At first glance, The Adventures of Bayou Billy may seem like an odd title to release on vinyl. The game itself, a 1989 release for the NES, was heavily panned by critics for its merciless difficulty and lack of functional controls. Hell, even I remember renting it from a local video store only to promptly return it after failing to beat the first stage. But much like a bad horror film can still have a memorable score, the exceptional music from Bayou Billy helps to forgive its lack of straightforward gameplay.
A short game calls for a short score, and Ship to Shore were wise to house this one on a single 7” disc. Even though it’s cut at 33 RPM instead of 45, the whole piece is quite easy to finish in a single sitting. An added bonus to listening all the way through is that you get to hear both the “Start Demo” intro and “Game Over” outro together, making the listening experience akin to playing completely through the game all at once, minus the frustration of having to restart levels.
Looking at each track on its own, “Ending BGM” is a clear favorite. The slow, ‘80s ballad aesthetic of the song and powerful bass line hook make it an 8-bit tune worthy of being played by a full band. The drum programming is also quite good, syncopating the hi-hat and kick drum to give it depth not found in most early Nintendo games. There’s also “Gun Stage,” another interesting track that features a bouncy, latin-inspired rhythm, complete with digital congas and claps. It’s all very compelling music; an impressive feat for such a limited system.
While the vinyl mix of the music is quite good, I did experience a fair bit of surface noise right out of the package, possibly due to the splatter pattern. That being said, this is 8-bit music so don’t expect the high fidelity of a film score. A few pops were still present after cleaning, but not enough to really cause concern.
Ship to Shore went all out on the packaging and presentation, giving a nod to the past while keeping the graphics nice and crisp. The cover art features a pixel art profile shot of Billy, looking as if he just walked off the set of Crocodile Dundee. Like most Ship to Shore releases, they include a gorgeous OBI strip with info about upcoming pressings. Inside is a fold-out poster, complete with extensive liner notes by Jeremy Parish of Retronauts. The poster itself is of Billy fighting a giant alligator with a knife, in vivid detail with heavy emphasis on shades of purple and yellow.
The vinyl is a stunning green and white marble, closely matching the green background on the sleeve. One side of the label is Billy facing the listener, while the other is a tracklisting and title. Ship to Shore also made sure to label which side is is which, something I love to see in a niche release (or any release for that matter).
The Adventures of Bayou Billy is available on “Swamp Green Marble” at Ship to Shore Phono Co.