Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 12 ~Athletic~ (Yoshi's Island)

Origin: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Plays In: Numerous stages, typically ones that have you jumping around for dear life.
Status: Composition
Composer: Koji Kondo

Try to resist not dancing to this. I dare you. It's impossible.
Since Super Mario Bros. 3,, a number of Mario games possess not just main themes but Athletic themes that often accompany the wilder levels; in particular, they're often associated with scrolling stages. Super Mario Bros. 3 had a piano-inspired piece, Super Mario World had its banjo, and last year's Super Mario 3D World has some real amazing jazz.
Regardless of whether or not we can explicitly classify Yoshi's Island as a Mario game, the fact remains it comes with the greatest Athletic of them all: a slaphappy ragtime piece that's immediately infectious and will not leave your head. Or will not leave without inspiring your body to break out into mad dancing rhythm.

In the context of the game, it plays up to the greatest of the Athletic series' strength in that its happy-go-lucky nature is taunting the player during some nerve-wracking platforming. Take its first appearance in Hop! Hop! Donut Lifts, where Yoshi has to outmaneuver a scrolling screen via hopping on a series of collapsing donut-shaped lifts. As you're carefully aiming your jumps, Athletic cheerfully drills its way into your skull and driving you further into madness every time you make a misstep and fall to your doom.

While I struggled with that level in my youth, I could never unleash my anger out on the song itself, though. If anything, I'm glad it took such a morbid approach into making my acquaintance. My repeated deaths meant I could hear it again and again, in all of its glory, before I would finally triumph over the donut lift pitfalls and move on to the next level. Mind you, Yoshi's Island had such a wonderfully sincere, bouncy soundtrack that I was in aural heaven regardless of where I was, but this song was in a league of its own. It captivated me even at the cost of precious, precious lives. I had to keep listening to it

It's more than what could be said about the present state of Yoshi music these days, with Yoshi's Island DS taking a lethargic piss on our eardrums and Yoshi's New Island...well, I'm sure this explains enough by itself. Thankfully, what I heard from Yoshi's Woolly World at E3 sounded mighty fine, though its Kirby's Epic Yarn inspired direction makes one wonder if there'll be anything to match its level of lively playfulness. Of course, it shouldn't have to--Epic Yarn's soundtrack being absolutely wonderful and all--but I reckon a new Yoshi song surpassing the likes of Athletic would immediately capture the attention of the Nintendo music fandom.

In any case, with Athletic being a Nintendo fan-favorite, the song has appeared here and there since its inception. Soon after Yoshi's Island's release, the song was featured in Japan's formally annual Orchestral Gaming Concert with an equally bouncy arrangement. Hard to believe I first found this recording a decade ago. Hey, come to think of it, I think I'm lying down in the very same spot right now.

Athletic was also selected to be a part of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's elite soundtrack, and it received a fantastic arrangement from Shota Kageyama (Pokémon Black and White). It's notable for not just including the final boss music from the source material, but for also being accompanied by an alternate version that plays when the seasons change to fall and winter on the Yoshi's Island stage. In their never-ending crusade against the game, the leagues of Brawl bashers and the Youtube comment hivemind will tell you this is a terrible remix, most likely for the reason that it's association with Brawl means that it's terrible by default. Do not listen to the people.
Final Thoughts: I don't mean to end two articles in a row with comments railing against people with different opinions of Smash Bros. Really! It just turned out that way. Cross my heart.

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