As a quadragenarian (aka a member of the 40-49 age bracket), there are few things that can shock or genuinely surprise me. I must admit that the Internet has done a fantastic job of adding things to that list over the years. However sometimes I get a pleasant and unexpected surprise that I feel compelled to share with you.
|ScottyPedia often likes to lose himself in music!|
If you are a child of the 80s like myself, you will no doubt recall that the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 forever changed the gaming industry. As the first console that had legitimate worldwide mass appeal, the NES revolutionised an industry that had pretty much become stagnant by the mid-80s, producing graphics that were cutting edge and eye-catching at the time. Perhaps the most popular and enduring character in the Nintendo landscape is Mario, as introduced to us through the Super Mario Bros. game that came with each console. I am certain that many of you know the iconic Super Mario Bros theme and can recognise it from hearing just a few of the opening notes. Back then, the music was made up of MIDI sequences created by the legendary and prolific Nintendo game composer Koji Kondo.
|The original artwork for the 1985 release of Super Mario Bros.|
Where is the surprise though? Well, whilst on Facebook recently I received a "suggestion" to view a video that catalogued the musical evolution of the Super Mario theme through the years as the Nintendo consoles and Super Mario titles changed. Not really being a gamer, I was unfamiliar about these developments. At one point in the video I heard something that made me stop and replay that segment of the video several times over - an a capella version of the theme. Apparently it came from the game Super Mario Sunshine (2002) for the Nintendo GameCube - a game I hitherto knew almost nothing about before a few weeks ago.
|Super Mario Sunshine was released in 2002 as the first Mario-based title for the Nintendo GameCube.|
Nerd that I am, I initiated a hunt via the Internet to find this theme so I could listen to it in full. It took some doing because apparently this a capella theme only plays during a secret course within the game. My search led me to Smash Custom Music and I finally go to listen to it. Hooray for me! Hooray for you too if you want to listen to it as well, click here.
|Mario riding Yoshi.|
Mission accomplished? Not quite yet, there was another surprise in store. When I perused the list of available themes, I saw that several of them had a Yoshi version - one that played in the game if you entered the stage with Mario riding Yoshi (an anthropomorphic dinosaur). Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to sample one of the Yoshi versions after listening to the plain version. Well, I was blown away because: all the Yoshi versions of the songs feature one additional instrument - the tabla. There are some that might argue that it may be bongos (which admittedly does produce a similar drum sound) but I'm sticking with the tabla! Naturally this gives a very East Indian variation of the original melodies. You can listen to a medley of the plain and Yoshi versions of the Secret Course theme here (my advice would be to forward it to around 1:20 so you can hear the lead-in to the tabla transition, it is unexpected and awesome!).
|Mario is always leaping to and for stars!|
After hearing that, I naturally began to wonder about Trinidad and Tobago's national instrument - the steel pan. Over the years, Kondo has used pan music to affect a Caribbean feel to the scores in the Super Mario games and this game's setting is the fictional tropical Isle Delfino. So another surprise was in store when I encountered the Gelato Beach theme that featured steel pan as the lead instrument! You can listen to it here. I have one more surprise for you though ... there is also a Yoshi version of Gelato Beach! You can listen to that fusion of East Indian and West Indian vibrations right here.
|The Shine Sprite from Super Mario Sunshine.|
If you appreciate music and are interested, I would urge you to check out the site for yourself and listen to the theme songs there. In addition to the original in-game themes, there are also user-submitted mixes and remixes that cover a wide range of instrumentation and variations on some of the themes as well. One of my favourites is the Delfino Plaza theme. This is the original version here. Two of the remixes I'm partial to are the Brentalfloss Remix and the Nintega Dario Remix, both of which feature the steel pan (an instrument that is absent in the original version). And, if you like mellowed-out interpretations, this re-arrangment by Megalorganiste should tickle your fancy (as a piano fan, I especially like that piano drives this melody). Feeling to hear the full four-minute Megalorganiste version? Then click here!
|Mario, Yoshi and the whole gang on Isle Delfino!|
Feel free to let me know your thoughts about these musical gems and on video game music in general. Personally, I find that many small treasures of content such as these exist and happen to pass under our radar too easily. Hopefully I can help bring some of them out!
|The war is on!|