Few characters strike fear into the hearts of creatives like Super Mario.
Even Grant Kirkhope—who wrote the themes now synonymous with Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle—felt the pressure returning for Ubisoft’s sequel, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.
“We were all just scared of breaking something because it’s Nintendo,” Kirkhope told 9news.com.au.
“Oh god, it’s Mario, so we’re all too scared to break it.
The video game, which releases on October 20, is already out in the wild.
And as the embargo on showcases is lifted, critics are easing Kirkhope’s nerves.
“Everyone I’ve talked to today has said they feel like it’s a step up from the last game, and that’s what we want to hear,” the composer explained.
“You think you’ve written good music, but I don’t really know until someone else tells me it’s good… (but) everyone noticed that extra little charm on top.”
“I feel like it was a tougher ride in this game than the first one, but it was better for her.
“The team just knocked it out of the park.
According to Kirkhope, the play’s director, Davide Soliani deserves most of the credit.
“David is an emotional Italian. He was crying all the time,” laughs Kirkhope.
“He was very excited to make sure this game was head and shoulders above the previous one, right?
“Right across the board; animation, programming, you know, everything. Artwork, music, sound effects, the whole lot.”
“He was really aware that he was putting it on everybody.
“We’re all pulling our hair and saying, God, you know what we can do next? Because he said, “No, that’s not right. Can you do it again?” But eventually it got better.
“A lot of people said in the first game that you can really feel the passion, and I don’t think that’s something you can manufacture.”
“The team has to feel it. It has to be in your heart.”
Unlike the original game, which surprised the world in 2017 when it was revealed for the Nintendo Switch, Kirkhope didn’t have to do the heavy lifting alone in Sparks of Hope.
The music for the sequel was also composed by famous composers Gareth Coker (Halo: Infinite, Ori and the Will of the Wisps) and Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Super Mario RPG).
“When they first announced I was like, ‘Is it going to work?'” admits Kirkhope.
“But it really turned out fantastic.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that the soundtrack feels like a really cohesive thing and you’re always a bit worried that the three composers might not be cohesive. But it worked out so well. I can’t complain.”
“I really feel it’s the best music of my career and I don’t say that lightly.
“No one but me can think that.
That enthusiasm was written on Kirkhope’s face when I asked him what his favorite music in the game was.
“There’s Bowser’s battle later in the game, and to Rom, the Audio Director said, “What if we made it like the Rocky movies, the sound, kind of like The Mandalorian? And I thought, wow, that sounds like an amazing idea.
“So I really lent into the crazy one and it’s got a big brass band and it’s a bit Rocky V, you know, it just sounds great for the battle and that’s one of the bits we recorded in Japan that turned out fantastic.”
“I put a lot of effort into it and Davide cried when he heard it.
“When David cries, it’s always a good sign.
“He cried less in this game than he did last game, so I think he’s getting used to me a little bit.
Despite his thirst to learn from the greats like John Williams, Kirkhope, who rose to fame during his work for Rare during the N64 era, humbly describes himself as a “one trick pony”.
Kirkhope is proud of his work and says it doesn’t matter if the player notices the effort he and the team put into Sparks of Hope, as long as players are having fun with it now — or in 30 years like today’s TikTok stars, who have breathed new life into life to the music he wrote for the intermission of GoldenEye.
“I was the grandfather of trap music and I don’t know what trap music is,” laughs Kirkhope.
“Who would have thought? Even Banjo Kazooie when I wrote that I never thought we’d be talking about it 20 years later.”
“You mean six weeks if you’re lucky. Six months if you’re lucky!”
“Rare was such a special company at the time that we were all shooting all the bottles back then. Everyone was and again it permeates.
“The Stamper brothers who ran the place were such great people to work with and – a bit like David – that passion permeates the rest of you, you can’t escape it.
“Enjoy it, have a good laugh at the rabbits and all and that’s fine by me.”
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