Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 26 ~Balloon Trip~ (Balloon Fight)

Origin: Balloon Fight
Plays In: Title Screen, Balloon Trip mode, Bonus Round
Status: Original Composition
Composer: Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka

There are those out there who say that we shouldn't mourn Iwata's death through tears, but through the joy we channel from the games he brought to life. Today, I'll be doing just that with this song.

When I revisited Balloon Fight the other night, I was struck by how good it feels all these years later.  As according to the game's balloon motif, the controls are floaty, but feels so naturally light and speedy that they never get in the player's way at all. Like any good Nintendo action game, any error is entirely on the fault of the player. Indeed, the controls are so good that even Super Mario Bros. itself took a lesson or two from it.

All thanks to Iwata's programming mastery, of course. It was also thanks to Iwata that I was even playing it at all that night; after all, if it weren't were his generosity following the 3DS price drop, I wouldn't be playing the ambassador version on my 3DS. I find that the system's ergonomics suit the game quite well, and should a modern sequel ever be made, I thoroughly demand it be on that system.

I think the man even played a practical joke on me that same night. For those who haven't played the game, everyone's worst nightmare revolves around the stray bolts of lightning that sometimes zap out of the occasional storm cloud. I'd knocked down an enemy fighter and was about to pursue, but then got caught from behind from another fighter. The instant I spawned on the ground, one of the lightning bolts zapped my character and I lost yet another life. All the while, the bird-masked fighter I knocked down earlier was chilling nearby. It was as if Iwata was saying "Stop crying! Laugh again!'

But Balloon Fight's greatness can't be solely attributed to Iwata. Indeed, the song you're listening to was composed by none other than Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka. Balloon Trip is absolutely the goofiest classic on Nintendo's NES catalog of music, perhaps losing only in the "feel-good" category to the Super Mario Bros. theme and the entirety of Kirby's Adventure. But make no mistake: it's just as infectious as the former and will permanently remain an earworm.

Tanaka himself seems quite fond of the song. Above is his spectacular arrangement for the latest Smash Bros. games, designed particularly for the 3DS version's Balloon Fight stage. Easily one of the finest remixes in the new games, Tanaka's chiptune direction fully retains the original's spirit (that climax!) If you listen closely, you can hear traces of the game's other songs mixed subtly within.

And here is a version Tanaka created shortly after Iwata's passing. It's a tad more composed, but the mixture of techno and chiptune let it come alive as a beautiful tribute. It was hard to listen to upon its arrival, but now that the news has sunk in, it's become far more cathartic. I can just feel the nostalgia in the air.

I wonder how high Iwata's flying up there.

Final Thoughts: I demand an orchestral version. We had a great slow-paced version within one of Smashing...Live's medleys, but I'd love a dedicated suite. What a wonderful tribute that would be.

No comments:

Post a Comment