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TSB’s Hidden Title Track

Tecmo Super Bowl is teeming with easter eggs. We’ve already discussed things like penalties, unused stat screens, and the infamous False Start. Some eggs, though, hide in plain sight. TSB‘s Sound Mode, for example, requires no hacking or disassembly. Simply pressing Left + B from the main title screen brings up a small dialog box which allows the player to sample every song and sound in the game. Two songs, Track 32 and Track 1 (the game’s title track), offer a little extra to TSB players.

Cycling to Track 32 and pressing A plays a short, doleful tune which does not appear during the course of gameplay. It may have been intended to accompany the penalties which were cut from TSB, but even the game’s Music Director, Keiji Yamagishi, couldn’t recall Track 32’s intended use.

TSB's Sound Mode set to the Title Track

A second, lesser-known secret is found in No.1: TSB’s Main Title Track. Now, the theme itself is no secret. You can probably hum the whole thing, from its slow descent over a city skyline to its hard-hitting crescendo. Most players, upon reaching the Sound Test, skip over No.1. If you’ve  just sat through the title sequence, why listen to the song again?

Listen again, because buried in the title track is another Tecmo easter egg. Mr. Yamagishi hinted at it in our interview. He spoke of difficulty in creating TSB’s theme, saying he had to write and  re-write certain portions until he found just the right song.

So fire up your TSB, go to the Sound Test, and listen to No.1 in its entirety. Go on. I’ll wait.

Now, did you hear that? At the end, there’s 10 extra seconds of the title track that TSB won’t otherwise play.

With its driving bassline and orchestral-styled staccato, the clip sounds like an alternate ending for TSB’s title track. Perhaps the original title sequence included another scene? More likely is the extra music is meant to play over the copyright screen following the main title, but is prevented during normal gameplay by a stop command. We contacted Mr. Yamagishi, but he has no specific recollection of the clip. It makes sense, though. Scrapped fragments of penalties and graphics litter the TSB ROM file. It goes to follow that a rough draft song should appear as well.

That’s not all the title track has to hide, though. Without getting too technical, TSB‘s music engine uses memory address $700 to load its songs and sounds. Dave Brude, our resident Tecmo mad scientist, tinkered with $700 to seeing what sounds the game could make. He unknowingly forced the game to spill even more secrets.

He found a third version of the title theme. You know you want to listen.

What are you hearing? Well, think of the NES’s music chip as a 5-piece band: drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar and a rarely-used turntable1. This alternate version of the title track hidden in TSB‘s code keeps the drums, bass and rhythm guitar mostly unchanged. On lead, however, it swaps out Eddie Van Halen for Slash.

NES CPU
All NES music comes from just 2 pins on its CPU chip. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

Not only is the hidden version vastly different from the in-game title theme, it also uses the extra 10 seconds found in the Sound Mode version of track No.1. Taken together, we see  a clear picture of Keiji Yamagishi wrestling with the rock-styled music that would come to define the Tecmo Super Bowl series. Remember, the original Tecmo Bowl featured marching band music. We now see the true difficulty of changing from brass and woodwinds to screaming guitars and double-bass drums. With the assistance of today’s technology, we can strip back the paint to see the pencil sketches of Tecmo’s Mona Lisa.

These aren’t Earth-shaking discoveries, but these three versions of Tecmo‘s title track remind us that, even 25 years on, Tecmo Super Bowl still has secrets to tell.


NOTES:

1 Wait. Guitars, bass and turntables? Is the NES sound chip Limp Bizkit?! (I did it all for Tanooki! What? Tanooki! What?)

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Keith Good

Keith Good is a future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and 8-bit game geek. A perpetual optimist, he convinces himself every September that this could finally be the Cleveland Browns' year. He was once told to eff off by one of the Tecmo Browns. You can check out his other work at www.keithisgood.com and follow him on twitter @keithisgood.

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