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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Song of the Week! 26 August 2017

For this year's last pick of August, let's dig out some tracks that resound with Namco's gaming library once more... quite literally too, given the subject matter!

 Susume! Driller (すすめ!ドリラー) -- Old --
Version /
Taiko 3-x3 (216)-x2 (216)
Taiko PS2 1x4 (162)x3 (216)-x2 (216)
 Taiko 3, Taiko PS2 1
 Namco Original -> Namco

 Susume! Driller (すすめ!ドリラー) -- New --
All-x3 (216)-x2 (302)
 Taiko 4

The lowest-rated Oni/Donderful in the entire Game Music catalog, Susume! Driller is one of the earliest representatives of said music genre in Taiko games whose genre flip-flopped to the prototype 'Namco' categorization in which were put all track that could be associated with the company's former gaming history, be it for original or arrangements.

What we have here is one of the main themes that have been featured in the Mr. Driller (ミスタードリラー) series, whose debut was set with the eponymous Namco System 12 arcade game, dated October 1999. Originally thought out as the third main iteration to the popular Dig Dug series, the game puts the players in the shoes of a driller, who has to venture his/her way to the bottom of an underground cave by drilling blocks of different colors, while being careful not to be squashed by the surrounding blocks and to periodically refill the personal oxygen reserve to prevent deaths by asphyxiation. The highly-positive recognition of the first title made it so that the Mr. Driller brand could branch out as its own series, counting over a dozen title releases to this day that range between arcade staples/ports, console-exclusives and region-exclusive mobile releases.

Susume! Driller is the main theme of two Mr. Driller games: the 2001 arcade game Mr. Driller Great (ミスタードリラー グレート, known in the Playstation port as "Mr. Driller G") and the 2002 Nintendo GameCube-exclusive Mr. Driller: Drill Land (ミスタードリラードリルランド), both of which being released only in Japan. The main melody - composed by resident Namco artist Go Shiina (椎名豪), is the same in both games, while the original song from Mr. Driller G was actually a lyricised piece sung by singer/voice actress Mitsuko Horie (堀江美都子), which is the one featured in Taiko gaming.

Despite bearing the lowest-rated Oni/Donderful variants in the entire Game Music-related genres, there's still something of value worth mentioning in its two iterations of max-difficulty charts, with the oldest one being the same as the Futsuu mode in all its appearances and its more recent variation in Taiko 4 sporting some of the rarest 4 and 5-note clusters ever featured in the 2-star Oni difficulty tier!

 Drill Fighter Go Go DigDug (ドリルファイターゴーゴーDigDug)
Allx4 (141)x5 (213)x6 (293)x7 (398)
 Taiko Anime 2, CD Anime

We've talked about the "son" of a former Namco digging-related series, and now it's time to digress about its gaming father, thanks to one of the NOs of the 2nd Taiko Anime compilation! From the song's title down to its lyrics, this Namco Original is themed after the fortunate Dig Dug (ディグダグ) series, which also was born in the arcade grounds by a 1982 arcade title by the same name.

Running under the Namco Galaga arcade system, the original title also spotlights a driller as the main character, whose objective is to go underground to eliminate the bright-colored monsters that are infesting its tunnels by either inflating them to death or by hurling rocks above their heads. The series' protagonist -the eponymous Dig Dug- went on to be later known in the Mr. Driller series as the father of Susumo, Mr. Driller's main character!

While Namco had the rights to port the game and its sequels from 1985 onwards, the original license for home system porting was held by different  companies during the original game's first years, as Gakken realized an hand-held version in 1982 and Atari ported the title into ten of its many consoles, from Atari 2600/5200 to Vic-20 and Commodore 64, among others. Compared to Mr. Driller, however, Dig Dug got far less sequels, counting the 1985 direct arcade follow-up Dig Dug II, the 2005 Nintendo DS title Dig Dug: Digging Strike and the 2001 PC release of Dig Dug Deeper by Infogrames, the company that is the current owner of the post-bankruptcy Atari's remains.

In line with the other Namco Original tracks that were introduced in Tobikkiri! Anime Special, Drill Fighter Go Go DigDug features an all-star cast from composers and performers from the anime sphere, including Yuriko Kaida (貝田由里子) as the lyricist and Hironobu Kageyama (影山ヒロノブ) as the singer; NAMCO SOUNDS-related personalities also shine through this track, composed and arranged respectively by Yuriko Keino (慶野由利子) and Jesahm (自営山).

For our second digging-related game-y track of today's feature we come across yet another primate in overall Taiko gaming, as this is one of the three songs featuring no big notes (with a final big drum roll), together with Michi from the J-Pop genre and the arcade-exclusive GM track Shooting Star. Bearing the very same BPM value of Susume! Driller, Drill fighters subjects its players to a barrage of small clusters spliced in quite closely to each other, giving out a suiting hand-switch training ground for console players who aren't accustomed to high-speed charts yet.

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