History Lesson: Koji Kondo

Celebrating Nintendo's musical maestro...

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Over the years, Mario and Zelda became Kondo's staples, though he also contributed sound effects to Pilotwings and Star Fox. The N64 era arguably saw him at his creative peak. Despite working with a more restrictive toolset than his peers who had the additional space optical media afforded on PSOne, the most memorable themes of the sixth console generation emerged from Nintendo's console.

Ocarina Of Time in particular presented a unique challenge, with Kondo required to compose themes using just five tones, to tie in with the eponymous instrument. "Then as soon as I was finished with those Ocarina songs, I had to create even more for Majora's Mask," he recalls. "I got a lot of mileage out of just five tones!"

Since then, Kondo's role at Nintendo has changed somewhat, becoming a mentor to younger composers. Nervous about scoring his first Mario title, Kondo minion Mahito Yokota discovered his mentor was hard to impress. Unveiling his first composition, Yokota asked: "this is how Mario music should be, right?" Kondo's reply? "This is no good."

Fortunately, Kondo's star pupil was a fast learner, picking up tips from the master, such as the importance of hurrying the player to the next stage. EAD Tokyo's Ryo Nagamatsu recalls Kondo insisting, upon hearing a melody designed to accompany the map screen for Mario Galaxy 2: "This won't work, we can't have a good tune here." Apparently a simple loop is all that's required.

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Aside from his involvement in the forthcoming Zelda concerts, we can expect to hear more memorable melodies in Skyward Sword. Kondo's mantra remains, as it always did, "to make the best, most appropriate music for the game itself." Excitingly, this means the first fully orchestrated Kondo compositions in a Zelda game. Expect goosebumps.

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