10. Gerudo Valley
Origin: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998)
Arranger: Rio Hamamoto (Tekken 6)
Kenny Says: Gracing players with its presence on the Gerudo Valley level on Smash 3DS, and the Skyloft and Pirate Ship levels on Smash Wii U, Rio Hamamoto’s Gerudo Valley remix is a perfect example of how little tweaks can change a song in a big way. Still proudly touting its unmistakable “desperado” overtones, this Smash-ified remix leads the way with an upbeat, slightly aggressive melody played on the Spanish guitar, backed up by a mixture primarily comprised of castanets and – surprise, surprise – more Spanish guitar.
What really helps this remix to stand out, however, its brief interlude partway through the song. Jumping from biting strings to an airy woodwind for but only a few seconds, this change in instrumental leads ultimately ends up hitting the listener like a refreshing breeze in the middle of a scorching desert, and makes for a perfect segue into an even more string-rich lead for the song (or at least the loop!) to end on. Any way you size it up, the Gerudo Valley remix makes for a perfect track to pummel your opponents to.
9. Quick Man Stage
Origin: Mega Man 2 (1989)
Arranger: Shota Kageyama (Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver)
Anthony Says: The moment you hear this arrangement’s synth, you know it’s about to go down. Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS’s selection of Mega Man remixes were already of ridiculously high quality, and the chiptune-esque countdown leaves us no choice but to brace for impact. Even then, we’re not prepared for the guitar/synth breakdown reserved only for the hypest of raves, nothing but indescribable syllables tumbling out of our awing mouths as we’re swept up and away into Blue Bomber euphoria. (This may or may be an accurate description of my first time hearing this arrangement.)
As if our ear-rapturing bliss wasn’t enough, Quick Man Stage’s violin is what really sells it – for ten precious seconds, we desperately wish to dwell in this audio haven forever. Much as people rag on the Yellow Devil, remixes like this are what sell Wily’s Castle. Even as it transitions into the Heat Man theme and beyond, we simply can’t handle what’s Shota Kageyama’s best Smash arrangement.
8. The Great Cave Offensive
Origin: Kirby Super Star (SNES, 1996)
Arranger: Hideki Sakamoto (Yakuza 2)
Anthony Says: As possibly the only human being who appreciates The Great Cave Offensive’s glory, I must naturally plug a desperate avocation in its main theme. Not that said theme isn’t one of Smash for Wii U’s best, of course – both of Hideki Sakamoto’s arrangements (this and Zelda’s Main Theme/Underworld Theme) are some of the game’s grandest, and with Kirby Super Star inducing nothing but the dreamiest, sugariest nostalgia within me, I can’t help but lean towards how this one expertly combines the Crystal Field/Underground Forest themes. (By the way, any careful-eared Smash fans recognize this is the true origin of Melee’s Green Greens orchestral arrangement?)
Despite Kirby Super Star‘s brevity, it remains the series’ most ambitious title through its multiple sub-games featuring aircraft assaults, interplanetary travel, and, of course, underground treasure hunting. Trumpeting a similar ambition found only in Smash’s more confident remixes, Sakamoto composes an elaborate climax channeling the original’s danger and adventure. For a grand playground brilliantly deconstructing Smash’s large stages, I expect no less from its default representative.
7. Fortress Boss (Super Mario World)
Origin: Super Mario World (SNES, 1991)
Arranger: ACE (Tomori Kudo/CHiCO) (Xenoblade Chronicles)
Anthony Says: Some of Smash’s best arrangements surprise either by their mere presence or enrapturing us with an remarkably out-of-the-left-field stylistic choice. Fortress Boss (Super Mario World) fits the bill in both categories — despite Super Mario World being my favorite 2D Mario, I’ve never once entertained this theme’s debut in Smash. In retrospect, maybe a boss theme would’ve been a perfect expectation for a fighting game, but how was I supposed to know it’d be arranged via Spanish guitars and vocals? Debuting on both Mushroom Kingdom U and Super Mario Maker, who else to embark upon uncharted territory than newfound talent; specifically, music duo ACE (TOMOri Kudo and CHiCO) of Xenoblade Chronicles fame?
That we’re instantly sidelined by a wild deviation in instruments — an assortment of Spanish strings and castanets — makes it by far the best of their three-song output. It is absurdly catchy, perfectly conveying the cunning wickedness of the seven Koopalings. Knowing they have our attention rapt, ACE proceeds to boldly divorce from the source material by incorporating an Latino vocal solo. Ethereally accompanying the rest of this arrangement, the identity of this singer remains a mystery — for all we know, Morton Koopa may very well have the sexiest vocals alive — but such a triumphantly dauntless execution pegs it as one of Smash Wii U‘s finest remixes.
6. Smiles and Tears
Origin: EarthBound (SNES, 1995)
Arranger: Toru Minegishi (Splatoon)
Anthony Says: True to the song’s name, I cried tears of joy the very moment I heard this song made the Smash cut. As anyone who follows this site knows, I have an unhealthy relationship with Shigesato Itoi’s masterwork in EarthBound, and knowing that the game’s most cherished tune – a credits theme masterfully echoing the game’s symbolism of memories and youth – was too much for my weathered little heart to bear. What better allure for Magicant — a stage capitalizing upon EarthBound nostalgia – than a wistful lullaby recalling an American-based RPG we may’ve very well forged in our own backyard?
Yet are lullabies suitable for a fighting game such as Smash? It’s not as if EarthBound hasn’t received slow-paced remixes in the past – look no further than Melee’s Pollyanna, Brawl’s Snowman, and a certain other arrangement we’ll discuss later – but Nintendo regular Toru Minegishi has other ideas, opting for a brisker approach suiting the heat of battle. Through a delicate tempo of pianos, percussion, and synth, it’s uncannily EarthBound’s nebulous, emotional core despite there not being a trace of SNES instrumentation. What voodoo Mr. Minegishi performed in concocting this paradox remains unknown, but it’s just as heart-wrenching all the same.