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Mojo fetes Maniac Mansion’s NES soundtrack with much-needed liner notes 05 Apr, 2022 / 4 comments

The Nintendo version of Maniac Mansion is an odd duck in the best possible way, sporting loads of charm and a number of unique features. Part of its popularity is that it’s the version that many played first, but there’s more going on here, or SEGA CD The Secret of Monkey Island would be held up as some sacred cow (No offense, Dom).

A major distinction of the Nintendo version is its soundtrack. Typical of its time, the original PC version of Maniac Mansion was a relatively silent affair, with its audio consisting of little more than a title theme and the odd ambient sound effect. Wall-to-wall music wasn’t really a thing for the SCUMM games until Monkey Island 2, but it was very much the norm for Nintendo games.

So when the Maniac Mansion console port had just about wrapped up its development, the publisher, Jaleco, was wondering aloud where all the music was. Eleventh hour marching orders for a full-bodied soundtrack came down, and project lead David Warhol, something of a game composer himself, brought on three local musicians to split what ended up being a workload of twelve tracks.

To provide an in-game justification for all this music, the seven playable teenagers were given a CD player as a default inventory item, each loaded up with a genre pastiche representing his/her favorite fictional band. Serving not only the requirement for a fuller soundscape but also functioning as a kind of character-building conceit, the end result is surely one of the most varied of all 8-bit soundtracks, and who better to speak about it than the composers themselves? This is where I stop typing and link you to the article.

4 Comments

  • Avatar
    Jason on 05 Apr, 2022, 18:47…
    Wow, you're right, as this recording of a Commodore 64 playthrough proves:

    https://youtu.be/SIr9D7RlDHY

    It's always convenient for me to bisect Maniac Mansion into "original graphics" and "enhanced graphics" in my head, but this doesn't account for the fact that the DOS version of even the "original" came a bit after the first release. Maybe they dropped the footsteps by then, or maybe ScummVM and/or emulators are failing to reproduce that sound effect. It's not like I've played the thing on an actual old IBM in recent memory.
  • Avatar
    Glo_kidd on 05 Apr, 2022, 17:42…

    Jason

    I don't recall footsteps, but you're right: the original game does trade on its silence to create a tense atmosphere of its own.



    This prompted a quick journey for me of fiddling around with the various versions for 45 minutes or so which I feel is time well spent :-)

    Turns out the footsteps are only present in the C64 original but were left out in the other ports.

    I find this interesting because I could have sworn I had read a Ron interview where he mentioned the "footsteps adding to the atmosphere and he felt that was an odd part about the added soundtrack in the nes version" thing but I honestly can't remember well enough to even attempt to source that.

    But considering also that it wasn't carried to the ports or revisions maybe it wasn't that big of a deal anyway lol

    The tapping of feet in the c64 version does add to the stress of fighting a joystick to escape edna in the kitchen or fleeing the basement before Purple Tentacle comes down the stairs instead of the lab where he came from though ;-)
  • Avatar
    Jason on 05 Apr, 2022, 16:27…

    Glo_kidd

    Replaying the originals later and realizing that the footsteps being the only real soundtrack was to build the tension of sneaking around this old Mansion full of Maniacs put me at odds with my memories as I sure did love those tunes



    I don't recall footsteps, but you're right: the original game does trade on its silence to create a tense atmosphere of its own. What's cool is that you can play the NES version the same way (except for the cutscenes) by manually turning off the CD players. The grandfather clock audibly ticks in the NES version, even if many have never heard it!
  • Avatar
    Glo_kidd on 05 Apr, 2022, 16:19…
    Excellent article on one of my favorite versions of Maniac Mansion. While I first played around with it on PC as a child, the first time I ever completed the game was on NES (getting Ed's dimes on a control pad can be infuriating) which fused the Character soundtracks to my memories of MM itself. As such I usually hum Dave, Bernard and Razors themes pretty often, especially when playing any version of Maniac Mansion.

    Replaying the originals later and realizing that the footsteps being the only real soundtrack was to build the tension of sneaking around this old Mansion full of Maniacs put me at odds with my memories as I sure did love those tunes

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