A Puzzling Playlist: Comparing TrickStyle’s different soundtracks
I’ve been cleaning up my video game music collection for, oh, nearly six years now and I finally got down to the stragglers over the last few weeks. These are albums with annoyingly vague track titles like “Track 1” and “Track 30”, or things that I’d started organizing and then found to be way more complicated to sort out. TrickStyle happens to be both and so it got pushed almost to the end.
Like Pee-Wee putting off the snakes as he’s rescuing all the other animals from the flaming pet store, the time finally came to grab the slippery, wriggling TrickStyle soundtrack(s) and run screaming out into the streets. That’s what led me to Archive.org and the revelation about Acclaim’s email service that I posted last week.
By complete happenstance, as I started digging into things I landed on the exact right archive from October of 1999 where Acclaim’s Scoop Jackson made a very hey-it-was-the-90s style post about TrickStyle being featured at Disney’s Epcot Center in a showcase of future technology. At the end of the “high-tech cool” post Scoop mentions that some “new dope songs” had been added to the TrickStyle homepage and that “they’re MP3s and they’re free!”.
This was all the provenance that I needed for the TrickStyle soundtrack I’ve had in my collection the longest. Although Archive.org doesn’t have the actual files, the number and naming match my MP3s so I knew it was a match. Also, I so loved seeing video game music get released (especially for free) back in those days and I would’ve grabbed these quickly as I was already interested in the game. Ironically, I never spent much time playing the game even when I could easily have burned it to a disc for free, but I’ve enjoyed those seven tracks for decades ever since.
That brings us up to now when I grabbed both a dump of the music from the Dreamcast disc and the free soundtrack that was added to the 2017 re-release of the game on Steam by Throwback Entertainment. “Finally! I can make sense of this stuff,” I thought. But as I started playing them side by side I realized that all three sound different with unique intros on the tracks from the web and slightly extended rhythms in the dump and the re-release.
I’m terrible at discerning differences in music by ear but looking at the waveforms, the changes are pretty clear to see, at least on some of the tracks. Both “Track 6” and “Track 7” have different intros than the web versions, and even some of the loops and breaks are differently paced. That’s why it was maddening at first to hear the same tunes but just a little bit different. In the end I couldn’t bring myself to delete any of them and so now I have three separate albums from a game that I still have no desire to play 22 years later. Classic game music fan reaction.
You may think all this was pretty exhaustive but there’s still one TrickStyle mystery to poke at and it surrounds hip hop and electronic artist, DJ, remixer, and producer Kurtis Mantronik. Across Europe the game’s marketing and even its box art proudly boasted “Original In-Game Music by Kurtis Mantronik”. In North America there’s no mention of his name and the credits in the manual list only Richard Beddow for “Game Music”. I imagine Mantronik was more well known across Europe than America at the time but if he were involved you’d expect at least a mention in the back of the book, right?
I’ve yet to find a scan of the PAL version but in searching I stumbled upon a game collector’s guide that mentions there are three different releases of the game with only the manuals being unique. Fantastic! Is it possible the deal with Mantronik fell through and he never produced any music for the game? Did he turn in the remixes that were ultimately released on the web and not included on the disc? Or were the updated manuals intended to share credit with Beddow who, honestly, probably did the majority of the work on the music anyways?
Maybe after this post goes up I’ll link each of them and see if it jogs any memories and, hopefully, doesn’t dredge up any beef.