The 'Shroom:Issue 101/Palette Swap
Hello, everyone! I hope this issue of Palette Swap finds you in the mood to read and see some amazing work by the team!
We have a new column this month, by Lily x (talk), entitled “Lily’s Doodles,” and we are happy to have her working with us to bring us some fabulous art. I would also like to say to anyone that may be interested, you can submit a drawing of your own anytime to me on the Forums without actually signing up for the position. So if you have a picture of Mario that you’d like to share, do send it in!
I think that’s enough of me, let’s move on to more important matters!
Section of the Month
Congratulations again to Walkazo, whose new comic strip “The Adventures of Little Mario” took first in a landslide victory! We had so many amazing contributions last month, and I’m happy to say that we have many this month as well, so don’t forget to vote for your favorite!
Flag Design Contest UPDATE
It was rather disappointing to see that no one presented anything for the Flag Design contest, but Rareware needs a flag! Therefore, we’re extending the deadline for submissions one more month. If you want to enter but you haven’t started yet, I would highly encourage you to do so! Your flag designs are due on the Forum by September 19th!
What's on the Box?
Hello readers, and welcome to What’s on the Box? This month I'm going slightly back in time as this was the boxart that I was going to highlight in the June issue, but then laptop issues struck. Anyway, the chosen boxart is the European boxart of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, and this is a pretty awesome boxart. It features Mario, Luigi, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Bowser, Baby Peach, Toadsworth, Toadsworth the Younger, Toad, Kylie Koopa, Yoshi, and Princess Peach being kidnapped by the game's main antagonists: The Shroobs. The boxart of the game seems to take place in the past as it features the Shroobs invasion of the Mushroom Kingdom. As usual, there are some interesting things to note: chief among them is that all the Shroob outlines aren't Shroobs, some of them seem to be different enemies, and due to their rounded noses it is likely that they are Yoob and the Shroob Rex which could explain Yoshi's appearance on the boxart as he doesn't play a major role in the game; a Shroob UFO is also attacking Baby Bowser, although he doesn't seem fazed by this, this probably indicates that although he has a villainous role it's not the main one; another thing to note about Baby Bowser is that he is the only character with an older counterpart who is not present on the boxart; and finally the Time Hole is located on the right of the boxart, close to the place where you would open the game case, as the Time Holes are how to continue your adventure in the game, this could be indicating that by opening the game case you are about to start your own adventure.
Sprite of the Month
This month, I'm bringing back happy memories from my childhood for you all. My first Nintendo device ever (not counting the GameBoy my Dad had that he let me play from time to time), was a blue Gameboy Advance SP. And on that SP, one of my earliest Mario games was Mario Tennis: Power Tour. I probably put as many hours into this game as I might a main-series Pokémon game, I loved it so much. There were so many playable characters, and not just the Mario characters, so this month, I'm providing you with the ones I enjoyed playing most: Ace, Flit, and Sheri. I spent so much time in-game in the story playing as Ace it was hard not to like her and want to play as her, plus she got some really great power-up shots. Flit was your stereotypical jerky-kind of guy, and when I think about it now, he's a lot like Shadow the Hedgehog in that regard. Sheri just looked really cool. I loved her red hair and her awesome style- wait, there's another trait shared with Shadow...hmmm... Anyways, this game has always been one of my favorite Mario games, even if I can't play it on my systems anymore because the cartridges are corrupted.
Ongoing Fan Projects
After last month's extra-long section in honour of the 'Shroom's 100th Issue, this month is gonna be nice and short. So we're going to look at a single song today: "Walk the Dinosaur", from the Super Mario Bros. movie. In case you haven't committed the entirety of this wonderful film to memory for some reason, this tune plays as the heroes try to get out of the Boom Boom Bar, and also gets a reprise at the end of the credits roll, before the stinger.
The song was originally by a band called Was (Not Was), and was released as part of their 1988 album, What Up, Dog? - truly inspired names all around. But the song itself is pretty fun: nice, upbeat funk that surely played in lots of actual bars while the music video featuring scantily clad cave women made the rounds on MTV. If you listen to the words, it's a pretty silly song too, all about making cave paintings of buffalo, watching TV, smoking both cigarettes and spitted rattlesnakes, dreaming of pork roasts on the Statue of Liberty, considering how skillfully Elvis cures lepers despite his lack of a beard, and then finally getting blown away by nuclear Armageddon. Really.
The version of the song heard in the SMB movie is actually a cover by George Clinton & the Goombas, specifically for the film. As well as using "Goomba" as the name of the backing musicians, the "Boom Boom acka-lacka-lacka Boom / Boom Boom acka-lacka Boom Boom" chant was replaced by "Goom Goom acka-lacka-lacka Goom / Goom Goom acka-lacka Goomba" (although really, given the name of the establishment it plays in, the original would have worked for the film too). The "I killed a dinosaur" lines were changed to regular "I walked the dinosaur" lines, and the song was also shortened a bit, due to the removal of the verse about Elvis landing his rocket ship in NYC to heal the aforementioned lepers: much sadness. But in return, we got another "Walk the Dinosaur" music video - and it's even better than the original, since now there's topical clips of the SMB film in the background instead of public domain ripoffs of The Flinstones, while the scantily clad ladies here are joined by a headphone-toting iguana, and a very technicolour George Clinton (when he's not in greyscale mode, anyway), who both dances exuberantly and periodically tries to eat the camera. And here you thought the Super Mario series' representation in official 90s live-action media couldn't get any funkier, hah.
Of course, George Clinton wasn't the only one to cover "Walk the Dinosaur" over the years, and most of you kids these days probably recognize it as the credits music for Ice Age 3, rather than Super Mario Bros. - this time performed by Queen Latifah. Coincidentally, John Leguizamo was actually featured in both films - portraying Luigi in SMB and voicing Sid the Sloth in Ice Age. And with that last little tidbit, we have reached the credits roll of yet another issue of Mario's Boombox. Thank you and goodnight.
Hello, all you hybrid reader-listeners! I'm here to bring you another dose of chiptunes in this month's edition of 8-Bit Amphitheater!
So, let's get down to the skinny. You'll notice that this section is, in fact, quite skinny, as it has only four songs as opposed to the seven I said there would be this month. There are a number of reasons for this that I won't bore you with, but the biggest problem is that I had a hard drive failure about 3 weeks ago that made me lose access to all the chiptunes I was working for the upcoming months. Joy! I did have three chiptunes saved and uploaded already (thankfully), so I am presenting you those three plus on additional one that I thought would be an appropriate starting point for my chiptune work on this hard drive.
First up is a deep cut by Coldplay off of their third album, X&Y. The song is "Square One", and it's the song I felt would be a good starting point for more chiptune work on my current hard drive. While X&Y isn't among my top favorite Coldplay albums, I think this song is the best opening track for any album they've ever released. It's a really good song with a lot of variation and driving rhythms that set the tone for the whole album. The song has a slight Depeche Mode flair to it, so if you enjoy their work, you may like this track.
Our second track is one of the few left over from my old hard drive, "In Between Days" by The Cure. While many of The Cure's songs have a heavy, gothic atmosphere about them, "In Between Days" is a short, seemingly-lighthearted ditty that probably has probably gotten stuck in the heads of many people. There's really nothing to dislike about the original track, and I find that it translates exceptionally well to chiptune, particularly due to its upbeat and poppy nature.
Third is a song from a recent group I would argue functions as the radio equivalent of a séance with John Lennon — Tame Impala's lead vocalist comes frighteningly close to a perfect emulation of the late Beatle's singing style and vocal register. The song itself, "Elephant", is a droning, thumping anthem of sorts that just oozes late-'60s-to-early-'70s psychedelia. The highlight of the song is a huge keyboard and guitar solo that acts as a 90-second centerpiece. The chiptuned version of this sounds like something you might hear in a boss battle, I think.
Finally, I have a track from the very well-loved Team Fortress 2 soundtrack. Team Fortress 2's soundtrack boasts a very colorful variety of tunes, but among the most easily-recognizable of them is the short, misleadingly-titled, "Rocket Jump Waltz". At about 40 seconds long, it is the shortest song in the game's original soundtrack. Despite its length, it's still one of my favorite songs in the whole OST (which I actually enjoy the entirety of). Also, I say it's "misleadingly" titled because it is not actually a waltz, like its title might say; waltzes are typically in 3/4 time, while "Rocket Jump Waltz" is in 4/4.
...Ahh yes, that song reminds me, I have work to do in other parts of The 'Shroom. I guess I will wrap things up, since you probably only came here for the songs anyway. I hope you enjoy them! I'll see you next month with even more chiptunes.
Hey, so there I was just researching some good composer options to cover this month, and I found out that one particularly massive name in the gaming sphere celebrated his birthday just two days before this issue’s initial release... you know, before the issue got delayed. What almost-good timing! That composer is none other than Koji Kondo, probably the most prominent video game musician to this Wiki’s community by virtue of him being the Mario music man, and there’s a surprisingly decent amount of history to Kondo-san’s name, so let’s get started!
Koji Kondo was born on August 13th, 1961, in Nagoya, Japan, where he started taking professional lessons for the electric organ when he was five. Anyone who knows about 1970s rock music will know how prevalent the electric organ was around the time of Kondo-san’s childhood, and this translated perfectly into his joining an unnamed jazz and rock cover band in his teen years. With this group, he developed his skill with the instrument by attempting to emulate his favourite bands, such as Deep Purple and Yes, and even jazz-fusion revolutionary Herbie Hancock (hell yeah, Herbie), although he didn’t much care for the stereotypical classic rock look. When not practicing with his band, he was playing old arcade games or studying film soundtracks for new ideas, in particular the works of Henry Mancini.
Kondo-san cared very little for the extravagant stage fame of his influences, being more fascinated with working with different sounds and instruments in the studio, in particular the rising usage of computers to program music, which was a big part of what drew him to video games. It was this fascination that inspired him to study at the Osaka University of Arts, where after many years of study, he managed to catch the luckiest break of his life. After his graduation in 1984, he sought a job on the school’s placement board where he noticed an advertisement from Nintendo, who were reaching out to the university for devoted young musicians with an interest in compositional work for video gaming. It was one of those “that’s it, that’s where I’m meant to be” moments that I’m desperately waiting for in my own life, and he immediately applied for the job, a move that culminated in his very first and so far only job, where he’s lasted even to this day more than 30 years later. He became the third sound engineering and musical compositional employee at Nintendo after Hirokazu Tanaka and his programming mentor Yukio Kaneoka, although their background was in electrical engineering and thusly they had more of an emphasis on sound effects than actual music, making Kondo-san the first employee to specialise entirely in music composition.
His first work with the company was actually before he officially joined the company, in what Kondo-san now deems “his homework” before being hired; he composed the soundtrack for the original Punch Out!! on arcade, where he was challenged to create music with the feel of music in sports television broadcasting… with only the three notes available on the arcade machine. He managed to push through the limitations and created… well, they’re nice ringtones, at least. After being hired, he helped design the Family BASIC keyboard peripheral, writing instructions in the handbook on how to compose some simple Japanese pop tunes into the Famicom’s programming. At the end of his first year, he worked on the scores for Golf and Devil World, which also didn’t really step past “cute little advertisement jingles”, but his real breakthrough hit would come in his sophomore year with the company.
Of course, I’m talking about none other than Super Mario Bros., which would not only become one of the most successful video games in history, but became a hallmark of sound design in the gaming sphere. With a total of six main themes throughout the game – bigger than anything in a video game at that time – it was a powerful test of not just the consoles hardware, but of Kondo-san’s own ability. His intention for the tone of the soundtrack, aside from creating something unlike anything else in the industry, was to be catchy enough that it could loop multiple times in each level and still be engaging for the player, and the way he hoped to accomplish that was by feeding off the gameplay itself, making the music have an almost rhythmic connection with the controls and progression. The “Underwater” theme was the first one he composed, being the easiest for him to visualise in his head, but the now-famous “Ground” theme took him multiple tries as he was never satisfied with how it synced up to the actions on screen. After a great deal of perseverance, however, he reached the final ska-tinged tune that has become a cultural emblem across the globe, even having a documented record of being among the top ten downloaded ringtones in the United States for over two years between 2004 and 2006.
This wasn’t his only claim to fame, however. The following year in 1986, he would be tasked with the composition of another best-selling hit, The Legend of Zelda, which Kondo-san has described as being “more ambient” than his work for Super Mario Bros.. Kondo-san knew that Zelda was far more adventure-driven than Mario, so went into the studio with the intention of enhancing the feel of the game’s environment rather than the game’s mechanics, and while the results were not as ubiquitous as his work in Super Mario Bros., the main Overworld theme has still become recognised as a timeless piece, and has thusly been incorporated in one way or another in every major Zelda release since.
Kondo-san’s step outside the restrictive sound tech on the NES saw some of his most famous tunes come to fruition with the increased sound channels to work with, such as the barrelhouse-infused Overworld theme from Super Mario World, the marching rhythm of the A Link to the Past dark world music, the Pacific-tinged folk tune of the map music from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, and the oft-ignored 80s action film-styled “Helicopter Theme” from Pilotwings. It wasn’t until after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that Kondo-san would relinquish his creative independence over his assigned games, either collaborating with other composers or taking a backseat as merely a supervisor or supporting sound engineer. His very first entry into the realm of live orchestration for a game soundtrack came with Super Mario Galaxy, where he assisted the primary composer of the game, Mahito Yakoto, in realising the soundtrack’s final grandiose tone that we’ve come to know the game for. His involvement with the actual composition, however, was minimal; he only composed four tracks, the Good Egg Galaxy theme and the three different Comet Observatory themes, which sound at their best put together into one track.
Kondo-san has been a big supporter of what he has dubbed “interactive music”, in which the progression and tone of the music would react to the on-screen events. Take the sped-up tune in an old Mario game when the timer reaches 100, or the added percussion when riding Yoshi in both Super Mario World and Super Mario Sunshine. The intention of this technique is to create a synergised audio-visual experience for the player, which can not only aid the setting and atmosphere, but also the rhythm of the gameplay itself – often pooling off the game’s internal clock for rhythm changes, and ensuring that as many tracks as possible are able to transition easily into each other. For this reason, he prefers to shy away from big-scale orchestral pieces (with a few notable exceptions, such as Super Mario Galaxy), which he feels often draw too much attention away from the game’s rhythm to be interactive. Similar techniques can be seen in Banjo-Kazooie, Pikmin, and of course Rez, which is fuelled entirely by this concept.
Koji Kondo has had but a limited range of franchises he’s managed to stick his music-writing thumb into, but the results speak for themselves. Kondo-san’s strict music design philosophy sits intrinsically in-line with the interactivity of the gaming medium, which has allowed him to transcend normal compositional theory into a revolutionary technique for multimedia game design. His ear for catchy tunes and good sense of rhythmic gameplay has spawned some of the most internationally famous classics in the pop culture space, and has proven them able to stand the test of time into the hearts and minds of newer generations long past the age of hopeless nostalgic wanting. He’s now even got another chance to shine once more as a solo composer in the upcoming Super Mario Maker, the first time he’s had full reign over a game’s soundtrack since Ocarina of Time back in 1998, which will display once more Kondo-san’s fondness for interactive music, proving that although he may now be old, he’s not ready to hand his synthesiser in yet.
This month I will be submitting two drawings I have done recently, one being a fully coloured lineart of Nao Matsubara from Diamond no Ace, and the other being a coloured sketch of Yuusuke Makishima from Yowamushi Pedal wearing the clothes of Caesar Zeppeli from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.