Super Mario 64 – “Dire, Dire Docks” (Koji Kondo)May 26, 2010
Super Mario 64 (1996) was one of Koji Kondo’s best soundtracks. Thanks to Kondo’s excellent composition skills as well as the new power and storage space of the Nintendo 64, Kondo was able to create a true masterpiece. Nearly every song in the game is a joy to behold, and can be listened to on their own. In fact, they are fun for people who have never played the game before and also bring back fond memories when you hear the music again, even long after playing. Of course, there are many other songs I like from this game (particularly the main theme and ending), but “Dire, Dire Docks” (aka “Water Land”) is one of my favorites due to its calm, rolling nature and the wonderful instrument selection.
“Dire, Dire Docks” on the Super Mario 64 soundtrack is an arrangement of the different versions of the theme, first above the water, then inside, and finally, in the underwater cave. It’s an absolutely divine swim into the waters of Mario’s world, capturing the rolling nature of the waves and the overall feel of swimming in the vast 3D seas, something that players had not done prior to this game.
The instruments are liquid and seem to have been created from water. The base of the track is built on two rolling loops of piano and harp that create a soft, gentle ripple like small waves on the surface. 20 seconds in the main theme begins with delicate twinklings from an ice-like piano that does not seem quite solid, but more floating in the fluid space between synth and simulation. One minute in, and Kondo adds strings to provide greater atmosphere and depth of space. They add a graceful layer to the track that is soon accompanied by drums and high hat, which plays inside the underwater cave. These instruments were added to indicate a sense of danger to the player – it’s time to be on your toes!
There have been many remixes of “Dire, Dire Docks” . Out of all the remixes, djpretzel’s magnificent orchestral mix, “SunkenSuite” is one of the best. The drums build to a marvelous conclusion and the piano is divine. Sadly, some of the instruments sound a little metallic, but that is likely because the track was arranged in 2001. However, there are other notable mixes that take different approaches to the theme. Level 99 on VGMix 2.0 did an excellent acoustic guitar and electric guitar arrangement, “Just Keep Swimming” (2005) for a lovely, metallic arrange that feels almost ethnic in execution – and as a result, I think he may be channeling Yasunori Mitsuda’s style in a few places. Another VGMix 2.0 that’s worth noting is Daniel Lippert’s (aka usa) “Aquatic Harmony“, a beautiful piano arrange that takes a minimal approach to the song. The track begins quite delicate, but at 2:30, Lippert adds some original material for a livelier rendition of the theme. A well-rounded piece.