Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack
|Album Title||Catalog No.|
|Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack (Japan)||PCCG-00357|
|Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack (US)||2090-Fall97|
|Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack (Europe)||Art.-Nr.: 94009|
Wow, this game brings back some memories. My first game for the Nintendo 64 was Super Mario 64, and even at that young age, I noticed and loved the music in it. When the game was released for the Nintendo DS as a launch title in 2004, I looked for a soundtrack, and saw that it was very rare, despite being released in . Luckily, a friend sent it to me, and now, since Square Enix Music Online needs some Mario coverage, I thought it’d be nice to do a review of this memorable soundtrack. So, let’s get to it.
Sadly, most of the themes on this soundtrack aren’t even themes. They’re mostly just sound effects. Take the first track for example, “It’s a me, Mario!” All it is is Mario talking for four seconds, though is a quaint addition for those wishing to revisit the game. The next track is a remix of the main Super Mario Bros. theme. It’s actually a nice rendition of the classic theme with a feeling of preparation created through accompanying percussion use. The next few tracks are among those short themes I earlier mentioned, but we then are introduced to the so-called, “Super Mario 64 Main Theme,” which is the theme played during the “Bob-Omb Battlefield” stage. It’s an awesome theme filled with jazzy flair and wit, although I am still wondering why it’s called the main theme. Hmmm…
Onwards, we come to the “Slider” theme, which you hear during the Princess Peach slide, the Penguin slide, plus more. A catchy and playful tune, it’s not a highlight of the soundtrack, but sustains game use well. Next is the castle theme. It is nicely orchestrated so that it is very fitting for the royal area of the game, but also has a sense of fun and unpredictability. Played incessantly during the game, its charm despite this demonstrates Kondo’s ability to craft melodies that, while catchy and pleasant upon first listen, remain enjoyable even when looped over long periods of time. Skipping the next “sound effect” theme, we come to “Dire, Dire Docks.” If my memory serves me right, this plays during the Jolly Roger Bay stage, and its flowing ascending arpeggios and ethereal synth melody makes it ideal for representing water. When I play this on my DS, I always go here, just to listen to this beautiful and fitting theme.
Next we go to one of my favorite area themes on this soundtrack, entitled “Lethal Lava Land.” With a crackling fire in the background, the Indian-influenced main melody corresponds cross-rhythmically with numerous repeated motifs and percussion beats. Like the previous theme, this one fits the stage as well and is interesting musically. Its complete opposite, “Snow Mountain,” features an excellent beat-driven melody and a great development and bridge section to provide a very playful sound overall. Skipping over the very creepy synth vocal-led “Haunted House” and the hackneyed but effective “Merry-Go-Round,” the next worthy track is “Cave Dungeon,” a remix of the classic “Underground Theme” from Super Mario Bros. An upbeat remix of the original classic with more interesting cross-rhythms, percussion use, and thoughtful development sections, it’s definitely not one to skip over.
Towards the end of this soundtrack are the Bowser Themes. Prepared by the fast-paced “Stage Boss,” the percussion and soft instrumentation of “Koopa’s Road” provide a great start to this theme and gradually crescendo in an atmospheric and rock-tinged way to the blaring end, where the theme then loops. A great listen and my personal favourite addition to the soundtrack. As for Bowser’s actual theme, it’s a very ominous track that catches your hear to keep listening for the 2:30 it plays. Fusing a heavy metal feel with oriental melodies, it probably could’ve been better and longer, but is definitely not something to pass over. Ahh, I’ve heard many arrangements of the next theme, “Ultimate Koopa,” which is the final Bowser’s theme and even more evil-sounding than the previous one. Played with an organ, the melody is explored within the framework of Baroque-oriented polyphony; the instrument, lush textures, and unforgettable melody all make this unmissable.
As for the very long list of sound effects that appear between “Piranha Plant’s Lullaby” and “Stage Boss,” most are skippable, but there are highlights. In the list are two ‘power-up’ themes, the winged cap theme, “Powerful Mario,” and Metal Mario’s theme, “Metallic Mario,” both of which are very good, but short themes. Their placement before the conclusion of the soundtrack is obstructive and unpleasant, despite sounding reasonable in theory. The final three tracks are just a short ending demo theme, along with an end credits theme and a different version of the Piranha Plant lullaby. Overall, not such a bad way to end a pretty good soundtrack. I was hoping they’d throw in some arranged or reprises of some themes, like “Super Mario 64 Main Theme,” “Inside the Castle Walls,” “Powerful Mario,” or maybe even “Koopa’s Road” or “Ultimate Koopa,” but never mind.
The Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack provides the complete experience of Super Mario 64‘s sound profile. With a mixture of sound effects, filler themes, and truly good themes, on a stand-alone basis, everything is very hit-and-miss, particularly considering only half the item have any degree of thematic development. However, the soundtrack also hosts a collection of timeless classics that never lose their sheen — the ‘main theme’, “Dire, Dire Docks,” “Inside the Castle Walls,” “Lethal Lava Land,” and the three major Koopa themes — and is also noteworthy for its reprises of classic themes from Super Mario Bros. The game works incredibly well in the game, no doubt, so the sound effects should not be regarded as ‘bad’ in the slightest, but perhaps obstructive additions. The soundtrack is brief and, from the perspective of musicality and development, inconsistent, but highly accessible, often musically interesting, and filled with nostalgia. It features only a handful of classics, but what classics they are. I’ll leave it to personal contemplation as to whether they’re worth spending literally hundreds of dollars for, though, as this album is amazingly rare in all versions.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris McGuffin. Last modified on August 1, 2012.