“My Music” – Analysis of a SMASHING Soundtrack: Kapp’n’s Song

Track: Kapp’n’s Song
Remixed in: Wii U/3DS
Game of Origin: Animal Crossing and Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Arrangement Supervisor: Shohei Tsuchiya
Prominent Instruments Used: Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Drum Kit, Brass Section, Vocals (Kapp’n’)

In the first post of this series, I analyzed my favourite arrangement from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Now, I’d like to take a look at my favourite new arrangement in Super Smash Bros for 3DS & Wii U: “Kapp’n’s Song”!

This remix draws from the various sea shanties that Kapp’n sings when ferrying the player character to and from the Island (known as Tortimer’s Island in New Leaf). They are simple songs sung by Kapp’n himself and accompanied by ukelele. The lyrics are often about Kapp’n’s life at sea, his poor luck with women, and other silly anecdotes.

Above: Kapp’n’s sea shanties are memorable for their humorous and often nonsensical lyrics

This arrangement is actually a combination of two of Kapp’n’s songs. The first is the tune from New Leaf, heard here. After this melody, the horns take over and play this version of Kapp’n’s song from the original Animal Crossing. You can hear Kapp’n’s regular speaking voice talking over top of this part – I think this is a reference to the fact that in New Leaf, Kapp’n stops mid-song to say a few things (you can hear that happen here). Then, in an really cool moment, the key changes and we return to the New Leaf Kapp’n’s song. At this point, the energy ramps up and the brass section goes full-blast. It’s really quite a treat to listen to.

This track really stands out to me for a number of reasons. The fact that the Smash developers chose to arrange this song was quite a pleasant surprise for me – I never would have guessed that Kapp’n’s song would get a full-out remix. The original song is just so simple, and isn’t really a video game song in the typical sense (ie: instead of being background music, it is an actual performance by a character in the game). It just personally struck me as an out-of-the-box, but also very creative, choice. I was quite excited when I first heard this remix in the background of the 4/8/2014 Super Smash Bros. Direct! Another reason it stands out is its genre. This song is arranged in a style that has not received much attention in Super Smash Bros.: ska! As it isn’t a typical genre for Smash, and may not be familiar to some, I’d like to briefly describe what “ska” is and look at the history of this genre. This will help us understand why this remix was created the way it is.

Ska is a musical genre that originated in Jamaica around the 1950s. It is a precursor to later Jamaican popular genres such as Rocksteady and Reggae – it shares many rhythms, albeit at a faster pace, with the latter. It is primarily derived from a style of Jamaican folk music known as “mento”, as well as Caribbean calypso music, combined with influences from American jazz and R&B music (source). It has the “walking” bass of American jazz music and unique, punchy rhythms of other African-derived genres. Broadly speaking it is quick and upbeat, and is primarily characterized by it’s emphasis on the upbeat, or “off beat”. Without delving too deep into musical theory, this basically means that every other beat in the song is accented. This contrasts with most other musical genres which emphasize the first and third beats in a measure, or, the “on” beats. In ska music, the off beats are usually marked with a drum as well as a unique rhythm on the guitar known as the ska stroke, or “the skank“. This “choppy” style of strumming creates a bouncy and energetic feel, and is unique to ska as well as it’s musical descendants such as reggae.


Above: An example of a typical “skank” rhythm in which chords on the off-beat (beats 2 and 4) are accented. Source: Wikipedia

Typical ska bands feature guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and a prominent brass section. (source). Moreover, ska is often divided into three main periods, the first being the traditional Jamaican ska scene of the 50s and 60s (known as the “First Wave”), popular among the Jamaican “rudeboy” subculture (source). The “Second Wave” of ska saw a new variation known as “2 tone”, which became prominent during the genre’s revival in the 1970s. This style of ska became popular in Britain, and was infused with the punk-rock musical style and cultural attitude that was widespread in 70s Britain – this resulted in a genre characterized by more aggressive singing/playing, a faster tempo, and a more “electric” sound. Examples include popular UK groups such as The Specials or Madness. Third Wave Ska formed mainly in North America (particularly the United States) during the 1980s and 90s, and is often categorized as “ska punk”. Examples from this era include more modern groups such as Streetlight Manifesto, Reel Big Fish, and No Doubt.

There’s a lot more to be said about ska’s origins and cultural significance, but I’ll stop the music history lesson here. Where does “Kapp’n’s Song” come into this? Well, it displays many of the elements just discussed: it has a prominent brass section and the characteristic “skank” rhythm (listen closely to the rhythm guitar – there are sharp, punchy chords played on the upbeat). Stylistically it fits somewhere in the Second or Third Wave due to it’s high energy and slightly more punk-rock sound – it uses electric guitars and a rock drumkit, for example. Personally, I find ska fascinating as a genre, so I think it is pretty cool that Shohei Tsuchiya chose to take the arrangement in this direction. I think this genre was selected because it’s Jamaican origins, as well as it’s bright and upbeat sound, are thematically fitting for the tropical island that the original song is associated with. It’s also worth mentioning that Japan has it’s own sizable ska scene, called “j-ska“.

All in all, this is my favourite of the new batch of Smash arrangements because of how striking it is in so many ways. Experimenting with unique and atypical genres is something I’d love to see more of in Smash. That’s all for now folks! Hopefully it was an interesting read. For further reading on ska, check out some of the links I sourced throughout the post.

Community Spotlight: ClefferNotes’ Fan-Made Breath of the Wild Soundtrack

It’s no exaggeration to say that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the most anticipated video game releases. Very few franchises can claim the same level of critical success and fan dedication as The Legend of Zelda – so naturally, the series’ upcoming Wii U and Switch installment has captured fans’ hearts and set the “hype train” in motion!

For musicians and video game soundtrack enthusiasts like myself, one of the most exciting aspects of Breath of the Wild is its musical score. The Legend of Zelda series has always been a musical powerhouse, boasting some of the most iconic and memorable soundtracks in all of video game history. The soundtracks of Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past, to name just a few, are renowned as some of the most effective, beautiful, and nostalgic video game soundtracks of all time. Ever since Ocarina of Time, music and musical instruments have played integral roles in the gameplay and stories themselves. Point is, the soundtrack is always an important element of each Zelda game, so many fans are eager to hear what Breath of the Wild has up its sleeve.

Composer and musician Chris Wonfor, also known as “ClefferNotes”, has taken to writing his own ideas of what Breath of the Wild‘s soundtrack could possibly have in store. ClefferNotes is a composer who creates digital orchestrations of many video game tunes, as well as his own original compositions. Inspired by the songs heard in the official Breath of the Wild trailers and gameplay videos, he has created many amazing compositions that would arguably fit right into the game. I’ve been a fan of Chris for quite some time, and these Breath of the Wild arrangements stand out to me as some of his best work. I’d like to share a few of them in this article.

Above: The song that started it all.

ClefferNotes’ first Breath of the Wild arrangement, “Beckoning Winds”, is based on the music from the E3 trailer. The E3 trailer theme caught many a listener’s attention due to it’s intriguing quality. In terms of instrumentation and musical style, it is quite different than most Zelda music – soft piano keys and unique reeds give it a distinct, Ghibli-esque feel. This change in musical feel compliments the seemingly different direction the gameplay itself is taking. ClefferNotes creates a beautiful interpretation of this new addition to Zelda‘s musical library.

Above: Just a day after the release of the second official Breath of the Wild trailer, ClefferNotes uploaded a fantastic version of the trailer’s background music. Now that’s impressive!

ClefferNotes does more than directly recreate the songs heard in the trailers – he crafts his own distinct renditions while still capturing that unique new sound that has got so many Zelda fans intrigued about Breath of the Wild.

Above: ClefferNotes has posted spot-on renditions of some other themes from trailers and gameplay videos (such as the enemy battle song heard here), while still adding his own unique flavour.

Also in ClefferNotes Breath of the Wild line-up are some new takes on classic locations. I’m sure many longtime Zelda fans are curious to know what, say, the Lost Woods or Death Mountain would sound like in Breath of the Wild. ClefferNotes provides his own ideas with his fan-made Lake Hylia theme, for example:

Despite having no in-game reference for Lake Hylia as of yet, ClefferNotes effectively captures the feel of Breath of the Wild‘s soundtrack: soft, serene, with an element of mystery. This song also hides an easter egg: when sped up, the melody resembles the Lake Hylia theme from Twilight Princess. This is a clever and very fitting idea, as many official Zelda games hide musical secrets such as the well-known “Ballad of the Goddess” easter egg.

Some of his tracks even incorporate well-known Zelda motifs re-imagined in ClefferNotes’ Breath of the Wild style, such as a his idea for the background music for a rainy day – a pensive, atmospheric rendition of the “Song of Storms”:

Above: A great idea that is executed very well, this musical detail seems right in line with something Nintendo might do in the official game.

My personal favourite of his Breath of the Wild songs has to be “Horseback Adventure”, based on the brief musical introduction heard at the beginning of the Switch announcement trailer. Notably, this track is seemingly the first official Breath of the Wild track that is based on a past Zelda song: the main theme of the original NES title. ClefferNotes’ rendition sounds so genuine and truly feels like it could be the official full version of the theme. Check it out:

ClefferNotes takes the unique piano riff from the Switch announcement and runs wild with it: it starts off similar to what we hear in the trailer, but soon blossoms into a large orchestration complete with beautiful strings and epic percussion. He also smoothly incorporates some other recurring Zelda melodies such as the original “Title Theme”. I particularly enjoy how the little piano bit stays throughout the entire piece, it’s a great choice that gives the song a real sense of energy and motion. It really sets the mood for a quest!

All in all, I think ClefferNotes does a fantastic job of capturing the “feeling” of this highly anticipated upcoming game. It’s not a perfect emulation of the musical style, but rather a unique interpretation that shows off ClefferNotes’ distinct style as well. I recommend checking out his full playlist here, it’s great to listen to as the excitement builds for Breath of the Wild‘s eventual release. Please do check out Chris on his YouTube page and his SoundCloud, if you like Nintendo music and orchestrations you definitely won’t regret it.

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That’s all for now. I’d like to make this a regular thing where I feature cool songs/albums or talented composers from the video game music community. This post is an example of what these showcases will look like. And perhaps when Breath of the Wild finally releases I’ll do a post or two about the actual soundtrack.

Thanks for reading and have a nice day!