It has now been 19 years since the release of Super Metroid, one of the most beloved and acclaimed video games of all time. To celebrate this, Blake Robinson, also known as dummeh, released Super Metroid Symphony, an album containing orchestral arrangements of all of the game’s tracks.
Deciding on making a Super Metroid fan album is no trivial matter. It certainly is one of gaming’s most loved soundtracks and there isn’t a single track that hasn’t yet been rearranged by fans one way or another. Throughout the years there have been many albums featuring most or all of the tracks from the game, including Relics of the Chozo, Reserve Tank: Variations and both Harmony of a Hunter albums. However unlike these albums, which were collaborations of many talented artists and often completely re-envisioned the game’s tracks in various genres, Super Metroid Symphony takes a much more traditional approach. Armed with very high-quality synthetic instruments, Robinson sticks it true to the original soundtrack.
From the very beginning you know that the album is made to make you remember the game and feel like you did as you played it. The climatic “Science Academy Research Station” and the heroic “The Super Metroid Prologue” come close to giving me chills. After a few very atmospheric tracks from the game’s intro (doused with some awesome sound effects and a rather uninspired Samus’s Intro Fanfare), the album really kicks off with “Overgrown with Vegetation”, a great rendition of one of my favorite tracks from the whole series.
The other main tracks from the game are also beautifully covered: Lower Brinstar, both Maridia tracks and both Norfair tracks sound just like they should. “Norfair’s Ancient Ruins” starts off slow but then about halfway through makes you think “oh, now you’re talking!” Lower Norfair is an amazing track which, in my opinion, hasn’t yet received its “ultimate” rendition. Robinson comes close to taking the crown here.
In fact, I felt that a few times during the album. Many of the tracks get really close to being amongst the best fan renditions, but it seems like they’re over as soon as you start enjoying them. Robinson wanted to avoid repeating melodies, which he did (mostly) well, but when you’re dealing with video game music, which is normally based around looping, it becomes too obvious just how short the tracks are.
Repeating a melody doesn’t necessarily mean looping it – a second go can give you room to expand on the track by adding more instruments or changing its feel. Considering that I’ve heard quite a few fan renditions of these tracks before that did this extremely well, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed sometimes.
In the end, Super Metroid Symphony truly succeeds in trying to capture what the game would sound like if it weren’t limited by the SNES’ 16 bits. But in that it becomes somewhat predictable and it hardly ever makes you go “whoa!” at a track. And when it does, it makes you wish for more that just isn’t there.
© 2013 Renan Greca
This feature was originally published in April 2013. It has been edited slightly since its original publication.