[ShockWave is a monthly feature which highlights video game music and our favorite soundtracks, for the music lover in every gamer.]
Greetings everyone and welcome back to ShockWave, our monthly video game music feature. While the Super Smash Bros. series has always been about casual fun, I’ve always found the series’ music to be quite a serious matter. In this month’s installment of ShockWave, we’ll be listening to Super Smash Bros. Melee: Smashing…Live! This live album consists of gorgeous orchestral renditions of select songs from Melee, the second game in the series. That means, by extension, that the songs are from various iconic Nintendo franchises. Of course there’s some original stuff as well – most notably the awesome opening theme.
Executed flawlessly by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, this intense soundtrack proves with nary a doubt that the music from the Smash Bros. series is some of the best in video games.
- Album: Super Smash Bros. Melee: Smashing…Live!
- Genre: Orchestral, Instrumental
- Credits: New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Taizo Takemoto (Conductor), Hirokazu Ando (Composer), Koji Kondo (Composer), Hajime Hirasawa (Composer), Dave Wise (Composer), Akito Nakatsuka (Composer), Hirokazu Tanaka (Composer), Jun Ishikawa (Composer), Junichi Masuda (Composer)
- Original release: 2003
- Price: *Used Only: Varies, $45+
- Runtime: Just over one hour. Full tracklist here
SSBM:SL! was originally available in 2003. It was never sold in stores – Nintendo issued it as a gift to those who subscribed to Nintendo Power magazine. It has not been made available since. This means that the soundtrack can only be purchased used, but it isn’t difficult to find one in good condition. In my opinion it’s definitely worth whatever you’ll pay for it. The selection includes only the most popular songs from the game and they are all captured stunningly. I’ve never heard the majority of the songs here sound quite this good.
This music is so beautiful that I’m quite certain it can be enjoyed by someone who has never even so much as heard of Smash Bros. That said, there’s no denying that the feeling of nostalgia is vivid as you listen to these tracks. Because most of the songs actually aren’t original tracks but rather tracks from classic Nintendo games, you can think of the album as a kind of orchestral version of a Nintendo Greatest Hits album, or something like that. If you are fan of the series, it’ll be hard to go back to the music in the actual game after listening to it recaptured so beautifully.
I can’t seem to find the words to explain just how epic and amazing this soundtrack is. The beginning of “Fountain of Dreams” actually gave me goosebumps. When the audience breaks into applause after each piece, you’ll be clapping right alongside them. For the choice tracks, I collected opinions from a group of experts. And by a group of experts, I mean longtime series fans. The album itself is little more than an hour long and you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t play it from start to finish. Nevertheless, I believe I’ve compiled a diverse list that should whet your appetite. Grab a cookie and a warm beverage and brace yourself.
From its chilling opening to its climactic finish, “Opening” is the perfect song to start the album with (even though it’s the eighth track on the disc). The smooth, somber strings quickly fade away. Then the grandiose horn and strings lead into snapping percussions. A loud, soaring horn takes off backed by the quietly beautiful strings.The song is a bit slower on the whole than the original, though the sense of excitement and urgency is still present.
In swoops a cello and more horns before a marvelous breakdown about a minute or so in. The strings here are gorgeous (I mean really, I could cry) and a faint harp or something of the sort can be heard gently complimenting the rest of the instruments. This is the high point of the song for me, although it is so brief. In the original, there were vocals at this point, but the layered strings sound even better.
Because the song is longer than the opening of the game itself, each part is more pronounced. The pace raises with returning percussions, more dramatic horns and strings, and in a flash the song is over. Two and half minutes of pure bliss.
The dramatic “Pokemon Medley” takes right off with its haunting violins and violas. The tune is instantly recognizable to any Pokemon fan, but has it ever sounded quite this serious? The strings whine ominously, with a sense of impending danger. Things slow down a minute in and the layers of strings are simply ominous.
Then the song changes, and it is much more upbeat though still very string heavy. At two minutes and forty seconds in, the song changes once more, this time to my favorite Pokemon theme. The grandness of the horn here seems to convey how this song was always meant to be heard. The percussions are relevant, but this only lasts for a short while – into the battle theme we go. The music is fast paced and exciting again. The drums are loud and angry beside the blaring horns.
The intense drums and strings four and half minutes in create what might be my favorite part of the song, before it ends triumphantly. “Pokemon Medley” packs a lot of epic and years of nostalgia into five and half minutes.
“Fountain of Dreams”
“Fountain of Dreams” opens quietly and solemnly, but this changes quickly. The strings race off backed by a thundering drum and subtle percussions. Soft strings and flutes chime in intermittently between the big bad horn and powerful drums. It’s hard to believe something this serious came out of a Kirby game.
Nearly two minutes in the song slows down significantly and quiet strings, horns and flutes create an enchanting melody. Notice the light, whimsical flute leading up to this point – I don’t remember hearing anything like that while playing the game. Is it just me or does it sound absolutely amazing? Epic strings can be heard almost entirely throughout. The flute and horn take the spotlight at about two minutes.
Just over two minutes in the horns return, this time backed by lovely, slow strings. Afterwards the song speeds back up, the drums and heavy strings come in at full force leading up to a breakdown three minutes in. You think the song is over at this point, but the strings pop back in for just a moment before the ending proper. Brilliant.
“Original Medley” is especially beautiful, perhaps because it contains melodies truly unique to the game and not from one of Nintendo’s numerous franchises. The quiet, flawless violin opens the song and is joined shortly thereafter by a flute. Magnificent! The strings get heavier and a faint chime sounds intermittently in the background.
It’s hard to get over how awesome the first minute of the song is, but the rest of it rocks too. Now the pace raises, and slightly dramatic strings play harmoniously alongside a flute. The instruments are layered so well here. At around two and half minutes in, familiar horns jump in, followed by rolling drums and percussions. This sounds a lot like Opening but it never veers too far in that direction. Intense, urgent strings join the cymbals and percussions. For some reason, I don’t really recall when or where this was used in the game.
The clicking new percussions are great, but everything except a horn fades three and a half minutes in. The horn carries us into a melody most fans should recognize from the menus in Melee. After almost five minutes, the song cruises to its very climactic finish.
Okay, I’m going to go ahead and say this and I don’t care whose feelings I hurt – this is the best rendition of “Jungle Garden” ever performed. Ever. Better than the original, better than in Melee, the best ever. The drums, horn and flute are just flawless. It’s strange how the song sounds undeniably familiar, but quite different as well. The funky drum dominates until a minute in when some strings and cymbals join in. The horn sounds wonderful with the strings. Dancing in your seat is encouraged.
The rolling drums are present throughout. A little less than two minutes in the song slows down and changes completely. Now we are greeted by slow percussions, soft strings and a whimsical flute. The strings in the background here give off a kind of sadness. The mellow, quiet vibe differs drastically from the lively, exciting music that was just playing.
The somber, violin heavy exit highlights the great contrast between the beginning of the song and the end. I must say that this arrangement makes “Jungle Garden” sound fresh – which is saying something for a song this old.
Here’s a tissue. The fabulous Smashing…Live! is an epic live album loaded with classic tracks captured timelessly. Each and every track is simply a joy to listen to. You’ve never heard themes from Donkey Kong or Star Fox sound quite this amazing, I assure you. That said, the original stuff is actually my favorite.
While this feature aims to cover video game music that can stand boldly on its own outside of the game (and believe me, this album can), I have to say that no one will be able to appreciate this album nearly as much as fans of the Smash Bros. series.
Please come back and join us next month for more fantastic music from the world of video games.