Cubed3's Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 3 (10-6)
Let's start the week with a handful of classic Nintendo 64 tunes in the third part of Cubed3's Top 20 Soundtracks. We once again reveal five more must-hear selections for your aural pleasures - bouncing bass, nippy guitar, deep synths and elegant piano are at the forefront of today's five.
10. Wave Race 64
Nintendo's water-based racer was completely revamped from its original Game Boy edition to a spectacular jet-ski triumph that left players feeling like they were in the midst of the great blue, with waves lapping around their ankles. To help boost this feeling, the audio team crafted a soundtrack filled with sun-kissed tunes that built up the vibe right from the energetic Main Title through to the peaceful pan pipe-led Milky Lake. Listening to synthesiser-based theme of Sunset Bay continues to augment the overall ambience and works perfectly with the over-the-top screaming announcer, complete with roaring engine sounds. Finally, despite being a racing title, some of the cheese-laden tunes in Wave Race 64 definitely give off an air of Ace Attorney in places, especially the 80s-esque Southern Island. Take a listen and see what your thoughts are. Adam Riley
9) Mario Party 3
When you think about beautiful gaming music it’s usually associated with the grandeur of screeching strings, the epic blasting of trumpets and the adrenaline rush of drum beats. Something along the lines of The Legend of Zelda may suffice, but surely not Mario Party? Mario Party 3? It can seem quite obscure but there is method to the madness of this selection! Seriously, when I first heard this, my first thought was that the composer just had to be a bassist. The bass adds depth, buoyancy and atmosphere to where it’s needed, like blood supplying oxygen when you need it most. Usually such an instrument is overlooked, but this is a great spice that makes the music stick in your head.
With other Mario Party games (well, with any franchise really) a majority of tunes tend to fall by the way side with maybe one or two tracks standing out. The bounciness of Woody Woods with its springy bass-line and cheerful trilling can really provide the picture of an autumnal stroll, while Chilly Waters with its jingly beat and Christmas carol-esque feel can make you feel that you’re trudging delightfully through snow without the cold! Can music feel mischievous? Give Waluigi Island a whirl - it feels like a very effective character theme tune. Even the Star Lift music creates the atmospheric transcendent feeling of entering a new world of adventure! Susan Gray
8) Mario Kart 64
The differences between Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64's soundtracks were quite stark and for obvious reasons. Number one, the improved sound capabilities of the Nintendo 64 and number two, Nintendo put Kenta Nagata in charge of composing.
Nagata is a musical genius. Having worked at the Japanese home of Mario for many years, he's worked on the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, 1080 Snowboarding and New Super Mario Bros Wii His first project at Nintendo, and arguably one of his finest soundtracks, was the entire concept for the Nintendo 64 version of the hit racer, Mario Kart.
This was Nagata’s first big project for Nintendo and his compositions for Mario Kart 64 are considered by many as his most compelling work, where he created a flawless soundtrack and captured the atmosphere of just about every course. The title screen music creates a charming, yet sophisticated introduction, with a Mario voice clip layered on top welcoming players. From that alone, you could get a taste of Nagata’s direction for the soundtrack. The Christmas-esque Frappe Snowland oozes piano appeal; Koopa Trooper Beach giving a timeless tropical vibe and the sublime Toad's Turnpike are particular highlights. The entire score climaxes with Rainbow Road, giving a space-age resolve, wrapping up the entire grand prix with a brilliant blend of guitar and keys.
With the main races done and dusted, the multiplayer feature was made even more exciting with a bouncy sense of a cheerful but thrilling battle. Tunes you could easily bop or hum along to, whilst eagerly avoiding shells and other traps in a bid to survive.
To sum it up Negata's classy, yet charming and atmospheric compositions made Mario Kart 64's soundtrack one of the best to grace the console. Ross Marrs/Jorge Ba-oh
7. Diddy Kong Racing
Not content enough with producing a game much richer in content than its direct competitor, Nintendo's own Mario Kart 64, Rareware equipped it with one of the most light-hearted and cheerful soundtracks to ever grace the Nintendo 64. Thanks to the contribution popular composer David "Dave" Wise, Diddy Kong Racing ended up being all the more fun to play thanks to well-suited pieces of music that accompany perfectly the racing action.
From the festive melodies of the icicle locations, to the tropical sonorities of the pirate themed worlds and pursuits against bosses lead by "End Boss", there's the feeling of urgency as you race head on against a Triceratops, a Walrus or even a Giant Squid. Travelling between each track in Adventure mode was no doubt made all the more memorable thanks to this soundtrack in which each music piece screams "This sounds fun, doesn't it?" On a more technical level, the game makes heavy use of Rareware's technique of changing seamlessly instruments, on the fly, depending on where you are on the race track, which brings the amount of distinctive sounding tracks to an even bigger amount. Amazing! Rudy Lavaux
6) Goldeneye 007
Though I do devote a scary amount of retro love to the likes of Perfect Dark when it comes to classic soundtracks, its spiritual predecessor Goldeneye 007 has also cemented a highly memorable set of tunes in my mind.
We follow the British agent James Bond across the globe in an attempt to spoil plans of a rogue traitor, ride tanks, storm trains and rummage through deep jungles. Whilst the game had a robust engine and varied environments, it wouldn't quite be the same without the complimentary compositions by the Rareware trio: Graeme Norgate, Grant Kirkhope and Robin Beanland. Granted the core sound did spawn from the timeless Bond jingle, however deep within the selection came more ambient pieces, riddled with soft string sections, driving bass, soft flourishes of piano and beefy guitar chords. Goldeneye 007 had that sense of stealth, conflict and resolution without becoming too much like a film score.
Highlights include the sneaky Facility jingle, plodding along as you wander past scientists, the sublime Statue Park, with its droning string section and the climatic Cradle, taking you high above the ground into a stunning resolution. The Multiplayer selection, with likes of Control and Temple, helped establish memorable melodies for those essential four player sessions.
Goldeneye 007 offers undoubtedly the best soundtrack in any James Bond game so far, without question. Jorge Ba-oh
Stay tuned for the next volume of essential Nintendo 64 melodies.
Cubed3's Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 4 (5-1)
As the Cubed3 Nintendo 64 month grows to a close, we wrap up our Top 20 Soundtrack selection with the final five. Eager audiophiles and Nintendo fans have embraced the likes of Goldeneye 007, Mario Kart 64, Mario Party 3 and Wave Race 64 in our four-part special, and now it's down to these extra special compositions to reignite those warm retro feelings or act as a sweet introduction to a gorgeous era of sublime music.
What are your favourite Nintendo 64 soundtracks? Be sure to share your thoughts in our comments section below.
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. Az Elias
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! Adam Riley
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. Ross Marrs
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.
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. Adam Riley