Kid Icarus -Uprising- Music Selection
Kid Icarus -Uprising- Music Selection
March 22, 2012
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It’s quite odd to see the Kid Icarus franchise revived by Kirby and Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai, especially after 20 years since the last Kid Icarus game was released. Perhaps the success of Pit’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl brought about the franchise’s revival. Whatever the case, now in 2012, we have Kid Icarus: Uprising, perhaps the most anticipated game released for the Nintendo 3DS, and one that transforms the Metroid-esque platformer/shooter to an intense flying/rail shooter/action game, running the gambit of game styles. As a result, Kid Icarus: Uprising‘s soundtrack is all about action and light hearted adventure. Yet it is also one of Nintendo’s only full orchestral soundtracks and was an extraordinarily large achievement. Sakurai asked several composers from Super Smash Bros. Brawl to compose the soundtrack, namely Motoi Sakuraba, Yuzo Koshiro, Masafumi Takada, Noriyuki Iwadare, and Takahiro Nishi, all of them experienced veteran game musicians. Yasunori Mitsuda’s production studio also supported the game in several respects — focusing mainly on orchestration, to programming, to sound design. Club Nintendo released a one disc compilation of the best tracks for their members shortly after the game was released. However, this release was eventually superseded by a complete three disc commercial release. Can it possibly stack up?
A note must be made of the presentation of the music, both here and in the game. The game’s stages (denoted as “chapters”) are divided into three parts: flying stages, ground levels, and boss battles, and the music selections of the soundtrack follows suit. Flying stage music features typically fast-paced musical sections that transition quite cinematically to reflect the amount of things going on screen at a given time. Ground level music, on the other hand, are meant to be looping orchestral tracks, and typically take some type of musical idea introduced in the flying stage and expands on it, albeit at a slower rate. There are also only two boss battle themes. Now, in game, the music in the flying stages will often stop before transitioning into another dramatic section. This is reflected as well in the soundtrack’s presentation, which doesn’t have much smoothness in its transitions, and can be a bit noticeable from time to time. However, keep in mind that most chapters are only represented by one theme and others skipped altogether on this condensed promotional releases.
There are two major themes appearing throughout Kid Icarus: Uprising, both featured at the introduction of the soundtrack. The primary theme here is also the main theme from the original Kid Icarus, composed by Hirokazu Tanaka way back in 1989. This theme appears as early on as the game’s “Opening”. Starting with a small flying sound effect, this short cinematic jumps right into a rendition of the original Kid Icarus theme, lovingly orchestrated by Yasunori Mitsuda. There is also the menu theme “Main Theme,” which features the original central theme for Kid Icarus: Uprising, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. The theme itself is uplifting and celebratory, still possessing that Kid Icarus joy, while having some romantic elements in play, and an ethnic drumming going off in the backgrounds. The trumpets and string work are excellent here, and a soft spot in the theme which shows up briefly at the 1:15 mark, is incredibly lovely. While fantastic, note it is somewhat of a misnomer. Though it is the “Main Theme” of Uprising it is not the main thematic element in the game, as that spot actually goes to the aforementioned orchestral renditions of the original Kid Icarus theme.
As early as the tracks for the first chapter, listeners witness the juxtaposition of these themes. The flying theme “Chapter 1: The Return of Palutena” initially reintroduces the primary theme in bright, orchestral cheeriness, before becoming a dramatic fanfare piece. The music drops, and drooping strings signals Pit’s dive through the clouds. The music picks back up and becomes cheery and heroic as the first battle continues. Finally, the strings pick up quickly as Pit approaches the first ground level, the main theme returning as Pit finally lands. The secondary theme, by contrast, forms the basis of the first ground level based theme “Chapter 1: The First Town”, serving as the centrepiece of a very bold, heroic, and fun orchestration. Moving to the main boss battle theme, “Boss Battle 1” is one of the few compositional contributions by Yasunori Mitsuda. He uses a rollicking electric rock style, while continuing to advance its melody using the orchestra. It is a direct expansion on the second half of “Opening,” and it sounds fantastic, and is in my opinion one of the best boss themes I’ve heard. It’s a shame then that it is used for literally every single boss battle in game, becoming repetitive for anyone who’s played the game. Still, it’s perhaps much more enjoyable outside of its intended context. With these three tracks we have the majority of the styles used in the soundtrack, and believe me, they’re all just as fun to listen to.
From the second chapter onwards, the soundtrack proves very incomplete compared to the three disc commercial counterpart. “Chapter 2: Magnus and the Dark Lord” is more of a chaotic flying piece, using uprising strings before dropping once more, both chaotically and dramatically. It truly reminds me of some of Hollywood’s “Silver Age” movie compositions — it’s seriously that impressive. “Chapter 3: That Burning Town” on the other hand is a very fun and enjoyable adventure theme. Its most akin to “Chapter 1: The First Town” perhaps unsurprisingly, though perhaps I enjoy this theme more. Motoi Sakuraba returns to the head of his game in “Chapter 4: The Reaper’s Line of Sight”, incorporating both the primary theme and the “Reapers” alert from the original Kid Icarus. The music grows dark thanks to a deepened male choir and the music diverges to include orchestra, synth, and electric guitar, along with a sweet melody line. The guitar work, provided by Mitsuhiro Ohta is simply fantastic. The music for The Seafloor Palace and The Space-Pirate Ship are represented here, reinforcing that sense of adventure, but the versions featured here are not the definitive ones and the main soundtrack is much more impressive. The music goes dark once again and we are led straight into the Reaper Fortress thanks to the male choir. The other themes for these chapters are absent, while Chapters 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 are among the many skipped altogether.
Listeners do get a chance to enjoy the character-based themes composed for the soundtrack, though. With “Magnus’ Theme”, the tone shifts completely to full on heroism, featuring a beautiful string and trumpet based melody, which automatically makes this an early soundtrack highlight. Yuzo Koshiro truly shows his stuff with this piece, and it’s unfortunately never really developed upon later in the soundtrack. “Dark Pit’s Theme” combines jazzy elements featured in the Chapter 6 theme — absent here — along with some orchestral pounding elements to make the track more dramatic. It’s not my favourite rendition of the theme, but at least it receives a nod here. “Hades’ Theme” by Iwadare is dramatic and choir heavy. However, it’s a bit short and, in my opinion, it isn’t the strongest main villain theme. However, it fits with both the game’s campy behavior and well… the campiness of the Hades character himself. This character theme is another that works better in its arrangements on the main level themes.
Yuzo Koshiro composed Viridi’s theme, and thank goodness does it shine in “Chapter 12: Wrath of the Reset Bomb,” once again returning the orchestra into the mix. The music sounds absolutely fantastic, and really makes the nature imagery really shine out much more, while returning Pit to his heroism. Around the 1:30 mark, there is a fast paced section representative of a mid-stage boss fight, which continues for quite some time, almost leaning on repetitive. However, the constant change in instrumentations and melody really save it, and once again reminding me of numerous Hollywood-style chase scenes. At 3:17, the music drops and a massive explosion is heard, which although somewhat funny and very well placed considering the game’s context, it may take some listeners momentarily out of the music. I will admit, it’s actually a very good transition for the music, as opposed to the usual brief silence. The music returns to its usual drama and playfulness, before wrapping up. All things considered, it is an excellent track. “Chapter 12: Reset Bomb Depot (Exterior)” goes for orchestral tension and anticipation, with some jazzy elements thrown in for good measure. The orchestral breakdown at the minute mark is especially effective and a good pay off to the buildup. On the flipside, the interior version goes for a more dramatic interlude, building up more mystery than the previous track, along with an airy choir element. It sounds like a dark calm before the storm. Very well done by Koshiro.
After the unfortunate absence of Takahiro Nishi’s amazing “Chapter 13: Silence of the Moon”, the dynamics shift once again in Sakuraba’s “Chapter 14: Lightning Battle,” a super-fast rock-oriented track, with various dramatic orchestral elements scattered about. The electric guitar, once again provided by Mitsuhiro Ohta, states the main musical motif, along with several cool rollicking moments. The somewhat cheesy synth effects here are actually very effective as well. The track simply works, thanks to a bewildering sense of speed, and gloriously adapts Sakuraba’s signature style to a lighter setting. “Chapter 15: Mysterious Invaders” reflects an arch that involves aliens invading the Kid Icarus world. As a result, Koshiro’s track begins with a somewhat unnerving and creepy synth progression that sounds completely foreign to the soundtrack so far. However, soon a groovy synth line comes in, along with a 70’s styled orchestral melody, giving the alien feel a very cool and dramatic flavor throughout. At the two minute mark, we are given a new character theme for Pyrrhon the sun god, who is a macho, yet very silly and eccentric character. His theme is thus dramatic, but has a very fun and silly styled rhythm to it, like as if he were to be the main hero of this story… but not quite.
After the absence of the themes for yet more stages and entire chapters, the soundtrack headlines towards its conclusion with Masafumi Takada’s “Chapter 18: That Town Three Years Later: Little Girl”. The melody followed is very pleasant, and actually offers a very beautiful respite, featuring a fantastic violoncello solo. This slow rendition features a solo female voice and some synth thrown in the mix, that for reason is a bit too loud in comparison with the rest of the soundtrack. After this brief interlude, we go straight back into the rush of things, as Sakuraba returns for “Chapter 18: Three Years.” This track opens up with Viridi’s theme, which continues verbatim until around the minute mark, wherein it becomes more chaotic, until it finally settles down to reveal a brand new theme. During this last new story arc, we are introduced to the “Tragedy” theme, a very solemn and beautiful theme that represents a certain character’s change in attitude. For the first and sadly only time in the soundtrack, we get a wonderful soprano solo from Midori Sakai, which is simply amazing and combines very well with the tragic drama suddenly besetting Pit’s world “Chapter 19: Sanctuary of the Galaxy”, blending a “preparing for war” vibe with a touch of Eastern flare once again. However, the very annoying whistle like effect distracts from the whole experience.
The final stage themes featured here are “Chapter 20: Soul of the Goddess” and “Chapter 20: Destroyed Skyworld”. The former sounds like something out of an on-rails arcade shooter. Fast-paced techno and chaotic synths abound, with a brief statement of “Main Theme,” but otherwise no real melody. Not the best track, but an acceptable change of pace. The latter brings out the “Tragedy ” theme once again to the forefront, but not before spending the first minute and half on militaristic action, which sounds great and adds up to the tension. When the theme comes into play, it sounds magnificent, and truly seems to be the very end of the game. In fact, when considering it, this would make the perfect last stage theme and it is presented as such on this promotional soundtrack release. However, those who have played the game or own the full soundtrack will know that things don’t end there — there are in fact five more excellently scored chapters, all of which are skipped over here. Even the final battle arrangements of “Hades’ Theme” are completely absent. Even those “Chapter 20: Destroyed Skyworld” comes across climactic enough, the lack of the actual climax of the soundtrack will really spoil the release for most followers.
The soundtrack cuts to “Staff Roll,” another soundtrack highlight, which takes several themes present elsewhere on this promotional release and collects them together into a very well made suite. Starting off with the best version of the Kid Icarus main theme, it moves into the familiar and lovely “Dark Pit’s Theme”, before going into the adventurous “The Space Pirate Ship” theme, and later transitions into a great rendition of Viridi’s theme. We then have Pyrrhon’s theme and a lovely version of the “Tragedy” theme, before returning into one last version of the primary main theme, sounding off one last triumphant musical statement before bringing the game to a fantastic close. Sakuraba, you’ve done it again! But we’re not quite done. “I’m Finished” is a very short “game-over” fanfare that is actually… very impressive, and you don’t get that every day out of game over screens. Using an orchestral version of the original Kid Icarus game over jingle, the way it quickly transitions into an 8-bit version of said theme is absolutely genius. Finally, there’s Koshiro’s “HOME (Viridi)”, a menu theme that plays at a specific point in the narrative, and it is never used anywhere else in the game. And it is perhaps the most lovely and beautiful track in the game. It recalls the “All-Star Rest Area” from Super Smash Bros. Melee, and that is in no way a bad thing at all. Absolutely amazing.
This Japan-only Club Nintendo unfortunately includes only about a third of the tracks from the full soundtrack. It does a lot right, incorporating most of the major themes, efforts from most composers, and a range of styles. However, completists will find the compilation woefully incomplete, since it skips out entire chapters and even the climax of the game. It is unfortunate that the complete three disc release of the soundtrack was only made for a limited run and is no longer available. Nintendo, and Mitsuda’s record company Sleigh Bells, would be wise to release the complete soundtrack again and should localize the music with the help of Wayo Records. After all, this is simply the best soundtrack release Nintendo has ever done. It is no surprise why Kid Icarus: Uprising managed to win the site’s Best Score award in the Eastern category. It is the best modern Nintendo soundtrack, beating out the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and even Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which utilized all of the composers represented here. Despite some complaints here and there, it is a delightful and engaging soundtrack, which actually makes the game a joy to play. The music works both in and out of context, so check it out sometime in either format. It is truly worth the adventure. But definitely stick to the full release above this decent but all-too-brief compilation.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Julius Acero. Last modified on August 1, 2012.