During the 80s Taiwanese recording company Xinxing Records 『新興唱片有限公司』released the ‘Japanese Cartoon’ 『日本卡通』 series of cassette tapes. The series spanned hundreds of cassettes – I’m not sure of the exact number, but at least 300 hundred are pictured in this blog post.
As the name suggests, these cassettes contained music from Japanese cartoons and anime series. Though a few actually contained video game music, such as the Super Mario Bros. cassette pictured.
Unfortunately, the cassette I found (pictured below) doesn’t match the cover it came in. The cover shows #157, but the cassette inside is #97. Luckily both are Super Mario bros. related. The cassette features the soundtracks of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Dragon Quest III.
I had a hard time verifying the contents of the cassette because trying to find a working cassette deck in 2018 is not easy! The drive belts in cassette decks deteriorate, much like the Famicom disk system, and the stop working. Eventually I found someone with a cassette player in their car and had a listen. Yes, it contained the soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. 3, just like the label says.
The included insert is a lyrics sheet for the #157 in the series. It’s written in both Japanese and Traditional Chinese for the Taiwanese market.
Reading the Chinese (I can’t read Japanese) the recording features Mario and Peach introducing the 10 tracks on cassette. All of which have lyrics about Mario’s adventures.
Given that Japanese is provided the language on the cassette is most likely also Japanese, and the Chinese provided as a translation.
I did some research into Xinxing Records, and like with a lot of stuff in Taiwan during the 80s, the legality of these recordings is questionable. This Wikipedia article splits the 80s and 90s+ into two categories – The Pirate/bootleg Period 『盜版時期』, and the Licensed/agent Period 『代理時期』. The article is about CDs, but likely applies to cassettes, too.
During the Bootleg Period official media was brought from Japan, copied and distributed with new covers. In the case of the Japanese Cartoon #157 Xinxing was also nice enough to include a translation of the lyrics. While piracy is generally bad, in a pre-internet era, without any officially licensed versions available, Taiwanese companies took it upon themselves to redistribute the music. The writer of the Wikipedia article argues that the availability of the music helped to increase the popularity of Japanese ACG – anime, comics and games in Taiwan.
Also mentioned in the article is another Taiwanese recording company, Chaoyang Audio Publishing 朝陽有聲出版社, who release a series of unlicensed video game music cassettes and CDs. I have a couple of their cassettes with music from Chrono Trigger, but I’ll save that for another post.