Music in Pikmin
The music of Pikmin accompanies every aspect of the game, from the gameplay to the cutscenes and menus. Generally, the textural style of the music reflects the futuristic world of Hocotate, the organic environment of PNF-404, and/or the small scale and nature of the Pikmin themselves, by varying instrumentation, register, and rigidity of rhythm. During gameplay, the music sets the mood of the area and dynamically adapts its intensity according to what is happening on-screen, albeit to a lesser degree than the following games in the series. During cutscenes, the music is predetermined and functions more linearly and punctually. While all of the music in Pikmin is melodically driven, no established melodic gestures seem to become motifs; that is, none of the soundtrack's unique melodies (besides perhaps the main theme's melodic gesture) become more important to the game than the rest, unless the melody is heard over most of the 30 days.
The soundtrack to Pikmin is called "Pikmin World". It was composed by Hajime Wakai. All of the compositions in the game are either synthesized sounds or samples attempting to mimic real instruments.
The menu themes of the game are generally shorter in length; whether or not the composition evolves complexly or remains a background piece depends on how often the menu will probably be visited during play.
The main theme of Pikmin. This menu is not visited very often during a playthrough, so the percussion is soft-spoken and an instrument resembling a Native American bass flute is not extremely prominent. Eventually, the flute does play the five-note figure (D B♭ E♭ D B♭) that becomes the main theme, but this is only heard if the menu is left running. Without pressing start, the main theme will not finish before attraction mode begins.
Heard while selecting a save file. This theme is heavily synthesized, to enhance the theme of recording and storing saved games. Its simple melody is chosen from one diatonic scale and hidden under softened sound effects, such that it does not distract from the file select menu itself.
Heard while selecting an area at the beginning of a new day. This highly recognizable theme does not develop its natural-sounding melody before an area would presumably be chosen, leaving the normal time spent in this menu to be split between a synthesized pad at the beginning and trills in a flute and celeste later on. The melody comes much later in the track, yet is one of the strongest melodies in the game.
Heard in the Challenge Mode menu. This theme contains a more agile melody than the file select music, and it shines throughout the piece, even in a call-and-response pattern. The beat is more pronounced and the instruments all have more clout, to give this mode's menu more excitement than the main game's.
Heard after a Challenge Mode challenge. This theme matches the excitement of the original menu, if not surpassing it by adding a rock drum kit to the mix. The track is still local to Challenge Mode however: the main melody is played on the same synthesizer that played the other menu's theme.
Heard after the day is complete and the S.S. Dolphin has taken off. This theme was carried over to other games. All the instruments are intended to sound synthesized; at this point the game's referential environment has switched from the natural ground to the S.S. Dolphin in low orbit. Also, the beep-like tone that arpeggiates throughout the theme is a sound unique to Pikmin, which can be heard in other tracks, normally associated with the S.S. Dolphin.
Heard after the good ending cinema when the final statistics appear. This theme represents success in its orchestral instrumentation, and its rhythm is rigidly defined by snare drum and timpani. This is the most harmonically driven theme in the game; no instrument's voice exists alone.
Cutscenes are pre-timed, and player input does not change the cutscene (other than skipping it). As such, the music is a score, accenting and controlling the evolution of what in the cutscene the player should focus on.
Heard during the attraction mode when the title screen is left idle long enough. This quaint waltz accompanies the demonstrations of how to play Pikmin. Its simple but stimulating string section drive the piece; the melody on glockenspiel and organ uses mainly small intervals, to address both the small scale of the game and the simplicity of the short pre-rendered cutscenes.
Heard after beginning a new game, accompanying the prologue cutscene. This eclectic soundtrack begins in space, with synthesized drones and patterns gravitating around C to set the mood that the protagonist of the game is from an alien planet. Captain Olimar's idling ship seems to produce a small hi-pass waltz in D♭, almost as though he is listening to a radio. This hint of D♭ resounds in a dramatic string section when a passing meteor approaches; the strings quiet down as the scene cuts back to the S.S. Dolphin, but the drone of C gets more intense as hand percussion and an alarm sound effect join in. Finally as the meteor strikes the ship a cymbal roll and a leaping gesture on marimba and pizzicato strings warp the previous ethereal drone into chaos. The strings descend across stinging triads far from C as the ship plummets to PNF-404. Finally as the camera cuts to the sky and ground another cymbal roll changes the tempo and genre to an orchestral rock beat in D minor with another alarm sound overlay. The drums and orchestra simultaneously cut out to a residual ring when the ship crashes; as the entire cutscene has no sound effects on its own, this sudden tacet during the expected sound of a crash landing produces a wholly suspenseful effect, only to be resolved when the first day begins.
Heard when Captain Olimar discovers a new type of Onion. This very playful theme on piano, oboe and marimba compliments the playful look and behavior of the Onion as it rises out of the ground to produce a Pikmin seed.
Heard when Captain Olimar plucks a new type of Pikmin. This theme stresses curiosity, by way of a transposed melody. That is, the marimba establishes a key of G major, while the exotic synthesizer playing the melody is playing in A♭, making the theme not dissonant but odd. The perfect mood set for a player who did not expect a Pikmin to be plucked from the ground.
Heard when Captain Olimar discovers the Main Engine. Triumphantly ringing through flute, piccolo, high marimba, horn, and the beep-like synthesizer used in the Today's results theme, this short scalar melody aids both the understanding of how Pikmin can help and of how ship parts are important.
Heard when any ship part is returned to the S.S. Dolphin. The main focus of this jingle is the mechanical look of the S.S. Dolphin, achieved through a very rigid and simple rhythm and mechanical sounding percussion. All the while, the theme is undeniably major and celebrates the recovery of the part.
Heard when the S.S. Dolphin acquires enough parts to increase its capabilities and reach a new area of the game. This theme is a march with full strings and horns, along with high beep-like synthesized instruments filling up the top range of the melody. It partly accents the S.S. Dolphin fixing itself, and partly celebrates Captain Olimar's leadership in directing Pikmin. After the march is a much less intense loop that keeps the mood hopeful as Captain Olimar monologues about his ship lifting off. This loop only occurs during the initial Dolphin upgrade after the Main Engine is recovered; otherwise the cutscene ends after the march.
Heard when the Secret Safe is returned to the S.S. Dolphin, meaning all 30 parts have been recovered. This theme begins in C major like the usual Dolphin upgrade march, but immediately turns much more triumphant, with every instrument in the orchestra and synthesizers contributing to the rhythm. Much like the end of a finale in a classical symphony, the entire orchestra ends on uplifting hits of its original key, calling and responding between C major and F major/C while a piccolo trills on top. The very end has cellos, basses, and an impossibly low bass extension of a marimba play C, G, C, G, C while slowing down; this is very reminiscent of the timpani gesture in Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra, most widely associated with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The very beginning of the Prologue cutscene, with a background of deep space and a drone in C, may also be a reference to this piece and film.
Heard when a day ends and Pikmin are returned to their Onions. The tone of this piece is very conclusive, yet also builds enough tension through augmented chords and strong melody that the player eagerly awaits the S.S. Dolphin's liftoff by the end. The reverb in this theme is more prominent and more polished than in other cutscenes, most likely since this theme is to be heard at the end of every day.
Heard either when Captain Olimar's spacesuit sustains too much damage, or when all Pikmin are lost. This sad chord progression sweeps through a full string section, with help from a gesture in horns and in vibraphone. Before this theme during a Pikmin extinction, a low diminished chord in the strings lingers while Captain Olimar agonizes over the loss, as seen here. Out of context, such a sound would probably sound melodramatic, or even operatic. But in this situation, the chord suits the gravity of losing all one's Pikmin very well.
Plays when the S.S. Dolphin departs after day 30 with all mandatory ship parts but without all 30 ship parts. Flute, strings, vibraphone, marimba, and glockenspiel reprise the theme of the Sunset cutscene, with a more conclusive air and a slower tempo, although this reprise does not play the final note. Instead, the scene cuts to three curious Pikmin watching the S.S. Dolphin depart, and the music changes to a progression of loosely connected major and minor chords that sum into a feeling that the events portrayed are not the end of the story. The following cutscene uses the Epilogue theme.
Heard when the S.S. Dolphin departs after day 30 without all mandatory ship parts. The beginning of the cutscene is the same as the Epilogue theme, but this theme is heard when the S.S. Dolphin is shown trying to escape the atmosphere. The theme begins the same way as the successful theme, but synthesized chromatic noises, again resembling alarms, intervene as the S.S. Dolphin slows its ascent. Finally the apex of the Dolphin's flight is accented by a dissonant synthesized glissando, after which all music cuts out and the ship falls.
Heard after the final analysis of the bad ending. This bouncy theme sets a mood of failure and the request to try again more than it predicts the fate of Captain Olimar. A piano and some comical instruments play a frivolous tune, passively complemented with the motivic Native American bass flute from the game's main theme. Xylophone and marimba descend the chromatic scale as Olimar as a Pikmin descends from the Onion. Then, the main motif of the game resurfaces in flute and trombone with a very jocular feel, before resolving and ending with Olimar planted in the ground. This theme's joyous mood helps indicate that this ending is roughly a joke, and not to be considered the serious, canon ending.
Heard after the S.S. Dolphin is completely repaired. The Sunset theme is reprised, more closely in instrumentation than the neutral departure, but veers off-course and elongates as Captain Olimar addresses a goodbye to the confused Pikmin one last time. The augmented conclusion of the theme still occurs when Olimar enters the Dolphin, and the D♭ major 7 chord on which it ends is extended back to the Pikmin as they attack a Red Bulborb. As they latch on, the theme cleverly combines both the beginning of the Sunset theme and the melody and piano of The Final Trial theme, until the final pan upward to the sky.
Heard after a happy or neutral departure; this particular example shows a happy departure. A full orchestra (the most instruments of any track) flourishes over this grandiose theme, which eventually contains the rhythmic motif of the game's main theme. The final iteration of this motif ends in a held A major chord and timpani roll, with a final hit and cymbal crash to see Captain Olimar off.
Heard after the Epilogue, during the enemy reel. A marching band and strings play this playful and memorable theme, with a synthesizer mainly taking the melody. The marching band also contains a samba whistle, referencing the whistle in the game. This piece has one major tonal theme that repeats for most of its duration, although it has instances of variations:
This is the longest piece in the soundtrack.
Heard after the completion of the main game. The credits theme sounds rather different from any other track in the soundtrack; it is more meant to present the development team than to reference the story, since the story is complete. The ballad-esque waltz is founded on a simple rhythmic figure, repeated in piano and elaborated by strings and woodwinds. Eventually an electronic beat joins in, and carries the rhythm until a ritardando late in the piece that signals a repetition of the beginning and then the smooth end.
The areas in Pikmin all have memorable dynamic themes that set the mood for daily exploration. The themes are generally calm and meant to be background to the gameplay, but they will add extra instruments to heighten the intensity of the music whenever Captain Olimar is near an enemy. All area themes also have versions that play when the day is close to ending, normally using softer sounds and less intense instruments. The battle mix can still be added to these versions, however. Each area has a unique instrumentation for its theme and variations.
In Challenge Mode, all area themes undergo around a 20% increase in tempo to stress the added urgency of having one day to cultivate Pikmin.
The emboldened instruments in this section's tables are the instruments that predominantly carry a melody.
The Impact Site
A playful theme that immediately reassures the player that Captain Olimar is safe after he crash-lands at The Impact Site. The high-pitched melody carried on glockenspiel and pizzicato violin also accent the tiny stature of Pikmin as they are discovered.
The strings in the regular version drop out when the enemy mix is added. Only during the sunset version of the theme is a tuba added in the enemy mix.
The Forest of Hope
A calm theme that highlights the natural wholesomeness of the wilderness of The Forest of Hope, while still remaining simple and steady enough to encourage the player getting used to commanding Pikmin.
During Challenge Mode, the piano plays an octave above its part in the main game.
The Forest Navel
With a widening scope of exploration, a new visual landscape, and three types of Pikmin, The Forest Navel's theme can afford to sound more exotic. The principal of this theme is a chordal instrument upon a droning C, unlike the previous two areas with a solid melody over C major. The faster tempo may also encourage the player using this area to discover more efficient ways to organize Pikmin.
The Distant Spring
The Distant Spring's theme is the most ethereal in the game, having no easily definable rhythm until the enemy mix fades in. Its sounds are all soft and distant; the music is no longer trying to aid a rhythm of gameplay, but is instead resigning and forcing the player to explore the huge area and solve tasks on their own. It features a cymbal-like melodic instrument that will make a comeback in the following games of the series.
Most of the accompaniment for the accordion drops out in the sunset theme when the enemy mix fades in. Also, this is the only time the contrabassoon is heard in the theme, it replaces the basses.
The Final Trial
The gentle, calm, and predominantly major music of the game so far suddenly takes a sinister turn in The Final Trial. Although the melody and some accompaniment are a chipper skipping tune, the texture underneath it is a bass drone in F and a chromatic celeste that does not fit in wherever the piece goes. And whenever combat ensues, the piece becomes even more suspenseful with low piano octaves that accent at weird times.
The tuba drone fades out when the enemy mix fades in, so that the tuba and low piano do not conflict and become muddy-sounding.
The two boss themes of the game play when two of the bosses, the Beady Long Legs and the Emperor Bulblax, enter their arenas. The themes will only play if Captain Olimar is inside the arena. Unlike the area themes, these boss themes do not dynamically change based on the conditions of the boss battle, and they do not have ending tags to conclude the battle. Instead, the ship part jingle is heard, and the music returns to the normal area theme.
This piece is very effective at conveying danger. The movie-score like strings and brass section play a bellicose march dissonantly orbiting around D minor, while a marimba hammers out an intense series of chords in eighth note triplets.
This interesting piece is structured as an organ impromptu, almost reminiscent of the 1922 score to the silent horror film Nosferatu. A rotary organ plays an atonal but rhythmically sound piece, accompanied by interspersed bits of hand percussion, and a few blasts of a large echoing cymbal. Even out of context, the piece is quite unnerving, and it certainly builds the necessary tension of this climactic boss battle.
These minor musical cues are more sound effects than musical tracks, but the fact that they are specifically instrumental helps make them more salient and musical.
Heard when a new record is obtained in Challenge Mode. This is a simple dominant-tonic resolution in B♭ containing an ascending scalar line in celeste that ends up directing the ear and the eye to the top of the records board.
Heard when a ship part is recovered from an enemy or boss. This small jingle is played exclusively by the synthesized instruments that associate with the S.S. Dolphin, directing the player's attention to the part.
Heard when Captain Olimar comes close enough to an undiscovered ship part. A brief dominant 7 flourish by a harp invokes a sense of mystery as the player awaits the name and description of this new part. If the player presses / while near the part after this discovery, an even briefer flourish of G D F G will match the briefer description that appears.
Heard when the player directs Pikmin using swarm. This is a small looping track played on solo oboe, in a bugle call structure reminiscent of the assembly call. It commands the Pikmin's position like an army.
Heard when a gate or bridge obstacle is overcome, independent of Captain Olimar's location. This very small synthesized jingle is a slight variation on the rhythm and arpeggiation of the charge fanfare.
Heard when the Sun Meter passes a quarterly increment of the day. At one-fourth and three-fourths of the day, a small handbell is rung. At noon, the handbell is rung twice. Near sunset, the HUD will display the message to gather stray Pikmin, accented by Olimar's whistle sound and a tubular bell playing a chime similar to the Westminster Quarters half-hour chime, which in Japanese schools represents the beginning or end of a period.