Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 37 ~Gourmet Race~ (Kirby Super Star)

Origin: Kirby Super Star
Plays In: Gourmet Race courses 1 and 3
Status: Original Composition
Composed by: Jun Ishikawa, Dan Miyakawa

Now here's something I don't understand in the least. In Kirby Super Star, there's a mode called Gourmet Race, where Kirby and King Dedede dash along three courses while grabbing as much food as possible. Contrary to the name, it's something of a side-dish mode; not quite the appetizers Samurai Kirby and Megaton Punch are, but not nearly as filling as Revenge of Meta Knight or The Great Cave Offensive.

And yet, it somehow gave birth to one of the most notable series elements that even non-Kirby fans recognize: the music. A fast-paced frenzy of chaos, Gourmet Race instantly springs the player into action as King Dedede looms behind them. It's a great song, yet it was never one of my Super Star favorites; in fact, I only recognize its greatness in retrospect. Why is that?

Well, here's where things get interesting. In the year of Kirby Super Star's release (1996), the final installment of Japan's annual Orchestral Game Concert was held, and there was a suite inspired from Kirby Super Star! With how orchestral that game's soundtrack is, that's a great idea! What would be the song chosen: the orchestra take on Green Greens found in The Great Cave Offensive? Any of the thrilling pieces from Revenge of Meta Knight? The nightmare that is Marx's Theme? The tear-inducing credits of Milky Way Wishes?

The answer: none of them. It ended up being Gourmet Race; as in, the happy, upbeat song probably least suited to an orchestra.

...or so you would think. While joined by the Mine Cart theme and Kirby's Triumphal Return, the Gourmet Race opener steals the show. This arrangement doesn't just turn the song into a masterpiece; it's transformed what could very well be a completely different song altogether. What was once a race for dessert is now a legendary battle for glory among the stars of Dream Land, setting the stage for one of Kirby's greatest final battles.

And it didn't stop there. What truly propelled Gourmet Race into stardom was its representation in the Smash Bros. series, particularly in the first two games. For the N64 iteration, every other series was represented by their respective main themes, yet Kirby's Dream Land stage was given the theme from what was essentially a mini-game...yet even today, it's everyone's favorite arrangement from the game. The case is also the same for Melee, where Tadashi Ikegami's sweeping orchestral that is The Fountain of Dreams owes more than a little to the Orchestral Game Concert version.

Let's not forget Kirby itself, for the song naturally began to proliferate in the source material. It was a stage theme in Dream Land 3, featured in a Kirby 64 racing mini-game, and, in my personal favorite twist, replaced the boss theme for Nightmare in Dream Land's King Dedede fight with The Fountain of Dreams arrangement. Since then, its etched itself into the hallowed halls of great recurring Kirby themes, joining the likes of Green Greens and King Dedede's Theme.

And to think, this all emerged from a little racing game. How truly bizarre. This would be completely understandable if Gourmet Race had been within one of Super Star's main adventures, yet I can't think of anywhere else where it'd be an acceptable substitute. Were the folks behind Orchestral Game Concert interested in the challenge of adapting a more light-hearted piece into an epic score? Does it have anything to do with the mysterious Dan Miyakawa? Was Sakurai just really fond of the theme?

Am I reading too much into it? Probably, but I simply can't get over the song's humble origins. It's up there with Dan Miyakawa as one of Kirby Super Star's greatest mysteries, and with that game's enchanting prowess, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised it launched such a song into the gaming public consciousness.

Final Thoughts: Oh, that reminds me. You remember how I said in my Super Star review how the game throws something new at me every time I play it? Here's one such example: I'd always blown through the second Gourmet Race level so quickly that I never listened to its accompanying theme in full. Needless to say, it kinda blew my mind when I left it paused one day and heard the second half.

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