It's getting hot outside and what better way to cool off than taking a swim in the pool, or going to the beach and hitting the waves? If you're a video game character more often than not, there's usually some objective that's involved with swimming like saving the world, or rescuing a princess. In this installment of Favorite Tunes we take a listen to some of my favorite themes from water levels. Like ice stages, water levels are either hit or miss with me, but for the most part, I adore the music that's generated from these stages.
Blue Blue Moon - Super Adventure Island (SNES)
The first time you hear Blue Blue Moon, you're swimming inside a giant whale. Kinda reminds me of the climax of Pinocchio. Also know as Essential Vitamins, Super Adventure Island's soundtrack was scored by Yuzo Koshrio. Blue Blue Moon has a very 1990s feel to it and many are still surprised that this kind of music was capable on the SNES early in the system's life.
Water - Super Mario 64 (N64)
For me, the next generation of gaming didn't arrive until I finally played Super Mario 64. Just running around in any direction, jumping off walls, blasting out of cannons, flying through the sky, it was all so exhilarating. Super Mario 64 wouldn't have been quite as awesome a game if not for the compositions of Koji Kondo who once again, gave as an unforgettable score. Water, the theme that plays in the two very fun underwater courses is such an incredible theme that captures the feeling of sea-life to a T. I thought it was a very nice touch how an extra layer to the music was added when you swam in the water and drums were added when you were on land in certain sections of the level.
Aquatic Ambiance - Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
As much as Donkey Kong Country's 32-bit visuals surprised my 13 year old mind on a 16-bit console, its music had a greater, lasting impact on me. When I reached Coral Capers, the game's first underwater level, I was overcome with awe. Cheesy as this may sounded it was if Aquatic Ambiance had reached out and touched my soul. As I swam through the stage with DK and Diddy on Enguarde, it felt as if I were deep in the ocean with them. Even as I fought off the sharks and octopuses, I couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of the game's interpretation of underwater aquatic life. In my humble opinion, this could very well be the greatest piece of water music ever made for video games. David Wise, you have my eternal gratitude.
Underwater Bombs - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Ask any gamer that played TMNT for the NES what the first major difficult stage was and just about all of the answers will be the Dam. The Dam, the Dam, the Dam! Stiff swimming controls and tons of killer electric seaweed made this stage a nightmare for gamers across the land. Yet as controller-breaking as it was, it had one of the best themes in the game and that's saying a lot because all of TMNT's NES soundtrack is made of win. My apologies if this tune trudges up bad memories for some of you, but even though this stage caused me no end of frustration, it still has an amazing music piece.
Zora's Domain - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 3DS)
Widely praised as the greatest game of all time (superb game but not a claim I'm ready to get behind), Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda game and was another shinning example that Nintendo knew how to handle it's properties in three dimensions. Koji Kondo was once again brought back to write the game's soundtrack, giving us some of the most recognized themes from the series. Zora's Domain tends to get overlooked in favor of other tracks from the game but it's still one of my favorite tracks from this entry in the series. It's a truly beautiful piece.
Dolphin Park - Wave Race 64 (N64)
One of the earliest N64 titles and still one of the best, Wave Race 64 handled water physics like you would not believe. The racing itself could get pretty intense especially on later courses. Wave Race 64 has some sweet music but since I had to pick just one theme for this list, I went with Dolphin Park, a tutorial course. It's one of the few areas in the game where you can relax because you aren't fighting the waves or three other CPU racers to keep your place.
Tidal Tempest - Sonic CD (Sega CD, XBLA, PSN)
It's almost impossible to discuss the music of Sonic CD without breaking open a stupid debate that, quite frankly, needs to die already. I greatly enjoy both soundtracks. That being said, I went with the US version of Tidal Tempest. After the more speedy Aquatic Ruin theme from Sonic 2, it was nice to return to a slower water theme for Sonic CD. Lots of folks seem to get a Fresh Prince vibe from this one. I don't quite see it, but I can certainly dig it.
Aqua Area - Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii)
The Wii was blessed with not one but two wonderful Kirby games. Epic Yarn gave us a different take on the pink puff ball, while Return to Dream Land saw him return to his more traditional style of gameplay. This four player platformer has the honor of being my new favorite Kirby game (it dethroned Kirby Super Star.) It's pretty to look at, has awesome copy abilities, fun levels and a killer soundtrack thanks to veteran Kirby composers, Jun Ishikawa and Hirokazo Ando. The game has a number of water tunes, but Aqua Area by far my favorite.
Beach Overworld - New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
Though New Super Mario Bros. Wii can be very chaotic with 3-4 players, you should at least give the it a shot if you ever have the opportunity. But even when playing solo, this is still one of the best Super Mario games around. Beach Overworld has the familiar "wah wah" voice clip I've grown to love and there are traces of 8-bit sounds in this piece as well. This song reminds me of a fun filled day at the beach, something I haven't had in a good while.