Everything old is new again, or so says musician Peter Allen. Which is why even though most of us look back on the trends of the ’80s with horror and embarrassment, the decade has managed to rear its (literally) ugly head many a time over the past 30+ years. See: the revival of leg warmers, side ponytails, and — much less regrettably — 8-bit. But while one would be hard-pressed to create a whole art form based on the Members Only jacket, that is exactly what has been done with the 8-bit format — especially in the music realm. The most recent example of the retro resurgence? A new music video/game from Motion City Soundtrack.
For those who were born in the ’90s and whatnot, here’s a little 8-bit history lesson from video game theorist Jesper Juul, by way of a PBS documentary on the subject: “8-bit is a throwback to a time when computers and video games had a distinct style. You’re probably thinking of early Nintendo culture, but there was another 8-bit that was tied to the early home computers, which was more of a DIY culture. And so the idea of 8-bit culture today is really a combination of the graphical and visual style of the console games with this idea of the DIY culture as it came from the 8-bit computer games.”
In the same way that cassettes have made a comeback of late, 8-bit has also been on the rise, cropping everywhere from an episode of popular sitcom Community to online games/parodies of films like Twilight. The music world, in particular, has embraced the nostalgic format, with bands such as Anamanaguchi taking their inspiration from Nintendo games of old (and lending their tunes to the Scott Pilgrim game soundtrack) and myriad others adopting the style to create music videos.
Today, Motion City Soundtrack joins those myriad others. It’s been a few months since the band dropped Go, their fifth studio album, but now they’re out with a fun little diversion that aims to revive interest in the disc — specifically the single, “True Romance.”
True Romance, the game, is a simple 8-bit adventure that allows fans to choose a band avatar and chase after a hot girl in distress. We’re not told why she’s in distress, but given that the landscape is littered with robots, rats, and what appear to be the super ghetto computers we had in elementary school, I imagine this all takes place in some post-apocalyptic future in which the ’80s have returned full-force. Perhaps she’s running from those super ghetto computers and the prospect of having to play that Paws typing game we were all forced to endure as tykes (no one born in the ’90s has any idea what I’m talking about).
When you finish chasing the chick, you’ll be rewarded with an 8-bit version of “True Romance,” and — if you manage to collect all the clothes that the girl shed along the way — the chance to win a prize pack (including a signed copy of the LP). Again, I’m not sure why she’s lost all of her clothes, but that’s probably because I was unable to finish the game due to my massive lack of video gaming skills. Sadly, that means I did not get a copy of the track, which was kind of a bummer. In my opinion, everyone should get a tune for trying — especially after listening to said tune over and over and over again as my poor hapless avatar died and died and died. Curses.
Like we said, Motion City Soundtrack’s offering is far from the first music video/video game to hit the Web. Read on for three more examples of 8-bit art:
“Maybe there’s a common character trait between the kind of people who hide in their basement and record songs instead of going to hang out at the bowling alley and the kind of people who hide in their house and play video games instead of going to house parties in high school,” says Nick Krill of The Spinto Band, referring to the preponderance of musicians who put out video games nowadays. Krill and his bandmates recently joined their ranks with the release of 8-bit iOS game Show Pursuit.
Show Pursuit — a play on the name of their recent album, Shy Pursuit — is a six-level game that tasks the player with getting the band to their gig on time. As you beat each game, you can move on to the next and, finally, the Shy Pursuit cover editor, which lets you customize the band’s album art.
“In our recording studio, we have a pretty good setup of original Nintendo and Super Nintendo games,” says bassist Thomas Hughes of how the band “researched” the game. “We tried to choose games that could be made analogous to some sort of musical setup, whether it be loading a van with gear or loading into a show or connecting wires.”
Incubattle — which is sadly no longer functional — was released in July 2011 to promote the band’s seventh studio album, If Not Now, When? As with the previous two games, users were asked to choose a band avatar, after which they had to stop a music pirate from stealing Incubus‘s new album. The jury’s still out on if said game did anything to prevent actual pirates from nabbing the disc.
Das Racist Who’s That? Brooown!
Like Incubattle, O Music Award nominee Who’s That? Brooown! also appears to be defunct, but you can watch the linear video above. In the original version, you were tasked with helping Das Racist find their hypeman, Dap, before a show. Noticing a trend here?