For those of you who don't know, Koji Kondo is the man behind some of the most iconic tracks in the Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda series soundtracks. The catchy and beautiful music he produced in these games during the late '80s and all throughout the '90s has remained with many throughout their lifetimes, even if gaming became a forgotten hobby for them. Kondo's excellent work didn't end there, for he's been involved in many modern soundtracks such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D World.
In recent days Kondo-san has spoken to a number of outlets; in an interview with Polygon he shared insight of where his ideas and inspirations for his music pieces came from:
When I'm thinking of the main theme — the melody and the main theme of any game, I don't really come up with those at work. For some reason, they don't come to me when I'm in the office! Usually, I'll be in the bathtub, it's like 'oh, there it is!' Or I'll be sleeping, and the melody is in my head. Or even, you know, I'll be walking down the hallway in my house, suddenly the music pops into my head. It really doesn't happen at work, it's always somewhere outside of the office.
Kondo-san went onto reveal how making music for a game is a collaborative effort, meeting with game designers and directors long before the cogs in his head begin to turn:
The director will walk me through the game they're thinking of putting together, and we'll talk a little bit about about overall music direction. Until we have a prototype ready for me to play, what I'll do is I'll take that conversation and listen to different kinds of music and try to come up with what I think may work. Then, once we have prototype ready, a version that I can play, It's all about playing again and again and again, trying to find the music that I think would fit what I'm seeing onscreen and what it feels to play the game.
Currently, Kondo-san is working on Mario Maker, a game/creativity suite that allows players to create their own 2D Super Mario levels. He expanded on previous comments regarding his efforts to ensure that the music remains entertaining in the creative process.
I really tried to keep in my thought process [the fact] that some people are going to take a long time making their courses, so, it was really important that they don't get tired of the music. In order to keep the music fresh, of course the melody line has to be something that's catchy but not irritating or cloying. I also worked with individual tracks, the bass track, the piano track and whatnot. I would bring those in and phase those out, you know, layer them, suppress them, just do things to keep the music sounding fresh, in the event that the player is in the editing mode for quite a long time.
He mentioned a further feature of the game where the background track interacts with the objects the player selects (such as a pipe or coin block), which are voiced, therefore creating a "singing track".
Then came the juggernaut question. The Zelda question. Kondo-san was asked about his favourite version of the main theme.
That's a tough question. Looking back, I think the version that we used in Ocarina of Time. For Ocarina, we wanted something that didn't play so often that players got tired of listening to it. So I broke it into 8-bar sections and there was some random phrasing that was implemented so that the melody would be changed up. Again, these are 8-bar sections that I created to all work together, but when combined, they change, and there's some random stuff going on there. I really like the way that worked out.
On the subject of Zelda, GameSpot interviewed Kondo-san during The Game Awards in Las Vegas. When asked if there was a particular type of game he preferred creating music for, he answered with the Zelda series, due to the "variety of the worlds and the landscapes that you encounter within the game". He also shed light on how keeping the soundtrack for Majora's Mask 3D the same as the original was important due to how well the music was tied to the original gameplay — "We've done some clean up on the audio quality, but the music itself we haven't changed."
Those looking forward to the next Wii U iteration in the Zelda series shouldn't worry, for Kondo-san said that although he won't be actively composing for the game, he'll be "supervising and looking over" the team that does.
What are your thoughts on Kondo's revelations? Are you disappointed that he's not actively composing for the upcoming Wii U Zelda title, or do you think we'll still get that Kondo influence throughout the game's soundtrack?