Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 11 ~Underwater Theme~ (Super Mario Bros. 3)

Origin: Super Mario Bros. 3
Plays In: Underwater sections
Status: Composition
Composer: Koji Kondo

Yet another water theme! Can't blame me for this one; those areas are treasure troves for quality game music.

 Anyway, this song is particularly interesting in that it's somewhat emblematic of a certain experience I've been chugging through lately. See, I've been playing the 2D Super Mario games in the past half year and one question--well, okay, questions revolving around a certain subject--keeps prodding at the back of my mind: how superior or inferior are these classics to their respective remakes in the beloved SNES compilation Super Mario All-Stars? How are the backgrounds, the character sprite animation? Is the color palette more effective here or there? Is this particular song more catchy in the 16-bit era or is it better left off in the chiptune 8-bit era? I keep playing and judging, unable to stop myself from mentally sifting through my memory banks of my ancient Mario-All Stars playthroughs. What is better? What is worse?

As is implied and will become very evident in an upcoming Kirby Reverie, I'm very harsh and analytical when it comes to Nintendo remakes and their original. It all began some ten years back (wow!) when I was giddily anticipating the release of Super Mario 64 DS, only to find myself disappointed at the numerous changes within (despite the coolness of the new characters). That disappointment eventually morphed into a rigorous habit of studying Nintendo remakes and their numerous upgrades/downgrades, and I've found it rather scary as to what can turn me off.

So imagine my surprise when I downloaded Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Virtual Console one day and was kinda...sorta..stunned at how it was not the All-Stars version I grew up with on the SNES and GBA. I'm serious! I was playing an old-school Mario and couldn't have any fun at all because I was constantly comparing it to a remake! Holy cow, was that really the original Airship Theme? What the heck's up with Fire Mario being drenched in orange paint? Good god, what was that hideous graphical glitch constantly buzzing at the side of the screen?

Even with my current playthrough today, the struggle is very much real. Bear in mind that, yes, I still recognize the game's an all-time masterpiece and am able to have a jolly ol' time playing it while having various South Park episodes play in the background, but boy can I have trouble accepting this isn't the SMB3 from my childhood. In particular, those scrolling visual glitches I mentioned earlier still kinda piss me off. Apparently they have something to do with the memory for backgrounds and weren't too noticeable on the TVs of yesteryear. I guess Nintendo lacked foresight on this since it's plain as day on my flat-screen TV.

But there's one thing that never fails to not piss me off: this lovely piece of yet another underwaltz waltz. Despite being heard by at least twenty million people, Super Mario Bros. 3's Underwater Theme is often neglected in favor of the original one from the, well, original Super Mario Bros. I don't necessarily have a problem with this seeing as how iconic that game is, but I'd be lying if I said I preferred it to this. Probably what I love most about it is how unlike practically everything else in Super Mario Bros. 3, it sounds nearly identical to its SNES counterpart. Seriously, have a listen!

Okay, I'm bullshitting you; it's just another hopeless case of selective hearing. Yet this is still one of the very few exceptions within SMB3 where I get the same exact vibe I did in the SNES/GBA versions. I'm still there, in 1988 or 1990 or 1993 or wherever at the turn of the decade, when The Simpsons was plowing through pop culture and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are capturing the imaginations of children everywhere and my parents have just gotten married and I'm starting to walk. I'm there in Super Mario Bros. 3's aqueducts, tubes and warp pipes witnessing all this happening in a colorful collage of the past. It's the past I cherished to learn about, the ones my family and people I never knew cherished to have a part of their lives. I speed along as the water pressure pushes me away, feeling the rush of past and present join together.

This is an obscure Mario song--which is pretty mindblowing considering it's one of the most famous Mario games--but its for its obscurity that I love it. It's a SMB3 element that was almost never referenced in the countless Super Mario games and spin-offs that followed (save for a brief Super Paper Mario reappearance), and so it's isolated. Out of place, alone. But it's still a piece attached to a world-famous work beloved and cherished by many. I, too, can feel alienated and alone, yet I remember I am a vital component of so many peoples' lives. I am connected.

So long as I can keep swimming, I can go forward with the love and burden the past provides with the exciting future held for me.

Final Thoughts: man this game is hard as balls though

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