Shadow Spirits Vol. 1 is not a real role-playing game. It is a real album, though, for a game that only exists in the minds of Cody Carpenter and Mark Day. The two musicians teamed up to create a suite that pays tribute to classic Japanese role-playing games from the 1980s and '90s, when 8-bit and 16-bit hardware limited composers to electronic sounds.
Yep, it's a chiptunes album, made by two artists with strong musical backgrounds. Carpenter is the son of legendary filmmaker John Carpenter, and performed with his dad on his recent Lost Themes albums and tours. Day has composed the music for a number of TV programs and real videogames (including Diner Dash and Aqua Kitty).
As Day says in a press release, the RPG angle was his idea. "I suggested a classic RPG concept as I love the music of Nobuo Uematsu and Hiroki Kikuta and had recently played Final Fantasy VII." Carpenter wrote the songs using the NES chipset, and Day then arranged them using a Commodore SID chip and a Roland Juno-106 synthesizer. The result is an album that tracks the full range of emotion and experience expected from a satisfying role-playing game, with contemplative passages rushing into propulsive action, and triumphal flourishes and melancholy elegies appearing like signposts along the journey.
Listen to "Beyond Reason," premiering exclusively here at Paste, and try not to see a squad of brave anime sprites marching over a verdant world map towards an ominous mountain in the distance. When those synths slice in at the two minute mark is obviously when the lightning hits and the sky turns red and black and the evil demon who was masquerading as the ancient religious leader the whole time appears above the mountain with a malevolent smile scarring his face. I can feel the Genesis controller in my hands right now.
Shadow Spirits Vol. 1 will be released by Scarlet Moon Records on April 24. You can hear three more tracks and preorder the digital album at this Bandcamp page.