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Super Smash Bros. Melee ~ Smashing... Live! :: Review by Kie

Super Smash Bros. Melee ~ Smashing... Live! Album Title: Super Smash Bros. Melee ~ Smashing... Live!
Record Label: Nintendo Power (US); Nintendo Official Magazine (UK)
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: January 2003; January 17, 2004
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The original Super Smash Bros. game was a big hit worldwide and sold millions for Nintendo. It basically revolutionized four-player fighting games which have still yet to reply with a better idea. The sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee (or Super Smash Bros. DX in Japan), brought a faster version of the original with loads more characters, areas, secrets, and an excellent soundtrack. The game was commemorated with a concert performed by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra on August 17, 2002. The ticket cost was 3,000 yen and it was a big hit. So big that Nintendo released the recording they had of the concert to the public in three regions — Japan, UK, and USA.


There are two performances of Star Fox themes on the album, Star Fox's "Planet Corneria" and Star Fox 64's "Planet Venom". Introducing the concert, the arrangement of Corneria is basically similar to the original, except with the different instruments used like violins and trumpets. In general, I think it particularly lacks what made the original so good and was a dubious first item. However, Venom is much different. This is how the original should've been done were the budget and technology available — with an orchestra. It all blends well together and the trumpets work well for presenting the main melody. At the end it does the cool little "mission complete" tune of the original to finish it off on a quirky yet decisive note. Not bad at all.

Donkey Kong Country's "Jungle Garden" is done surprisingly well here. It is the series' main theme done with awesome bongo drums and trumpets. The best part about the interpretation is that it is actually arranged to give that extra spark that the original didn't have. At about 1:59, the performance goes into a quiet flute solo to perform the next part of the theme. I was happy to hear that they didn't use trumpets because it would have spoilt the part. As you can guess, "Temple ~ Great Bay" is a mix of two Zelda themes from the game. The temple theme is first up with violins, trombones, trumpets, and flutes all playing the main theme at well timed passages. The renditions continues until 2:39 when a brilliant orchestrated version of the main Zelda theme arrives using basically all the instruments in the orchestra. It then does a slower version of the theme with soft strings before finishing it off with Link's victorious ending theme. A very good track all round.

There are also some more quirky additions to the album. Dr. Mario starts off with a really peaceful strings intro before getting into Hirokazu Tanaka's theme tune with strings and a xylophone. The tune itself is arranged a bit when the trumpets kick in as the main instrument and there is a particularly pleasant slow trumpet solo at 2:12. It also flows into a violin solo straight afterwards which makes you wish the arrangement would end there. I think that would have made a great ending, but it's still a well-rounded piece. Yoshi's Story's main theme is a particularly rhythmically focused piece and, though it sounds a bit childish, the game intended it to. I did like the original piece, so I might be biased a little in saying it's a welcome interpretation. Conversely, I think the arrangement needed to have a few more bass instruments, because it doesn't have any to really drive it along. It's short and sweet overall, though.

"Opening" is a fairly well arranged version of the main theme from Melee. As you should guess by now, the main theme is done with trumpets and violins mixed together at different areas. However, the violins play a key part at about 1:20 when they do a good solo from the original piece. It's not been arranged as such, but rather just had different instruments placed. Not brilliant, but OK. The "Original Medley" is an interesting medley of a bunch of themes from Melee. It starts off with a quiet violin solo until about 1:36 when it starts the "All-Star Intro"; although the original was short, the orchestra adds a few solos to round it off. Following the triumphant and brassy "Trophy", "How to Play" is done with a cool blend of trumpets, drums, and sharp violin playing. At 3:39, the "Final Destination" music begins and it sounds pretty great; a good mix of all the orchestral instruments with a few hidden solos if you listen enough. It ends with a finale mix of the "Menu" and "Ending" and a single chord with all of the instruments used. Not a bad medley here.

"Fountain of Dreams" is an excellent performance of a famous Kirby theme. The blend of trumpet melodies, trombone accompaniment, and violin countermelodies is fantastic in unison. I just like all the little background instruments playing their own passages while the main theme goes on. Can't get much better than that. The second Kirby theme is "Green Greens", which features interpretations of the melody from trumpets and then violinists. Being the shortest arrangement on the album, I don't think it captured the same depth as the original version did. Despite all the people against Pokémon, the music really isn't bad and I was surprised how much I liked the "Pokémon Star Medley". It begins with a harmonious version of the gym battle theme from the original Game Boy titles before moving on to a brassy version of the "Pokémon Floats" main theme. At 3:50, the gym battle theme from Gold and Silver version is played, which sounds better than the Melee version. All in all it is a great piece of music and is worth a listen even if you never want to see a Pokémon again.

And here's a bit for the Metroid fans. The "Brinstar Depths" ~ "Brinstar" piece is definitely worth a listen. The violin plays the Depths very well with what sounds like church bells and a flute playing at about 0:56. The arrangement gets boring for a little bit afterwards before getting into the main Metroid theme at about 2:16. I like the trumpets used here as accompaniment as well as the interpretation of the main melody. Good stuff all the way through. This interpretation is just done brilliantly. Moving on, the Fire Emblem theme starts quietly with violins but soon comes into context. Some parts on the intro sound a bit out of key but you get past that with how well the trumpets work here. Kudos to the trumpet players in this concert by the way, they did a brilliant job. I like the violin part at 1:50 as well, to slow the theme down a bit and also give the flute players to have a go. Enjoy the ending with a mix of every instrument, but especially the drums and trumpets, it's great.

By now you're probably wondering... where the hell are the Mario themes? Well, the "Smash Brothers Grand Medley" has plenty for you plus a lot more. The longest track on the album by far shows the true capacity of arranger Shogo Sakai to blend themes together and has a lot of drama. In order, the themes are "Ancient Kingdom I", "Ancient Kingdom II", "Flat Zone", "Balloon Fight", "Big Blue", "Mach Rider", "Yoshi's Island", "Saria's Theme", "Super Mario Bros. 3", "Icicle Mountain", and "Peach's Castle". The last piece is the "Slider" theme from Super Mario 64, which is just called "Rainbow Cruise" on Melee. The theme is done very well with the classical instruments here. It's nothing too special, besides at 1:36 when the audience begins clapping along with the tune. It basically enhances the atmosphere of the theme until the end. A nice encore after the epic medleys and arrangements prior.


So what do I think in general? Everyone in the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra definitely brought the goods. It's a brilliant performance of mostly excellent arrangements. Even if you're not a fan of orchestral music, the album is still worth a listen. After all, it features most of the famous themes from all of Nintendo's major series — from classics such as Super Mario and Zelda to the action games Fire Emblem, Metroid, and Star Fox all the way to quirky hits like Pokémon, Yoshi, and Kirby — while also commemorating the fantastic game that is Super Smash Bros. Melee. Now if only they'd release an album for the all-star soundtrack to Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Overall Score: 9/10