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Dr. Mario plays a short arpeggio sound effect, but I've never been able to figure out precisely why or when, despite hearing it in my games all the time. It just seems to play for no particular reason at all.

Examples:

Just the sound effect:

This recording has used a Game Genie to replace one of the sound effects, but not the one I'm asking about. It's one of the few available examples that doesn't have music:

More examples, unfortunately harder to hear the effect through the music:

6

The sound effect occurs when the 10th (20th, 30th, and so on) vitamin capsule appears in Dr. Mario's throwing hand. Each time the sound effect occurs, the drop speed of the vitamin capsules increases slightly.

Details

The sound effect occurs up to a maximum of 49 times on a level, meaning there are 50 possible drop speeds for each SPEED setting.

On the NTSC game, each level starts with a drop speed of

  • 1.5 rows per second (40 frames per row) when the SPEED setting is LOW
  • 3 rows per second (20 frames per row) for MED
  • 4.3 rows per second (14 frames per row) for HI

Each time the sound effect occurs, the drop speed changes to the next speed in this list:

rows per second: 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 2 2.1 2.3 2.5 2.7 3 3.2 3.3 3.5 3.8 4 4.3 4.6 5 5.5 6 6 6.7 6.7 7.5 7.5 8.6 8.6 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 12 12 12 12 12 15 15 15 15 15 20 20 20 20 20 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 60

(frames per row: 40 38 36 34 32 30 28 26 24 22 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 10 9 9 8 8 7 7 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1)

NTSC drop speeds

On the PAL game,

  • LOW starts at 1.6 rows per second (32 frames per row)
  • MED starts at 3.1 rows per second (16 frames per row)
  • HI starts at 5 rows per second (10 frames per row)

The list is:

rows per second: 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.9 2 2.1 2.3 2.5 2.6 2.9 3.1 3.3 3.6 3.8 4.2 4.5 5 5 5.6 6.3 7.1 7.1 8.3 8.3 8.3 10 10 10 10 12.5 12.5 12.5 12.5 12.5 12.5 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 16.7 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 50

(frames per row: 32 30 29 27 25 24 22 20 19 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 10 9 8 7 7 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1)

PAL drop speeds

Sources

  • The Dr. Mario manual mentions on page 10 (PDF page 11) "The speed that the vitamin capsules drop increases slightly after every 10 capsules."

  • The Tetris.wiki article for Dr. Mario describes the behavior for the NTSC game in the Gravity section. (Note: the 2019-09-08 revision was used when writing this answer.)

  • I investigated further on my own.

| improve this answer | |
  • Excellent answer, thank you! – Phil Frost May 2 at 21:25

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