Remember when Square Enix (creators of the Final Fantasy series) teamed up with the most iconic figure in the entertainment industry, creating one of best #JRPGs of all time? No, not that thing with the mouse. In 1996, Square and #Nintendo released Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo.
A Match Made in Starry Heaven
Often found on many retro gamers’ “best games ever” lists, Super Mario RPG combines the turn-based combat system and story-driven style of the Final Fantasy series with everyone’s favorite plumber and cast of characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. In #FinalFantasy games, players lead a party of adventurers through a Tolkien-esque world, swinging swords and casting spells to defeat monsters. Super Mario RPG features a similar motif, except instead of swords and magic the game has Mario jumping on enemies, Bowser launching Chain Chomps, and Peach providing rejuvenating group hugs. All of this is happening during an epic adventure to save the Star Road from a terrible new adversary.
Super Mario RPG is a fantastic “best of both worlds” game with a gorgeous soundtrack following the same approach. Themes from the classic Super Mario Bros. games intertwine with Final Fantasy-inspired battle and town music. Each part of the world has a unique theme that immerses the player in this new fun, playful plane. You’ll forget you’re not playing a “traditional” #Mario game; the music makes everything just belong there.
Many tracks have a wonderful, catchy melody—you’ll be humming the Forest Maze theme long after you hit the Power button. Other songs aim to amplify a dungeon-like atmosphere, like the music in the Barrel Volcano area—the bass line mimics the sounds of bubbling lava and intense heat.
It’s a truly remarkable game with an even more impressive musical score. And now, somehow, more than 20 years later, a group of artists figured out how to make the music even better.
Super Mario RPG: Window to the Stars is a 3-disc, fan-made compilation album from the community at OverClocked Remix. Released on January 31, 2017, this free work contains remixes that cover almost every track from Super Mario RPG and gives listeners a new experience with familiar sounds. Window to the Stars is an eclectic offering, with each piece jamming to a different musical style. The album introduces the Super Mario RPG world with a joyful dance version of Mario’s house theme before immediately relaxing into a Reggae styling of the main menu theme (both original soundtrack versions are variations of the classic Super Mario Bros. theme). The album transports listeners through the adventure with funk, metal, honky-tonk, jazz, dub step, and classical musical alterations.
With its arrangement alternating between chill and amped-up remix styles, Window to the Stars makes great background music for studying, hanging out, or World of Warcraft raiding. Music fans who haven’t played the actual game will certainly find something to enjoy here, and the SNES-heads will see their love of Super Mario RPG rekindled—the latter group will likely be searching for a copy of the game to play shortly after downloading this album (good news – it’s available on the Wii U Virtual Console).
Unfortunately, Window to the Stars is not without its faults. Diehard Super Mario RPG fans will find that the album order does not align with the order music is experienced in the game. For example, the album’s third track, “Floor is Lava,” reworks a song from an area quite late in the game’s plot. While this may seem like a nitpicky downside, many listeners have complained about this on the OverClocked Remix forums. A couple of songs also stray a little too far from the source material, but that just speaks to how catchy some of the original tracks are—some tunes just don’t provide an artist enough room to change the sound structure without rocking the boat too much.
More relevant to most listeners, however, is the concern that a few tracks miss the mark at matching the quality of the other album selections. A few songs feel like they don’t really belong in the compilation, either due to a less-fulfilled musical style (like the drafty blues approach to the mole mines theme), or because the sound mixing seems off (like the unbalanced mallet instruments in one of the celebration theme remixes). To be clear, these tracks are not objectively bad; they just simply fall short of the expectations set by the album’s other amazing offerings.
Overall, Window to the Stars is awesome. The minor defects discussed above hardly graze the compilation’s quality. Like any music album, some songs will just get skipped on subsequent listens. Nevertheless, even those songs involve artistic risks that everyone can appreciate.
Super Mario RPG: Window to the Stars is a must-listen if you enjoy video game music, especially if you have any love for Super Mario RPG. It is available free to download from OverClocked Remix, along with more than 100 other video game music compilations and collections.
Super Mario RPG is available on the Wii U Virtual Console ($7.99).
Here are my favorite four tracks from the album. Head over to the album page and check them out!
- Super Mega Ultra Pipe House: a great rendition of the classic Super Mario Bros. main theme
- Pipe Funk: a funky and groovin’ remix of the classic Super Mario Bros. underground theme
- Club King Bowser: a dance mix of the Bowser’s Keep theme
- Riptide Rush: a high-paced, “house polka” version of the waterfall/river area
What is your favorite track? Does the collection do justice to the original masterpiece soundtrack? Let me know in the comments!