“My Music” – Analysis of a SMASHING Soundtrack: World Map (Pikmin 2)

Track: World Map (Pikmin 2)
Remixed in: Brawl
Game of Origin: Pikmin, Pikmin 2
Composition Supervisor: Hajime Wakai
Arrangement Supervisor: Yasunori Mitsuda
Prominent Instruments Used: Bagpipes, Flute, Acoustic Strings, Piano, Bass, Drums, Shaker

Its arrangement came together in a very smooth and lovely way.

-Masahiro Sakurai

Source: Smash Bros. DOJO!!; (1/9/2008)

I’ve been wanting to start a series where I “analyze” the arrangements in the Super Smash Bros. series. I’ve always loved Smash’s soundtrack: so much talent and love is poured into these remixes of beloved tunes, resulting in a score that is truly something to behold. In these posts, I will be examining some of my personal favourite arrangements – ones that stand out for their musical greatness, uniqueness, or nostalgia factor. I’m going to try to delve into why the composers might have approached the arrangement in that particular way: why they changed certain elements to make it more fitting for a fighting game, or how a genre switch or choice of instrument might reflect the series from which the song originates. Hopefully it will add a little insight to some of these awesome tracks.

To kick off this little series, I’d like to start with my definite favourite arrangement from Brawl – “World Map (Pikmin 2)”. The name of the piece is actually a bit misleading, as the majority of this song is the melody from the original Pikmin‘s map theme. The first 14 seconds are taken from the beginning of the map theme from Pikmin 2, but most of the arrangement is derived from the original game. These songs blend together quite well as both are in triple metre. Both have been sped up to create a more appropriate tempo for a fast-paced battle.

Before I delve into the analysis, let’s start with a brief breakdown of how the instrumentation and composition shifts throughout the piece:

0:00-0:14: We start with a statement of the World Map theme from Pikmin 2 on the bagpipes. Such a unique and unusual choice of instrument, yet it really works – but I’ll get into that shortly.
0:14: Now we transition into the melody from the original Pikmin‘s map theme. The flute is a natural choice to lead, it has a very charming, natural feel that suits the outdoorsy and fantastical environment of the Pikmin series.
0:29: The bagpipes return to accompany and harmonize with the flute’s melody. In my opinion, it flows really beautifully.
0:44: Soft strumming and pleasant strings emerge as the melody begins to “wind down”. The acoustic strumming in the background adds to the rustic and outdoorsy vibe.
0:57: The “winding down” leads into a lovely, soft statement of the main melody. The accompaniment becomes much more reserved, with some simple pizzicatto, toned-down percussion, and light strumming.
1:12: To transition back to the introductory melody, we hear a pensive rendition of the “Something Peculiar” motif from Pikmin 2. Light use of percussion, soft piano, and tremolo strings give it that “peculiar” feeling.

The composition was overseen by Hajime Wakai, who worked on the soundtrack for the Pikmin games. It’s also worth bringing up that the arrangement supervisor for this piece is Yasunori Mitsuda, a guest composer in Brawl and Wii U/3DS whose other arrangements include “Vs. Marx”“Forest/Nature Area”, and “Mii Plaza”. Mitsuda’s arrangement of the Pikmin World Map theme displays his compositional style in all of it’s glory. For a glimpse into Mitsuda’s own style, let’s look at some pieces from his most renowned work, Chrono Trigger. These games exemplify Mitsuda’s ability to charm readers with magical and whimsical pieces (see: Yearnings of the Wind), but also his ability to deliver rich, powerful music as well (see: Chrono’s Theme). Mitsuda’s musical richness comes in full force in the beginning of this arrangement  – the Pikmin 2 segment, with triumphant bagpipes, percussion, and strings – yet this track also shows his softer, wistful side in the second statement of the melody. Moreover, it’s interesting to note that Mitsuda himself has stated that he is influenced by Celtic music (source), which may shed some light on the unusual choice to use the highland pipes.

Personally, I think the bagpipes are a great choice for this arrangement. It creates such a great vibe that fits with the atmosphere of Pikmin. Beautiful, wistful, adventurous, mysterious – it’s just really lovely. Yes, it is a bit of a juxtaposition, but perhaps that is what makes it so appropriate to the Pikmin series. This is a bit speculative, but I feel like the instrumentation was chosen to reflect the nature of the Pikmin games and the worlds that Miyamoto created. In fact, Sakurai himself stated that this arrangement “conveys the remarkable Pikmin world” (source). For instance, the unconventional choice of instrument like the bagpipes reflects a sort of juxtaposition within the Pikmin games: such a tiny little hero and his tiny little army are juxtaposed against a massive world filled with massive threats. The contrast between the loud, imposing drone of the highland pipes and the soft whistling of the flute evokes this image. The percussion – shakers, as well as what sounds like some sort of bongo or conga – instills an “exotic” feeling, which fits Pikmin‘s narrative of exploring a foreign and unknown world.

The nature of the Pikmin games are also reflected in the structure of the piece as a whole. It fluctuates between being very rich with intense musical colour to being quite soft and beautiful. This really sums up Pikmin to me, a series that can be both very dangerous and daunting, yet very peaceful and enchanting at the same time. It could also be interpreted as a reflection of the Pikmin series’ cycles, such as the cycle between day and night. The song makes you feel like you are playing Pikmin, an experience which alternates between hard work and facing adversity – carrying treasures, strategically taking down foes, tearing down walls or building bridges – and simply pausing for a moment to step back and take in the beautiful scenery. It really creates an amazing feeling when listening to this song – in the words of Sakurai, “it’s nice”! (source)

All in all, I think this is an extremely effective arrangement. This post should give you a decent idea of what I want to do with these review/analysis posts. I’m not yet sure how frequently I will post these analyses; we’ll see how it goes. Either way, hopefully it’s been an interesting read for somebody out there!


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