Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 28 ~Celestial Valley~ (Kirby Air Ride)

Origin: Kirby Air Ride
Plays in: Celestial Valley
Status: Original Composition
Composer: Hirokazu Ando

It's bizarre just how much Kirby Air Ride aesthetically differentiates itself from the rest of Kirby. Whereas the main series typically dives into sugary bedtime fantasy, Air Ride's courses evoke higher levels of fantasy commonly associated with swords and sorcery. Granted, the game is bursting with such imagination that it refuses to stick with just that theme (most notably Machine Passage and the entirety of City Trial), nor do any actual instances of swordplay or spellcasting actually happen. But the locales of Fantasy Meadows, Magma Flows, and Celestial Valley certainly look like they could house such scenarios, couldn't they?

Just look at our subject for today: Celestial Valley. The course uses shades of blue and purple not commonly associated with Kirby, all the while introducing aesthetic concepts entirely new to the series (giant floating illuminating mushrooms, fossil-embedded mountains and half-opened dinosaur eggs). When complimented by the nostalgic whistles and rushing adventure of today's song, it strikes that perfect balance of wonder within the context of high-speed play.

So much did this juxtaposition of fantasy strike out to me as a child that I crafted what the game didn't supply: a scenario. Kirby Air Ride didn't take place on Planet Popstar, but within Kirby's dreams. As opposed to being fictional manifestations of the sleeping mind, however, these dreams allowed to him to interact with different-colored Kirbys from parallel dimensions! All possessing the minds of children, they compete in races featuring famed locations from their respective home worlds.

As evidence from the course's purple hue, Celestial Valley is the realm of Purple Kirby. To this day, I stop and wonder: do the mining tunnels hint at the existence of dwarves, who share their spoils with the fairies that might live in the mushrooms? What about the existence of dinosaurs, who apparently died out yet continue to hide in eggs? Perhaps they're shier than our dwarves and fairies. And on top of it all, how does Purple Kirby interact with them?

Part of the fun in Kirby Air Ride is within it's lack of context, which I now worry that like Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Nintendo and HAL Labs will take a sledgehammer to and reveal that, say, City Trial is really just where the Broom Hatters like to chill on Sunday nights. But then I remember the following portion from a Nintendo Power interview and recognize I have nothing to fear:

"NP: We have to ask a geeky Kirby Air Ride question for those Kirby superfans who've been following the "Kirby story" in his games and in the TV animation: How do you explain the presence of multiple Kirby characters -- and in a variety of colors?

Tanikawa: Many story elements from Kirby Air Ride remain wrapped in mystery. Why are there more than one Kirby? Why aren't there any people in the city found in City Trial? Is Kirby Air Ride set on Planet Popstar or in Dream Land? We might reveal the answers in future games . . ."

"Is Kirby Air Ride set on Planet Popstar or in Dream Land?" That's like asking if I'm currently living in America or on Earth. Regardless, this was from twelve years ago, and so far no one else seems that invested in figuring out what's the deal with City Trial's emptiness, so I think I'm safe. Just let me dream, Nintendo!

Final Thoughts: By the way, a rip of this very song plays on The Great Cave Offensive stage in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Alongside its fellow Air Ride track Frozen Hillside, I think it complements the stage incredibly well.

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