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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Music of the Game & Watch Octopus

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I think it's undeservedly underappreciated and underused.

Less than two months ago, I declared the virtues of what happens when videogame composers make really awesome leitmotifs. They can repeat and remix the same song game after game, and the audience will love and crave this relative non-originality.

But what about the videogame music that I consider to be the greatest bubblegum pop music from a videogame of all time? Of all time?

I'm talking about the Octopus theme from Game & Watch Gallery. It was in that game, and then in Game & Watch Gallery 4 sounding a bit different. That's it.

But... we've seen the Game & Watch Octopus all over the place. What's this indignity? Let's explore, and treat you to amazing, amazing music.

According to some YouTube commenters, Nintendo's Popeye arcade game back in 1982 had the first edition of the Game & Watch Gallery Octopus theme. I'm not really hearing it.

So here is the Game & Watch Gallery version of Octopus. Keep in mind it's only heard in “Modern” mode, since there is no background music in the Classic modes. Also keep in mind it's running on 1997 Game Boy hardware, so it has a really limited sound chip. If you don't count Popeye, and I don't, this is the first time the music has been introduced to the world.

I personally don't think it's as good as its sequel, Game & Watch Gallery 4's version. Maybe I'm biased, since that's the only game in the Game & Watch Gallery series I own. Game & Watch Gallery 4 came out on the Game Boy Advance in 2002. It was just ported to the Wii U Virtual Console last week.

That port didn't prompt this article's existence, actually. I was thinking about Octopus beforehand.

And how can I not:

So what has happened ever since? Well, the Octopus has made appearances in other games, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl!

Octopus is Mr. Game & Watch's Final Smash!

But... what music did we get in Flat Zone 2? What music did we get on the new Game & Watch stage to go along with the Octopus Final Smash? This bleeping and blooping crap. Nothing resembling Octopus, or anything else for that matter. There was nothing new in Super Smash Bros. For 3DS or Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, either.

The Octopus character came back in 2012's Nintendo Land for Wii U, as the star of the game Octopus Dance. The premise is that the diver from the Octopus Game & Watch game would dance with you while the titular Octopus is in the background.

Octopus Dance Nintendo Land before the game starts sihoulettes diver Mii Game & Watch
This seems perfect.

Let's get this straight. It's literally Octopus from Octopus. It's Game & Watch graphics. It's a game all about the music.

Yet... the actual Octopus theme didn't show up. Original tracks did, instead. No remix of the Octopus song.

How the hell could Nintendo screw up this badly? When I realised there was no Octopus theme in Octopus Dance, I totally gave up on that attraction. ...It's not too fun, either.

If Nintendo is going to give up incredibly obvious opportunities to use the already-established Octopus leitmotif where Octopus shows up, then it's up to fans to fix things.

So, check out this 2008 remix, which is my favourite and go-to Octopus remix of all time:

You can download it and hear its natural looping form off of Newgrounds, here. It's the Lawlz43 remix. Totally random name, and the description doesn't even mention Octopus or Game & Watch Gallery. Yet the fact that it's a remix is unmistakable. I've talked to its composer, Smidly (who gave me permission to make it into a YouTube video, by the way) and he confirms the influence.

While Lawlz43 is one of the highest-rated songs in the history of Newgrounds (partly because I rated it a 5 every day for years until Newgrounds made it so you can only rate a submission once per account, ever), it was heard by over a hundred thousand people in the incredible 2009 flash game, Highway Jumper. Though the audio is unfortunately monaural. And the creator of the game, evan210, killed himself. He left behind an octopus, co-credited as the creator of the game. Coincidence? I think not.

Highway Jumper Newgrounds flash game Evan210 retards favorite pasttime
It's a really difficult game. Try getting past one car.

Highway Jumper is a really good game. Well, not really. But it's one of those hard games that you fail over and over, but you just want to try again over and over. Couple that with the Octopus remix Lawlz43 which is super easy listening that never gets old with it looping over and over, and you can be mesmerised trying to keep your character alive and safely jumping over multiple cars on the highway. The gameplay design and the music go hand-in-hand. It's beautiful.

It's one of those games that inspire me in my own game design, though I guess I haven't really applied its lessons in any of KoopaTV's games so far. 2016 may be the year, though!

I challenge Nintendo to remember they have an amazing leitmotif that isn't being properly used. It's already associated with the Octopus from Game & Watch Gallery and Game & Watch Gallery 4 (the Octopus game hasn't appeared in the other games in the series, not counting miscellaneous compilations that don't have any background music in them). That Octopus became famous from being Mr. Game & Watch's Final Smash in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and its sequel, but the leitmotif did not follow. Thanks to that fame, the Octopus went into Nintendo Land in an attraction dedicated to music... but the leitmotif did not follow.

Please, Nintendo. I'm begging you: Next time we see the Octopus, bring along his theme.

Ludwig doesn't particularly recommend that you actually go download Game & Watch Gallery 4 on the Wii U, but you can if you want. You're not missing much, though there are some cool modern interpretations going on. Ludwig has loved the Octopus theme for well over a decade now, and he's still going strong. He doesn't have a general love for octopuses in general, however, so don't ask him about Octolings.

Leitmotif discussion continues with Ace Attorney.


  1. Hello! If you are looking for a consultant on Octolings this woman loves octopuses in general:

    1. I wasn't looking for a consultant.

      ...Th-That account doesn't look, uh, SFW.

  2. TY very much for the shout out, Luddy. I don't really know hot this google+/blogger/whatever stuff works but I just wanted to bring my APPRECIATION to the table.

    1. You're WELCOME.

      And thank you for making awesome music. Maybe you should get back to that?

  3. The Zelda series has a great soundtrack.
    Maybe you should make an article about that?
    Or maybe how the Zelda series is the best series EVER? Either way, I'd be happy.

    1. Uh... I could.

      I probably don't want to right after this article, though. Gotta space out subject matter.

    2. I feel like it'll never happen.

    3. But I actually do like the soundtrack in most of the Zelda series.

      I'd like to know your thoughts on Octopus, though.

  4. Really nice post and I'd like to note that nowadays many people play. So do I, and I chose because in this site I can choose different games and I'd like to notice that music plays an important role in games :)

    1. This is obviously a spam comment, but I like the effort put into it. It stays.


  5. Just here to say that in 2024 I rediscovered this song from my childhood and it unlocked my memories of loving it. I used to fall asleep listening to it on my Gameboy. So sad to see it has not carried through to other media. Also, while it bears a slight resemblance to the Popeye song, (I definitely hear Stand by Me and I Will Follow Him as well) but the best parts of the songs sound like none of those so that awesomeness is original to the Octopus! Thanks for writing this great article!

    1. Wow, I greatly appreciate your comment! You're welcome. :)


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