Community Spotlight: March Favourites

Hi everyone! I’m a little late with this one, sorry. Just like last time, here are some of my favourite video game covers and remixes from the month of March!

insaneintherainmusic – “Breath of the Wild Jazz Cover”

I featured two songs by insanetherainmusic in the previous post. This time he’s brought an amazing jazz cover of Breath of the Wild‘s main theme! This arrangement turns the orchestral theme into a smooth jazz tune, which showcases the fantastically groovy sax.

Set to some nice nature footage, this video creates a great relaxing jazzy atmosphere. I especially like the part right in the middle; those few beats of silence evoke just enough anticipation before a the listener is hit with a wave of jazzy harmonies on the brass and keys. It’s quite a treat!

Scruffy – “Wistful Wild Funk/Raga”

Scruffy is a very underrated YouTube channel who posts high quality video game remixes, original tunes, and informative videos. Fans of the Pikmin series should really check him out: he’s created a couple videos that delve deep into analyzing the games from a technical standpoint. Check out his trivia videos about the sound effects of Pikmin 2 and the models/textures of Pikmin 3! If Pikmin isn’t your thing, he has other videos analyzing the Mario series, and lots of video game and original tunes.

The production on his trivia videos is just great: they are very informative, well-presented, and oozing with charm. These videos show of Scruffy’s impressive work in many areas of video production, including the background music, which is also created by him! He is currently in the process of uploading the soundtrack to his Pikmin 3 model trivia video, which is where this particular cover originates.

Onto the song itself: this a really cool cover of the foreboding “Wistful Wild” theme from Pikmin 2. Scruffy’s arrangement  is a smooth, chilled-out funk. I especially like it at around the 1:47 mark where those groovy keys kick in. Around the last quarter of the song is arranged as a raga, a traditional type of Indian classical music. As Scruffy notes in the description of the video, the melody line of “Wistful Wild” works perfectly with a Raga musical mode known as Thaat Bhairavi, the equivalent of the western “Phrygian mode.”

Rush Garcia – “Hero of the Wild”

Rush Garcia is an astounding orchestra arranger who has produced many fantastic orchestrations of songs from video games such as Undertale and Overwatch, as well as other media such as the popular TV show Steven Universe.

In this tribute to the Legend of Zelda, Rush Garcia crafts a beautiful suite of familiar Zelda melodies: a Link to the Past‘s “Dark World,” the iconic “Fairy Fountain” theme, “Zelda’s Lullaby,” the main theme of the series itself, and the theme of the recent smash-hit Breath of the Wild.

Right off the bat, we are greeted with a rapid-fire refrain of intense strings. I really love the sound of the strings, the timbre is so unique. These strings periodically return throughout the piece. The booming brass tones of the “Dark World” and lush harp of the “Fairy Fountain” are a treat to listen to. The gentle arrangement of “Zelda’s Lullaby” is truly beautiful, and segues right into Garcia’s epic rendition of the Zelda main theme. Finally is the memorable theme of Breath of the Wild, concluding this amazing musical journey.

AJ DiSpirito – “Super Mario Odyssey – Galaxy Remix”

AJ DiSpirito is very talented composer who has created tons of very high quality video game covers. He’s created arrangements in many different styles – orchestral to metal; jazz to electronic.

This is a cover of the trailer theme of the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey, arranged in the musical style of Super Mario Galaxy. In terms of emulating this particular style of composition, this cover is spot on! It evokes many classic SMG themes including “Gusty Garden Galaxy” and “Good Egg Galaxy.” The general orchestral sound is very evocative of Koji Kondo’s score – but its the little touches that bring it to the next level, such as the the flute trills, the spacey sound effects at one-minute mark, and the percussion that kicks in around 1:30. Overall, quite an impressive effect!

mlho7 – “Chun-Li’s Theme” (OCRemix)

Here’s another funk tune!
For any fan of video game music, OverClocked Remix needs to introduction. OCRemix is an organization dedicated to video game music. Their website is a treasure trove of literally thousands of the highest quality video game remixes. They’ve been going for almost 20 years now!

This track is a funky cover of Chun-li’s theme from Street Fighter II. It’s got a super cool vibe, with a funky bassline and old-school drums. I think the flutes and xylophone work extremely well with this style of funk; its a great blend of traditional Chinese melodies and modern funk. This remix will certainly get your foot tapping!

Further Listening

eflat – “Carrot Sorbet Atoll” and “Forest Stage” (Kirby’s Adventure)
freezetag (OverClocked Remix) – “Hyrulean Overture” (The Legend of Zelda)
Jonathan Aldrich – “Rainbow Road” (Mario Kart 7)
NoteBlock – “Space Junk Galaxy” (Super Mario Galaxy)
Smooth McGroove – “Brinstar Red Soil” (Super Metroid)
Stevie Pilgrim – “Kakariko Village” (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

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“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!

pixelchips “Behind the Scenes”: Valley of Repose (Holiday Song #2)

Hi again! Hope you’re all doing well.

This is part two for my holiday video game music series. Today’s arrangement is the Valley of Repose, from Pikmin 2. Have a listen to my remix over here.

Why did I choose to make a weird orchestral and hip-hop beat blend? I was mainly inspired by the beat from the Nintendo Land version, and I wanted to take that idea and run with it. I liked how that version had an almost mechanical, clockwork like sound – the steady beat is like the ticking of a clock, and all of the melodies and counter-melodies interlock to make a really energetic whole. It’s a nice contrast to the original song’s slow, relaxing tempo; and is much more well-suited for a more frantic party game like Nintendo Land.

For my remix, I really wanted to keep that steady, pulsing energy; a feeling that really meshes with the tactical, strategic nature of the Pikmin games. The bell-like lead is actually a layer of many instruments: a celesta, glockenspiel, music box, a couple synths, and a soft staccato on a flute. I made the bass a lot deeper and “thicker” than the original by adding a double bass ensemble and a subtle tuba. For the accompanying glissando and harmony, I used a filtered piano rather than a harp for a more “mechanical” sound, if you know what I mean.

The beat was difficult for me, as it’s something I’ve never really tried before. I started with a steady snare/clap on every beat for a clock ticking effect, and an 808 sort of kick every two beats to maintain that pulsing rhythm. I thought the reverse cymbal crash added a pretty cool effect. And of course, the jingling sleigh-bells echo throughout the entire piece.

The whole song goes through three cycles: the regular version, the version that plays when pikmin are at work, and the version that plays when fighting an enemy. The “at work” version simply adds some more layers to the song, such as a tremolo harmony on the violins and a very soft atmospheric synth. The “fighting” version sees an orchestral percussion ensemble (timpani, snare drum) join the regular beat for that epic battling sound. I also put some jittery, echoey chiptune bleeps in the background to create the frantic feeling of being attacked.

I hope I achieved the effects I wanted to. It’s an experiment for me; the genre is out of my comfort zone so I was a little nervous about uploading. Hopefully the song is interesting or enjoyable to some!