8-Bit Mondays: Super Mario Land – “World Music 1” (Hirokazu Tanaka)May 17, 2010
More Game Boy and Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka for Monday! This is one of his more widely known soundtracks, Super Mario Land (1989) for the Game Boy. A launch title, the game has fairly short songs when compared with Super Mario Bros. – however, it more than makes up for this with five unique world stage themes (Super Mario Bros. had only three), along with boss and ending themes. What’s more, the compositions for each song are very lyrical, pulling back to Tanaka’s root inspiration from bands such as The Monkees. While not as good as Kazumi Totaka’s Mario Land 2 soundtrack (mainly due to shorter songs and first-gen instruments), it’s still mighty impressive and a Tanaka classic.
“World Music 1” (aka “Main BGM #1”) is the game’s Stage 1 music, or “main theme”. The composition is quite whimsical, with piano, bass, and drums. Tanaka puts some nice touches at the end of the first sections with two short, jingling notes. He is careful not to make two sections of the song identical, but instead creates short variations on the theme as a kind of call and response. The track is only 26 seconds long (with a two second intro), but a short, memorable piece.
I also love “World Music 3“. It has a very familiar melody, calm and soothing while evoking green rolling hills and lazy overland travel. I actually think “World Music 3” is the best in the game, but is not as well-known as the World 1 theme. There’s a nice remix from OCR by chthonic and halc (“Why So Serious?“) that combines both themes quite well in a funky chip electronica style, integrating sound effects and short snippets smoothly. Another nice rendition of this is Arglebargle’s “Digital Dreamscape” from VGMix, which is some pretty smooth trance.
As far as remixes of the “World Music 1” theme goes, there have been a small handful, but they’re mostly of high quality. The original was a nice synth rock piece by Mario Freaks Orchestra from Super Mario Land (1989), which follows the traditional herAABA arrange structure. There’s a nice guitar along with mellow synth lines that sound like a harmonica. There was another piece done on Game Boy Graffiti (1990) by Mario Freaks Orchestra, but I don’t have that one. They’ve also got a real smooth mix of the World 3 theme. Both tracks are titles “Mario’s Adventures”.
Ambassadors of Funk Feat. M.C. Mario (1993) is another early remix album by M.C. Mario (aka Simon Harris, aka Megalaser). This one’s not as good as it’s in a fairly dated style of early 90s club/funk DJ. Apparently, this style used to be ‘cool’. It really brings back lots of fond memories of skating rinks and bus rides and borrowing your friend’s Game Boy. While Ambassadors of Funk have excellent command of beat and mixing SFX, their lyircs are more than a little painful – you just can’t make Mario’s adventures (or most game narratives, for that matter) sound hip. What’s even sadder is the entire album is basically five versions of the same song. Super Mario Compact Disco (1993) at least had a wider variety. They also did a piece on Six Golden Coins.
One of my favorites is Kaijin and JAXX’s “Reel Big Mario“, a big band arrange with an amazing guitar and trumpets. Sadly, it’s a bit short and has a rather poor ending. With a bit more development, I think this one could have been tops.