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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Song of the Week! 3 August 2013

And so we finally made it to the third year! Thank you so much for your continuous appreciation to this small corner of the Internet; we wouldn't have pushed this blog so far without your support, guys!

In occasion of this anniversary, I'm going to review another milestone of the Game Music genre, with the detailed history of one of its very first ante-litteram songs (basically, before Taiko became a hit rhythm game series).

 Ai no Uta (愛のうた) Pikmin Theme (ピクミンのテーマ)
Allx2 (??)x1 (90)
x3 (90)
 Taiko 3

If you thought that Nintendo's influence on Taiko games is only Mario and Pokémon songs, today's pick from the past may change your mind. This old song from the 3rd arcade is under the J-Pop genre (if it were here today it would be in Game Music), and comes from a series which has just sprouted from Nintendo HQ at the time, a real-time strategy/adventure game called Pikmin. As of this week, the 3rd Pikmin game is already launched worldwide, so what better time than to feature the only Pikmin song in Taiko no Tatsujin?

The game tells about the misadventures of an extraterrestrial spaceship captain named Olimar, who crash-landed into a foreign planet due to a collision with a meteor. The violent impact heavily damaged his spaceship -the S.S.Dolphin- and its parts scattered all over the planet. Luckily for him, Olimar gets unexpected help in the form of tiny sentient plant-like creatures which he named Pikmin. With the help of these creatures, Olimar's mission is to gather enough ship parts and leave the planet before his spacesuit's 30-day life support system stops functioning, thus leading him to death by the planet's deadly oxygen-based atmosphere. Each Pikmin can fight creatures, carry things around and have special traits based on their color.

The song Ai no Uta (= "Song of Love") comes from Pikmin's Japanese commercials and cannot be found in the actual game. As its name and lyrics suggest, it's basically a sad yet devoted tribute to the Pikmin's loyalty to their alien companion, in the sense that they will try their best -even putting themselves in deadly situations- to help Olimar get home. On December 2001, Ai no Uta got its own single, also with an instrumental version of the song and the unedited Namida ga Ofureta (涙があふれた, 'Full of Tears'), which is Olimar's view on the Pikmin's loyal and sacrificial behaviour, and sometimes to which tragic consequences this behavior may happen to the Pikmin themselves.

Ai no Uta performed by a virtual band called Strawberry Flowers (ストロベリー・フラワー), whose members are named as the different colors of Pikmin available in the franchise's games: the first three members included a female singer (Yellow Pikmin), a male guitarist (Blue Pikmin) and a male bassist (Red Pikmin). When the sequel Pikmin 2 was published in 2004, Strawberry Flower expanded its virtual band members by adding a female guitarist and bassist representing the new Pikmin types in said sequel (Purple Pikmin and White Pikmin).

In a rather unusual twist, Ai no Uta outsold the advertised game for a small period! When the single came out, over 600k copies was sold, outselling the Gamecube game during the first few months, against the game's overall number of copies sold worldwide (1.18 million). Peaking at #2 in the Oricon Top 200 Weekly charts on debut, the song also got a French version for the European commercials called 'Vos Meilleurs Amis' (=Your Best Friends). The original/French versions of the songs, as well as Strawberry Flower's commercial song for Pikmin 2 Tane no Uta (種のうた, 'Song of Seed/Species') can also be found in the Pikmin-themed stage of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

The third Taiko arcade uses a cover version of the song. Like most of the oldest songs in Taiko games, Ai no Uta uses the same note patterns for Futsuu and Donderful modes, which mainly consist of plain and simple 1/16 note stacking, with very few clusters. Not too hard.

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