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Koji Kondo and GDC make beautiful music together

Kyle Orland
Kyle Orland|March 8, 2007 3:28 AM

The Game Developers Conference has been trying to get Koji Kondo to come speak about game audio for ten years, according to an introduction by Tommy Tallarico. The wait seemed well worth it, as the famed Nintendo composer's first public appearance in the United States drew a standing ovation from the hundreds-strong assembled crowd today.

Kondo, who has worked on the music for the Mario, Zelda and Star Fox series, among others, stressed three main points in making good game audio:
  • Rhythm in game audio is not just having a catchy beat, but matching your beat to the animation and button presses in the game. "If the music doesn't reflect the rhythm of the game, it might as well be piped in from a source outside the room," Kondo said through a translator.
  • Balance in game audio means not just balancing things like sound effect and music volume, but also bringing individual audio pieces in a game together as a single composition, with a defined introduction, bridge and ending. This is why Kondo always submits pieces to his director four or five at a time, so they won't be given equal weight but instead be balanced in the correct way.
  • Interactivity in game music can be as overt as a faster tempo when time is running out in Super Mario Bros. or as subtle as slight phrasing changes in each trip through the overworld in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Kondo stressed that "this ability of the video game medium, which is not possible with CDs, movies etc., is a very interesting and unique feature."