There’s a distinct, warm and fuzzy feeling Nintendo fans get when they hear a classic tune. Usually it stems from childhood, evoking memories of a car journey playing Pokemon Blue and Metroid II. Other times it takes us back to a tussle with siblings or friends over who gets to pick up and play with the Game Boy next. Then some adult goes and spoils all of the fun and switches it off, just after you’ve leaped over Bowser and he’s fallen in the lava. The frustration bubbles, the music intensifies and there’s a brutal crescendo as someone shouts, “Your Princess is in another castle!”
It’s been two years since My Nintendo News last spoke to Trend Orchestra’s Marcus Hedges. Back then, our Princess was in another castle; Hyrule. And since the Ocarina of Time Symphony released on Loudr and iTunes, Marcus has been mixing melodies as a full-time composer. “I can’t believe it’s been this long already,” the Brighton-based composer muses. “Since we last spoke, I’ve released a Ratchet & Clank and Adventure Time album, as well as a couple of other random covers that have aligned with some of the TV series I love, like Stranger Things and Vikings.”
But he’s not left his love for video games behind, or his dreams of becoming a full-time video game composer. The talented 27-year-old is now working with eXiin, an indie video game developer based in Brussels, and composing the soundtrack to their latest adventure title, Ary and the Secret of Seasons. This Zelda-inspired tale follows Ary, a Season Guardian, who has a tremendous power to open season spheres wherever she wants, jumping from summer to winter in the blink of an eye. Having won the award for best Unity game at Gamescom 2017, it’s clear the future is bright for Marcus.
It’s in this moment that I turn our attention back to an iconic Nintendo figure. The jack-of-all trades, red-capped plumber has had an incredible year on the Nintendo Switch with two new, critically acclaimed titles; Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and Super Mario Odyssey. Of the latter, Marcus can’t help but feel great admiration for the game. “The music is so beautifully written,” he says. “You get a real sense of adventure, with Fossil Falls one of my favourite tracks so far.” Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Odyssey has made it into his top three Mario games of all time. “It’s like Mario 64 on steroids. I only have good things to say about it; it’s one of those games you know you’ll get nostalgic with in years to come.”
Of course, nostalgia is a big factor for Marcus. It transcends into his musical arrangements, mixing the softer, higher tones of the Mushroom Kingdom with the darker, ambiguous and lower notes of Bowser. We’re talking about his latest labour of love, Super Mario: The Classics Orchestrated. A 10-track album which lasts just 17 minutes – 10 minutes longer, in fact, than the 7 minutes in heaven we had as teens! Featuring some of the greatest thematic and overworld tracks from the first Super Mario Bros through to Super Mario 64, Trend Orchestra’s rendition is bold, hitting all the right notes to evoke the pleasurable platforming nostalgia from the ’80s and ’90s.
Granted, Super Mario: The Classics Orchestrated is much shorter than Marcus’s 45-track love letter to Ocarina of Time. “The motive behind Super Mario – The Classics being shorter was to gauge the response from my listeners,” Marcus says. “Though I have a lot of listeners on Spotify, I don’t actually get that much traction on YouTube. I have the most awesome, engaging YouTube followers who always comment without fail, but it’s tough to figure out how it will appeal to the masses without releasing it first.”
But should his latest album score the success that Ocarina of Time did back in 2016, he would gladly orchestrate more of the classic Mario tunes. Marcus’s adoration of Super Mario is clear; from the SNES, to the N64 and GameCube, he’s played many of the Mario games. “I had these musical landmarks in time,” the composer remembers. “Kind of like a save point, if you will. I slowly made my way through Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3 as a kid. There’s no feeling quite like hearing those joyous, plinky-plonky tunes again.”
It’s in those ‘plinky-plonky’ sounds that Super Mario: The Classics finds its feet. Perfectly marrying notes together, the album transports listeners back to some of the game’s critical moments. But there’s nuances in the music, tiny outbursts of glee where Mario triple jumps his way to the flagpole combined with the ghostly tinkles of the underworld. The Bob-omb Battlefield and Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64 even features, changing the tempo.
Taking Marcus approximately two months to complete, Super Mario: The Classics may be a short journey through the Mushroom Kingdom, but it never loses its spirit. Personally, it still astounds me that just one talented individual working from a studio can craft such a superb musical homage to Nintendo’s mascot.
Yet there’s still one question dangling in front of us; what does the future look like for Trend Orchestra? Marcus says he’d like to explore the potential for live performances: “I can imagine something similar to the Symphony of Goddesses, but for Super Mario,” he pauses, with a smirk. “Maybe I should give Jason Michael Paul a shout. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to create these cinematic covers.” Well, who knows, maybe the legendary concert producer – famous for The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of Goddesses production – will shortly be in touch.
Trend Orchestra’s Super Mario: The Classics Orchestrated is available now on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Deezer for £7.99. And if you’re a Mario fan (like many of us here), make sure to check out a small teaser of the album in the video below.
A copy of Super Mario: The Classics Orchestrated was provided to My Nintendo News for the purposes of this article and the album has been properly licensed.