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Mario Basket 3 on 3 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Mario Basket 3 on 3 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Mario Basket 3 on 3 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Square Enix
Catalog No.: SQEX-10079
Release Date: October 18, 2006
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


The Mario Basket 3 on 3 Original Soundtrack is probably the most unlikely Square Enix album release ever. The concept of a Square Enix-developed Mario spinoff is a peculiar one that wouldn't have been possible without the DS. The chances of a Mario spinoff album receiving a soundtrack release are close to impossible usually, but fortunately Square Enix have their own record label unlike Nintendo. And then there is the choice of composer. Despite being at Square Enix for five years prior to the soundtrack's release, sound editor Masayoshi Soken's composing roles had been limited to advertising fanfares and obscure Japan-only sports games, his only popular exposure being on some ridiculous commercials worthy of a place on Tarrant on TV. In this soundtrack, however, he demonstrates astonishing versatility with musical styles, a knack for fitting in-game scenarios, and absolute command over the DS' hardware. The result satisfies musically, technologically, and emotionally within the game, but is the soundtrack actually worth purchasing?


The stage themes are definitely the highlight of the soundtrack. "Mario Stadium" features the calypso tuned percussion melodies common to so many Nintendo soundtracks and energetically mixes them with electronic beats, bass riffs, low-key rap samples, and even the occasional "three on three" shout. "Koopa Troopa Beach" feels like a revitalised Mario Kart 64 theme in places with its rock organ use and happy-go-lucky slapped bass, though its goofy melody is actually reminiscent of Tetris' "Korobeiniki". It somehow works brilliantly. Soken pushes the capacity of the DS one step further in "Sherbert Land" by blending atmospheric female vocals and early 90s dance beats; though it's a bit derivative, it somehow really complements the icy setting of the game and is one more addition to the soundtrack's large stylistic repertoire. "Luigi Mansion" is the weakest stage tracks, revolving around repeating a short slapstick motif against timpani; however, it's still quite enjoyable on a stand-alone context, hardly as obnoxious or sloppy as many of the recent themes to the Mario Kart series. "Daisy Garden" and its arrangement "Malboro Garden" initially take the same bombastic orchestral approach, but shine in their humorous development sections.

It's very clear that Soken knows Nintendo's icons well from some of the other themes. "Peach Country", for instance, captures the femininity and gentleness of Princess Peach with its warm synth pads and elegant melodies. In "Wario Factory", there a cheeky recurring motif that imitates Wario's laughter, though the definite highlight is the vibrant industrial techno featured throughout. "Donkey Cruise" sounds wild thanks to the rapid African drum beats and intimidating ullulations, at least until its charming old-school melody comes in, while "Junior Street" is a refreshingly different saxophone-led jazz piece. There are also two arrangements among the stage tracks — "Bowser Castle" is a delightful rock remix of Bowser's classic theme driven by some especially hard drum beats, whereas "Bloocheep Ocean" is an unusual ethereal remix of "Swimming BGM" from Super Mario Bros. that will make some listeners go weak-kneed from the nostalgia factor. "Pirate Ship" is one of the most intense creations here, based around repeating militaristic and ethnic drum patterns against suspended string notes in an almost Nakano-esque fashion. Featured a little later, the final stage theme "Rainbow Ship" has an epic effect once vocals are added to its tense if vanilla orchestration.

The soundtrack that opens and closes with sections featuring mostly short filler tracks. "Mario Basketball Theme" is quite buoyant and fun thanks to the bright instrumental mixing and sporadic sound effects. However, the melody itself won't inspire one to whistle or relisten to the track despite having a lingering effect much like an advertising ditty. It's also heard again in the more downbeat "Strategy Time" and the rocking "Ranking Announcement!", but these tracks mainly just clutter the introduction of the soundtrack. Also in the introduction are "Character Select" and "Let's Try!", which cutely assort female vocals (including Kumi Tanioka's) singing "three on three" and "Ma-ri-o" against instrumental riffs. Finally, "Basketball Kingdom" is a charming easygoing old-school parody that wouldn't have felt out-of-place in a Super Mario Bros. soundtrack. Moving on to the end of the soundtrack, Koji Kondo's classic melodies make brief appearances in "Airship Appearance Theme", "Congratulations!", "Toad's Dream", "Gather, Everyone", and "Mario Fanfare", some of them unexpected. "Who is the Coin Hunter" is a catchy and buoyant mini-game theme with a good amount of variety during its playtime. Finally, "Highlight Ending" goes back to the days of Super Mario Bros. once more with its bold orchestral fanfare before reprising the "Character Select" theme in a sound effects-laden mix.


This soundtrack is a fantastic debut from someone who has been in the shadows for too long. I was stunned by how many influences Masayoshi Soken could incorporate into the vibrant captivating stage themes. The rest of the soundtrack isn't as impressive given most non-stage themes are filler tracks, though they are still quite varied and work well in their subsidiary in-game context. As a result, I'd only recommend purchasing the soundtrack for the excellent stage themes. However, as they compose only 22:10 of the soundtrack's modest playtime, most will be wasting $20 by picking this up and should probably wait for a bigger better soundtrack by Soken. The Mario Basket 3 on 3 Original Soundtrack is one of the most effective and varied soundtracks for a Mario spinoff game, just not a worthwhile stand-alone purchase for most.

Overall Score: 6/10