Contra 4 – “Jungle 1” (Jake Kaufman)March 17, 2010
To help celebrate finally having Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded in my grubby hands, here’s the “Jungle” theme from Contra 4 (2008) by Jake “Virt” Kaufman. This guy was incredibly lucky to work on Contra 4 – he had remixed an incredible Contra medley back in 1999 that still stands up to this day, a perfect mix of chiptunes and rock guitars. As such, I don’t think Konami could have picked a better American to do the Contra soundtrack, as Kaufman clearly demonstrates, making each note count as an integral part of the theme. From the steady punctuation of the main melody to the sheer volume of instrumentation, Kaufman applies his whole experience with game music remixing and composing to produce a true classic that simultaneously tributes the original theme while painting something new and unique.
“Jungle 1” follows the melodic feel of the original by organically weaving in elements of the original theme – this is why it sounds so much like the “Jungle” theme from the original Contra but the two are very different when played after each other. Original bits that find their way into the new Stage 1 theme are the classic ‘jumping out of the helicopter’ intro notes in the first second of the track (and again at 0:33), the drum beat at 0:25, and the main notes of the “Jungle” theme in the background at 1:20. Kaufman adds new notes to the main theme of the original Contra, taking half-steps to reach the same basic range of notes in the Hidenori Maezawa classic while providing such a rich and sweeping investigation of the central melody that the texture of the music is as rich as the jungle landscape it paints. Strings punctuate the melody with jolts of energy of commandos rolling through lush jungle, palm trees swaying in the breeze and mutant soldiers firing from the undergrowth. The loop at 1:30 makes this an impressive tune for an action game. I do have to say that the synths are pretty good for the DS, but I still think they don’t have the weight of good mods on the SNES. To me, the DS will always feel tinny and airy, lacking the dull bass of the 16-bit classic, but Kaufman can squeeze as much awesome out of this sound as the best of them.
Fans of the original “Jungle” theme weren’t disappointed either – a version of this was also present in the game. Virt’s “Jungle” theme was remixed as well in Rocked ‘n’ Loaded, under the track “Jungle Exploder”, a seriously awesome rock-out that adds plenty of synth to make this feel oddly like a Japanese doujin rock album – but this puppy is all-American and available for the low-low price of $12. What are you waiting for? Come get some.