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[RECIPE] Using Surge for 8-bit videogame sounds (long)
Why should I read all of this?
Well, you don't. Thing is, most information about this topic is spread out over forums and videos. Reddit has (hopefully) better longevity, plus you won't have to SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON.
Get Surge here: https://surge-synthesizer.github.io/
I've constructed some patches that aim to emulate sounds typical of the NES. You can get them here:
These aren't exhaustive and mostly serve to demonstrate some of the principles described in here. Patch names from the zip file are written in italics.
There's a README.txt included that instructs you how to load them in Surge.
Can I use something different than Surge?
Of course (well, not the patches, of course)! However, you'd have to look at how the principles work on your synth or plugin of choice. I've successfully made C64- and NES-style patches in NI's Massive, and Serum is also very capable. Ideally, you have something with sufficient envelopes or sufficient control over them.
Dedicated plugins like Plogue Chipsounds https://www.plogue.com/products/chipsounds.html or libraries like https://impactsoundworks.com/product/super-audio-boy/ (and its variants) - or even expansions like the 8-bit Era for VPS Avenger - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRSeLyywM_s can be used as well, and then most of the work is already done for you. However - they're not free, and you won't really be learning anything ;)
http://www.ymck.net/en/download/magical8bitplug/ is however free (and open source!). Still, what I want to demonstrate first and foremost here are the principles of creating such sounds.
Audio for videogames
In the mid 90s, consoles like the 3DO, Playstation and Dreamcast finally achieved the pinnacle of realism - true CD-quality audio. Literally - because this music was on a CD that could often be played back in an ordinary CD player.
This music would be played in the background, and careful looping/crossfading would enable a game to keep playing the song without requiring too much room on the CD. Sound effects were stored as game data, and played back via different means.
PCs could use sound cards like the AWE32 which could store samples (for marketing purposes, they were called "wavetables", which is not correct) and while they weren't CD-quality realistic, they were still a lot better than the FM-based AdLib cards that came before.
Before that time, consoles often had a dedicated sound chip on board, or even used the CPU to generate sound directly.
So, What Are 8-Bit Sounds / Chiptunes?
Terms like "chiptunes" and "8-bit sounds" are often used interchangeably, and without much care. There's lots of opinion and arguing about it possible, too, so what follows is merely my opinion. I have found this pretty workable, though.
8-bit computers such as the NES (and the Gameboy, which is closely related) and Commodore 64 generate basic waveforms with a so-called Programmable Sound Generator (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmable_sound_generator ) . The C64 has a dedicated chip called the SID chip, the NES uses the Ricoh 2A03. To me, they're the most interesting because of their rich cultural legacy, ubiquity and versatility.
Other computers/consoles such as the Sega Master System also have such PSGs - but in those cases, all the waveforms are plain square waves - so they're not as versatile. Most of the techniques mentioned here still apply and if you stick to square waves, you can compose music in that style as well.
Some computers allow you to use clever programming tricks that quickly vary the frequency or perform tricks with the envelope (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06ltXd-FrSM ) - but that's beyond the scope of this text; mimicking this is better done with a dedicated emulator, or something like https://www.julien-nevo.com/arkostracke . In other words, (ab)using certain features to achieve crude sample-playback is not the target of this write-up.
What about the Sega Genesis/Megadrive?
The Genesis is a 16-bit console which uses a Yamaha FM chip. While for certain simple FM sounds Surge can be used, something like Plogue's chipsynth MD https://www.plogue.com/products/chipsynth-md.html is a better option. For freeware, there are some 4-op emulators like VOPM - https://www.kvraudio.com/product/vopm-by-sam , and if you don't want your plugin folder to become too big, you could even try Dexed - https://asb2m10.github.io/dexed/ and get pretty close, too.
While music made for these consoles could be called "chiptunes" (the OPL is a soundchip after all), the aesthetic is sufficiently different to put these in their own category. Not only do you get a lot more variety in the timbre, you also have increased polyphony, on the Genesis you also get the PSG from the Master System. Oh yeah - also rudimentary sample playback!
What about the SNES?
The SNES uses (low resolution) samples instead of basic waveforms. It's also a 16-bit console. In terms of aesthetics, this sets it apart from the whole 8-bit world.
The good news is that the format of SNES sounds is much more easily translated to standard MIDI files. The SPC files that are basically the songs on the SNES contain all the necessary samples (which can and have been extracted individually for use in a SoundFont) and the actual notes. For that, see http://snesmusic.org/v2/
They're also easily translated to tracker files - see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTUR9IVwIck where a SNES SPC is converted to a FastTracker file.
What about the Amiga?
The Amiga 500 has a soundchip called Paula. It is capable of playing back 4 channels of samples (yes - more is possible with clever hacking, but I'll stick to the basics for now). In terms of aesthetics, it's closer to the SNES, but still has its own kind of flavor to it - especially because it didn't have to obey any corporate decisionmaking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eclMFa0mD1c has a representative sample.
Then again, you'll find sound files for the Amiga (for the ProTracker software) that are referred to as "chiptunes" - like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1QQpGla_nw . So, what about those?
Instead of using all the memory for samples, these use only single-cycle waveforms. These don't take up a lot of space, and are therefore ideal to smuggle in small pieces of code - for instance, anything that defeats the copy protection mechanism in a game. In terms of aesthetics, this means that they're much closer to "upgraded" Commodore 64 songs - the fast chord arpeggios appear in these tunes as well.
In order to compose songs for soundchips like these, you could send the instructions to the chip directly, by means of writing machine code (assembly) that would periodically update the chip's memory.
However, developers soon built their own authoring tools to make this easier - basically, to generate the required assembly automatically. After all, it's easier to read a melody as note names like C-E-G than as a bunch of hexadecimal codes. Additionally, tasks like vibrato or portamento could be automated as well, so you wouldn't have to calculate every step in between yourself.
These authoring tools spit out a file that contains song data and sound data. A "sound" in this case would be a set of instructions that would determine the waveform and additional properties like the envelope curves, and the "song" would instruct at which pitch and volume it would play back. If the song would be in the background of the game, the game would contain a playback mechanism which would periodically update the sound chip's memory.
The soundchip itself would read its own memory, and based on the contents of that memory it would play back a note at a certain pitch and a certain volume. By writing new instructions to it every so often, you could create melodies; by doing this rapidly, you could create more complicated sounds. Most percussion sounds are almost little pieces of software themselves.
Since these authoring tools were so different, it's not always possible to translate it back to a general tracker format of sorts.
The interface of these trackers isn't very DAW-like (unless you use something like Renoise). For the NES, you have FamiTracker ( http://famitracker.com/ ) and for the C64 you have Goat Tracker ( https://cadaver.github.io/tools.html ). You can learn how they work - but what if you don't want to put in all that effort, and just have some cool 8-bit sounds?
Aesthetics and limitations
Limitations are sometimes frustrating. They're also important; they can allow you to focus on what's important, let you exploit workarounds and clever tricks that make the end result all the more impressive and rewarding, and leave a lasting impression on the final work.
One important limitation of these sound chips is the polyphony. Often, you get only 3, 4 or 5 notes to play with - barely enough for chords. In a tracker, this would mean 3, 4 or 5 tracks - and each of them only capable of playing back a single note.
A single note and less than a handful of tracks doesn't seem much, until you realize that in a single track you don't have to use a single sound. This means you can cram a kick drum and a snare drum on a single track, and often fit a bassline in between as well. You would basically switch really quickly between presets.
A modern equivalent would be the Elektron Analog Four which can use parameter locks to completely change a sound from one step to the next.
This has an important influence on the end result. Of course, you can sacrifice a second track for the bass line, but then you'd only have drums, bass and melody - and nothing in between.
If you wanted chords, you could use up all 3 tracks at once - but another method would be to quickly arpeggiate between notes. Instead of playing C-E-G at the same time, just quickly flip between them. This results in a very distinct effect that is often typical for compositions on the Commodore 64.
Should you care?
With DAWs allowing as many notes of polyphony as you could possibly desire, most people care only about the aesthetics of the sound, but not so much about the limitations. Or, they'll just use the sound in isolation while the rest of the track uses more realistic instruments, or more capable synthesizers.
This is ultimately an artistic choice. For the most authentic result - as in "this totally could've been in a NES game!", you'll have to respect the limits of the chip. For a throwback, you don't. After all, games such as Shovel Knight (which obviously refer to the graphic aesthetics of the NES) put aside palette and layer limits when convenient.
Something that plays a role in games but not in your compositions is that in games, one sound channel was responsible for playing back effects - a little ka-ching if a coin was taken, or a "whoomp" if the player character jumped. The background track would then have to drop one of its instruments so that this sound could be generated, which could ruin a carefully constructed counterpoint or effect. This is not applicable if all you want to do is make music "inspired by".
Besides polyphony, another glaring limitation is the lack of any effects. Fortunately, they can be simulated. Already mentioned was the use of an arpeggio to simulate a chord, but what about other effects?
To simulate chorus, you'll need two tracks playing the same melody. By slightly varying the pitch of one track, you'll create a lush, animated effect. In music, this is often reserved for solos and lead instruments. Such a variation can be done simply by detuning, or by continuously updating the oscillator's pitch by means of an LFO.
In the patches, DoublePulse demonstrates this - and adds an extra octave.
On the Commodore 64, which is capable of pulse-width modulation (PWM), continuously varying the pulsewidth of the oscillator would result in a lush sound. Combining several of these running at different rates results in a massive wall of sound. Sadly, the NES can't really do this as you'd need smooth transitions between the pulsewidth amounts - see also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl9v8gtYRZ4
Simulating delay can be done in various ways. The most obvious (and wasteful) is to create a second track, copy the melody, and shift the melody a number of steps forwards, while lowering the volume of every note. This creates an overlapping delay where the chasing note can play simultaneously. Every copy of the note is identical to a delay "tap", but indefinite repeats are not possible.
A more cost-effective way of doing this is by keeping each note repeat in a single track; if the sound has a fast decay and is short in duration, copying the notes in-track (which is easy in a tracker but harder in a DAW) and lowering its volume.
An even more cost-effective way is applying an LFO with a downwards saw wave to the volume of the oscillator. In the patches, ForestLead demonstrates this concept.
Reverb can be implemented as a "cloud" of delays that all return the signal at a lower volume and a later time. It also requires considerable memory - the earliest digital reverbs could sound nasty because of this, and it was a dark art to get the most out of this. If you want to read more, check https://valhalladsp.com/2015/06/19/slides-from-my-aes-reverb-presentation/ but basically, for a somewhat decent reverb you'd need almost as much memory as the entire system had at that time, and sufficient processing power. Wayyy too expensive. Only with the SNES you'd get something like a reverb, and it sounds... well, typical, I guess? You could check https://impactsoundworks.com/product/snesverb/ but since the SNES is not considered 8-bit here, mixing and matching is an artistic (but not authentic) choice.
To mimic reverb, you'd lower the volume of a note after holding it for a while. The patch ReverbPulse demonstrates this concept.
Here we get to an important limitation on most analog synthesizers - they lack programmable envelope stages. If I want to have a sound that remains at full volume for 0.3 seconds, then sustains at reduced volume for 0.5 seconds, then goes silent - well, you need something more powerful than a plain ADSR for that. Luckily, Surge allows us to use and combine LFOs in envelope mode that do have proper hold stages. Even better would be a "one-shot" option which means that the envelope trajectory is followed after the key is pressed (regardless of whether it's held or not), but that's not available. By just not holding the note indefinitely, you can get reverb; the brute-force option is to use the DAW's own automation to mimic a timed volume drop.
To make sounds a little more exciting, you could add fast pitch transitions. These would create a quick octave "blip" at the start. BonusStageLead and CutsceneLead both use this.
Surge allows this because its LFOs can act as even more capable envelopes than the main envelopes themselves. In the envelope section, the first "D" stands for "Delay", and the "H" stands for "Hold". By setting the modulation amount to +12 semitones, it's possible to create melodic sounding blips.
For more advanced flourishes, you could combine multiple LFOs-as-envelopes - each with a longer Delay at the start, and a different modulation value. This requires some precision - if one of the two doesn't stop exactly at the right moment, you get a very brief spike in the pitch since the control signals will be added together. An even better option is to use a step-sequencer, and Surge offers this as well - but sadly, its values can't be quantized. Massive's Stepper modulator is better in this regard.
Still, the AggroLead patch demonstrates the concept, and gets close to a Commodore 64-like arpeggio.
Noise generators on synthesizers tend to be monophonic. Noise is a random signal - adding two random signals together simply gives randomness, but twice as loud. Noise can be achieved with a simple circuit ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_generator ) but another option for microprocessors was to use a pseudo-random generator - or even worse, a set of samples stored in ROM, if a PRG was too computationally costly to implement.
As a consequence, such noise - if played back at a lower frequency - doesn't sound like white noise anymore. Since the NES didn't have filters, the low rumbling of an explosion would have to be achieved by slower playback.
Surge has both "proper" white noise (see the "N" slider in the oscillator mixing panel), and S&H noise (which by default sounds more like the kind of noise you're familiar with on the NES and C64.
For the S&H noise oscillator, moving the "Sync" slider to the right turns it more into white noise.
SimpleDrums (and to a lesser extent, SimpleHihats) uses S&H noise. You might recognize SimpleDrums as something close to the sound you'll hear in Sonic 3 "Knuckles' Theme" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T89V6XJ0as (while the Genesis/Megadrive is not considered 8-bit, the PSG from the Master System that's used as a secondary sound chip is!)
Drums and percussion
Drum sounds on PSGs often involve use of multiple channels and complex modulation. The easiest way out is to just sample the drums from existing games. Especially for the C64, this is much, much easier - because of the use of multiple channels (noise, square) simultaneously, it becomes a whole matter of record-keeping to see whether you're allowed to use those other notes on another track. For the NES, most percussion sounds were (IMO) rather basic. I've included SimpleKick and SimpleToms as examples.
Snare drums can be created by combining noise with a square that has a simple decaying envelope applied to the pitch, but often that square part was even omitted.
With the option to play back samples (the timpani in Super Mario 3 for instance), it simply became a matter of economics - do you use multiple channels for complex percussion, or do you keep things simple?
The chips used in these 8-bit computers weren't exactly hi-fi; they had obvious limitations in terms of frequencies they could play back. Going too high would result in all kinds of weird aliasing effects.
To simulate this, Surge has the Sample and Hold (S&H) filter type. This is a bitcrushebitreducer. By adding it as part of the chain, you automatically get that added dirt, and you can leave the cutoff in place. BasicPulseLead and BasicSquareLead gives this audible edge to the sound on higher notes.
There's one special case: the NES' typical triangle bass sound (AliasTriangleBass). Here, the cutoff (S&H sampling rate) is keytracked, which means it moves up with higher notes and down with lower notes.
On an oscilloscope, the triangle waveform of the NES looks very "blocky". Why this is the case, I'm not certain, but it might be due to the DAC. Let's say you can have your pulsewaves, but they can't smoothly fade in and out - the volume can only be controlled in 16 steps or so. To simulate a triangle wave, you'd take a pulsewave and on every step of the waveform, you'd increase/decrease the volume with a simple counting mechanism. This gives you the "blocky" result, but the crude steps also cause an additional higher pitch to appear; this is basically aliasing.
Instead of using a sample with all the "blocky" parts, I opted for a clean triangle with S&H. The end result is the same - better, even, since you're not requiring someone to install custom samples, and you get full control over how much aliasing you want.
For even more authenticity, feel free to add some constant background noise - powersupply hum, or TV interference hum. It's better to do this in a separate track, because the noise is constant and can be shaped better (think of sidechaining it to the notes you play).
With limited waveforms, composition becomes incredibly important. Just like a player piano can play inhumanly complex pieces, computers can do this too - so if you have enough memory, you can make a very complex piece of music, flipping between instruments, adding all kinds of flourishes, and going hog-wild with complex chord progressions.
Ultimately, this goes back to the limitations mentioned before; with memory restrictions and several "levels", you'll have to create a musical loop that won't start to grate too much over time. If there's no such thing, compose whatever symphony you want.
The worst case of bait-and-switch is IMO Solstice - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScW77tAMOgE . The intro soundtrack is one of the best I've ever heard on the NES - but the rest of the game has a very simple loop. I guess all the effort went in the intro.
Commodore 64 games sometimes have the same problem; the (intro) music was often more spectacular than the game itself. However, the C64 with the ability to use multiple floppy disks could potentially store more (varied) music data.
You keep talking about the C64. Where are those patches?
I'll post a separate zip file in the replies eventually (or make a follow-up post), but I haven't finished them yet.
Do you have a Youtube channel / Soundcloud / Twitter / whatever to learn more?
No. I just post here from time to time about stuff that's interesting to me/easy enough to solve quickly. Not planning on turning this into a business, and Youtube doesn't need more tutorials. I think "studio secrets" are mostly gatekeeping, which is why I want to give away what I know or find out freely. Youtube is slow - you can't easily skip parts - and the comment section makes it the opposite of interactive, so if something's not clear, just ask.
Can I PM you with questions?
Rather not, ask them in this subreddit. I can not guarantee replies, or even timely ones - but most importantly, I don't know everything, so use the power of the collective.
Krodiv's awesome all encompassing grand and victorious all rounder guide.
Before you start:
My first advice to beginners is to start slow. Choose a series that has already been translated for about 100 to 500 chapters at the most. It will help you in finding out if you like translated novels or not. It will also help in being a good gateway drug for you; the addiction is real. Next, I suggest a novel that is well recommended by others. In other words you should jump on the bandwagon of a popular series. For this you can check out (http://www.wuxiaworld.com/qidian-charts) for a small collection of the most popular series in china as of right now.
My beginners recommendation:
More than anything, I suggest beginners start off with Coiling Dragon, or RE: Monster mostly because that's how I really got into translated novels. Both are western based and have easy to read passages that don't require much knowledge of certain cultures. Look below for these two titles.
What types of novels are there?
Firstly, there is fantasy and Sci-fi. Sci-fi is generally unified but has some slight divergences within them that aren't very noteworthy. As for fantasy, there are two types, western and eastern fantasy. Eastern are biased in the orient, while western have a much more European feel to them. Chinese novels tend to have a eastern base while Japanese novels tend to be more western. Though there are a few exceptions to this rule. The easiest to start off with in my opinion is one that has a western base and then try out a eastern base novel. I for one started off with a Japanese light novel then moved towards Chinese novels as my go to. You can check out my list below for a novel that interest you just read the tags below the title to see whether or not it interests you.
How I started reading translated novels:
Firstly, let's start off what got me into reading translated novels. Firstly, I had read tons of manga over the years. I already liked eastern culture for its amazing imagination. I then got introduced to the light novel scene with Mahouka. It completely blew my mind. I became a monster just devouring tons and tons of web series. I slowly just started with just JP light novels like RE: Monster, No game no life and then slowly diverged into Korean novels like LMS. Then I stumbled upon Chinese translated novels. The very first one I started was Martial god asura. At first I thought that the way it was written was somewhat bland, but then I slowly understood the great DAO of Chinese translated novels. The way of writing is very concise, very spot on and to the point. This doesn't mean that there isn't any description, on the contrary, it is very descriptive. A whole new realm unveiled to me. I got on to wuxia world with Coiling Dragon next, boy that was a fun ride (got any insights maaang). After comprehending the total profundity of the multiple scrolls and scriptures from wuxia world. I found an OG series (Doulou Dalu)that is exalted by many throughout the realm of /noveltranslations. Then time took over and i just kept on reading. It became an integral part of my day and the reason why I decided to put this guide together.
Against the gods
Tags(reincarnation, martial arts, harem, Chinese, cultivation, Doctor MC, Treated like trash)
Synopsis by alyschu:
A boy is being chased by various people because he alone holds some kind of treasure. He jumps off a cliff to not let any of them have it and wakes up in the body of a boy with the same name in another world. Fortunately, he has kept the treasure he ran off with.
The story start up is really nice in the fact that it builds up character development right away. The fight scenes are really action paced and descriptive. Character relations are very clearly defined. Much face is not given. Reaction chapters are top tier. Cliffs are so high that it makes me want to run Google translate onto the raws. Over all I would rate this series as 8.5/10 and very good for beginners.
Chaotic Sword God
Tags (reincarnation, martial arts, Chinese, cultivation, lone wolf for a while)
Jian Chen, the publicly recognized #1 expert in the underworld. His quick sword techniques reached perfection and no one could defeat it. After one battle with the exceptional expert, Dugu Qiubai, who disappeared for a hundred years, his body died and he deceased. After death, Jian Chen’s soul was reincarnated into a foreign world. He experiences many things, life, death and everything in between. Join us for a journey!
I still have not finished nor caught up with this series so my comprehension is lacking (Ch 187 so far). But I can say that there is defiantly potential for binge reads for this book in particular. I really like the MC and his very straight forward approach to things. I haven't finished it yet, but if I had to rate it so far, I would say at least a 7.5/10.
Tags (martial arts, Chinese, western setting and names, cultivation)
Empires rise and fall on the Yulan Continent. Saints, immortal beings of unimaginable power, battle using spells and swords, leaving swathes of destruction in their wake. Magical beasts rule the mountains, where the brave – or the foolish – go to test their strength. Even the mighty can fall, feasted on by those stronger. The strong live like royalty; the weak strive to survive another day. This is the world which Linley is born into. Raised in the small town of Wushan, Linley is a scion of the Baruch clan, the clan of the once-legendary Dragonblood Warriors. Their fame once shook the world, but the clan is now so decrepit that even the heirlooms of the clan have been sold off. Tasked with reclaiming the lost glory of his clan, Linley will go through countless trials and tribulations, making powerful friends but also deadly enemies. Come witness a new legend in the making. The legend of Linley Baruch.
Wheeeeeeeeeeeew~! This right here is a super dank novel to read. The beginning, middle and end of this series showcased such great linear progression that had me thinking, "This sure is awesome". In all of the books I have read, I never dropped or stopped reading this till it was finished.I rate this at a solid 9/10. Really good for beginners too and for sure on my top 5 list.
(Chinese, cultivation, martial arts, reincarnation, romance)
Tang Sect, the most famous martial arts sect of all. By stealing its most secret teachings to fulfill his dreams, Tang San committed an unforgivable crime. With his ambition attained, he hands his legacy to the sect and throws himself from the fearsome "Hell's Peak."
But he could have never imagined that this would reincarnate him in another world, one without magic, martial arts, and grudges. A land where only the mystical souls of battle lay.
The continent of Douluo.
How will Tang San survive in this unknown environment? With a new road to follow, a new legend begins...
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew~! This is one of the first few novels I started off with. It is really good for character reactions, secrecy, and how great the progression of story goes. THE CLIFFS ARE TOP LEVEL CLIFFS. The entirety of the series is EXAULTED by my opinion. It also has great following with many likeable characters and interactions between them.This is in my top 5 for sure with a score of 9.75/10.
Galactic dark net
(sci-fi, martial arts, Chinese, some virtual reality, galaxy wide setting)
When the last prodigy level esper on Earth disappeared, Earth was in deep trouble of becoming another planet’s colony. The ordinary Han, with his intelligence and hardworking character, was able to make a fortune after “accidentally” stepping into the world of dark net, later purchasing an esper power crystal that brought him the ultimate power that changed the fate of the universe.
I recently started this novel because I wanted more Sci-fi in my life. It doesn't disappoint. Setting and timeline are both awesome. I really like how the MC isn't op by himself when he starts off but rather becomes op by those who are closely connected to him. The story is still being translated and is also in my top 5 list. I recommend this novel for those who want to try out a novel for the first time because it is easy to read (no intense daoist terminology).
Hard core OPNESS
(Magic, transported to another world, NSFW, HARD CORE, western setting)
Most people pray for good health, a loving family, and to win the lottery. I asked “Can you send me to a game-like fantasy-style world? It can’t be too unrealistic, but also, it would be nice if I was immortal to some degree. Oh yea, no rape or slavery either, cause then I’ll have to spend the whole time trying to build a perfect society, and I’d rather not have to deal with all that nonsense. No other players, cause that always creates a ton of annoying drama; I just want to have a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable time.” Three years later, after I had completely forgotten about all that… well, better late than never I suppose. The moral of this story, is to be careful what you wish for; also, cuteness is justice, so don’t complain if adorable bunnies beat you to death and devour your corpse.
This one I just pick up on a whim because of the funny title. But surprisingly it became a really nice binge series for me. If anything the MC is obnoxiously funny with little regard for surrounding. Power is gained a bit too fast though. Also, don't read this at work..... its heavily NSFW~!
(magic, cultivation, romance, Chinese, Heart moving)
I Shall Seal the Heavens is currently one of the most popular xianxia stories in China. It is about a failed young scholar named Meng Hao who gets forcibly recruited into a Sect of Immortal Cultivators. In the Cultivation world, the strong prey on the weak, and the law of the jungle prevails. Meng Hao must adapt to survive. And yet, he never forgets the Confucian and Daoist ideals that he grew up studying. This, coupled with his stubborn nature, set him on the path of a true hero. What does it mean to “Seal the Heavens?” This is a secret that you will have to uncover along with Meng Hao!
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew~! This is my top rated book but it will not be good for beginners at all. If a person on the qi condensation level takes a pill meant for core cultivation, the person will explode. In other words, this book is good for your 4th, 5th, or 7th book to read. Don't jump straight into it because of how much mystic shizzz is in it. You will be confused by terminology although Patriarch deathblade does do a really great job of explaining things. This book is a solid 10/10 IMHO. But wait after you have read a few books to bask in the glory that is I Shall Seal The Heavens.
(Martial arts, Korean, MATH AND MARTIAL ARTS!, Formations)
Cho Ryu Hyang was good at math from a young age. When he enrolled into the The Theoretical Maths and Martial Arts School, the teacher, Jo Gi Chun, recognized Cho Ryu Hyang’s talent immediately and took him in. One day, Cho Ry Hyang found a book in the library known as the “Moon Edge Flower Algorithm Magic”. Through the book, he met a legendary individual known as Zhuge Liang…
This is an interesting twist to most martial arts novels because the MC sees math and uses it to fight. Unfortunately I have only read up to ch 67 or so... The beginning stages only. It certainly seemed to have potential but I haven't read it in a while so my comments will be refrained for this novel because of my lack of comprehension. Will not rate because I need to read more of it but its really nice to see a Korean martial arts webnovel.
Kuro no mauo
(magic, transported to another world, Japanese, torture?, western setting)
Kurono Maou is a high school student who is sensitive of his sharp eyes and bad expression. No girlfriend but gifted with friends in his own way, he had been living a peaceful life. But one day, without any reason, Kurono was attacked by a mysterious headache while in the literature clubroom and fainted. When he finally awoke…….Swords & magic, filled with monsters, an orthodox different world summoning.
This novel was really nice for the reason that it had western fantasy mixed into it with certain aspects like church vs the world for subjugation and etc. The character development of the MC and supporting characters are also quite well done. I like how the MC makes goals for himself and tries his best to achieve it.Quite a nice novel to read with easy flow of reading 7.75/10
Legendary moon light sculptor
(virtual reality, Korean, martial arts, game, western setting)
A man forsaken by the world, A man who is a slave to money and is also the man who is known as the legendary God of War in the highly popular MMORPG Continent of Magic, Weed. With his coming of age, he decides to say goodbye to his CoM account, but the feeble attempt to earn a little something for his time and effort ripples into an effect none could ever have imagined. Through a series of coincidences, his legendary avatar on CoM is sold for 3.1 billion Won, bringing him great joy, only to be plunged back into despair at losing almost all of it to vicious loan sharks. With the revelation of earning money through gaming, he rises from the abyss with a new found resolve and steps bravely forward into the new age of gaming, led by the first ever Virtual Reality MMORPG, Royal Road. This is the legend of Lee Hyun (Weed) on his path to becoming Emperor with only his family loving heart, his boundless desire for money, his unexpected mind, his diligently forged body and the talent of hard work backing him.
This is the first Korean novel that I have read. It really is nice for the adventure and normalness of its logic. It was really light and had a feeling of connection to the MC because of how cheap he is. But then again, the MC is dumb in other regards which is annoying but the character development is good too. It isn't apparent, but his surroundings slowly change to reflect the change within himself.
Martial god asura
(cultivation, NSFW, Chinese, Martial arts)
Regarding potential—even if you are not considered a genius, you can still learn Mysterious Techniques and martial skills. Anyone can be enlightened without a master. Regarding strength—despite having a myriad of artifacts, you may not defeat my army of World Spirits. Who am I? All of the world’s living perceives me as Asura, but I was ignorant to such a thing. I thus ascend to be the Martial God as Asura.
This was the first Chinese novel I have ever read. The beginning was awesome. The ruthlessness of the MC was just shocking for me but then I slowly changed my opinion because of the law of the jungle. I recommend this for people who are looking for short chapters to read but a gradual progression of story.
(transported to another world, Japanese, magic, western setting)
After his unfortunate death, Tomokui Kanata has been reincarnated as a member of the weakest race, a goblin named Rou. However, Rou has retained his previous life's memories, as well as an ability that allows him to gain strength and abilities from eating. He also possesses a unique evolutionary tree. Now, Rou has made a promise to himself that he would live this life to the fullest. In this alternate world of survival of the fittest, events unfold with competent subordinates and comrades. - A long-awaited survival fantasy by Komikaraizu!
This book is nooice. Its written in a journal entry format with description whenever there are important fight scenes with lots of action in more ways than one..... My opinion on this novel is that it's great for beginners because of the varying chapter lengths to keep things fresh. Also, the story and mystery aspect are also cool.
(virtual reality, western setting, Chinese, NSFW )
To save his terminally ill little sister, Ling Chen enters the newly released virtual game world and joins a small gaming studio comprising entirely of women. From now on walking upon his path towards the pinnacle. An ancient, evil item almost forgotten by history, the “Lunar Scourge” helps forge his unsurpassable legend, and causes him to unknowingly step upon a path that is destined to be punished by the heavens, the way of the shura.
Not too much to say for this novel, It does have virtual reality with a nice game like plotline, but the weird thing is that the game and reality are closely connected in more ways than one would think. Also, the description of fight scenes and other aspects are top notch..... I still need to catch up with this one.
Skyfire Avenue is a street that is 2048 meters long. There are 168 stores here, and each of the owners of the stores is an extremely powerful mutant.
Skyfire Lane doesn’t permit any vehicles or any robots to pass through it, much less mecha. Even the patrolling police must patrol on foot, the most ancient of methods. That’s because this is a street for pedestrians, a lane for nobles, hidden away within this high technology world.
Lan Jue, the greatest of the mercenaries, codenamed ‘Zeus’, has secluded himself here in Skyfire Lane after the accidental death of his wife. The name of his shop is: “Zeus’ Jewel Store”. And here in Skyfire Lane, he has been given a nickname: The Jewel Master.
I unfortunately didn't get to read much of this novel. I really was looking for a Sci-fi novel at the time but then I got into ISSTH. I hope someone else is able to do justice to this novel as it seems as if it has quite the following.
(magic, martial arts, Chinese, cultivation)
In a galaxy far away, there is a kid without innate inability to practice internal techniques. So, in order to gain the respect of his father, he resolutely chooses to follow the more difficult and painful path of practicing external techniques. As the years go by, he grows up, but what really changes his life is a mysterious meteoric crystal stone -- the Meteoric Tear. This stone fuses with the young man's body unnoticed, and he seems to undergo drastic transformations as a result. After that, everything is changed. Eventually his father knows that the son for whom he hasn't really shown a lot of consideration possesses astonishing abilities. And there's a lot more to come.
The beginning of this series is totally cool. The sheer determination of the MC made me feel ashamed of myself and made me want to improve my BODY BUILDING. The best thing in this novel is how its linear progression goes, similar to Coiling dragon (same author). This novel is a solid 8.5/10 up to where I currently am (middle of the book).
Tales of demons and gods
(martial arts, Chinese, cultivation, reincarnation)
Killed by a Sage Emperor and reborn as his 13 year old self, Nie Li was given a second chance at life. A second chance to change everything, save his loved ones and his beloved city. He shall once again battle with the Sage Emperor to avenge his death. With the vast knowledge he accumulated in his previous life, he shall have a new starting point. Although he started as the weakest, without a doubt, he will climb the steps towards the strongest.
Cultivating the strongest cultivation technique, wielding the strongest demon spirits, he shall reach the pinnacle of Martial Arts. Enmities of the past will be settled in this new lifetime.
“Since I’m back, then in this lifetime, I shall become the King of Gods that dominates everything. Let everything else tremble beneath my feet!”
Just saying guys, reincarnation books are op. The MC gets best of the best starts that just snowballs to become the avalanche of the heavens. The MC for this book is really sneaky which makes me happy with reaction chapters. The progression is actually surprisingly fast because of hax reincarnation. I look forward to the future of this series. I rate this book up to this point at a 8/10.
(sci-fi, cultivation, magic, Chinese, transported to another dimension, magic, martial arts)
“Want to know the meaning of life? Want to live… a real life?” The world changes when you click YES. In God’s dimension, you have to keep getting stronger, keep evolving to survive one horror movie after another. Do you kill everyone in your way to reach the end as a lone king? Or fight along with your comrades and survive through the support of friends? Everything was just for staying alive. Until you find the secret of God’s dimension. Who is the real enemy?
I recently started this novel and daaaaaaaaaaamn~! its good! I really like how it jumps from one movie series to another constantly unfolding a bigger plot. I appreciate how well the MC is able to adapt to the world and how well he is able to transform his character so that he can survive. I also appreciate the Sci-fi and mystic cultivation fusion. It shows how much potential the series has because of how broad the foundation is. At this point, I'm only on volume 9 or so, but I would rate this at least 9/10.
The man picked up by the gods
Ryouma Takebayashi, 39 years old, found himself in a strange white room. The gods tell him that he has died and they are sending his soul to a different world, a world where magic exists.
This is more of a light read for me up to the current point that I am at (vol 13). I like how straightforward the characters are and how punctual and refined the conversations are between characters. I seriously learnt a thing or two from it. I really like to emulate the MC and his work ethics into my own life as well. Over all, this novel is a nice change from the usual LAW OF THE JUNGLE that other novels really have. Much more civilized. I rate this at 7.5 or 8/10 but then again, I still have more to read.
True martial world
(martial arts, cultivation, transported to another world)
With the strongest experts from the 33 Skies, the Human Emperor, Lin Ming and his opponent, the Abyssal Demon King were embroiled in a final battle. It ended with the Human Emperor destroying the Abyssal World and killing the Abyssal Demon King. By then, a godly artifact, the mysterious purple card that had previously sealed the Abyssal Demon King, had long disappeared into the space-time vortex and tunneled through infinite space-time, with a loved one of Lin Ming accompanying it. In the vast wilderness, where martial arts was still slowly growing in its infancy, several peerless masters tried to find their path in the world of martial arts. A young adult named Yi Yun from modern Earth had unwittingly stumbled into such a world and began that journey with a purple card of unknown origin. It’s a magnificent yet unknown true martial art world. This is the story of a normal young adult turning into a legendary peerless expert.
THE DAO OF THE BIRCK IS BREATHTAKING. This novel has some of the best reaction moments that make me cry from laughing. I really like the DAO OF THE BRICK. Over all, the MC is really likeable because of how he is able to find any way possible to exploit others lack of knowledge. I rate this novel at about 8.75/10. I want to give it a 9 but I also want to give it a 8.5. Therefore I shall settle for in-between.
Upgrade Specialist in Another World
(martial arts, cultivation, transported to another world, Chinese)
Just as a gamer found an overpowered skill book called ‘Item Upgrade’ in the hottest virtual reality role-playing game on Earth, something happened to the game’s system, causing his soul to leave his body and go to another dimension. Common sense dictates that he would be born anew then become the greatest overlord of this world by making use of his advanced knowledge. Not in this case! He was already dead. Only some fragments of his soul and that skill book managed to get into that dimension and merge with an ordinary common youngster called Bai Yunfei. This was the enormous Tianhun continent, where humans could be said to have no limits. There was a group of humans here who could cultivate the power of their own souls then control their bodies, the natural elements and even other people’s souls with that power! These special beings were called — soul cultivators. Come witness how the several fragments of the dead inter-dimensional traveler’s soul and that skill book, which was not governed by the laws of this plane, were going to help Bai Yunfei become a legendary soul cultivator and craftsman!
I like the characters and their sense of morality in this novel. I want more chapters though so I will abstain from rating it. The world seems to be much wider that it seems in this novel and I like the upgrade mechanic too. Also, THE DAO OF THE BRICK IS EVERYWHERE.
Light novels of interest:
No game no life
No Game No Life is a surreal comedy that follows Sora and Shiro, shut-in NEET siblings and the online gamer duo behind the legendary username "Kuuhaku." They view the real world as just another lousy game; however, a strange e-mail challenging them to a chess match changes everything—the brother and sister are plunged into an otherworldly realm where they meet Tet, the God of Games.
The mysterious god welcomes Sora and Shiro to Disboard, a world where all forms of conflict—from petty squabbles to the fate of whole countries—are settled not through war, but by way of high-stake games. This system works thanks to a fundamental rule wherein each party must wager something they deem to be of equal value to the other party's wager. In this strange land where the very idea of humanity is reduced to child’s play, the indifferent genius gamer duo of Sora and Shiro have finally found a real reason to keep playing games: to unite the sixteen races of Disboard, defeat Tet, and become the gods of this new, gaming-is-everything world.
I liked how this novel really gets into the game aspect of dueling. I haven't read this since the vampire mermaid arc. But it is a great book for how well it is able to narrate situations and circumstances. I rate this novel at 7.5/10.
Mahouka koukou no rettousei
The series is set in a world with an alternate history, where magic exists and has been polished through modern technology. However, the ability to use magic is determined by genetics, limiting the amount of magicians in existence. Following the Third World War, the world's superpowersshifted to these four nations: The United States of North America (USNA), New Soviet Union, the Great Asian Alliance, and Japan. In Japan, the magic community is informally governed by the ten master clans in lieu of the government. Due to the limited amount of magicians, they are treated as commodity and are forced to enter magic related schools and professions. Nine magic high schools exist in Japan; they each specialize in different aspects of magic and are just referred to by their numbers. The story follows Tatsuya Shiba, a bodyguard to his sister Miyuki Shiba who is also a candidate to succeed the master clan, Yotsuba. They enroll into First High School which segregates its students based on their magical abilities. Miyuki is enlisted as a first course student and is viewed as one of the best students, while Tatsuya is in the second course and considered to be magically inept. However, Tatsuya's technical knowledge, combat abilities, and unique magic techniques causes people to view him as an irregular to the school's standardized rankings.
I started off reading Japanese novels because of the anime from this. The anime ain't got squat on this book though mad house is after all mad house (season two never). I would recommend this to people who can dead with pseudo science since there is a lot of it in this novel. The MC is just HAX and it is very enjoyable to be able to see how he curb stomps scrubs. The likeable aspect of this is though still the pseudo science and the mystery of the siblings past and the uncertainty of their future. I rate this at 9.5/10 because I like pseudo science.
Sword art online
In the year 2022, Kirito (the main protagonist), a solo player who had the luck-of-the-draw to play the beta version, and the many other players of Sword Art Online (SAO) are trapped inside of a game, unable to logout; the only way to live is to win. Death in-game means death in the real world; tampering with or prolonged power outages to the Nerve Gear, the gear that simulates in-game character control by redirecting brain signals, also means death. To win means to defeat the final boss on the top floor; out of the original 10,000 players at the start, two years later, over 6,000 remain with 26 floors left to clear.
Similarly to monogatari series, I havent read the SAO books, but it's been on the top of Japans charts for so long for a reason; because they are great. Try it out and see how you like it.
The Monogatari series centers on Koyomi Araragi, a third year high school student who is almost human again after briefly becoming a vampire. One day, a classmate named Hitagi Senjōgahara, who infamously never talks to anyone, falls down the stairs into Koyomi's arms. He discovers that Hitagi weighs next to nothing, in defiance of physics. Despite being threatened by her, Koyomi offers his help, and introduces her to Meme Oshino, a middle-aged homeless man who helped him stop being a vampire.
I have seen the anime from this series, but never read the books. Though the books get nothing but praise too. I can't really comment on it much, but would say to give it a shot.