Donkey Kong Country – “Gang-Plank Galleon” (David Wise)February 4, 2010
One of my favorite vgm pieces and one of the best boss pieces out there. This is a nice continuation from the previous David Wise piece, and the finale to Donkey Kong Country. This is quite possibly the best pirate music ever to appear in a videogame. Here we have a big, giant, fat king Kremling (a kind of crocodile) who sails over from pirate isle to lay siege to Donkey Kong Island. From pirate shanty to pirate metal, this track is amazing. I was actually saving this one for Pirate Day, but figured it was so awesome I just couldn’t wait. THAT. GOOD. Play it loud.
“Gang-Plank Galleon” takes place on the deck of a pirate ship (though if you ask me, it looks more like a raft on the map screen). The ship will sail closer to the island with each area you clear, which is pretty cool. The song starts off with a sea shanty played with accordion, which is pretty silly, but also great pirate music. However, after the first verse of this, some heavy drums come in along with a killer guitar that makes for some perfect pirate pillagin’. With its amazing, hummable beat, “Gang-Plank Galleon” would later become the backbone for many tracks in Donkey Kong Country 2 and make it one of the most memorable Donkey Kong Country tunes out there. (Oh yeah, they also brought the soundtrack to all three games in one album through Nintendo Power Supplies Catalogue back in the day, but they’re very hard to come by now).
An interesting thing to note about this song is it is perfectly composed to align with a perfect play of the boss fight. For the first part of the song, K-Rool appears on the screen. With each measure, he will run from one side of the ship to the other. If the player is quick, he can jump on K-Rool’s head three times in about thirty seconds (he’s pretty goofy, just like the music), at which point K-Rool gets extremely pissed off and starts jumping on the deck, knocking cannon balls from the rigging (!) and onto the deck as the heavy battle music kicks in. After another minute, the player can clear the second form, after which some fake credits play during the drum solo. To me, this makes it one of the best vgm pieces out there because it is designed to orchestrate a perfect play. That is quite significant because the composer has kept in mind the average time a player will spend in each space of the game and composed the song such that if the player plays it just right, the music will perfectly fit every single action he takes. I really wish more composers would take this into account, and do it so well, because it makes the battle even more memorable than it would have been had they just used any old boss music.
“Gang-Plank Galleon” has been remixed a few times, including a pretty straightforward mix in Super Smash Bros. Brawl by Shogo Sakai (again, doesn’t have the same impact as the original). Kong in Concert had a two-part version of this song, “Pirate Prelude” (Dhsu) and “Thrash the Plank” (SnappleMan) with a piano rendition of the shanty part followed by a rock mix combining “Gang-Plank Galleon” with “DK Jungle Swing” to bookend the entire soundtrack. This is some pretty kickass metal by guitar king SnappleMan and NOT to be missed. Best rendition of this song ever. And hey – maybe it’ll make a comeback come September 😉