Kondo in 2015
|Born||August 13, 1961|
Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Koji Kondo (Japanese: 近藤 浩治, Hepburn: Kondō Kōji, born August 13, 1961) is a Japanese music composer, pianist, and music 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 hired by Nintendo in 1984, becoming the first person hired by them to specialize in musical composition for video games. Shortly after, Kondo was assigned as the sound designer on the 1985 game Super Mario Bros. His work on the game, especially the overworld musical theme, has often been cited as among the most memorable in video game history.
Kondo was born in Nagoya, Japan, on August 13, 1961. He began taking lessons on 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 academically dedicated to music.
With a love of arcade video games such as Space Invaders and the early Donkey Kong series, he said video games were the only place where he could find the kind of sound creation that he was looking for. He gained some experience in composing and arranging pieces, using the piano, and a computer by programming sounds in BASIC.
In 1984, during Kondo's senior year, Nintendo sent his university a message recruiting for music composition and sound programming. He successfully applied for the job without requiring any demo tapes. He recalls, "I found my way to Nintendo by looking at the school's job placement board. You're supposed to apply to many different companies, but I saw the Nintendo ad, and had a love of making synthesizers, and loved games, and thought – that's the place for me. I interviewed with one company, Nintendo, and that's where I've been ever since." Kondo is the third person hired by Nintendo to create music and sound effects for its games, joining Hirokazu Tanaka and Yukio Kaneoka. However, he is the first at Nintendo to actually specialize in musical composition.
Even before officially joining Nintendo, his first product is the audio for Nintendo's arcade game Punch-Out!! (1984). By 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 since its 1983 launch, Kondo was assigned to compose music for the console's subsequent games at Nintendo's new development team, Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development (EAD). His second Nintendo product is the 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 some of the music of Devil World, alongside Akito Nakatsuka. In 1985, Nintendo started marketing the Famicom abroad as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to capitalize on the 1983 video game crash that had devastated Atari, Inc. and other companies. He composed the music for the hit releases Super Mario Bros. (1985) and The Legend of Zelda (1986), of which 60 million copies were sold in total and which 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, is 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 the most well-known video game score in history. The main theme is iconic in popular culture and has been featured in more than 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 games, The Mysterious Murasame Castle (1986) and Shin Onigashima (1987). He 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 influences
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 players know almost immediately where they are within the game. Kondo used this contrast in other games he worked on, including Super Mario Bros.
Music and sound design
|Devil World||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||with Hajime Wakai|
|1998||The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time|
|2000||The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask||with Toru Minegishi|
|2002||Super Mario Sunshine||with Shinobu Tanaka|
|The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker||with Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, and Toru Minegishi|
|2004||The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures||with Asuka Ohta|
|2006||New Super Mario Bros.||composed the "Overworld Theme"|
|The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess||with Toru Minegishi and Asuka Ohta|
|2007||Super Mario Galaxy||with Mahito Yokota|
|2008||Super Smash Bros. Brawl||Musical arrangements|
|2010||Super Mario Galaxy 2||with Mahito Yokota and Ryo Nagamatsu|
|2011||The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword||composed the "Prologue" theme|
|2013||Super Mario 3D World||with Mahito Yokota, Toru Minegishi, and Yasuaki Iwata|
|2014||Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U||Musical arrangements|
|2015||Super Mario Maker||with Naoto Kubo and Asuka Hayazaki|
|2016||The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD||with Toru Minegishi and Asuka Ohta|
|2017||Super Mario Odyssey||with Shiho Fujii and Naoto Kubo|
|2018||Super Smash Bros. Ultimate||Musical arrangements|
|2019||Super Mario Maker 2||with Atsuko Asahi, Toru Minegishi and Sayoko Doi|
Awards and honors
|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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