Ask yourself: would you ask Beyoncé to build you a conservatory? Would you ask a nine year old to file your tax returns? Would you ask a Labrador to drive you down the shops? Well no, of course you wouldn’t. And why not? Because that lot clearly don’t know what they’re doing. By which logic, avert your eyes right now Grigadiers, because this is an article about melody written by a tone-deaf 35 year old. Its conclusions may be… flimsy.
Yes, I’m no Steve Wright in the afternoon when it comes to picking my pops. But this much I know: the music in Wii U Mario is rubbish. Tragically rubbish, in fact, because the game itself is superb – so giddyingly near-perfect, in fact, that its horrific soundtrack is not just abusive to the ears, it’s jarring to the soul. This melodically-challenged mush is basically elevator music. Or worse – because even in the urine-soaked lift in Blackpool’s Houndshill Shopping Centre you at least have the comfort that you didn’t pay £55 for the privilege. So it’s a sad failing for the company, and the franchise, that’s brought us some of the most memorable themes of the past three decades. And it got me thinking.
Some piss-stained mush, yesterday.
It wasn’t always like this.
When you look back, gaming’s musical past stands out not just because of the number of belters – the ratio of memorable tunes to garbage during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras was pretty healthy, too. And why? Because they had to try! When the tools were rudimentary, the only thing they had was their skill. It took craft – and a melody! Because sure, orchestral nonsense and EDM are great when you’re padding out level 42 of your latest blockbuster franchised gumph but, to be a classic, it needs a tune! And so begins the GRiG Campaign for Melody – our noble crusade to bring back the art of tunage and save the Millennials from a dystopian future of half-baked auditory hell. Viva la Revotunion!
And, to whet your whistle, here are some classic examples of how it was done – and a few newbies to show that some still keep the dream alive… (And yes, not for nothing does Smooth McGroove make an appearance. Because what unites the Smooth Megamix? Melody! His acapella loveliness only works with exactly these kind of gems… So sing on McGroove! You’ve earned yourself a GRiGPeter Badge!)
Super Mario Land – Muda Kingdom
Of course, you know I love a bit of Muda Kingdom. Often overlooked in the face of the main Mario theme, this is a beautiful bit of 90s dreaminess. All the better with the Man McGroove at the helm…
Bravely Default – Dungeon Theme
A man scratching his nose, yesterday. (Wait, has he even got a nose?!)
Of course, RPGs are a good hunting ground for hwality tunage. They need a bit of mood and so they do put in the man hours. This puppy is actually what first made me think of this article – it’s the first bit of modern game music I’ve had stuck in my head for years. It is a slow burner – the best bit is really a riff, and you’ll find it at about 1:04! – but it’s a standout tune… And if you’re wondering why this YouTuber has called this music “Infiltrating Enemy Territory” and I’ve called it “Dungeon Theme”, well… He’s right. But he’s also a tosspot. Who calls music that unless they’re making some kind of bad euphemism about bumming? Not me! That’s who!
Super Castlevania IV – Simon’s Theme
A box posted by an unimaginative YouTuber, yesterday.
Can there be a game music chart – hell, can there be a music chart?! – that doesn’t feature Castlevania?! Stonking.
Sonic 2 – Chemical Plant Zone
A bearded controversy, earlier
Sonic has quite a few claims to this list, as does the man Smooth. Arguably his version of Green Hill Zone is his better work – while the original game version of this one actually sounds better, benefitting from the synthy edginess that even McGroove’s acapella magic can’t reach. But I like to mix it up so…
Streets of Rage 2 – Dreamer
A contradiction, yesterday
Well, never let it be said that I shy from the controversies. Because one, why is Yuzo Koshiro all the way down here at, like, fifth in this list?! I disgust myself! And two, doesn’t this piece kind of disprove the melody theory? I mean, this is really dance music with a beat and a riff isn’t it? Erm.. Well, yes, as I think we’ve covered on these very pages, Yuzo was apparently quite a fan of 90s EDM and there’s more than a little of European House sprinkled through this Mega Drive classic. But it’s still a great example of making the most of your limits – there’s what, four tracks here? They’re so intricate – and actually that mid-section is verging on a tune. So get off my freakin case man. Jeez.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 – Akuma’s Theme
Knock knock. Who’s there? Akuma. Akuma who? Akuma mutata! Hahahahahahaha…, yesterday
Well, the surprises keep on coming. Because you say classic retro tunes and Street Fighter in the same sentence and you think you know what Benny’s gonna pull, don’t ya? You think he’s gonna reach for Guile’s theme with one hand, and Smooth McGroove with the other and slap down a bit of Guile/McGroove combo action in this here retro tune compilation sandwich! But boom! He’s pulled the old Akuma switcheroo on your asses! (I actually prefer Ken’s theme anyway…) Hey, remember when Capcom did cool buh that was, y’know, finished, rather than release half made games for twice the price? Ho ho, such good times.
Anwyay, here’s Guile’s theme from Smooth McGroove. Sorry.
A lack of surprise, earlier
So there you go – a half-arsed, cobbled together list. But this is only Part 1 of The Campaign (TM)! Clearly, there are loads of beauts I’ve missed off this effort. So how’s about it GRiGadiers – what are your favourites, old and new? Put them in the comments and I might even do a follow up article! (Please do. It’ll totally save me having to think of something new to write about in March. Hurrah!)