Something I’ve spoken of in this space before is the seemingly pervasive yet mistaken idea that the western version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is just a slapdash ROM hack of the Famicom Disk System game Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic that replaces the licensed Fuji TV family of heroes with Mario, Luigi, Toad, and the Princess. I’ve lightly touched on some ways that this is not the case, but now we’re going to look at a big one: The music.
The transition of music from Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic to Super Mario Bros. 2 varies from one tune to the next; some are barely different, if at all, while others show slight differences, and still others are wholly original tracks to their respective versions. For the sake of some brevity, I’m ignoring the first category (because what’s the point of looking at the same piece twice?), and focusing more on the latter two.
Right off the bat, we’re starting from the beginning: The title screen of each game.
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic features a unique yet familiar tune, one which basically samples from another track — or perhaps that track borrows from this one — that we’ll come back to later.
Super Mario Bros. 2 uses an original theme that’s pretty unique to this game for its title screen. I had thought at one point that it might be a remix of the underwater theme from Super Mario Bros., but listening to them side-by-side, while it might borrow something from that, they don’t seem to be the same after all (though the other Nintendo Entertainment System titles, which didn’t have title themes, would seem to adopt remixes of that underwater theme for their title themes in Super Mario All-Stars. That, or I have more of a tin ear than I thought).
Next up, we have the Overworld theme:
The two are largely similar, though you can hear there’s some slightly different instrumentation involved, particularly in the opening notes. This might have something to do with Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic being on the Famicom Disk System while Super Mario Bros. 2 had to rely on whatever sounds the NES could provide alone. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is another such game in which you can tell such distinct differences between other similar tracks.
Now we come to the Underground theme, which varies in a different way:
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic‘s is a much faster beat, while Super Mario Bros. 2‘s feels a little slower and more relaxed. What’s more, there’s a different bit of instrumentation involved with what sounds sort of like a drum rhythm in the background.
As a bonus, here’s what Nintendo was originally thinking of using, taken from a beta for Super Mario Bros. 2:
Sound familiar? That’s right: They were originally going to Mario up the game a bit more with a remix of the iconic Underground theme from the original Super Mario Bros.
What’s more, those opening beats weren’t a part of the original song; rather, they (or at least some variation thereof) were first heard on these shores in Super Mario Bros. 3, which was in development at around the same time as this version of Super Mario Bros. 2. Given some other similarities between the two games (such as the similar pixel art for some of the core Mario cast), one figures there was either some sharing between the teams, or that there was even some double duty going on.
Next up is the theme for Subspace. I touched on this when I wrote about Subspace itself, but it really belongs here for completion’s sake, as they’re two entirely different themes:
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic has certain Arabian-styled elements to it, and this tune follows through on that theme perfectly. Unfortunately, the repeating loop gets tiresome rather quickly, but at least you’re probably not going to be in Subspace long enough for it to matter — that is, unless you employ a certain trick.
Super Mario Bros. 2, on the other hand, gives us a clear callback to Mario’s first Super adventure with a remix of the preceding game’s Overworld theme. This also began something of a trend where the original Overworld (or “Ground”, if you prefer) music would go on to be remixed and reused frequently in subsequent Mario titles, but seldom (if ever) as an Overworld theme again.
Next, while the Mini-Boss music in both games is nigh if not completely identical, you can detect a slight difference between the theme that plays when you conquer the Mini-Boss at the end of a world:
I’ve also recently briefly talked about the different Invincibility music that plays when you grab a Starman in either game, but for completion, here they are again:
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic provides a short loop of an upbeat, beepy tune for the duration of your period of invincibility.
Super Mario Bros. 2, meanwhile, features another callback to Super Mario Bros. by remixing the Starman’s theme from that game. This adds a bit of a drum beat to the proceedings, while also removing parts of the original tune that would play over a longer period — generally more commonly heard when in Coin Heaven than while using a Starman, to be fair.
Finally, we come to the great Wart (aka Mamu), who has an entire track all to himself:
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic‘s is arguably the better-sounding tune between the two, yet ironically, I feel like that’s a weakness in this particular instance.
In Super Mario Bros. 2, the bass line seems about the same, but the other instrumentation is more a little more shrill; one might even say it’s a little more dangerous sounding.
I can’t quite describe it, but it just works for me in some way — in that the first time I heard it, I was not expecting it, and it kind of freaked little kid me right the eff out. This was the Big Boss, the baddest of all the baddies in Subcon, and the music definitely fit. It was the ultimate psych out, and combined with other unfamiliar elements of the battleground, I ultimately lost my first confrontation with the frog king.
But I would be back, and eventually, I was able to claim victory, which brings me to this music:
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic‘s final victory tune is pretty different from the one found in Super Mario Bros. 2, though there seems to be a little bit of shared sound between the two.
Both victory tunes lead to the cast roll (and if you listen long enough to the Super Mario Bros. 2 tune above, you’ll hear it, as I couldn’t find the victory tune in isolation), which should sound familiar to those who’ve been listening to each piece throughout this article:
While the cast music is unique among the tunes featured in Super Mario Bros. 2, it’s slightly less so in Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, as it’s a remix of the title theme — the very first piece of music heard, bringing things nicely full-circle.
So as you can see, a fair bit of work went into altering the music of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic for its release as Super Mario Bros. 2. In a way, it’s also a little bit sad, as Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic‘s place as licensed title and the codification of Super Mario Bros. 2 as a full-fledged Mario title means that the tunes unique to that original Japanese release are likely to only fall further and further into obscurity.
Oh, and a quick shout-out to the inspiration for the subtitle on this one, “Talkin’ Toons w/ Rob Paulsen.” The legendary voice actor talks with other talent from the business, and they often use some of their famed voices to read scripts from other TV shows and movies. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you enjoy voice acting!
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.