8-Bit Mondays: Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins – “Athletic” (Kazumi Totaka)April 26, 2010
Kazumi Totaka (Link’s Awakening, Virtual Boy Wario Land) has made some pretty memorable music in his time, but one of his classics is the fondly remembered Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (1992) for the Game Boy. It also appears to have been his debut! [Edit: Nope – that was X on the GameBoy.] It’s another nice soundtrack that never saw an official release (seems to be a pattern with Totaka’s stuff). The “Stage Music 1” or “Athletic” main theme is one of the most memorable tracks, and a good fit for today’s 8-bit Monday.
The “Stage 1 Theme” is nice, bright, and cheery, with Mario going about his merry way in the open, sunny world of Super Mario Land. The “Athletic” themes are for obstacle courses, the various platforms and enemies players must overcome to reach the goal. The ‘guitar’ and drums create a very dynamic base line, building the forward momentum over which the main melody is layered. It’s a quite memorable song built along a solid foundation of long notes that is leisurely melodic and instantly hummable – you could easily add your own lyrics. Classic Mario.
This was also the time when Nintendo composers were experimenting with theme and variation for Mario games, with the various level themes containing a few notes and variations of the game’s main theme. Previously, Koji Kondo had done this with Super Mario World (1990), but Totaka did this as well for Super Mario Land 2, including a hilariously creepy underground variation and a waltz-like version for the Space Zone that is clearly inspired by 2001. Even the boss music has a take on the theme. In fact, only a few levels have their own themes (“Space Zone 2” and the hip “Wario’s Castle Stage Music/Final Stage” being notable exceptions. It’s almost as if Totaka and the other developers had wanted to musically make the second half of the game unique and unexpected.
Oddly enough, there seems to have been very little Mario Land 2 remixing going on, aside from the funkadelic Super Mario Land 2: Tremendous Achievement (2008). It’s a bit much for me, but I do enjoy the “Final Stage” remix by Willrock, which was just released on OCR a couple weeks back. There was also some funky mixing going on in Super Mario Compact Disco: Ambassadors of Funk Featuring M.C. Mario (1993), but I don’t have a copy of that one.