Koji Kondo (近藤 浩治 Kondō Kōji, born August 13, 1961) is a Japanese music composer, pianist, and sound director who works for the video game company Nintendo. He is best known for his involvement in numerous contributions in the Mario and The Legend of Zelda series of video games, among others produced by the company. Kondo was originally hired by Nintendo in 1984, becoming the first person hired by them to specialize in musical composition for games. Shortly after, Kondo was assigned as the sound designer on the 1985 game Super Mario Bros. His sound design for the game, more specifically the musical theme for the overworld, has often been cited as among the most memorable in video games.
Kondo in 2015
|Born||August 13, 1961|
Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Kondo was born in Nagoya, Japan, on August 13, 1961. He began taking lessons in the electronic organ from the age of five. He improved his skills in the instrument in a cover band that played jazz and rock music. Kondo studied at the Art Planning Department of Osaka University of Arts, but was never classically trained or particularly dedicated to music. However, he gained some experience in composing and arranging pieces, using both the piano and a computer to assist him. During his senior year, Nintendo sent a recruitment message to his university stating that they were interested in hiring people dedicated to composition and sound programming. An LCD and arcade gamer, Kondo successfully applied for the job in 1984 without requiring any demo tapes.
Kondo was the third person hired by Nintendo to create music and sound effects for their games, joining Hirokazu Tanaka and Yukio Kaneoka. However, he was the first at Nintendo to actually specialize in musical composition. The first game he worked on was the arcade game Punch-Out!!, although it was before he had officially joined Nintendo. Despite creating mostly jingles and sound effects, he was able to overcome the challenges of early arcade sound hardware. As the Famicom had become highly popular in Japan, Kondo was assigned to compose music for the console's subsequent games at Nintendo's new development team, Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development (EAD). Kondo also wrote an instruction manual on how to program Japanese popular music into the Famicom using the peripheral Family BASIC. To conclude his first year at Nintendo, he created the music to Devil World alongside Akito Nakatsuka. In 1985, Nintendo started marketing the Famicom abroad under the name the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to capitalize on the 1983 video game crash that devastated Atari, Inc. He composed the music for the hit releases Super Mario Bros. (1985) and The Legend of Zelda (1986), which helped the system to sell 60 million copies in total and established some of the most well-known melodies in the video game industry.
Super Mario Bros., for many years the best-selling video game of all time for a single platform, was Kondo's first major score. The game's melodies were created with the intention that short segments of music could be endlessly repeated during the same gameplay without causing boredom. Kondo's soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. gained worldwide recognition, and is to this day the most well-known video game score. The main theme is iconic in popular culture and has been featured in over 50 concerts, been a best-selling ringtone, and been remixed or sampled by various musicians. Kondo's work on The Legend of Zelda scores has also become highly recognized. He produced four main pieces of background music for the first installment of the series; the overworld theme has become comparable in popularity with the Super Mario Bros. main theme. After the success of The Legend of Zelda, he provided the score for two Japanese-exclusive titles, The Mysterious Murasame Castle (1986) and Shin Onigashima (1987). He also created the soundtrack to Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic (1987), which was later rebranded outside Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2 in 1988.
Kondo returned to the Super Mario series to produce the scores to Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988) and the SNES launch title Super Mario World (1990). Koichi Sugiyama directed a jazz arrangement album of Super Mario World's music and oversaw its performance at the first Orchestral Game Music Concert in 1991. After finishing the soundtrack to Super Mario World, Kondo was in charge of the sound programming for Pilotwings (1990), while also composing the "Helicopter Theme" for it, and created the sound effects for Star Fox (1993). In 1995, he composed for the sequel to Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island. Until the early 2000s, Kondo would usually write all compositions by himself on a project, with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's being the last one Kondo worked on alone. Since then, he has been collaborating with other staff members at Nintendo, advising and supervising music created by others, as well as providing additional compositions for games, including Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D World. He also served as the sound director and lead composer of Super Mario Maker and its sequel, Super Mario Maker 2.
Kondo attended the world premiere of Play! A Video Game Symphony at the Rosemont Theater in Rosemont, Illinois in May 2006, where his music from the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda series was performed by a full symphony orchestra. He also attended and performed in a series of three concerts celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series in late 2011. He performed piano with the American rock band Imagine Dragons live at The Game Awards 2014 ceremony in December 2014.
Musical style and influencesEdit
Kondo's music for Super Mario Bros. was designed around the feeling of motion that mirrors the player's physical experience. This followed the philosophy of series creator and designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, who demanded that audio for the game be made "with substance" and are synchronized with elements of the game. As a result, Kondo based a number of the score around genres that are primary used for dancing, such as Latin music and the waltz.
In the first The Legend of Zelda, Kondo juxtaposes the game's overworld theme with the theme that plays in dungeons. Kondo remarked on the importance of projecting distinct characters through music, so that the player knows almost immediately where they are within the game. Justin Daniel Sextro, a student at the University of Missouri, wrote that when compared to the overworld theme of The Legend of Zelda, the dungeon theme gives "no pleasure in listening", saying that as the tune is "not lyrical", it ends up sounding "constantly unresolved". He further writes that while there is motion in the music, it was "without direction" in contrast to the "stable surety" of the overworld theme. Kondo used this contrast in other games he worked on, including Super Mario Bros.
|Devil World||Along with Akito Nakatsuka|
|Kung Fu||Sound effects|
|Super Mario Bros.|
|1986||The Legend of Zelda|
|The Mysterious Murasame Castle|
|Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels|
|1987||Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic|
|1988||Super Mario Bros. 2|
|Super Mario Bros. 3|
|1990||Super Mario World|
|Pilotwings||Programming. Also composed the "Helicopter Theme".|
|1991||The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past|
|1993||Star Fox||Sound effects|
|1996||Super Mario 64|
|1997||Star Fox 64||Along with Hajime Wakai|
|1998||The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time|
|2000||The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask||Along with Toru Minegishi|
|2002||Super Mario Sunshine||Along with Shinobu Tanaka|
|The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker||Along with Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, and Toru Minegishi|
|2004||The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure||Along with Asuka Ohta|
|2006||New Super Mario Bros.||Composed the "Overworld Theme"|
|2007||Super Mario Galaxy||Along with Mahito Yokota|
|2008||Super Smash Bros. Brawl||Musical arrangements|
|2010||Super Mario Galaxy 2||Along with Mahito Yokota and Ryo Nagamatsu|
|2011||The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword||Composed the "Prologue" theme|
|2013||Super Mario 3D World||Along with Mahito Yokota, Toru Minegishi, and Yasuaki Iwata|
|2014||Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U||Musical arrangements|
|2015||Super Mario Maker||Along with Naoto Kubo and Asuka Hayazaki|
|2017||Super Mario Odyssey||Along with Shiho Fujii and Naoto Kubo|
|2018||Super Smash Bros. Ultimate||Musical arrangements|
|2019||Super Mario Maker 2|
Awards and honorsEdit
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|2011||Super Mario Galaxy 2||British Academy Games Awards (Best Original Music)||Nominated|
|2014||Super Mario 3D World||British Academy Games Awards (Best Original Music)||Nominated|
|Video Game Music Online (Best Soundtrack – Retro / Remixed)||Nominated|
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- Super Mario Galaxy Original Sound Track Platinum Version (Media notes). Nintendo. 2008.
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- Otero, Jose. "How Mario Maker Mixes Music With Level Creation". IGN. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
- "Nintendo Minute -- Chatting with Koji Kondo". YouTube. Nintendo.
- Bankhurst, Adam. "Super Mario Maker 2 Features Story Mode, Online Multiplayer, Co-Op Creation Mode". IGN. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- James, Dean. "Imagine Dragons And Koji Kondo Celebrate Majora's Mask At The Game Awards 2014". attackofthefanboy.com. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
- Schartmann, Andrew (2015). Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-1-62892-853-2.
- Schartmann, Andrew (2015). Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-62892-853-2.
- Schartmann, Andrew (2015). Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-62892-853-2.
- Masahiro Sakurai (January 23, 2008). "Super Mario Bros.: Ground Theme". Smash Bros. Dojo!!. Nintendo, HAL Laboratory, Inc. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
- Brophy-Warren, Jamin (October 24, 2008). "A New Game for Super Mario's maestro". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 13, 2009.
- Laroche, Guillaume (2012). "Analyzing Musical Mario-Media: Variations in the Music of Super Mario Video Games." Order No. MR84768, McGill University (Canada), p. 58.
- "Inside Zelda Part 4: Natural Rhythms of Hyrule". Nintendo Power. Nintendo of America, Inc. (195). September 2005. Archived from the original on August 11, 2014.
- Schartmann, Andrew (2015). Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 64–66. ISBN 978-1-62892-853-2.
- Sextro, Justin Daniel (2015). "Press Start: Narrative Integration in 16-Bit Video Game Music." Order No. 1598475, University of Missouri - Kansas City. p. 89.
- Schartmann, Andrew (2015). Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-62892-853-2.
- "Video Games Daily | Nintendo Interview: Koji Kondo, May 2007". Archive.videogamesdaily.com. May 10, 2007. Archived from the original on October 7, 2013. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- "Iwata Asks". Iwataasks.nintendo.com. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- Greening, Chris; Harris, Dave (March 28, 2011). "Soyo Oka Interview: The Comeback of Super Mario Kart's Composer". Video Game Music Online. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
- Otero, Jose. "A Music Trivia Tour with Nintendo's Koji Kondo". IGN. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
- "2011 Winners & Nominees". bafta.org. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- "Games in 2014". bafta.org. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Greening, Chris. "Annual Game Music Awards 2013 Nominations". Video Game Music Online. Retrieved July 13, 2015.