Posts Tagged ‘Donkey Kong Country’

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Donkey Kong Country Returns (Kenji Yamamoto)

November 26, 2010

While I haven’t had a chance to play through Donkey Kong Country Returns yet (looking really forward to getting a copy though!), I did get a chance to listen to the soundtrack. My conclusion is that it’s pretty much a split: half the music is good, half is disappointing. First off, the instrument selection has greater variety than the original (which has a bass static to it due to lower bitrate) and seems to have come straight from swank jungle-themed lounges (so far straight-on) with a nice infusion of ethnic sounds (chanting, for instance).  However, the synthetic instruments just don’t seem to have the punch they did in the originals, and I think part of this comes from the synth lines and instrument library. I’ve heard some people say Nintendo’s instrument library is a little bit dated, and maybe this is an indication of that. Also, Kenji Yamamoto’s compositions are lacking in the environmental sounds that characterized the David Wise’s Donkey Kong Country soundtrack (a major sticking point in my view). Yet another disappointment is most of the soundtrack is arranges of pieces from the original Donkey Kong Country, giving the game the soundtrack of a complete reboot.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – “Jungle Groove” (Kenji Yamamoto)

It all comes down to the composition though, and this is where I’m split. Take the new rendition of “Jungle Groove”. Mr. Yamamoto’s rendition is a bit more intense and lacks the environmental sounds of the original. There are some fun additions here, such as the digeridoo, but the synth line seems a little out of place. I think the real trouble is pieces like “Jungle Groove” have a long and storied history, with plenty of other remixes and arranges to compare. In this regard, it’s difficult to outdo the best of the past 15 years, especially when the feel of the tracks has changed. Without so much comparison, they would probably stand higher as original compositions.

Still, there are some fantastic arranges here though that outdo the originals. Take “Fear Factory”, for instance: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Haunted Chase” (David Wise)

October 21, 2010

Here’s a good way to kick off the Halloween season: ghost pirates. Because ghosts just don’t get much cooler than ghost pirates, especially the Pirates of the Caribbean and Kremling kind. So here we have “Haunted Chase”, one of the more ‘meh’ tracks from Donkey Kong Country 2, only it’s not really that awful because it has great build with the trumpets blaring the game’s pirate theme. Of course, what we really have to ask is what is a mine cart doing in a haunted house anyway? I mean, I could see it in a mine, but did the Kremlings really bother to build a rollercoaster inside a haunted house? It doesn’t even look like he’s trying to catch those monkeys, more like give ’em a high five. He’s just chillaxin’ really. Needs a sword or something. Anyway, this track really needs some lovin’ and that comes through two arranges: “Assembly Line Apparitions” by Protricity and “This Chase is Haunted” by Prince of Darkness.

Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Haunted Chase” (David Wise)

Assembly Line Apparitions” is what you would call ‘industrial rock’ – moniker coming from the heavy percussion which resembles clanging machines. As one of Protricity’s earlier mixes, this one isn’t as well focused, but it does have some nice layering, particularly with trumpet, which has a nice solo past the two-minute mark and pirate piano, which produces a nice atmosphere of skeletal cutthroats sneaking through the mists and shadows. And what pirate mix would be complete without some rock guitars, particularly with a nice solo just past the halfway point. Sadly, the track – just like most of Protricity’s work – feels like it goes on way too long (about a minute or two’s worth). While Protricity is no stranger to the short mix, his early work really starts to cut it.

Much better focused is “This Chase is Haunted” by Prince of Darkness (aka Tony Dickinson) of Contra 4: Rocked ‘n Loaded fame. Dickinson runs live guitar mixes and has been a regular in Dwelling of Duels. He demonstrates his superb guitar work here with intense smack-you-in-the-face-with-an-axe shredding that serves no purpose other than to beat you senseless with guitar madness. The rapidly twittering synth and guitar lines stand in for the clacking wheels of the mine cart. Oh yeah, there’s also some crazy synth just past the two minute mark and don’t forget to check out the cymbal hits past one minute in. Sadly, the piece lacks the screaming pirate melody seen in “Assembly Line Apparitions”, opting for a more subtle mix – though there are some pirate guitar lines at 0:45 and 2:40. The title seems something of a reference to the vgm cover band This Place is Haunted.

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Donkey Kong Country – “Aquatic Ambiance” (David Wise)

August 7, 2010

“Aquatic Ambience” is quite possibly David Wise’s masterpiece from Donkey Kong Country (1993).  It is the only song from a Western composer to be featured in the venerable Game Music Concert series (played very emotionally with strings, clarinet, and harp) and is by far the most heavily-remixed tune from the game (and I have at least a half-dozen others from vgmix 2.0! Sadly, none of the ones I have are terribly interesting). “Beneath the Surface” from Kong in Concert (2004) is one of the best with smooth sax, drums, and piano. Monkey Kong’s “Dolphin Ride” is also worth a listen, with a nice transition from calm to smooth rock and back. Now I’ve already posted a joke version of this song (actually, it was created using a game code so this is the actual engine producing it), but this here’s the real deal.

Donkey Kong Country – “Aquatic Ambiance” (David Wise)

The underwater levels are some of the most gorgeous in the game, with beautiful water layering effects over the game’s then-cutting-edge prerendered sprites that put the SNES graphic chip to good use. The original version of the song has a more mysterious tune than most of the excellent remixes out there, with a liquid synth-line rather than piano that sounds almost vocal. A coupling of long, exotic guitar notes with strings supports a lazy melody, with a glowing, wave-like quality and a synth line that just seems to take you by the hand through those blue depths (actually, it also plays in the polluted waters outside the BP plant). The woodblock percussion is added at just the right place – a cross between water drops and sonar blips. I especially like how the piano fades out into the guitar. The instruments and style of this song really define what the Donkey Kong Country series is all about.

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Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business – “Rare Respite” (arr. Patrick Burns)

March 19, 2010

Another massively long post title for a massively long remix project. Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business is OCReMix’s latest project, a complete remixing of the entire Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995) soundtrack – which is one of the best vgm albums ever composed. It’s all the more astonishing that the original was composed by only one guy, David Wise. There are over 2 hours and 20 minutes of music in the entire three-disc set, with an incredible amount of variety – every single track has its own unique style that once again redefines how we think about vgm. It’s about enough to make a DKC fan go apeshit. I haven’t had time to dig through the entire thing yet, but one track in particulary caught my ears as I strained to listen to it on my failing earbuds. Now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it using some real equipment, I have to say that “Rare Respite” is so far my favorite piece on the album.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business – “Rare Respite” (arr. Patrick Burns)

“Rare Respite” is a remix of David Wise’s “Jib Jig”, the theme of the windy rigging stages where players climb through mazes of rigging and masts soaring high above in cloudy mists. Patrick Burns’ take on the piece is a Celtic sailor’s tune with a bewitching flute, pure piano, and bright guitar supported by a harp and a deep, booming drum; it’s astonishingly beautiful and incredibly calming. Patrick Burns also integrates sound effects halfway through the theme (1:55) and again at the end, something that David Wise does in all his Donkey Kong Country pieces, making it a perfect match for his style. This almost seems like how the track might have sounded if it were composed today. Burns gives us some perfect music for sailing under blue skies and misty clouds, Celtic sailors on calm seas. Each second of the piece is full of calm and joy, and is a great way to end the day.

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Donkey Kong Country 3 – “Rockface Rumble” (Eveline Fischer)

February 19, 2010
On a bit of a Donkey Kong Country spree this week – today is “Rockface Rumble” from Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie’s Double Trouble (1996), one of the last titles on the SNES. This is also one of the better pieces from a soundtrack (and gameplay, for that matter) that didn’t have nearly as an appeal feel as the two previous games – but it still makes for some of the best mountain climbing music in a videogame.

Donkey Kong Country 3 – “Rockface Rumble” (Eveline Fischer)
“Rockface Rumble” begins with some wind SFX for a David Wise trademark start, but this time it’s his collaborator from Donkey Kong Country, Eveline Fischer (Donkey Kong 64, Kameo). The bulk of this song is controlled by a powerful set of heavy drums, with flutes and strings used for melodic emphasis rather than main melody, which is filled by the drums. Later on, a rock guitar is added with the same effect to fill out the end of the piece. The instrument collection – in particular the drums – give a great sense of mountain music, the drums giving the height and weight of the rocks with flute and strings illustrating the high peaks, driving the player indominatably and steadily upward. Ultimately, I think the best part of the song is the drums – it’s a really great beat that holds the whole thing together and as a rarity makes up the core of the melody with the other instruments only adding color and emphasis to it. Those qualities also make the track memorable. However, the loop is kind of short at only 1:07, but it’s a sweet minute of music.
Like yesterday’s Daily, this is an spc rip rather than from the album – the original version has a longer fade-out of about 30 seconds rather than the 10 used in the spc. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Stickerbrush Symphony” (David Wise)

February 18, 2010

Out of all the tracks from Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995), “Stickerbrush Symphony” has to be my favorite. The entire game had such a great soundtrack, but “Stickerbrush Symphony” stands out for its invocation of an idyllic lazy summer afternoon: eating blackberries beneath pure white clouds drifting against a sky that’s deep blue. At the same time, the bramble fields in the game are dead – there are no berries here to eat, just flying hornets and spikes (or if there are berries, Diddy and Dixie aren’t interested in them). For me too there is a sense of nostalgia – not only for the simpler times of lazy summer days but also the days I worked to earn money for this game when it first came out – Donkey Kong Country 2 was really the first videogame I purchased with my own money, and this was back when the $65 a cartridge cost could get you a lot more than it does today…

Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Stickerbrush Symphony” (David Wise)

This theme is built around several simple melodies that are woven together to create a very rich, bubbly texture like blackberry champagne. The combination of instruments – sax, pianos, trumpet, strings, among others – builds a great atmosphere and sense of depth. Instruments are introduced one at a time, each playing a new part of the theme, with the piece really developing around 1:08 with the addition of a drumline and 1:28 with piano. The trumpet and sax run a nice duet throughout the entire piece, really coming together at the end of the loop. Again, another classic from David Wise.

There have been several remixes to this song, the most notable being Michiko Naruke’s (Wild Arms, The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Roadrendition from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It’s a pretty good remix, but I feel it misses the feeling the slower beat of the original possesses. Protricity has a techno mix, “Brambles in the Breeze”, that is decent, and even uses chiptunes. For a more depressing yet majestic version, there’s Radiowar’s “Lanterns“. Blue Magic’s “The Delay“, which combines “Stickerbrush Symphony” and “Hothead Bop” is the remix most worth the listen – it also feels like it came straight out of Metroid Prime 2.

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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.

Donkey Kong Country Trilogy – “Gang-Plank Galleon” (David Wiss)

“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 Read the rest of this entry ?