The music of the NES-era can easily be divided into categories by companies and composers. For Capcom games, composers like Manami Matsumae and Takashi Tateishi wrote soundtracks that were filled with rolling percussion and inspiring techno ballads. Regular Konami composers Miki Higashino and Kinuyo Yamashita produced songs with complex solo work and melodies, reminiscent of hard rock and classical music. And over at Sunsoft, Naoki Kodaka and his team were using the NES sound chip to make music unlike anything else on the console.
Using the channel typically reserved for percussion, Kodaka and other sound designers at Sunsoft decided to run bass samples instead. The resulting sound was unique to the many licensed games produced at this developer, and was colloquially known as the “Sunsoft Bass.” A great example of this method can be heard in the rather oppressive Sewers theme from Fester’s Quest.
The heavy Sunsoft bass notes are present right from the start of this track, creating an ominous mood. While the frustrating controls and absurd difficulty of Fester’s Quest already causes an atmosphere of tension, Kodaka’s soundtrack further enhances this feeling with its dark and constant bass sound.