There was one game that was released last year that I think without a doubt deserved the title of Game OST of The Year for 2007 (Even if Skyfall claims it’s generic action game music) and that was Super Mario Galaxy. That’s why in keeping with my recent Top 10 lists I wanted to talk about my favourite tunes from this wonderful OST. Let’s get started shall we:
The theme of the Battlerock Galactica Galaxy is definitely science fiction and with this space operaesque tune I think Kondo’s nailed it again. I think also that he wants to emphasize the size and power of the Battlerock station that you are going to be orbiting around and it also give that feel a bit too. With that little pulse going in the background it also kind of harkens back to the days of the cheesy science fiction themes that would have spawned something like this Battlerock and when you add in the march like feel to it emphasizes the danger of it as a space fortress. It’s also just the first of many great songs on the OST to listen to, but I wouldn’t want a Battlerock in my galaxy.
Beach Bowl Galaxy
Initially I did not like this one, but soon found that it grew on me. It’s a song that sounds kind of generic in the beginning (especially since it sounds like something you’d hear in Super Mario Sunshine which I finished about a week before playing Galaxy) but as it goes on it develops it’s own calypso beat style that is unique to Super Mario Galaxy and gets you right into the atmosphere of the stage. I guess it pays when your stages have more then one theme going for them eh?
Well it’s more of a remix then anything. This song shows me two things, one is just how incredible Koji Kondo’s skill must have been back in the day to make a song like this work on the NES hardware, and two, how just by combining this song with the power of a full orchestra he can give it a new lease on life. If the song sounded slightly ominous in Super Mario Bros. 3 then it sounds positively foreboding in Galaxy and captures that feel of a powerful armada being turned on you, it’s supposed to be a dreadful feeling (even if Mario doesn’t break a sweat) and it works arguably better then it did back in that stage because of the general structure of 3D Mario games. Now instead of 1 ship to walk across you’ve got several, but you’ve still got that classic theme that perfectly symbolizes the relentless march of the Koopa fleet to this day. Koji Kondo, I need to get your autograph some day.
I like waltzs and that’s what this sounds like to me, but Koji Kondo makes sure to capture the theme in this stage by giving it a classic haunting feel. It sounds eery and gives a feeling of emptiness and quietness as is fitting for the haunted house setting of the stage, and has just about the perfect tempo for it too. According to the wiki article the tempo thing was considered by Kondo in order to sync with the stage, sound effects and Mario’s movements and heck if it doesn’t show. One of the things I love about this OST is how it manages to capture the theme of a given galaxy, but doesn’t sound too generic in doing so.
It’s a big empty graveyard of junk for you to play around in and this slow laid back track seems to drive it home as well. The song also kind of reminds me of Dire Dire Rocks from Super Mario 64 a bit, but it’s definitely it’s own entity. At times the song has actually lulled me close to sleep a little bit and caused me to slip up on late nights of playing, but I say any song that can do that has something going for it because I have a permenant buzz effect going that also leads to insomia. Hooray for relaxing piano songs….especially these days with all that loud Punk Rock with it’s distorted guitars I’m forced to listen to everytime I step into an HMV.
Bowser’s Star Reactor
It’s the classic Koopa Road theme from Super Mario 64 (now a decade old game) remixed and boy was I glad to hear it the first time. The moment I recognized the song I was in the moment and I guess it just goes to show how good some of Koji Kondo’s classics were that he can get away with reusing them. The song still has that urgent feel that makes you think “boy I’ve got to get to the end of this level and beat the boss” and dare I say it gives the whole race to the boss an epic feel, as in true epic.
It’s one of the very first songs you here in the game, but it remains memorable, at least for me. A portion of it kind of reminds me of the 80′s Jeopardy theme for some reason, but then it gives way to strings and I don’t know it kind of makes me want to do a waltz. If there were any song that was appropriate for festival music in this OST it’s this one. When you think of all the stars that are falling during that open part and just the atmosphere of the scene it just works so well and brought a smile to my face the first time I played the game. I just kind of wish my cousin who was with me at the time was old enough to appreciate it.
Good Egg Galaxy
This song blew me away the first time, because I had honestly never had a send off to a first mission quite like it. You’re flying in over the stage for the introductory portion and then the second you smack down, boom it’s there and instantly your pumped and ready to go. The music in this game really get’s you right into it in how it’s tied to the flow of the stage. No matter what I was doing in the opening mission the music always seemed to match my movements and by the time I was done I felt I had just experienced one of the greatest gaming moments in my life. And it’s in no small way due to this very song. For the longest time I thought this was going to be my favourite tune, but eventually two other ones won out.
This one I actually have done a waltz to when nobody was around, shhhhhhhhh…… anyway it’s such a peaceful relaxing tune after some of the more tense stages that there have been times that I’ve just hung around the hub while humming this tune and swaying my head back and forth. This version is actually one of the earlier ones as anyone who has played the game knows it adds more power and instruments for every two Grand Stars you get and it’s difficult to say which one is my favourite. I think I like all of the versions because they help to give you the necessary feeling based on what stage of the game you are at. Again Koji Kondo seems to have considered almost everything when composing this OST.
Gusty Garden Galaxy
This is it, the surprise number one for me. I didn’t know it until partway through the game, but Gusty Garden Galaxy was destined to be the single best song I heard in video game music all year. It’s quiet refrains and powerful pushes (again they seem to be timed to when you are in the air by prediction) really send the OST into the realms of my all time favourites, none of which really include anything modern. I would almost dare to say this is my favourite video game OST of the decade in and of itself. Oh and that part starting at 1:34 and ending at 1:42 with the brass, that is the sound of pure bliss. Thank you Mr. Kondo
You know it’s soundtracks like these that make me want to rethink my theory that game music isn’t the same as it was during the days of Chiptunes. I think technological progressions have led to laziness in developers in pretty much every category of gaming and that doesn’t exclude music. Back in the old days with the limitations of systems like the NES, music composers really had to put a lot of effort in to get the maximum impact out of what amounted to little then a set of noisemakers, but nowadays CD Audio is the norm and you can really put just about anything in a game audio wise. Most of it just doesn’t sound as good or effortful to me, but people like Koji Kondo have been able to take what they learned from the more challenging days, retain it and even improve upon it. If only there were more game music composers like him, Nobuo Uematsu and Motoi Sakuraba who work with real instruments and work with them well. It takes talent and when anybody can essentially make an OST these days you get to see who stands out more and more.
I’ll leave people with one funny (or scary depending on how you look at it) story wherein according to a wiki article Miyamoto originally brought in several people to try and compose the theme for Mario Galaxy. One wanted a latin style, one wanted a Pop style (ick) and Kondo wanted an orchestral style. Miyamoto chose Kondo’s piece and the rest was history, but I’m left to imagine the horror of what Super Mario Galaxy with Pop Music would have sounded like.