Orchestrated game music.
The joy I feel in those words is borderline astronomical. It's something one truly has to experience...having music we grew up brought to life by a vibrant orchestra. We've had Mario orchestrated countless times by numerous concerts over the years. Legend of Zelda. Final Fantasy. Sonic the Hedgehog. Halo. All of these segments were done by various shows such as the Orchestral Game Concert, Press Start, Video Games Live, and Play!, which presented their performances in a multitude of concert halls all over the world.
It is truly the pinnacle of game music.
Yesterday, the latest entry in the Symphonic Games concert played at Germany's Colonge Philharmonic Hall. Last year, these guys orchestrated music from games by Square-Enix (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts, and Secret of Mana), which I haven't seen all of but it was done wonderfully. A few weeks ago, I found out that there was going to another entry by the name of Symphonic Legends, to be conducted on September 23rd....and featuring Nintendo music.
I flipped out when I heard this. Orchestrated Nintendo music is just pure heaven for me. I remember when Smashing Live!, a CD featuring orchestrations from Super Smash Bros. Melee came with an issue of Nintendo Power, and I enjoyed the hell of that thing for about a year. The Mario and Zelda segments in Video Games Live have me howling at the orchestra, and don't get me started on how I scour the internet for Japan's takes on the series I love. It came down to this fact: I was watching this no matter what.
Rushing home from college (Thanks, Gary!), I hopped onto the livestream straight from the official site and invited a couple of friends online to watch the magic happen. The direct camera footage was only avaliable to Germany, but us outsiders had a listening-only option. Didn't matter. We were late for the Star Fox, Super Mario Bros. and F-Zero suites, but thanks to the generosity of Youtube uploaders, it didn't really matter.
Below are my opinions of the pieces, along with videos and comparisons. Enjoy the show!
*Note: The show started out with an original fanfare called the "The Common 8-Bit Hero", which I haven't watched yet due to its irrelevance. Come on guys, surely you coulda used this for something else instead?
Also, apologies if my writing begins declining in quality. Thanks to the utter beauty of these songs, I can't form much coherent thoughts about them*
The first adaption on the list was a beautiful take on the Star Fox series.
What I think is the most interesting about this whole concert is the constant, yet effective use of the Latin chorus. It really does animate the songs into a deeper sense of maturity never seen before, and I think it works out very well for Star Fox in particular, given the series' sci-fi origins. Really does feel like a piece from Star Wars, eh?
Anyway, we have a lighthearted cover of the main theme for Star Fox 64 and an a rather dynamic adaption of the original Star Fox's classic Corneria level. Starts out slow with a chorus, then speeds up. I kind of wish we had the Main Theme from that game as well, but jeez...the second half really gets me going. Fantastic!
Fun Fact: This, along with the F-Zero piece, was arranged by one of the composers behind the One Piece anime. The influence is unmistakable, and one I took much delight in.
Here's a link to one of the original songs; see if you can point it out!
And what comes next is none other then a Mario suite.
It starts off with a gorgeous rendition of the Dire, Dire Docks, an underwater level from Super Mario 64. It continues for well over a minute, then we get treated to Super Mario Bros. 3's athletic theme, which I immediately saw coming in its introductory riff. Then we have a brief venture into Bowser's Castle from Super Mario Bros., and then...you guessed it, the main theme!
I gotta say, this has to be bounciest edition of it yet. In particular, I love the way they integrated with the song from New Super Mario Bros., which is presented in a real suave direction. Had the biggest smile on my face during this part..and that's not mentioning the Mario 64 tribute, which gets you just as relaxed as the original.
Probably the funnest song in the whole concert! Loved it.
Dire, Dire Docks
Super Mario Bros. 3 Athletic
The concert then moves on to the F-Zero racing series.
I might as well get this out of the way: I love the idea of having a drum solo build up the segment. The problem here is that it while it is very talented, it goes on for over two minutes, and it takes up time that would be better spent on the songs presented. If it just went on for a minute, it would've fine. If you want to skip ahead, go to the 2:30 mark.
But, man! Everything else here is great! What makes this so surreal is that F-Zero is a franchise completely immersed in rock guitars, techno and synthesizers...and somehow they made it work in an orchestra! I never thought I'd see the day where I'd hear Mute City played live or the Big Blue theme done so...majestically. It's just powerful all around, and they did a nice job with the derivative from the original songs. I'd go as far to say that in terms of musical achievement, this stands with the Zelda piece as the biggest success of the whole show. Well done!
The piece that hasn't been as well received as the others: Metroid.
The controversy is that they went into a different direction for this adaption. Personally, I believe they did a terrific job in making it sound scary and disturbing, which are one of the many themes for Metroid. I mean, by itself, it's a great performance. It'd be suitable background music for a horror film.
As a Metroid arrangement, though..it falls flat. The issue is that it dances too much around the original songs and it's difficult to get a hold of what's going on. Admittedly, I'm no Metroid music guru (I really need to get around to playing more of the games), but the only songs I could recognize was the main theme for Super Metroid and...I believe the Kraid music from that as well? It's all over the place and doesn't make much of an impression.
It is what it is, at least. But if I were the guys in charge, I'd take this as a lesson in that while it's fine to be experimental, it's best not tamper with the main medley so much. I'll just take it as an omen to the future of the franchise...but that's a topic for another time.
For our listening pleasure, we have a piano arrangement of Donkey Kong Country's Aquatic Ambiance.
This is a song that's stuck with me ever since I first heard it, and was the first piece of game music I appreciated the beauty of. Donkey Kong Country always did have a touch of depressed isolation in its music selection, but the way this song evolved was unlike everything else in the game. In all honesty, this is why I want there to be water levels in the new Donkey Kong Country Returns, just so I can have an updated version of this track.
As for this version...I have never heard a more accurate portrayal of not only the underwater depths, but one of reflective solitude. One thing I've noticed is that given the nature of the song itself, it has the freedom of exploring the rest of its own genre, so it has no problem deviating from and sticking with the source material. It's hard to describe it. It's certainly the loveliest piece of music I heard in a long time. Objectively, it may very well be the finest segment in the whole concert.
Readers might remember that I used the original version of this song for my tribute to my brother. Below you can find a link to not only that, but footage of the orchestra.
And now, for my favorite piece.
The fact that they were orchestrating Pikmin music already had me jumping for joy, but they didn't stop there. Oh no, they had to go ahead and orchestrate my two favorite songs from the series. They were going to orchestrate the World Map songs! The songs that inspired a sense of hidden adventure, the one I had hummed along to when I was a ten-year old and what always made me want to keep playing.
So, how did it turn out? Well, my reaction is this:
Oh my god.
Okay, I take back what I said about Aquatic Ambiance. This is the most beautiful rendition of the batch. I still can't get over how perfect the first forty seconds are, and its..oh..oh..I'm going to faint from my excitement. They weren't kidding when they said it perfectly captured the innocence of a forest environment. This is everything I wanted it to be!
The thing is, Pikmin music is normally mellow, but they can go either way with these because both songs were originally rather upbeat. Not only that, but it works wonders in its restrictions, and when it does deviate, it's still genuine Pikmin! It really is! And there's this uncanny resemblance to background music in an animated film..I could seriously see this being put into Peter Pan and no one would notice.
Most importantly, it follows the very themes of the series: Discovery, danger, the start of a new day, and success. And it..and it....oh, I'm just typing scatterbrained nonsense! I just can't get enough of it!
Now I want the upcoming Pikmin 3 to be orchestrated! Please, Nintendo?
World Map (Pikmin)
World Map (Pikmin 2)
What's this? Super Mario Galaxy? Yes, please.
I think there's really only one thing I can comment on this.
They integrated a Latin choir into Gusty Garden Galaxy.
THEY INTEGRATED A CHOIR INTO GUSTY GARDEN GALAXY AT THE VERY END.
This...just...aah...oh...the whole thing was beautiful. Buoy Base. The Festival. Bowser Battle. Everything. But this...this is the best ending I've ever heard for an orchestral piece. Oh. Oh. I slightly prefer the Pikmin piece, but it was incredibly close.
I was unsure about this at first since Galaxy was already orchestrated, but this..oh...it far exceeds the realm of "doing the original justice."
And the finale? A 30 minute segment completely dedicated to The Legend of Zelda.
Given the size of this part, I'll divide it up into three Youtube links. Check 'em out if you have the time. The whole thing's pretty boss. Here's to hoping they'll have orchestras in Skyward Sword!
Some fans cried foul at them taking too many liberties with the original pieces, but I think considering how ambitious they were being with the "Symphonic Poem" style I can let them slide a bit. I just wish it had more variety! I don't know if an actual Zelda game would be over the top like this, but I'd say it'd be pretty close! Come on, if you can do it for Mario, surely Zelda can have it too!
And while we're at it, here's the encore with mixes of songs from Zelda/Metroid/Mario. Nice!
Overall, an awesome show. I kind of wish that they used a Smash Bros. piece to open up the show instead, and I'm surprised they didn't represent Kirby considering how amazing the songs are orchestrated. Ah, well. This show won't be the last of its kind...another time.
Can't wait to grab this on CD! Release it soon, guys!
Earlier, I said we'd be getting into some impressions for Wario Ware D.I.Y.
I kinda realized I needed more time with the game before I got down to writing about it. Not only is college a time sucker, but this game is...really extensive. You'll see when I get around to it.
Next up...it's finally coming. Get ready for a look on Kirby's Adventure on the NES! Can't wait!!!