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Music Monday: Pang

A game with three names, the cutesy Space Invaders meets Asteroids hybrid Pang is also known as Buster Bros. in the USA and Pomping World in its native Japan.

A healthy chunk of my youth was spent playing Capcom/Mitchell Corporation’s Pang in arcades, on Amiga (courtesy of a near-flawless conversion from Ocean France) and later PSone, on a value-packed disc along with its first brace of sequels.

An ageless test of reactions, timing and skill (based unashamedly on the 1983 Hudson Soft computer game Cannon Ball, converted to ZX Spectrum and released under the title Bubble Buster – that frame-rate though!), the Pomping World/Pang/Buster Bros. games remain equally fun to play in single or co-operative simultaneous two-player.

While the hectic, unforgiving original remains my favourite, both Super Pang (appropriately enough a fine, though slow-down afflicted SNES conversion of this one exists) and the quirky art-appropriating antics of Pang! 3 thoughtfully embellished the purity of the 1989 original with fun new features, imaginative level layouts, empowering pick-ups and ever more extravagant, delicious-looking food items to snaffle for big bonus points.

In fact there are more than three official Pang games, but honestly I have limited experience of the later entries in the series such as Mighty Pang (which I need to check out properly on MAME) and Pang: Magical Michael, so as such no real affection for their soundtracks to speak of even though from what I’ve seen and heard I know they boast some delightfully silly tunes that I could easily fall for.

Each of the Pang games features music capable of rising a smile and even, at its majestically cheesy highs (or lows, depending upon your taste for beyond ripe, actually starting to disintegrate and permeate your abode with its aroma fromage), a chuckle.

The opening bars of the Emerald Temple theme by Tamayo Kawamoto (who wrote  – credited under several different pseudonyms – some astonishing music for many of Capcom’s most famous early coin-ops). Her c.v. includes Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and as such is a shoo-in for a future Music Monday) from the first game always reminds me pleasantly of the smooth Sixties bossa nova of The Girl from Ipanema.

Amiga version:

Arcade version arranged (PSone/PSP):

My other favourite from the game that kicked off my Pangmania just has to be the optimistic BGM from the opening Mt. Fuji stages. Warning, this version contains a large helping of offensively reedy, tinny MIDI saxophone.

Arcade version arranged (PSone/PSP):

It’s only very short indeed but the dreamy Himarayas (sic) waltz (by Tetsuya Nishimura – best known as ‘Anie’, the guy who ported the CPS arcade sounds of arcade Street Fighter II to 16-bit consoles as well as composing the music for SNES Mickey’s Magical Quest – and/or Minae Fujii – a.k.a. ‘O-Jaring’ who worked on the likes of Duck Tales 2 and Mega Man 4) is my pick of Super Pang’s OST.

While the gently lilting melody belies the intensity and toughness of Super Pang’s slippy-slidey stages, it transports me back to a simpler time, both for me personally and for videogames.

Arcade version arranged (PSone/PSP):

Pang! 3 is a funny one. It comes from that brief period time when pre-rendered, pseudo-3D and in my opinion fiercely ugly characters came into vogue (think of things like SEGA’s Baku Baku (Animal)), before everyone realised that sticking with traditional sprite art was the aesthetically preferable option if you couldn’t afford polygons.

It’s also a weird game because of its atmosphere, scenario of classic art procurement and its, frankly, mad soundtrack.

But I love it; it’s Pang to the max with faster, more accessible gameplay and a very silly announcer who introduces characters such as the piratical “CAPTAIN HOG!”, Mexican bandit “DON PACOS!” and the mysterious, top hat and cane-brandishing “PINK LEOPARD!” (which I’m sure was charmingly misspelled in my PAL Super Pang Collection as ‘Pink Leopold’.

There’s precious little about Pang! 3 on the net that I can find, let alone the name of its composer – though there does appear to be a Flash version that you can play in-browser for free.

My first selection is this shocker that I still sometimes hear as I’m trying to get to sleep, some 17 years after first playing Pomping World the Third. Against the backdrop of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, this urgent and entirely apposite cacophony, replete with what sound like sampled shrieks. Just bizarre.

Arcade version arranged (PSone/PSP):

I also very much enjoy this, heh, highly sophisticated interval piece which runs during the between-stage respite as you are told which Van Gogh painting or Rodin statue you have recently acquired. Classical.

Arcade version arranged (PSone/PSP):

I highly recommend tracking down some Pang/Buster Bros. if you fancy some fun, fresh single-screen arcade action, and there are various ways to source the different games in the series.

An NTSC copy of the 1997 trilogy collection for PlayStation (or even the 2010 DS game) might take some tracking down and could set you back a few quid, but of course many of the solid home ports – as well as the original CPS ROMs – can be enjoyed through the wonders of emulation at your own discretion.

For my money, the best legal way to play Pang right now is via the Capcom Puzzle World compilation. Originally released for PSP in 2007, this works perfectly on Vita and won’t take up much space on your memory card, despite featuring all three of the Pang games featured in this article, as well as a damned good version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Capcom’s neat Breakout/Arkanoid style game Block Block. And all for under £7.

Evangelism completed for another week, I’m closing out this Music Monday with what I consider to be the most outrageously naff – and therefore unimpeachably cool – game over jingle in the history of all things, from the original Pomping World.

Arcade version arranged (PSone/PSP):

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