With the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System in full swing, Nintendo is about to release the new Wii version of Super Mario All-Stars in North America at a budget price with a little history book and soundtrack CD. With the new release comes a new installment of the always interesting Iwata Asks discussion/interview series, and of course this time the focus is on the compilation. Part 1 focuses on the music of the Mario series as composer Koji Kondo takes us track by track through the Mario musical collection. This bit about the overworld theme from Super Mario Bros. 2 really caught my attention:
Kondo: Yes. What we called Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan was a direct continuation to the original Super Mario Bros., but in America it was a remake of Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic. When we decided to release it in America as Super Mario Bros. 2, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)—as the Famicom is called overseas—didn't have the Disk System's new sound source, so...
Iwata: By new sound source, you mean the Disk System's sound source that had one sound, where the waveform could be freely defined.
Kondo: Right. I could use four sounds at once with the Disk System, but couldn't on the NES, so when we remade the game, I had to be creative in order to compensate. Then we remade that game as Mario USA...
Iwata: First you remade the Disk System's Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic and sold it as Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES in America. Then you remade Mario 2 for the Famicom in Japan and released it as Mario USA. It's a little complicated. (laughs)
Kondo: The Famicom had something called delta modulation that allowed percussion sampling. All alone it sounded bad, but when I used it for percussion in Mario USA, the result was a somewhat rich and pretty sound.
Iwata: There's quite a big difference between three and four sounds. I bet you really threw yourself into it so no one could say it sounded dull.
Kondo: Yeah, I did.
Iwata: The Famicom didn't allow many options when it came to sound quality. But by adjusting how often the square wave appeared and how often it didn't, and switching frequently, you could generate a variety of sound qualities. I was doing sound programming back then. I remember devising various ways to create sound.
Kondo: Oh, that's right. (laughs) It was fun back then to try things out and see what you can do.
Wait a minute! One of my favorite Super Mario tunes is different in its original Disk System incarnation and I'm just finding out about this now? Well, now I have to hear the other version of the song.