Super Mario Galaxy Original Sound Track
Welcome to the newest addition to the Super Mario collection, the soundtrack for Super Mario Galaxy! Before we head into the review, there are a few things which should be addressed about this album. When compared to the Platinum edition, this version of the album gives us all the new orchestral pieces that were introduced in Galaxy. We do not, however, get the incidental synth pieces such as the quirky boss themes, or the themes for Mario's various mushrooms and flowers! What we are given though is definitely worth it. The new orchestral style that these pieces are presented in really adds another element to what we've come to expect from the Mario franchise. Many of the world themes have been produced in this manner, along with significant battle scenes and cut scenes between the gameplay. Does this help or hinder the gaming experience, and what we've come to expect from Mario? Let's find out!
Let's begin with some of the opening pieces from the album. "Overture" begins with a loud and commanding fanfare, but it doesn't last very long. In contrast with what you'd expect from an overture, the first track of the album features delicate harp and piano. The addition of sharp drip-drop arpeggios also adds to the atmosphere of the track, bringing in an element of the 'space' feel that Galaxy will be featuring. The real opening piece for me, however, is the "Starbit Festival." This is the first piece of the album to give a real feel for the new orchestral style. The piece is light hearted, and very cheery. One thing I will always remember with this piece is that it was the perfect accompaniment to the player's first interactions with the new Wiimote controlled Mario. Running the little guy around while aiming at star bits will likely become one of the hallmark moments in Mario history, alongside that first goomba jump and the first adventure into a painting. The string work in this piece in particular is very well done, staying crisp and clear throughout the main melody without being overbearing. Entering the real atmosphere of the game, "Into the Galaxy" does a great job at orienting the player with a new outer space adventure. Another string driven piece, the main theme is delivered with spunk and energy, while the small addition of flutes balance out quite nicely, with snares and timpani adding a bit of a beat. It's a nice track, but the length is a little disappointing. I would have liked to see the theme expanded a bit, but I'll settle for what I'm given.
Moving into some of the meat of the album, let's take a look at some of the various world themes. These will be appearing a LOT in the game, so the better be good, right? "Egg Planet," like "Starbits...", is a really nice introduction into the whole new experience of controlling Mario in a gravity-absent environment. From the moment you're propelled into the galaxy, you're absolutely hooked to this world, and it couldn't be a better introduction piece. Going off on a slight tangent here, there was simply nothing like traveling around this world, jumping all over the place and being launched into space to travel between 'islands' floating in the air. Crisscrossing between paths of light while trying to collect starbits that fly past you was such an experience for me, and having this piece accompany that experience really touched on the idea that "yes, I'm playing a new Mario game, and yes, I haven't experienced anything like it since Mario 64." Okay, back to the music. The strings once again propel this piece, while light percussion gives the piece some movement. Light fanfares here and there along with a wonderful flute counter melody, really makes this piece, in a word, "happy". The main theme in the middle of this track in particular is composed in such a way that it simply brings a smile to your face. "Wind Garden" is another very upbeat world theme. Expanding on the rhythms and melodic pieces heard previously, a new roaring melody is delivered using a prominent oboe, faster strings, and a hint of guitar. The middle portion of this piece really expands itself, bringing in brass segments with trumpets and trombones while keeping the speed with the percussion and string rhythms. If there ever was a 'grand' Mario theme, I would say this was likely it. The strings and brass really compliment each other well with the main melody, and while the rhythmic strings do get a little repetitive (we hear a lot of the same rhythm in many tracks on the album), it happens to be a rhythm that I really like, so it doesn't bother me!
"Teresa Waltz" becomes our resident Ghost Manor theme, and it is a piece with a lot of interesting layering. There is a main melodic segment brought out through flutes, light harp, and staccato strings in the lower register. Behind all that, there is a whistle melody that is iconic of the ghosts that we've seen in previous Mario installments. Beneath that, there is the subtle effect of air blowing, adding a real spookiness to the rest of the instruments. After the main theme plays, some very interesting changes occur, bringing in strings and woodwinds to provide a new melodic segment, while all the previous layering continues. A new layer with techno roots brings a new bass line to the piece, while the percussion becomes a bit heavier to add tension. The nice thing, however, is that these two sections complement each other quite well, so the transition from one to the other (and back again for a loop) is very natural. "Grass Beach," on the other hand, is one of my less favorite pieces. Not only does this piece play on the first main stage where swimming is required *shudders* but quite a bit of it reminds me the beach tracks from the Mario Kart games. Not that I didn't enjoy those race courses, but the piece sounds a bit out of place on this album. It has all of the elements that you would expect from a beach, including guitar, bongos, steel drums, accordion, and high flutes. However, despite my feelings about it, the tune is catchy and very upbeat. The middle portion of the track fares much better, in that the whole island motif is expanded upon, bringing a more full sound with all of the instruments — I'm reminded of "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid. If the entire track had been of this nature, it would have been one of my favorites, but as it is, some will love it while others will hate it.
Among the upbeat and lighthearted tracks, there are two world themes that do a wonderful job of bringing together the space theme of the game. "Battlerock" is a march inspired serious sounding track with low strings and a louder snare rhythm. Higher strings deliver a sweeping melody, while the crisp string undertones keep a very clear presence. Later in the track, brass elements make an appearance, and really bring an orchestral band sound to the piece, keeping the main melody clear while expanding the chord work for a wider array of instruments. A nice detail in the back of everything is the ever present drip-drop sound keeping the space theme alive. "Floater Land" also takes a much harsher approach to the composition, bringing in more elements of techno to mix with the brass in the background. Trombones and trumpets get the melody this time around, and deliver a triumphant and confident melodic line before passing over to the strings and woodwinds. The entire orchestra really comes through in this piece, passing the melodic lines back and forth while keeping pace and staying clear. One other nice thing about this track is that it is one of the world themes where the piano is a little more present, delivering strong bass notes to support the upper registers. Like "Grass Beach," I find myself liking the middle portion of the track the best, while the opening of the track leaves me wanting more.
Moving onward, let's take a look at some of the themes associated with our new leading lady, the star mistress Rosetta (or as we know her, Rosalina). "Rosetta's Comet Observatory" comes in three parts, each with the same melody but with more instruments. Version One is very empty, relying on a solo cello, a marimba, and a solo flute to express the melody. A harp also arrives to add a little decoration, but otherwise the track is very simple. Of course, this works perfectly within the game, as the more levels of the observatory that are unlocked, the grander the music becomes. Version Two introduces more strings, transforming the solo piece into a fantastic waltz. All the elements are there, from sweeping violins to staccato flutes, oboes and cellos. I rather like this version of the observatory theme, in particular the cello counter melody that combines perfectly with the upper strings. Version Three keeps the waltz theme alive, but this time the full orchestra gets their hands on the piece. Flutes and violins dominate the melody, while brass elements are introduced to assist the lower register. Clarinets and oboes also have solos, along with the cello countermelody from Version Two, creating a wonderfully balanced yet delightful piece.
Heading to the end of things, there are a few last pieces that I'd like to take a look at. "Hell Prominence" is a very commanding piece, focusing on fanfares at the beginning before heading into a techno-introduced melody. The melody on its own really bothers me until the strings come in to support it, but even then the main melody is very stationary and doesn't go anywhere fast. Adding the ghost whistle to it also seems a bit out of place, particularly while a bass line plays a combination of major and minor chords. I like the track a bit better when the brass comes in to deliver a very powerful counter melody, but even this fails to really keep my attention. I think there was a lot of potential with this piece, but it just didn't hold enough interest for me. "Galaxy Plant," on the other hand, keeps me in its thrall from the very first note. String and brass elements combine together with a nice rhythmic bass line to create a very interesting melodic segment. Leading into the second portion of the track, a nice play with rhythms and techno elements creates some very intricate and complex tension before arriving at the more sweeping string style work we've seen elsewhere on this album. There is also a return to the rhythmic string work, this time expressed through the trumpets that adds a nice contrast for the piece.
Finishing things off, it seems appropriate that we end with "Super Mario Galaxy." In every sense of the word, this is an 'ending' piece from top to bottom. Part of me is disappointed with that, since I would have liked to see a bit of a departure from a traditional ending. But either way, the main theme of the game comes back full force with many of the elements we've heard throughout the album, including the rhythmic strings and soaring brass melodies. I like how all the small melodic elements we've heard along the way finally come together with full expression and orchestral accompaniment, but I still feel there is something lacking. None of the melodic elements we've heard are really expanded upon except in the way they're presented. Even the triumphant ending seems a bit lacking, but this is more because of the overpowering string and brass elements. While the ending is nice, I would have liked to see it a little more balanced.
Overall, this album presents an interesting direction for the Mario franchise to take from a musical standpoint. I like how the world themes and other 'important' themes of the game are being produced with a larger, fuller, sound. But, there are still some flaws. There is a lot of repetition in the themes and, although there is certainly enough new material, there isn't as much variation between pieces when compared to other Mario titles. In addition, many of these pieces, while lively and fun, don't come near expressing their true majesty when you hear them on their own. In the game, they take on another dimension that really makes them come alive, while on the album they're just nice to listen to. Still, this is a great recording for Mario fans and most should be happy with what they get with it.
Tracks 27~28: Synth Arrangements (Bonus Tracks)
Composed by Mahito Yokota (18.104.22.168.6.9~12.14~17.19~26)
Koji Kondo (22.214.171.124)
Originally composed by Koji Kondo, re-arranged by Mahito Yokota (3.27.28)
Orchestral Arrangements by Mahito Yokota
Performed by the Mario Galaxy Orchestra
Attack! Koopa's Fleet
Peach's Castle is Stolen
Into the Galaxy
Rosetta's Comet Observatory 1
Rosetta's Comet Observatory 2
Koopa Jr. Appears
Rosetta's Comet Observatory 3
Nemesis King Koopa
Battle for the Grand Star
Dawn ~A New Morning~
Super Mario Galaxy
Blue Sky Athletics
Super Mario 2007