It has only been several hours since my family and friends sent me birthday wishes.
All seemed to be a typical day, as usual. House chores, maintenance, and working on personal projects are included in my daily routine. It was only then I received a notification through a friend on Twitter. A new video has been uploaded by The Gaming Historian himself, Norman Caruso.
And on my birthday out of all days?
Being a fan of his work ever since the early days of ScrewAttack and RetrowareTV, I’ve always known that him and his wife Kristin put so much effort and dedication in the majority of videos being put out within several years. I get to see him in retro gaming conventions at least a couple times a year, and I would bring up the latest video he would release at the time, praising his ability to bring out a new perspective in video game history. His videos have always been fun and educational throughout my experience watching (and re-watching) them. This newly released video although, meant more than just a mini-documentary; it was a personal ‘return to nostalgia’ and a plethora of fresh, new insight to a behind-the-scenes look into one of my all-time favorite NES games: Super Mario Bros. 3. It was one of the first NES games that I’ve played at a very young age. I only got to play this game at a friend’s house a few times before I could own a copy of what would be considered a remaster for the SNES compilation, Super Mario All-Stars.
Everything about it, from the graphics, the gameplay, and sound (music included, of course) made it stand out in a big way from the previous installments of the legendary game series. It was a daunting number of challenges in the development process behind it all, most notably a few creative masterminds within the team like Shigeru Miyamoto and Koji Kondo. I can relate most definitely to Kondo since I am also a music composer myself. When you write a piece of music that is so good and memorable, sooner or later, you’ll be tasked to do a follow-up to something just as great. You think to yourself,
‘How can I top this? How can I do better? How will I make another composition to sound as good as the last one?’
Those were the questions I’d imagine Koji Kondo asked himself (for sure I’ve asked myself that occasionally) when facing the challenge of what he considers ‘the most difficult piece of music’ he’s ever had the opportunity of creating. What came of it all was a mix of reggae, orchestral, as well as rhumba, bossa nova and beguine rhythms that I really don’t hear a lot of in music these days. Music has always played a significant part in my life in gaming.
It is one of those soundtracks that get stuck with you throughout your whole life.
Believe me, the amount of research and storytelling that the dynamic duo of Norman and Kristin (him, an actual Historian and her, an experienced Journalist) put in this video is immaculate. I have learned a lot of things about the game’s history, whether it be stories that my friends and I would’ve believed it to be urban legend at first (like how the North American names for most of the Koopa Kids are named after musicians such as Ludwig von Beethoven, or the late and great Lemmy Kilmister) or game mechanics that just didn’t make the cut just yet until later on in the series (the ability to ride a familiar dinosaur companion wink wink). If you’re interested in learning more about SMB3, why is it loved and revered by millions of gamers even to this day; do yourself a huge favor and watch the video, that is now live on his YouTube channel for all to enjoy. Go show Norm and Kristin some love.
If there ever was some Pulitzer Prize for retro gaming historical mini-documentary like this, I want this one to be a surefire winner.