Okay, so maybe this belongs in Bombcast, but this is a serious game-related issue. Jeff took a stance in his war on "Bah, Bah!" in the New Super Mario Brothers games on this most recent podcast, and I never really understood what the problem was. In fact, I couldn't really remember them from anything other than the Overworld Theme.
You know, listening to that, it happens every once in a while, but I couldn't imagine it could get that annoying. It's an occasional bit of punctuation, and while it was memorable, I didn't think it was really a problem.
Then I decided to look up the soundtrack to NSMB 2. And, uh, this is the "new" Overworld theme:
Yes. You are correct. That is the exact same song, only using EXCLUSIVELY "BAHs." With the old "BAHs" used for emphasis! THIS IS THE SOUND OF MADNESS!
But, surely, this is some reference to the previous song. It can't continue like this, right? The whole game can't be filled with this stuff any more than the original game was!
oh come on that's the same exact song as the first two but with "lahs" AND "bahs"
OH COME ON EVEN THE CASTLE MUSIC? I FIGURED THAT WAS SAFE! OH MY GOD.
Guys, this is not just bad, this is awful. This is some of the most misunderstanding about what made a musical cue effective I've ever heard in my life. Holy shit.
The Mario series has a long-standing tradition of great soundtracks. Like, not even just the platformers; I can remember vividly songs from Mario Kart, Paper Mario, and Mario Golf. And let's not even get started on Super Mario RPG. In the modern era, we can point to the Super Mario Galaxy games and Super Mario Sunshine as having some truly wonderful music. For example, listen to this version of the Gusty Garden Galaxy theme from OC ReMix.
Like, this isn't just lazy for me. It's downright sad. I love Koji Kondo's work. Whenever there's been a Zelda or Mario game I haven't liked, I've always been able to point to his work as one of the pillars that honestly makes the game worth knowing. His music on these stupid games often cuts me right to the bone, and it doesn't have to be associated with a character dying or a really dramatic victory in order to completely overwhelm me. Whenever it doesn't excite me in an over-the-top thrilled way, it is hauntingly gorgeous. I can't put into words how important Nintendo's music, even outside of Kondo, has been to me. Play me this dumb little theme that plays when Professor Oak introduces the world of Pokemon (by Junichi Masuda), and I fall in love instantly:
Even on these dumb little handheld games, these games matter. Their ugly graphics, their dumb musical cues that are twenty-four seconds long, they can absolutely define a person's childhood. Especially when you consider the idea that it might be a kid's first ever Mario game.
And this bullshit is what they are greeted to. The most homogenous, annoying soundtrack in the history of Nintendo. And I'd totally hear arguments for other Mario games and Zelda games having weaker soundtracks, but whatever. They should be getting better and more experimental with time (see: Gusty Garden Galaxy, the entire soundtrack to Super Mario Sunshine) instead of regressing into total bullshit.
And this kind of emphasizes the entire design philosophy behind NSMB2. I haven't played it; maybe the coin rush stuff nobody else digs is totally up my alley. I don't mean to call the developers (or even Kenta Nagata, the lead sound director on NSMB2) generally lazy. They worked hard to program a very competent game that is at least remotely engaging, and I totally give them credit for that. But I don't feel like a single Mario platformer before NSMB2 could be called "simply competent." Maybe the Super Mario Land games qualify, I'm too young to have played those at the time of release. But to let Mario "settle" isn't good enough. There has to be something really novel in there, even if it's just playing with four people in a goofy-ass Wii game.
Mario settling is really sad for me. Even if I haven't always liked the franchise's games (I specifically never dug Yoshi's Island or the control schemes on the Galaxy games) I've been able to recognize the heart and soul present, and it's always made me happy before now. That's not always true with Nintendo, but even Kid Icarus: Uprising, a game I kind of hate, is probably a great game if you're a crazy person that can tolerate the control of the ground sections. With NSMB2, I'm not finding that spark.
It's not me, either. I still adore Mario. Him and his brother are actually sitting on my windowsill next to Super Meat Boy right now in the form of plushes I really care about.
But this game just makes me sad. Again, I haven't played it myself, but general hearsay is so dismal that I can't help but feel any other way, and that's exactly how I felt when it got announced at E3. Like, what is a throwaway Mario platformer like? Do I ever really want to find out?
I wrote this thing intending to just kind of make fun of NSMB2 when I found that first song, and I dug deeper to make sure I could really get away with saying that the soundtrack overuses the "Bah Bah" more than we ever thought possible.
Instead, I bummed myself out way deep in the process. Step up, Kenta Nagata, and everyone involved at Nintendo. Somehow, your stupid "Bah, Bah!" really is a representation of what's wrong with New Super Mario Brothers, and that's wicked sad.