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Thread: Games with ADPCM Music

  1. #1
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    Games with ADPCM Music

    Hello, hello.

    so, I believe this has been one of those topics not necessarily clear to everyone, at least not to me, so I'd like to dig a bit and get a clearer picture with your help... I'm sure some of my assumptions may be wring, so please correct me in case.


    So, the neo has mainly two ways to play music, FM ("chiptune") and ADPCM, basically a way to record from analog sources, losing a lot in the process.

    It seems that early games (1990-1994?), used FM for music and ADPCM for voice/effects, which makes sense. Looks to me that around 1995, probably because of the introduction of the NGCD, games shifted to ADPCM also for music (and mono instead of stereo), not using the YM2610 FM capability/signature sound.

    What are exactly those games? Is there a list somewhere? thoughts?

    Thanks!
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    one thing, in the arcade, stereo ceased to exist when MVS motherboards left room to mainly JAMMA 1-slots, which I believe happened around mid-nineties as well..

    Another reason to simply reduce costs of music production, and prefer a compressed mono track in the ROM.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by massimiliano View Post
    What are exactly those games? Is there a list somewhere? thoughts?
    Unfortunately, I couldn't find a list, which Neo Geo games mainly use samples, but according to numerous comments found on the web, it's the majority, with only a few early titles making use of the 4 FM channels as the main sound source to generate music and they come mostly from ADK.

    Here are some of those comments:

    In the early days of the Neo Geo, FM and PCM were used about equally for music, and the samples, while bigger, and noticeably better than SNES samples, were still mostly in that basic league, so the Neo Geo early games essentially sounded like a duet between a Genesis and an SNES - a really cool sound scheme.
    The comment above comes from this page, which lists some of those combinations and is a good read.

    Well, the truth is that the Neo-Geo hardware was largely ADK's baby, developed within ADK and manufactured by SNK, similar to the Hudson-NEC arrangement for the PC-Engine. While much of the early Neo-Geo library has music and sound that is oh-so-'90s (like Fatal Fury or Super Spy), ADK's music -- with some exceptions -- can't really date itself, each production bettering the one previous. Magician Lord has synthy fantasy themes; Blue's Journey, steel-drum calypso themes; Crossed Swords, swords-and-sorcery orchestral hits paired with tribal drums; and Thrash Rally, some decent imitations of SEGA racing rock tunes.
    The above quote comes from this page. There, you'll also find all the sound sources for Magician Lord dissected. Quite informative.

    It also gives a hint for the reason why Neo Geo music generation shifted from FM to ADPCM. It supports your own thoughts:

    Obviously, due to the cost of mask ROMs in the early 1990s, most games stuck to FM music tracks, with samples used for percussion, some instruments, voices, and sound effects. Starting in the mid-late-1990s, many Neo-Geo game soundtracks became simply long monophonic samples -- kinda losing the distinct character of the YM2610 hardware.
    Other reasons may include, what a Sega-16 user suggested here:

    The lack of FM in latter games can (perhaps) be attributed to:
    1. FM music is difficult to program (for most people)
    2. A lot of people don't like FM (sad but true)
    3. To show it could compete sound wise with CD based systems.
    More interesting links with infos about the multi-variant sources of Neo Geo sounds can be found here and here.

    Finally, there's this sound drivers list and interviews with Yasumasa Yamada & Toshikazu Tanaka, both SNK Sound Team staff.

  4. #4
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    Some games that come to mind:

    Blazing Star
    Matrimelee
    Metal Slug 4
    Metal Slug 5
    Pulstar
    Rage of the Dragons
    Sengoku 3
    Strikers 1945+

    According to VGMRips Bust-A-Move Again uses streamed music too
    Last edited by suicidekiller; 09-23-2019 at 03:59 PM.


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  5. #5
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    One of my favorite soundtracks on the Neo is from Panic Bomber, the popular Bomberman melodies sound fantastic on this one. Not until later I realized they're mostly FM generated, which was a nice surprise. It's credited to Atsushi. C & Dr. Masaki. Jun Chikuma (Atsushi. C) appears not to have experience with FM generated music, so maybe the one hiding behind the Dr. Masaki alias converted those compositions.

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    I was under the impression that many neogeo games of the 90s such as KOF 96, used both the FM synth and adpcm samples simultaneously, that the fm synth tended to play a bassline, and that with respect to the adpcm samples, those were short samples that were triggered like .mod music tracks on the pc, rather than a full 1-2 minute adpcm sample of prerecorded music. I remember neogeo emulation around the year 2000 didn't have good dumps of the roms (or was it decoding the sound roms?) and as a result, often the fm synth played correctly but the adpcm samples were horribly messed up with wrong samples/sfx playing.
    Last edited by sirlynxalot; 09-22-2019 at 11:37 AM.

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    Thanks Oliver, everyone, so looks there is not a "map" yet, but it would be interesting putting together some more data, but may require some work..

    Let's talk about tools, is there some tool dumping the audio content (mainly the ADPCM file?) or at least providing some sort of information about the data in the rom? Ideally it would be great running a batch analysis of the roms files.

    After mapping what/where, I'd like to check the OSTs around and compare, I have a pretty decent amount of Scitron stuff, but not all so will need some help...looks like, as often, SNK did things inconsistently, but that's the beauty of it I guess.

    I don't know about you guys, but all this talking is actually a great excuse to listen to some really great stuff!
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    ADPCM is everywhere on the Neo. It has 7 channels devoted to it after all. The majority of the games use at least some ADPCM samples in the music.

    However, I believe the topic at hand is cartridge games that use fully recorded music tracks without using the FM or SSG channels. (e.g. Metal Slug 4 and 5)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Alec View Post
    However, I believe the topic at hand is cartridge games that use fully recorded music tracks without using the FM or SSG channels. (e.g. Metal Slug 4 and 5)
    Yes, sorry, that's what I meant by "ADPCM music": shifting to the use of ADPCM as the main stream of background (mono) music, instead of a mix of effect/music (voice etc) with the FM channels.

    To summary, clearly the hardware has been the same since the beginning until the end, my understanding is that the whole industry, not just SNK, eventually moved from the FM "chiptune music" approach+ ADCPM for voice/SEs/music, with different amounts of the two, to just make use of streams of compressed music in ADPCM, to save ROM space and probably make it easier to produce, given new hardware and CD standards became the standard anyway. The AES could still adapt through the ADPCM for all music, but given it was not meant/capable for that (rather just voice/effects) we ended with a mono/low bitrate solution...which sucks.

    With regards to audio, personally I still prefer the early titles of the console, with distinctive stuff like "spherosymphony" 3d sound (for the days) that indeed got me hooked to the console back in the days.

    Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 10.28.05 AM.png
    Last edited by massimiliano; 09-23-2019 at 02:05 PM.
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    I'm afraid you are thoroughly confused at this point. Pre-recorded music on cartridge definitely does NOT save rom space.

    I wouldn't say the whole industry changed over. It definitely varied by game.
    Last edited by Neo Alec; 09-23-2019 at 02:50 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Alec View Post
    I'm afraid you are thoroughly confused at this point. Pre-recorded music on cartridge definitely does NOT save rom space.

    I wouldn't say the whole industry changed over. It definitely varied by game.
    Yes, I totally confused the below, when talking about ROM cost:
    Obviously, due to the cost of mask ROMs in the early 1990s, most games stuck to FM music tracks, with samples used for percussion, some instruments, voices, and sound effects. Starting in the mid-late-1990s, many Neo-Geo game soundtracks became simply long monophonic samples -- kinda losing the distinct character of the YM2610 hardware.
    it actually mean implicitly that the music stream was more viable when ROM chips became cheaper 9hence more space available)... which makes sense to me as well, thinking of a MIDI track vs a CD one...never mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by massimiliano View Post
    it actually mean implicitly that the music stream was more viable when ROM chips became cheaper 9hence more space available)... which makes sense to me as well, thinking of a MIDI track vs a CD one...never mind.
    Was about to reply to you about this, but you figured it out by yourself

    That's exactly it, using the integrated synthesizer is the same as putting a MIDI file in the game, hence it has a very small size.
    Back in the days the norm was a synth with one single ADPCM channel which was used for different thing (ie: in street fighter II was used for the voices and announcer) but in other games people decided to take advantage of it to make the music sound better, so they put in ADPCM samples in, for example for percussions.

    NeoGeo's YM2610 has, IIRC, 6 or 7 ADPCM channels which are A LOT, so you could really go crazy and make very complex and elaborate music on it.
    Of course you can mix those with the synthesizer (MIDI) itself, but with so many channels and the ROM chips getting cheaper and bigger, they probably figured out it would be easier to just go full ADPCM and call it a day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Alec View Post
    Metal Slug 4
    Looks like you're right about this one. Didn't know this, now I have to check out the soundtrack again


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    Quote Originally Posted by massimiliano View Post
    one thing, in the arcade, stereo ceased to exist when MVS motherboards left room to mainly JAMMA 1-slots, which I believe happened around mid-nineties as well..

    Another reason to simply reduce costs of music production, and prefer a compressed mono track in the ROM.
    You need to listen to more KOF98 then

    Not only chars are panned left & right accordingly, also the OST is in stereo. You can notice that easily on drum rolls or cymbals. Take Easka for instance and you'll notice right away!

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    Also, it's cool to remember the "Nebula Jukebox" back in the days.

    You could strip the songs channel by channel and that did let you know more in depth exactly what channel in ADPCM, FM or PSG were doing.
    Wolfgang Krauser in FF2 / FFS uses only a single channel for the Dies Irae. AFAIK, it's the only track in the game that is like that. All the rest pretty much fully use the YM2610.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Atro View Post
    You need to listen to more KOF98 then

    Not only chars are panned left & right accordingly, also the OST is in stereo. You can notice that easily on drum rolls or cymbals. Take Easka for instance and you'll notice right away!
    sure, but I was talking about the jamma cabinets and slot-1 that were mono (the majority of the neogeo motherboards around after a certain year), ..for the games above they could have thought it just wouldn't have made difference anyway, so that could be a reason to explain why *those games* were mono to begin with.

    (but of course, for the rest, in the mvs cab everything would still sound right!)
    Last edited by massimiliano; 09-23-2019 at 06:40 PM.
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