No preamble to this review, I’m afraid. The Mario Story OST is, simply put, one of the most mediocre offerings I’ve ever received from a video game soundtrack. Yuka Tsujiyoko has managed to make a soundtrack that, while it may fit the game itself is, like the characters in it, about as substantial as paper.
The main problem comes from the very obviously MIDI-ish soundtrack, that sounds as if it were composed on an early-90s Casio keyboard. Now, I fully believe that this was the very intention of the composer and the game designers, but it does not create an album that stands alone. This is definitely a soundtrack best taken in context.
Disc 1 starts the cavalcade of simplicity. Many compositions are minimalist, such as “Over Field and Stream” and “City Beneath Peach’s Castle,” both of which have sparse instrumentation and limited melodies. The same goes for the ethnically evocative “Traversing Dry-Dry Desert.”
That’s not to say that all of the compositions are simplistic…just most. For example, “Riot in Koopa Village” has a bit more substance, with various instruments conveying an image of people rushing around in panic. And “Evade the Bullet Bill Cannon and Charge Forward!” has enough different parts playing to make it seem fuller. Unfortunately, those are only two of a handful of tracks on disc 1 that are interesting.
Disc 2 gets better, though only slightly. “Escape from Mt. Lavalava” has a sharper drum beat, and “Flower Rondo” is a pleasant melody that manages to include basic harmonies. And although much of it is minimalist, there tends to be a rich variety of musical styles, from the blues of “Lakilester the Great!” to the rockin’ “The Terrible Bowser’s Castle,” and even the marching band-inspired “And So the Parade Begins.” In addition, this being a Mario game, none of the tracks are in any way depressing, with even the moody tracks being so in a tongue-in-cheek way.
At its core, the Mario Story OST is eclectic and upbeat, but all in a minimalist way. I would not recommend this album to anyone who wants to listen to even mildly rich harmonies, as this album seemed to avoid them intentionally. Perhaps fans of minimalist compositions or the N64 game itself will enjoy the album, but for most I’d recommend passing this one by.