From The Armchair: Making Music With Mario

ArmchairWhat ho, chums.

I must admit, I can’t help but be drawn in whenever a new Nintendo Direct video pops up on my 3DS. These tiny saccharine video bonbons never fail to bring a smile to my embittered lips. Seeing Satoru Iwata and chums enthusiastically teasing their latest gaming treat with undisguised glee reminds me of why I got into games in the first place: they’re just damned fun. And in the primary-colour world of Nintendo Direct, it’s OK to see games as toys, because most of the time that’s just what they are, goddammit – at least in Nintendo’s world. Realistic war sims, super-complex strategy games and soul-searching ennui-’em-ups have their place, but when I just want to play something, you know, for fun, Nintendo is my number one destination.

This week’s Nintendo Direct was dedicated to Mario Kart 8, and I have to say it sucked me in completely. I only intended to watch the first five minutes, mostly just to see Iwata-san do that brilliantly cheesy ‘DIRECT’ gesture, but I was so enticed that I stayed for the whole 34 mins, and by the end I’d preordered a copy of the game, complete with a free T-shirt. That I will never wear.

To be honest, it was difficult to say no to the offer of a free Wii U game with with every purchase of Mario Kart 8 – of the ten games on offer, I have my eyes firmly set on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, which I loved the first time around. And it’s been far too long since I last played a Mario Kart game – in fact, the last one I played was Mario Kart Wii, which I bought an astonishing six years ago. Up until today, I’d found it hard to get excited about the prospect of yet another MK game, but watching the video reminded me just how bloody fun they are, and those new tracks looked utterly glorious in HD. I hate to say it, but Iwata got me, hook, line and sinker.

One part of the video that stood out was when they revealed that most of the game’s music was recorded live, and a lengthy segment showed the musicians earnestly playing the game’s soundtrack in a studio (skip to 26.10). It was a great reminder of just how much craft and effort goes into making games these days. Long gone is the time when a lone programmer would wrangle bleeps and boops from a recalcitrant 8-bit chip – nowadays just as much effort goes into making music for triple A games as for blockbuster movies, and Nintendo has some of the best tunes around. Super Mario Galaxy 2 had probably the best music I can remember hearing in a game – I often found myself reluctant to press ‘start’ on the title screen because I was enjoying listening to the theme tune too much.

Away from Nintendo, Bastion was a recent highlight in terms of game music, with a beatifully mellow acoustic guitar soundtrack that blended perfectly with the title’s idle wandering and bittersweet nostalgia. In fact, Ms. D liked the music so much that she actually bought the soundtrack.

Which leads me to wonder: have you, dear reader, ever loved a game’s music enough to buy its soundtrack? And what are your aural highlights from the gaming world? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Toodle-pip for now!