Bit Hits – Happy Birthday Koji Kondo!

Nothing pulls a video game perfectly together than an awesome soundtrack. On occasion, the simple act of jumping on a Goomba in Super Mario Bros., facing down Sagat in Street Fighter II, or exploring the strange alien landscapes in Super Metroid – wouldn’t be the same without its mood-capturing audio counterpart.

And what’s fabulous about the video game medium, is that there is a B. P. Gulf Oil Spill (too soon?) worth of selections to choose from that are, well, Bit Hits! So, sit back as your friendly neighborhood music junkie dives into the gaming abyss, and pulls out some head-boppin’ jewels from the deep.

Now for today’s Bit Hits, I had originally planned something else to cover, but then a special birthday came up today – well yesterday, or whatever day this thing gets posted. Now this merry event belongs to a very influential person in the video game industry, and if I were not to comment on it, I just wouldn’t be comfortable in calling myself your trustful guide.

Who’s birthday you say? Who else, but the legendary composer of both Nintendo’s Mario and The Legend of Zelda series, Koji Kondo! Who’s birthday was this Friday the 13th. (Yeah, yeah, superstitions and all that.)

Playing any first-party Nintendo software, a person is sure to encounter Mr. Kondo’s memorable music. The score for Super Mario Bros. for the N.E.S. is clearly one of his most iconic pieces, but his talent has touched a vast number of other titles; from the obvious The Legend of Zelda series, to Star Fox 64, Yoshi’s Island, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and most recently Super Mario Galaxy 2.

It all began in 1984, as Kondo was the first to be hired at Nintendo, specifically, to make music compositions for their arcade games and soon enough for their next gaming console, the Famicom. Kondo himself was never fully dedicated to music while attending Osaka University of the Arts, but with a love for games, a piano, a computer, and a Nintendo recruitment message, started his career as a video game composer.

And it wouldn’t be long before he gained a status for being a legendary video game composer, as that instant classic Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, not only cementing the game’s place in history, but his score as well.

Just try humming the game over theme from Super Mario Bros., or any music bit from that game, and not have the person next you hum along hive-mindedly. It’s that infectious and that endearing.

Personally it’s amazing how Kondo has a proficient knack for putting together some awesome tunes that are just plain catchy. They might not be as complex as other composers in his field, but their charm rise above that.

Of course don’t take my word for it, here are two great performances of Kondo’s famous works, mainly his early Mario pieces, being done by one the Eminence Symphony Orchestra and then a trio of students at a NYC University.

My, my, my – I feel all sophisticated now. That last video was a percussion medley to Super Mario Bros. 2 – I really do love that song, my absolute favorite of Koji Kondo’s compositions.

Anyway, let’s keep staying in The Mushroom Kingdom, with a batch of other great Mario tunes, that will sure to have you finger-tapping for days. We’ve got some keen choices from Super Mario 64, which by the way, was a great game that not only saw our plumber protagonist leap into 3D, but his musical arrangements get more modern and a bit more layered.

Getting away from Mario, because we could possibly waste the whole day just digging though popular tunes (I didn’t even get to mention Super Mario Bros. 3, outrageous, I know!),  let’s take a briefly turn to a lesser-known but equally choice set of tracks. All from a Japanese game called Shin Onigashima for the Famicom.

Shin Onigash- -what? Oh, never heard of it? Well there’s good reason, as it was never released in the U.S. It seems that Japanese text-based adventure games about Japanese folklore, don’t exactly sell like doughnuts at a policeman’s convention.

Now in this video, you’ll hear a short medley of sounds from that game. Take a listen.

Kinda makes you want to play the game, despite the language barrier, just to hear its soundtrack, which is so wonderfully vibrant in its description of a Japanese Edo period setting.

Continuing with our show, these next tracks are a random shuffle of other beloved Koji Kondo compositions that he’s worked on during his time at Nintendo. Up next we have two tracks, one from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island and Star Fox 64.

Kondo didn’t exactly work on the entire Star Fox 64 soundtrack by himself, he shared major credits with fellow composer Hajime Wakai, but it’s nice to see the range that he has in some of his musical pieces. It shows a great flexibility to be able to do bright and cartoony 2D platformer, and then dramatic tension-filled shooting game set in outer space.

Alright, alright! I’m pretty sure this is what you’ve been waiting for, and believe me I’m as anxious as you. The Legend of Zelda series. I think if anything supplants Kondo as a well-regarded composer in the eyes of gamers everywhere, it’s with his many arrangements with this particular series.

The Zelda series travels through many themes; heroic marches that introduce our green-clothed hero, to sobering ballads about the devastating grips of evil, and then up-tempo dramatic music at that all important climatic battle between you and that Princess of Darkness, Gannon.

But enough of my chatter, it’s time for the music to do the talking. Enjoy these next few tracks from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. The last of which a fantastic medley of Zelda hits, all into one awesome orchestral performance.

That’s all for Bit Hits right now. I’ve got some other video game soundtracks to explore, but it was nice to start out with some warm comfort food before I set off for something a little more daring in my next article.

I do hope you enjoyed this musical venture of one amazing composer, Koji Kondo, and perhaps gained a new appreciation for his works and how they’ve inspired countless other musicians too.

Don’t forget to share your favorite Koji Kondo song in the comments below, I’m pretty sure I missed something. Till next time, keep your ears opened along with your mind.

One response to “Bit Hits – Happy Birthday Koji Kondo!

  1. His music is the reason we go to VGLive. :D

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