Cubed3 Top 20 Soundtracks - Part 2 (16-11)
15) Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon 2
Picture yourself as a quirky ninja in medieval Japan, travelling the country, exploring dungeons full of action and platforming, while listening to such an upbeat soundtrack. It's guaranteed that you will soon enough find yourself tapping your feet to the beat of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon 2 whilst playing, or whistling the tracks after turning off the console. The music itself in this game keeps gamers wanting to play more, which is quite amazing.
When progressing through the dungeons, the attentive ear will spot that the percussion becomes stronger when approaching its end, resulting in a grandiose finale of a taiko drums solo in Burning My Soul when finally reaching the boss. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon 2 has the better tracks and sound quality out of both episodes released in the West on Nintendo 64, but only loses out to its predecessor in terms of the quantity of thoroughly memorable pieces. It is worth mentioning that the intro song, Smile Again, sung by Hironobu Kageyama of Dragon Ball Z fame, along with the Impact Robot intro Double Impact were axed from the Western releases of the game.
14) Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
Probably better known than its sequel to the most dedicated Nintendo 64 players, back in the day, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon has the same signature vibe found in all episodes of the Ganbare Goemon franchise. This time most tracks are more laid back and do not use as much fast-paced percussion as in the sequel, but the memorable melodies are present in a far greater amount. According to the developers, music quality was a major concern when developing the game, as the cartridge format was considered to be incapable of providing the same quality as the then-dominating CD format.
The team of composers at Konami went to great lengths to provide the best soundtrack possible, and this truly can be heard when travelling around vast outdoor areas in medieval Japan, and exploring Zelda-esque 3D dungeons. When climbing up the floors in each dungeon, instead of the beat picking up like in the sequel, the music starts with few musical instruments, building up into a full orchestra by the end. Finally, being possibly the first Nintendo 64 game to have a fully sung intro song, the Theme of Mystical Ninja, sung by Hironobu Kageyama, was a pretty remarkable feat in itself.
13) The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Koji Kondo, the man behind so many other Nintendo soundtracks since the 1980s, was back at the composing helm for Ocarina of Time's sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Like many of the characters from the previous game, there were some returning tracks in the line-up, though not all from Ocarina of Time. There were, however, plenty of incredible new compositions. Kondo likens Majora’s Mask's music to an exotic Chinese-opera sound, and this can definitely be heard in tracks like Kamaro’s Dance. A Zelda game is never complete without some of the catchiest tunes, either, so Court of the Deku King, Pirates' Fortress and Boss Battle, the last of which was composed by Toru Minegishi, as well as two more of the battle tunes, are ones players will be humming in their heads for days. The fan-favourite temple of the series, Stone Tower, even had two brilliant variants: the normal theme, and a twisted, inverted version that plays after flipping the temple on its head. Many remixes from past Zelda games make their way in, with Termina Field quite possibly being the best version of the classic overworld theme to date.
Kondo used Majora’s Mask's three-day clock mechanic to create more interesting ideas. The game’s central area of Clock Town initially started out with a jolly and happy mood on the first day, but by the second day the sped up tempo starts to convey that sense of urgency, with day three’s variation featuring a nervous and scary underlying theme, transmitting that sense of imminent tragedy. In the ultimate minutes of the last day, Final Hours makes that feeling of powerlessness even more real, as Link stares above only to see the moon within touching distance; Armageddon drawing ever closer. It is the themes that play during these moments that help create the atmosphere and bring out emotions in players. Majora’s Mask is a perfect example of how game scores help attach players to the scenes they are playing on a much more personal level. The adventure itself had a lot of thought and meaning put into it, and it is with such affection that it can be safely said the soundtrack received just as much care and treatment.
12) Mario Party
When gamers think Mario Party, there are usually two thoughts that spring to mind: an enjoyable multiplayer fest or a childhood bore. The soundtrack is often one of the features within the series that is surprisingly overlooked, yet the whimsical themes helped the origins of the long-running series establish its own style. The original developer of the Mario Party series, Hudson, opted not to throw in and re-use too many familiar tunes from the Mario universe, rather create a distinctive sound that was still intertwined with that classic Nintendo feeling. Chirpy, bouncy bass, soothing harp and playful drums brought life to themed game boards and were an essential ingredient to the classic mini-games on offer, relevant and appropriate to the situation. Mario Party offers fun and a memorable soundtrack, synonymous with summer days and good friends.
11) Perfect Dark
Whilst its spiritual predecessor GoldenEye 007 relied heavily on remixing the classic James Bond theme into action and atmospheric jingles, the Sci-Fi romp in Perfect Dark took on its own, very distinctive extraterrestrial sound. A score that is a mix of pure Hollywood-inspired frills, blended nicely with the eerie ambient sounds of the modern-day synthesiser, made Joanna Dark's adventure an aural thrill every step of the way. Granted, the droning strings, light cowbell, and pounding drums were a staple feature in other Rareware games that composer Grant Kirkhope had worked on, but the futuristic influence helped shape a truly memorable soundtrack, unsurpassed by Perfect Dark's contemporary bigger brothers.
Cubed3's Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 4 (5-1)
5) Super Mario 64
It’s no debate that Super Mario 64 was a truly revolutionary game. But what of its music? Sure, the soundtrack didn’t have a dramatic effect on the remarkable gameplay, but it most definitely helped weave even more wonderful memories. Having worked on the soundtracks for the Mario series since Super Mario Bros., Koji Kondo was again in the driving seat for Mario's jump to 3D. What better way to introduce everyone to Mario’s new world than with a remix of the classic Mario theme? Remixes didn’t dominate the game’s score though, as there was a heap of terrific original themes that seemed to fit each giant world perfectly.
The first stage, Bob-Omb Battlefield, held what was named as the Super Mario 64 Main Theme. This would prove to be one of the most memorable tracks in the series, absolutely fitting for the first level of an adventure. Just like that one famous tune from that 1985 NES platformer starring the plumber, you know the one! Kondo proved his mesmerizing talent in one of the most beautiful pieces to come out of video games with another memorable track. Dire, Dire Docks was played during water levels, with variations of the theme creeping in dynamically as the player guided Mario from land, water and into caves. It seemed to meld together with the ocean itself as the player was engrossed into swimming freely though these water environments. Such a piece can often bring out many emotions in players, with fans having produced some gorgeous versions of their own.
King Bowser's treacherous obstacle courses that lead up to a climactic battle hosted some fantastic music that put an extra pressure on the player as they grew closer, whilst the battle themes against the boss himself were easily some of the best music in Super Mario 64. The final fight had an even greater aura about it as an organ-like theme of epic proportions belted in the background; a theme that complemented the king to a tee. Even after the game had ended, the magic didn’t stop. Perhaps finishing one of the greatest gaming experiences ever contributed to the emotional aspect of the Staff Roll, but there was no denying the impact it could have on the player as the credits scrolled. Koji Kondo managed to do Super Mario 64’s amazing gameplay justice in creating a soundtrack just as fantastic.
4) F-Zero X
Nintendo brought out the original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo long before Psygnosis' Wipeout and the Extreme-G games came into existence. It helped set up a fantastic futuristic racing genre that was grueling, unforgiving, and extremely edgy. To fit the tone of this theme, composers Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai had to successfully craft a high-tempo soundtrack that matched the frenetic pacing perfectly...and they did so with great aplomb. This soundtrack is certainly reminiscent of Unirally and even Turtles Tournament Fighters on the SNES in places, with it containing really rousing, rock-themed anthems throughout. Whenever the adrenaline rush starts to subside, the drums and guitar work kick in once more and the race kicks off, getting that heart rate up yet again, with the three stunning pieces: Endless Challenge, Dream Chaser, and Decide in the Eyes being superlative examples of how to engage gamers in the action. Listen and learn!
3) Lylat Wars
The soundtrack for Lylat Wars was composed by Koji Kondo, in collaboration with Hajime Wakai. This marked the first time Kondo worked with another composer since his work on Devil World, way back in 1984. This would be Wakai’s first major composition work at Nintendo, as well. It was a collaboration that worked many wonders and between them, they crafted a sublime soundtrack that was fitting for even a high production sci-fi film.
The opening cut-scene thrusts you straight into the action and is accompanied by a powerful piece that captures the heroics of the Star Fox team, and this reverberated throughout the game. Kondo and Wakai composed the soundtrack that had a lot more variety to it than just those heroic compositions though. Stand out tracks included Zoness, which featured a distressful sound; capturing the feeling of struggle - a perfect accompaniment for that stage. There was also Sector X, a mysterious and empty sounding piece and again fitted perfect with the eerie environment of deep and unforgiving space. It was more than just an amazing selection of music; it was one that captured the emotions of the Star Fox team in the environments they explored, alongside their mission objectives and brilliantly paced story.
The sound team at Rare is indeed like no other, always attempting to make its tunes as varied as possible, using all manner of instruments that other groups would likely never even dream of touching. Trombones, banjos, whistles, flutes, accordions, Carribbean steel drums, and heavy usage of both the high and low end of the xylophone scale. The menagerie of musical styles makes for a really eclectic approach that surprisingly works amazingly well. As with the other Rare games included in Cubed3's list so far, Banjo-Kazooie is a primary example of how the mish-mash of sounds shows how confident the team was in its talent, and the final outcome is testament to the skills the composers possess. Who can argue with a team that can successfully fuse traditional music with various animal noises to great effect?
If you go down to the woods today you will indeed be in for a big surprise and Gruntilda's Lair (Primary Theme) follows this premise, starting off as a sort of happy-go-lucky children's style melody, except with an extremely dark twist to send chills down spines everywhere, especially as the track continues to its wispy section, filled with high-pitched xylophone beats with a wicked witch laugh in the background. An extremely clever piece of music with a wide range to make it the perfect backdrop for the game's wandering action.
In stark contrast to this is Click Clock Wood (Spring) - a perfect example of the way animal noises can be incorporated into a soundtrack without it sounding cheesy or completely out of place. This extremely light-hearted flute-led theme conveys a beautiful bright and breezy feel, with bird tweets, cricket chattering, and cockerel crows mixed in to add to the ambience and general feel of trundling through a busy forest landscape. In fact, this particular track is remade three more times to fit the remaining seasons of Summer, Autumn and Winter, taking the core theme and revamping it with different instruments and, yes you guessed it, more animal noises - bees buzzing and birds squawking in summer, owls hooting, frogs croaking and woodpeckers hammering away in Autumn, truly delightful! The winter iteration is of worthy of mention as well, thanks to its chill-to-the-bone icy tone, with winds blowing away in the background as plenty of light-toned xylophone plays over the top, with even some gentle bells ringing in places.
Moving on, how can Banjo-Kazooie be mentioned without its fantastic, tremendously upbeat Intro not being mentioned? Other than Rare's DK Rap for Donkey Kong 64, this song is one of the most inspired creations harmonica, violins, more banjos, xylophones, whistles, and accordions than you can shake a stick at. 'Song' may seem an odd label for a track in a videogame score, but considering the input from Banjo and Kazooie themselves, whilst not speaking in human tongue per se they certainly do add a vocal quality to the otherwise instrumental piece that simply cannot be overlooked.
Highlighting the range found within Banjo-Kazooie's soundtrack, Storage Locker takes on a murky slant. With its undulating theme running throughout, traipsing up and down the full range of the lower end of the xylophone, makes for a very toe-tapping tune, showing how simple is sometimes best. With the odd wooden tap and the haunting vibe that sneaks in from time-to-time, this understated track is yet another example of the ideal backing music for long stretches of exploration; enough substance to prevent it growing stale during the journey.
Finally, there is Attack of the Snippet Mutants, a highly invigorating track that is simply bursting with energy from start to finish, with lots of drips and drops littered over the lively piece. It seems to constantly change key to increase the tension before stripping away the running beat mid-way through to great effect, before bringing it back in full force to end this rollercoaster-ride of a track. Masterful execution.
Other tracks that did not quite make the final cut for this list, but are still impressive nonetheless, include the brilliant way one of the game's main themes, Spiral Mountain, was reworked as Spiral Mountain (Underwater) to give a watery feel, as well as the pastiche of quiz show themes for Grunty's Furnace Fun Quiz that appears towards the latter stages of Banjo and Kazooie's adventure, the maritime Outside the Salty Hippo, and the haunting Mad Monster Mansion (Interior). As for Down the Loggo Toilet, this faeces-filled piece, with its burping noises, dripping and bubbling sounds, definitely smells like a precursor to Conker's Bad Fur Day's Sloprano, which was mentioned in another of Cubed3's Top Soundtracks articles.
1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If there is one area that Nintendo never lets gamers down in, it has to be that of video game soundtracks. Sometimes titles may not have as much content as expected, or visuals that could have been tweaked slightly to make better use of the hardware, yet with the likes of Koji Kondo steering the aural ship through the musical waves, the journey to the final destination of gamers' ears is never a turbulent one. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one particular game that epitomises the sterling work conducted by Kondo-san and his composing troupe, including Yoshiko Kawamoto. In fact, so impressive is the soundtrack that choosing specific examples proves to be quite the daunting task.
Setting the tone of an adventure is always important, and delivering the perfect piece of music for the title screen can play a large part in creating a strong ambience from the get-go. Ocarina of Time's Title Theme does that and more, not being a mere brief ditty on loop that grows tiresome very quickly, but one that is so serene and beautiful, complementing the rolling demo of Link riding around lush fields on Epona that, giving the feel of exploration during the early hours, and sending a shiver down your spine the first time it is heard.
Once into the main adventure itself, variety is imperative for ensuring the soundtrack is packed with enough substance to endure the long quest ahead, and tracks like the Temple of Time are sublime examples. The echoing nature of the track takes a subtle theme and puts an ecclesiastical twist on it that gives off a gracious feel, and a true sense of wonderment at what is about to be discovered next. On the flipside to something so serious, there is the mesmeric Windmill Hut, with its accordion-esque main beat running throughout, and intriguing overtones to engage the imagination of the gamer as its plays to its conclusion. A true delight to listen to!
A fourth one to keep an ear out for is the rousing Hyrule Field Main Theme that draws from past The Legend of Zelda outings, especially The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, mixing a horse-trotting-esque rhythmic drum beat with inspiring strings and a whole host of dark edged synth that is reminiscent of the murkier depths of the Lylat system, giving visions of players navigating Fox and company through space. The juxtaposition of light and dark effects makes this complicated track a real masterpiece that acts as the perfect centrepiece for travelling across the land of Hyrule, giving a definite feel of importance to the mission and motivating players onwards and upwards. Finally, there is the sleepy, lullaby-like Lon Lon Ranch with its 'woo-ooh woo-ooh' sounds over the top of what sounds like a banjo or ukelele gently strumming in the background, portraying the feel of relaxing in the middle of farm land, taking a break from the hectic world around.
As for other key tracks that all add to the general make-up of the game, the standard Battle theme works wonders at upping the tempo, adding a certain edge to encounters, and getting the adrenaline pumping. Fairy Flying is a prime example of how music can be used to convey a message without even seeing any visual aids, as the tune leads listeners by the ear deeper and deeper into the unknown. House simply cannot be overlooked either, since it is one of those snippets that is replayed almost to death as Link enters numerous residences on his travels, along with Shop, both coming with a catchy looping nature that offers sufficient hook to avoid repetition driving gamers to the point of no return.
- Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 1 (20-16)
- Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 2 (15-11)
- Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 3 (10-6)
- Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 4 (5-1)
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That Mystical Ninja music brings back memories!
Some of the Perfect Dark stuff sounds far too dated now, which is quite shocking...really surprised because I was sure I like most of the music. Hmm, but I know the GoldenEye 007 music still rocks
Since that music doesn't work properly inside the grooveshark widget above, I'll repost here in the comments "At Ryugu, Daily Life on Turtle Back" .
As well as this one, which couldn't be uploaded to Grooveshark for technical reasons :
Perfect dark still sounds ace imo, though I can see how some of the midi instruments makes it sound a bit dated. A re-arranged Perfect Dark soundtrack would be wicked. Always liked Goldeneye, but felt they used the Bond theme a bit too much - that said Facility, that pre-Train level, Train and Cradle are ace tunes.
I was never really into the Perfect Dark soundtrack either, I much prefer Goldeneye's.