Posted By Austin Yorski about 7 months, 3 weeks ago
Everyone knows that Nintendo has a long, storied history of producing the gaming industry’s best rap music. Ok, maybe it was just the Donkey Kong 64 rap, but you have to admit that it has a pretty sick simian flow. There is one other hip hop joint that graced the N64 back in those awkward days when video games were trying a little too hard to be “hip” and “with it.” The difference is that the DK64 rap is timeless in its silliness, while the runner-up is actually legitimately pretty good.
I’m talking about “Yo-Yo-Yoshi.”
Yoshi’s Story is an underrated classic filled to the brim with great music. Although much of the score plays with one central leitmotif, there is still plenty of variety to the soundtrack. “Yo-Yo-Yoshi” is arguably the most memorable cut, and it’s paired with an equally unforgettable level: The Jelly Pipe. I’m not sure what sewers full of gelatine have to do with rap music, but it’s a strangely perfect fit. The only thing that could have improved the song would have been Yoshi himself laying down a guest verse.
Mario’s mighty reptilian steed does get a chance to flex his vocal range though. In fact, a Yoshi chorus accompanies quite a few songs, as you can hear below. OST composer Kazumi Totaka provided the squeaks, gibberish, and barely decipherable professions of love for his employer over the course of the 50-track album. Of course, there are 50 tracks on the full, official Japanese release of the soundtrack, whereas the American and European versions got significantly less. On the other hand, they got awesome names like “Music to Pound the Ground to” and “Love, Peace and Happiness.”
The historical importance of this music is probably vastly underappreciated. Every Nintendo game that came afterwards based its Yoshi sound effects on Story, despite the character never getting another chance to show off his falsetto. These are the kind of saccharine sounds that got lodged in a child’s psyche and never leave, permanently forming an image of a figure that is in fact much more fluid. A word to the wise however: you probably don’t want to read the YouTube comments on the video above. I may never be able to hear the intro theme the same way again.
On a happier note, there are a lot of interesting little pieces of music that go quite underutilized within the game itself. On of my favorites is “Spider Swing (Super Happy Rock Version)”, which you’ll hear for less than a minute on any given play-through. Gems like this are a big part of why I do this column–you can play a game for dozens of hours and never notice little tunes like that.
The ending track, “Yoshi’s Tale,” is possibly the most emotional any old-school platformer ever got. From its subdued opening to the childlike cries of, “Nintendo” the song evokes an aching mixture of joy and sadness, like the celebration after a hard-fought victory. Back in the day, Yoshi’s Story was one of the relatively rare games in which a younger player could reasonably expect to see the end credits, so this outro is an important achievement in the formation of many a gamer. It’s only fitting that the song is immediately followed by the titular storybook closing, as the dénouement of Yoshi’s Story is in fact the closing of a chapter in gaming history: the end of the Golden Era of 2D Platforming. While titles like Rayman Origins may have reinvigorated the genre for the modern era, I don’t think any game since has captured the innocent magic of a soundtrack sung by rainbow dinosaurs.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.