The Musical Box #22: The Song Does Not Remain (Exactly) the Same

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation. Edition #22: Okami and Super Mario Galaxy

This edition of The Musical Box is dedicated to not only one, but two games: Super Mario Galaxy and Okami. The two have completely different gaming experiences, but they share a similar approach regarding the implementation of different arrangements of the same musical theme in revisited areas.


Game: Super Mario Galaxy
Released: 2007
Platform: Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Composers: Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo

Game: Okami
Released: 2006 (PS2)
Plataforms: PS2, Wii, PSN
Developer: Clover
Composers: Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Hiroyuki Hamada, Rei Kondo, and Akari Groves

The Set-Up

Both SMG and Okami have areas that need to be revisited during gameplay. In Super Mario Galaxy, this area is the Comet Observatory, a central hub that lets players choose their missions, as well as see stats and other story details. In Okami, the revisited area in question is Shinshu Field, a huge open area that connects many locations of the game world.

As the story in each game develops, the players need to come back to each of these areas to gain access to new locations. To avoid repetition, these areas evolve each time they are revisited. New graphic elements are added to the scenario, new paths are opened, and there may also be differences in the main character to emphasize that he’s now more powerful.

Since a lot of elements have evolved, why shouldn’t the music follow suit? This is the main reason why players can hear different arrangements of the same musical theme each time they revisit these areas.

The Moments

Listen to the evolution of the arrangements by watching the video below. Please note that this is a spoiler-free article, so there is no in-game footage.

The Impact

One of the most important aspects of a videogame experience is progress and evolution. Players need to feel that they overcame challenges, that they are more powerful and/or clever as they advance in the game. Showing this by changing the music makes perfect sense, and it’s not that difficult to replicate.

Since the music doesn’t change in real-time, there is no need for complicated programming. The composer simply has to think about a number of different arrangements of the same theme. One of the ways of achieving this is creating the full arrangement first and then removing certain instruments to produce other versions of the song. Simple, but very effective.

Special thanks: Gilliard Lopes, Rafael Kuhnen, Fernando Secco, and Sandro Tomasetti.

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