Classic SEGA Music: 10,000 Knives

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Comix Zone is the 1995 side-scrolling action-beat ’em up classic developed by Sega Technical Institute, an American-based subdivision of Sonic Team best known for their work on several Sonic the Hedgehog games, Kid Chameleon and The Ooze. Consistently praised for their unique and sometimes outlandish sense of style, STI often combined elements of pop culture, including music, film, and television, into their games, creating a melting pot of new and interesting ideas from which to draw upon. Nowhere is this influence more apparent than in Comix Zone, where it becomes almost immediately apparent upon booting the game up that the player is in for a unique experience.

Stylistically, Comix Zone borrows heavily from the Seattle grunge movement that was very prevalent at the time of the game’s release, with the main character, Sketch Turner, acting as the embodiment of all things ’90s. A freelance comic book artist, rock musician, and cool dude with attitude, Sketch is working late one stormy night on his latest comic book, the Comix Zone, a post- apocalyptic romp taking place on a war-torn planet Earth following a hostile invasion by aliens and mutants, when suddenly a lightning bolt strikes the book, releasing the comic’s antagonist, the mutant Mortus, into the real world. Mortus then traps Sketch and his beloved pet rat, Roadkill, inside the pages of his own comic book, where he must fight his way through panel after panel to defeat Mortus and escape.

After the break, we’ll dive right into this story and enter the Comix Zone.

Where it is heard:

The song is heard in the later underground sections of Episode 2, “Enter the Temple”, which takes place in an old and mysterious temple nestled deep within Himalayas. In order to reach the temple, the ever intrepid, if somewhat reluctant hero Sketch must brave the cold and barren landscape of the mountains before reaching an outlying village that connects to the temple. The village itself is nondescript in its location and significance, but aesthetically it and the temple borrow heavily many from Eastern influences, including Tibetan and Indian architecture, with Hindu and Buddhist spiritual symbols displayed throughout. Some enemies fought in the village will mention a tournament, where combatants must do battle in order to prove themselves worthy to enter the inner village and ultimately the temple. After being duped into competing in this tournament, Sketch makes his way down into the booby-trapped temple, which is home to the ancient and evil martial arts master, Kung-Fung.

The song itself is an interesting amalgamation of these and other influences, taking the more apparent hard rock and grunge influences and combining them with the more relaxed and soulful themes of the level, creating a very solid and evocative track, and certainly one of the highlights from an already very strong soundtrack.

Other versions: classicsegamusic


Game Boy Advance version

Comix Zone was ported in Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance in 2002, which was handled by Virtucraft, a relatively unknown developer whose previous experience had been creating several licensed games for the handheld. Due to limitations of the available sound hardware, the port was generally¬†plagued by poor and inconsistent sound quality, which is perhaps most noticeable in the music, which differs greatly from the Genesis/Mega Drive original. Though the same basic structure and chord progression remains intact, some parts of the original are notably absent, including the melody that plays throughout the bridge and chorus.


Sega Tunes: Comix Zone arranged version

The bridge is long now
I feel so blue now
She was rad
The echoes fade down
The silence so loud
She was rad

Hold me
Hold me

It’s getting old
10,000 knives and my back’s getting old
It’s getting old
10,000 knives and my back’s getting old
It’s getting old

She breathes so softly
The loss was one thing
She was rad
The past is here now
It lives with me now
She was rad

Hold me
Hold me

It’s getting old
10,000 knives and my back’s getting old
It’s getting old
10,000 knives and my back’s getting old
It’s getting old

A bonus CD under the SEGA Tunes label was included in the European Mega Drive and Windows PC versions of Comix Zone, consisting of six tracks from the game recorded by professional musicians in a hard rock/grunge style befitting of the game. All of the music included on the CD was arranged and produced by the game’s composer and sound director, Howard Drossin, who also performed guitars and vocals, as well as writing lyrics for all of the included songs. Drossin recruited several hard rock musicians and producers to work on the music, which was recorded under the name Roadkill, after Sketch Turner’s pet rat.

Closing Thoughts:

At a glance, it may be easy to pigeonhole Comix Zone as a product of a bygone era, too heavily ingrained in the ’90s sensibilities that inspired it, exemplifying everything that is wrong with America. That assessment could not be further from the truth. Comix Zone was a landmark title in both presentation, sound, and gameplay, and is a shining example of what the Genesis/Mega Drive was capable of in its heyday. Absolutely everything in the game, from the infectious and rocking soundtrack, to the well detailed backdrops and character sprites, the silly quips made by Sketch and company during the game, and the imaginative character designs just emanate pure, unadulterated style. Considered a cult classic today, Comix Zone remains one of the strongest titles in the console’s massive library of incredible games, and will not soon be forgotten. See ya!

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