Shmuplations has translated yet another classic interview from Nintendo’s past, which sheds light on the origins of some of the iconic music and sounds from Super Mario Bros and The Legend Of Zelda.
The interview is titled “The History of Nintendo Game Music” and was originally posted on Nintendo’s official Japanese website. It features legendary video-game composers Koji Kondo and Kazumi Totaka, who shared some interesting insights into the process of making music during the early days of Nintendo. While the full translated interview can be found here, you can check out some highlights below:
On Super Mario Bros’ music
Nintendo: How did you create the music for Super Mario Bros? Did you choose that “latin” feel because Mario is Italian?
Kondo: No, it wasn’t like that. I had an image of my mind, based on Mario’s movements, of wanting to make something bright and cheerful, and the slightly latin feel just came out naturally as a consequence. Rather than thinking about “genres”, I’ve always been more conscious of that fact that I’m writing game music. The first scene I was shown was Mario running through a grassy field. From that, my first attempt was a softer, more heartwarming melody, but it didn’t fit. So I re-wrote it to be more upbeat and “action”-y.
On Zelda’s iconic flute and sword beam sound effects
Kondo: That “bzyuun!” laser sound your sword makes? That wasn’t possible on the Famicom’s sound chip. The sounds the monsters make when they appear was also done with FM. I tried to use impressive, showy sounds that no one had heard before.
Nintendo: And did Miyamoto have any requests for Zelda?
Kondo: I remember he had me make a lot of different sounds for when you use the flute (when you warp). He was very particular about that one sound. “It shouldn’t just be ‘pretty’. I want it to evoke something more mysterious”, he told me.
On working with the Game Boy
Nintendo: What kind of tricks did you use to make your music fit into such a small amount of memory?
Totaka: Well, sometimes it happened that you’d add sound effects, but then the music wouldn’t fit, and vice versa. Or you’d write a song, and then have to remove notes one-by-one, to let the sound effects stand-out better, or even just to make it fit into memory. Once you got used to it, you could write music economically in a way that didn’t take up too much memory.
No matter how good your song may have been, if you heedlessly ignored those limitations it would never fit. To that end I would try to be clever about re-using phrases and patterns as I wrote, making sure that it remained a pleasing and “listenable” song.
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