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Nintendo Throws Us A One-Up: Super Mario Galaxy 2 Sound Team Interview

August 5, 2010 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook Nintendo Throws Us A One-Up: Super Mario Galaxy 2 Sound Team Interviewon Twitter

Yes, I know it took us awhile, but I’m really excited to let you all know that we have a follow-up to that Blast From The Past interview we published some time ago covering the original Super Mario Galaxy. We’ve been very fortunate to sneak some of Mahito Yokota, Koji Kondo, and Ryo Nagamatsu’s time away from their new projects to talk about their work on Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is surely one of the best soundtracks of the year.

We discuss the influence of Yoshi on the game’s score, each composer’s respective contributions, the retooling of music from the original Super Mario Galaxy, and the return of “Gusty Garden” as an anthem for the series. We also talk about some of our favorite tracks from the game, including “Yoster” and “Square Timber.”

Hit the jump for the interview!

OSV: Thanks for joining us today. We know you’re likely busy working on your next projects, so thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your work on Super Mario Galaxy 2.Let’s start by talking about your approach to Super Mario Galaxy 2. Did you approach this game any differently than you did the first, and what are some of the defining features of Super Mario Galaxy 2 that factored into your musical decisions?

Yokota: One of the largest differences is the adoption of big band style using saxophones and drums, along with traditional orchestral instruments. Two visual features – symbolic blue skies and Yoshi as a new playable character – hugely factored into our musical decisions.

OSV: Kondo-san, we know that for Super Mario Galaxy, you handled 4 pieces, including “Egg Planet” and the comet observatory pieces. What was your role this time around, and what pieces in the game were you responsible for?

Kondo: This time I took part in overall musical supervision and in composition. I was responsible for Yoshi Star Galaxy, three pieces for Planet Mario, and Bowser Jr.’s Fiery Flotilla.

OSV: We noticed in the game’s credits that Ryo Nagamatsu was also involved with the music. What was his role on the project, and what areas in particular was he responsible for?

Nagamatsu: I was responsible for the pieces for Melty Monster Galaxy, Fleet Glide Galaxy, Puzzle Plank Galaxy, Slimy Spring Galaxy, and the final battle against Bowser. I was also responsible for world maps, demo plays etc.

OSV: Yokota-san, you were responsible for the majority of the composition for Super Mario Galaxy, so what did you do this time to keep things fresh? The “Gusty Garden” piece that you created for the original game has become somewhat of a theme for the Super Mario Galaxy series, but it wasn’t featured very prominently in the game. Why was this, and what do you view the “theme” for Super Mario Galaxy 2 to be?

Yokota: I believe many pieces for the previous title reflected a serious and cosmic atmosphere. For this title we intentionally adopted more merry and carefree pieces; of course the epic atmosphere to travel throughout the galaxy was, without any change. I personally have strong feelings about the “Gusty Garden” piece, as I had been totally hanging up for the piece during the development. With customers’ positive reaction to the piece, from the beginning of development we were planning to utilize “Gusty Garden.” For the theme piece, which appears in the first scenario of Sky Station Galaxy, we were focusing on the unique action of the title where Mario flies in space more actively than before.

OSV: The “Mario Galaxy Orchestra” was credited for the performances for the first game. Tell us about your experience working with this group this time around. How much of Super Mario Galaxy’s 2 soundtrack was recorded with the orchestra?

Yokota: The recording was done with nearly all the same members from the previous title. The total number of players was 70, which was 20 larger than that of the previous title. As the Mario Galaxy Orchestra is the generic name of all the players, some of its pieces include large formations or even solo violin. We have recorded more than 30 pieces with the orchestra.

OSV: I have to admit that I was personally a bit disappointed to hear several pieces of the music from the original Super Mario Galaxy reused in Super Mario Galaxy 2. What factored into this decision, and would you have preferred to have created new pieces for these stages?

Yokota: Well, thank you for expressing your concerns… we understand that, as you mention, some customers had anticipated new composition for all the pieces. On the other hand, we believe that players can more easily understand that it is a new Super Mario Galaxy game by listening to the returning old pieces; if all the pieces were newly composed from scratch, there might have been problems that they can hardly understand they are playing the same game series. We believe we have included the right number of new pieces.

OSV: When working on the game’s music, were you making all of the final decisions regarding the music in the game? Were you working directly with Miyamoto-san on this project, and if so, how would you describe your interactions with him? Do you have any interesting stories about working on this project with him?

Yokota: It was the game director who made the final decisions regarding music. Even on the pieces I had thought perfect, if the director thought otherwise, I would re-work them. Our interactions with Mr. Miyamoto were really smooth. He was very interested in how we expressed the layout of the opening of the game in music. I hope you will experience the musical expression of these early moments until you get the first star, where wanted us to make as great a musical impact as possible. In order to realize his vision, we created many pieces for the opening.

OSV: We know that rhythm, balance, and interactivity all play a big role in the projects that you’ve worked on and have overseen, Kondo-san. Please tell us how these elements are used in Super Mario Galaxy 2. For example, when riding on Yoshi’s back, rhythmic percussion is added, which is a throwback to Super Mario World! Whose idea was it to bring this back?

Kondo: The addition of percussion has also been used in Super Mario Sunshine and in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It is one of the interactive twists where players can realize they are riding Yoshi without interrupting gameplay.

OSV: The ghost house music from Super Mario World and a theme from Mario 64 for “Throwback Galaxy” were also from past titles. How was it decided that these two pieces would be brought back, and tell us about your experiences bringing these pieces back to life.

Yokota: For this title, in stages where Yoshi is included, we wanted to utilize pieces from Super Mario World, where he debuted. We have intentionally arranged the Ghost House piece mixing SNES cue tone and orchestral performance. We decided to bring back the theme of Throwback Galaxy at the same time when we decided to develop that particular galaxy. The arrangement direction was decided as big-band-esque in no time at all, as we were sure it would surely fit the theme. As a result, we worked on a different kind of musical creations from the traditional orchestra, and it was a really fun.

OSV: Our two favorite pieces from the game were Yoshi’s theme with the brass elements and the “Puzzle Plank Galaxy” music, which fused the whimsical space elements from Super Mario Galaxy with some bluegrass. Tell us about these pieces and what went into creating them.

Kondo: For Yoshi’s theme, or Yoshi Star Galaxy piece, we wanted to add a great sense of impact as the galaxy was the first level where one of the game’s key elements, Yoshi, appears for the first time. We also wanted to add a somewhat primitive and cheerful atmosphere as players rode on Yoshi.

Nagamatsu: Thank you! As for the Puzzle Plank piece, at the beginning we thought of an Irish arrangement. Later we added Country features to enhance the gameplay rhythm.  We thought the rhythmic tones of violins or woodblocks would fit the theme as the level features wooden objects and lots of bouncing actions.

OSV: Do you think that Super Mario Galaxy 2 represents a leap forward for the music of the Mario series? Looking back, and there things you wish you could have done differently?

Kondo: I believe the combination of gameplay and music in Beat Block Galaxy can be utilized in our future creations. I can’t think of anything I could have done differently. We will keep developing the sounds and music so that you can continue to enjoy future Mario games.

OSV: Do the two of you have any final words for fans of Super Mario Galaxy franchise who have been enjoying Super Mario Galaxy 2 since its release? Does this project represent something special to your careers?

Yokota: I am very happy to have realized our desired level design on Beat Block Galaxy, which is an interactive, rhythmical action gameplay along with music. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a game where we have dedicated all our workforce into making the game enjoyable for the player. We have included as much content as possible in the levels of the first 120 Stars. If you have some confidence in your skills, please try the stars beyond #120! You can also find exclusive music pieces there.

Kondo: Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a game packed with music. We have implemented many different ideas with the goal of keeping the player entertained. Two player co-op is really fun! Please enjoy the galactic adventure with Mario and Yoshi together!

OSV: Thank you for your time. Congratulations on finishing your work on the game, and good luck with whatever’s next!

[Special thanks to Nintendo of American and Nintendo in Japan for making this interview possible, as well as to the Super Mario Galaxy 2 sound team for taking the time to answer these questions so long after the game’s release]

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