Bomberman Hero is a beloved cult classic in the gaming industry, and not because of the gameplay. June Chikuma did a damn good job of composing an Electronic OST that captures a very distinct feeling of nostalgia that differs from other Nintendo 64 games. Bomberman Hero was truly ahead of its time in terms of composition. The jungle/drum and bass elements throughout the soundtrack would shock and impress current-day DnB listeners who fancy “experimental” sounds.
Now, I originally wasn’t too fond of this OST when I was a kid.
I was used to the R&B and hip hop my parents played, so this soundtrack was obscure and, at times, unnerving due to
my skill issue the game’s difficulty. The spacey alien sounds were taunting and frustrating but kept me motivated enough to strive for 100% completion. It felt like the music was playing me more than I was playing the game. Inevitably, I would have to wait for my dad to help me finish a level. While waiting on him, I often fell asleep with the game going, which resulted in the beats engraining into my subconscious mind.
Unfortunately, throughout the years, Bomberman Hero became a vague memory. I had an idea of the game but could never remember the name. I briefly recalled a beat pattern but could never pin the genre. It never meant that much to me until I started raving in 2019. Even then, I was shamefully ignorant and only listened to mainstream stuff because I was fairly new to EDM.
After a good year of raves, repetitive music, and an overall lack of substance, I got pretty burnt out. That’s when I did a deep dive into the true culture of EDM and dipped my toes into other genres like DnB. When I began actively listening to it, a lightbulb hidden within the depths of my brain started buzzing. I’ve heard this before, but where? I knew it was a video game, but my memory was so shot I had to go on Twitter and vaguely describe what I was looking for.
Thankfully, a fellow DnB enjoyer knew exactly what I was talking about and came to my rescue.
Just looking at the thumbnail triggered that lightbulb in my brain to flicker.
It all came rushing back, and I felt like I was in a trance of disbelief. How in the ever living fuck did I forget about this, and why did I not like it? I’d like to blame my Virgo sun, but I know it’s some subconscious reaction to being bad at the game; then associating that with the OST. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the game. Video games are my #1 hobby, and though I can suck at some, they are still very enjoyable. My favorite games have phenomenal soundtracks that add an additional layer of immersion needed to keep me engaged. Though Bomberman Hero wasn’t one of my favorites, the OST alone is enough to make me reconsider.
Chikuma shows her talent in how she can go from an ambient, harmonious track like “Fatidic.”
To “Oropharaynx:” This bizarre confection of a tarty synth pattern with deep yet rich bass.
Bomberman Hero is a criminally underrated OST that doesn’t get enough praise for its sound design.
Unlike other consoles from the time, the N64 did not use a sound chip. Instead, it’s all code called ‘soundfont‘ and stored on the ROM. Soundfont is a data format that contains the information needed to create musical notes and sound effects using wavetable synthesis technology. There was no audio processor on the N64 itself, so the audio processing was done on the CPU. Therefore, composers were very limited in what they could do, as complex elements would affect game performance. In addition, Nintendo was primarily focused on cinematic and graphic evolution at the time, so they sacrificed audio hardware for performance when creating the N64.
Chikuma impressed many with how she flawlessly captured elements of house, breakbeats, and techno throughout Bomberman Hero. The composer utilizes elements of both literal and figurative space in this OST, along with her mesmeric use of synths. YouTuber BitBlitz does a great job of breaking down the composition.
June Chikuma has an unconventional take on composing Electronic OSTs that most composers avoid, as the execution can be meticulous.
Not only that, but Chikuma views her work from a unique perspective, one she often calls ‘absolute music.’
“What I call ‘art suprematism’ or ‘absolute music’ is very simple. I compose music only from music. In other words, I don’t express any ‘feelings’ or ‘backgrounds’ in my composition. However, that has nothing to do with listeners. On their side, they are totally free to feel some feelings or dream various images, of course. I think it is natural, and the contrast is interesting.”June Chikuma, in an interview with Kotaku
One big thing I greatly appreciate about June Chikuma’s work in Bomberman Hero is how she incorporates “background sounds” as if they were sound effects. So even when you’re not playing the game, your brain will emulate it while listening because the explosions, whistles, and airy sounds capture a unique atmosphere, making this OST special to me. It triggers my colorful imagination.
Bomberman Hero will forever hold a place in my heart as one of the best Electronic OSTs ever created. This OST brought back memories I thought were forever lost, and my inner child frolics through the adventures this soundtrack takes me on.
If you haven’t listened to this OST yet, know you are in for an addicting treat. Let your mind feast on this concoction of melodic brilliance.
Looking for more drum and bass to listen to? Check out our staff-collaborated EH DnB playlist!