Metroid II: Return of Samus – “Surface Runner” (Ryohji Yoshitomi)September 6, 2010
To finish up Metroid week, here’s an old favorite, the main caves theme from Metroid II: Return of Samus (1992), which has been unofficially named “Surface Runner” (thanks to a remix of the same name). See, one of the problems with Nintendo is they rarely, if ever, give names to their tracks, and when they do, it’s usually ‘Main BGM” or “Stage 1” or something boring like that.
After the “Samus Appearance Fanfare,” which sounds like ocean waves beating on a distant, wind-whipped subterranean shore, Samus gets rolling into action, with opening notes that immediately scream, “Let’s go forward and see what’s out there!” “Surface Runner” exudes confidence with solid long notes in major scale and easy steps between. The melody is easy and incredibly catchy too, with all four layers cooperating to create a rich tapestry of low, high, and mid-range audio; definitely the highlight of the soundtrack. There are some great scraping drumlines, too that sound like bugs slipping through the rocks. Pay special attention as well to the end of the second part at 1:43 – this is actually a variation placing greater emphasis on the strings. Because the second half is identical to the first, aside from this variation, the track I uploaded is actually only 2:20 instead of the song’s usual 4:30, though I could probably listen to it the whole day.
As everyone’s favorite Metroid II tune, “Surface Runner” has seen a lot of love in the remix department. One of the oldest is Richter’s “Surface Runner 388“, from VGMix 2.0 which the fan title of this song came from. The track has some pretty cheesy synths and is wholly 8-bit in spirit with a kind of 80s rock vibe going on. David Dude did a similar-style mix, “Tunnel Vision” (also VGMix 2.0) in dance/electronica. VonRichter also had some pretty slick remixes going for his Project SR388, which has sadly fallen the way of most fan projects.
However, the real king of mixes goes to Metroid Metal for “The Tunnel“, which is an absolutely killer rock arrange. This piece was actually Stemage’s (Grant Henry’s) first collaboration with Chunkstyle on drums and a special appearance by Goat (Unchosen Paths) on guitar. The piece has some meaty bass and guitars that sound like they would fit right in on a Game Boy sound chip. There’s a great guitar solo in the middle where Goat goes crazy on original material. Incidentally, Metroid Metal returned to this theme again in Varia Suite with a meatier, more intensive mix that seems like just about everyone got a solo.
Metroid II was Ryohji Yoshitomi‘s debut soundtrack. His music has also appeared in Mario Paint, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, and Wii Play. Yoshitomi in many ways followed the spirit of the original Metroid‘s soundtrack, but infused the game with a healthy dosage of silence to accentuate the tension and atmosphere of the caves. It’s pretty slick stuff for a first showing, even if some of the tracks are sub-par. Metroid II also happened to be the first game in the series I played, so it holds a special place for me.