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The music in the Pikmin series accompanies every part of the games, from ambient music during gameplay and menus to pre-rendered cutscene scores to minor jingles for small events. The style is quite unique and extremely varied across the games, featuring many different instruments and textures that reflect the game environments on PNF-404 and beyond. Most notably, the music is dynamic: gameplay events and parameters can add or subtract elements from the music. For example, in all games, combating an enemy will bring a new intense percussion track into the mix, and the passage of sunset thins the music down to a quiet, peaceful rendition. Bosses in the game have their own themes, and non-canonical game modes (such as Challenge Mode or Bingo Battle) have a different, less serious compositional style, to reflect the different structures and styles of gameplay. Overall, music gives the games more character and interest, and can even help direct the player's attention to important in-game elements.
The soundtracks for Pikmin and Pikmin 2 were composed by Hajime Wakai, with help from Kazumi Totaka. Pikmin 3's soundtrack was composed and arranged by Asuka Hayazaki, Atsuko Asahi, and Hajime Wakai. All of the music in the series is synthetic, using either samples of real instruments or synthesizers mimicking them and producing other sounds.
The music that accompanies gameplay in all three games is dynamic, meaning that certain conditions of the game can add or subtract elements from the music. Most commonly, in all three games, if an enemy is near or combating the leaders and Pikmin, the music will add an intense track of percussion and other instruments to its mix, further engaging the player in the combat. At sunset, the music will subtract elements to become higher in register, thinner in texture, and calmer in mood, suggesting the approaching end of the day's events and complexity. As the games progress, this dynamism in the music becomes more and more a part of gameplay; after Pikmin, new mixes are added when Pikmin are carrying spoils (a high-register accompaniment suggesting success) and performing tasks like removing obstacles. While still an aesthetic addition, a beneficial consequence of this dynamic music is its ability to organize the psychology of gameplay. It can not only adjust the mood of a theme to reflect the efficiency and intensity of a day, but even direct the player's attention to something, and help categorize the many actions that Pikmin perform over the course of a day.
Generally, the gameplay music of the Pikmin series has quite an avant-garde style, with many non-tonal progressions and harmonies that make themes more complicated and interesting. At times, a theme may be intended to be so complex that its streams of information cannot all be followed at once, directing the player's attention completely to gameplay rather than scenery. At other times, the music stands aside for gameplay by being serene or simple, playing more of an ambience to the environment than a theme to Pikmin's actions.
During cutscenes, music is a predetermined length, often followed by a loop over a dialog segment; these cutscene scores can be played by many different sizes and types of ensembles. Pre-rendered cutscenes (such as the cinematics in Pikmin 2) are normally scored by a Hollywood-style orchestra and electronics, making them feel all the more cinematic. Music during cutscenes is more prominent, since the player can do nothing to alter it or the events it scores.
Pikmin has a soundtrack that generally reflects the small scale of the Pikmin and grows in texture and variation as more parts of the S.S. Dolphin are recovered. Enemies and sunset can bring about dynamic changes, but the music is often meant mainly to score the natural scenery of the areas with an array of natural instruments. Contrastingly, themes about Captain Olimar and his ship are generally synthesized, to suggest their alien nature. Pikmin has the most melodically-driven soundtrack of the series, but few of its melodies or gestures become motivic.
Pikmin 2 has perhaps the most varied soundtrack of all the games, thanks to its caves. Cave themes are the first and only instance of randomly structured music in the series, and Pikmin 2 has 25 different minimalist themes with which to score each sublevel. This game also introduces in-game cutscenes, which have eclectic pre-rendered scores; and new complements to the music, triggered by conditions such as carrying treasure or playing as a particular leader. The music is generally more ambient in this game, but introduced in the cutscenes are new leitmotifs that become very popular in this game and the next.
Pikmin 3's soundtrack has a much more atmospheric and often experimental mood to it, though new melodic motifs and some from Pikmin 2 give it contextual stability. The music's dynamism now occurs regardless if the trigger is on-screen, making the music more effective as a gameplay tool. Afternoon time and variations in weather also provide new parameters for changing the music. Pikmin 3 has the most advanced sound technology of the three games, allowing new instruments to score the high-definition scenery; particularly, unique synthesizer sounds are very prominent in this soundtrack. Quite a few themes in this game are re-orchestrations of Pikmin 2 themes, giving the game itself a more modernized mood while establishing its reference point in the series.
Music outside the main games
Strawberry Flower released a Pikmin-themed song, Ai No Uta, along with the release of Pikmin (which sold more copies than the game itself), and later a number of other Pikmin-themed singles and albums. The Pikmin OST is called Pikmin Worlds. For the advertising of Pikmin 2, another song, Tane no Uta, was used. In most trailers for Pikmin 3, the game's own Mission Mode theme was used.
In the Wii U game Nintendo Land, a Pikmin-themed attraction called Pikmin Adventure features several re-orchestration of themes from the first two games, as well as new compositions inspired by those. While the structures of these derivative compositions are quite true to the originals, their instrumentation is much more frivolous, reflecting the friendly, lighthearted mood of Nintendo Land.
Super Smash Bros. series
- Main Theme (Pikmin)
- World Map (Pikmin 2), a remix/medley of the area selection themes of Pikmin and Pikmin 2.
- Stage Clear / Title (Pikmin), a remix of the "end of day" theme and the main theme from Pikmin.
- Forest of Hope, the normal theme and "enemy" variation for The Forest of Hope.
- Ai no Uta
- Ai no Uta (French Version), shorter version of Ai no Uta, in French (needs to be unlocked).
- Tane no Uta (needs to be unlocked).
- Environmental Noises, a collection of animal and insect noises.
- Title (Big Brain Academy), the title screen from Big Brain Academy.
In Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, Distant Planet returns in the 3DS version. It still has Main Theme (Pikmin), but it also has a new track, called Stage Select, which is a rendition of the area selection theme from Pikmin. In the Wii U version, the Garden of Hope appears as a stage, with its own selection of music:
- Garden of Hope, the music that plays in the Garden of Hope in Pikmin 3.
- Stage Select (Pikmin 2), the same track from the 3DS version.
- Mission Mode (Pikmin 3), a remix of the Mission Mode theme from Pikmin 3.
- Stage Clear / Title (Pikmin)
- Environmental Noises
- World Map (Pikmin 2)
- Main Theme (Pikmin)
The drumming video game series Donkey Konga uses several songs from other Nintendo franchises. The Japanese version of the original Donkey Konga includes Ai no Uta as a playable song. The Japanese version of the original Donkey Konga 2 includes Tane no Uta as a playable song.
Symphonic Legends - Music from Nintendo
On September 23, 2010, WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln held a symphonic tribute concert in Cologne, Germany called Symphonic Legends – Music from Nintendo. The concert celebrated Nintendo's classic video game music by performing orchestral arrangements; the area selection themes from Pikmin and Pikmin 2 were arranged by video game composer and orchestrator Hayato Matsuo into an orchestral medley entitled Pikmin (Variations on a World Map Theme).