim to fame was his ability to keep pushing forward in the midst of this:
Stormlord (Hewson, 1989) is a joint effort by Johannes Bjerregaard and Jeroen Tel. Its sort of cheesy extra-terrestrial vibe does little to reflect the gameplay, but that’s to be expected. I’m more impressed by how effectively poppy it is compared to Commodore 64 titles of the past. It sounds almost too pop to be SID, with even a tip of the hat to Michael Jackson (0:37) as far as I can tell, and that’s a lot of what makes it a significant composition. Jeroen Tel kept on incorporating new styles of popular music into a chiptune medium long after most SID composers had become set in their ways. Johannes Bjerregaard was of course also involved in Stormlord, and I don’t know the extent to which either contributed to this tune in particular (or if there even are other tunes in the game). Bjerregaard is a name I seldom run across, although Lemon 64 credits him with 63 compositions.
Stormlord also comes with an amusing story. The game caused Hewson Consultants a bit of trouble, and the box art you see above is not the original design. The original, if fairly innocent, would probably still cause a ruckus today.
Hewson Consultants didn’t beat around the bush. They knew that finding out the princess was in another castle wasn’t what gamers really wanted, and they attempted to deliver the real deal. So in Stormlord you play a behemoth, loin-cloth laden viking who runs around saving hot naked chicks. Sexist? Maybe, but not really sexual. This wasn’t an “adult” game by any means. Your interaction with the distressed damsels was in no way suggestive, and there was no discernible full-blown nudity. It would have surely landed a safe PG-13 rating were its contents in a movie today, but… is that the side of a pixilated breast I see? Good heavens!