So, guys, guess what? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is out today! Oh, and get this: the series’ original maestro, David Wise, is doing the soundtrack!
Yeah, if you’re reading this, I’m probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know. That said, this is probably the most appropriate time to pay tribute to one of my favorite composers of any medium. I mean, my earliest video gaming memory stands out so prominently because of what he brought to that title’s musical score.
So, definitely, narrowing down my list of favorite David Wise tracks to only five is going to be tough. I’ll give it my best shot, though:
5. Gang-Plank Galleon (Donkey Kong Country)
On the outset, this tune is about as far away as one could get from a climactic boss battle score. That’s part of the appeal, though, as the song takes a radically different turn after the first 30 seconds. By the time the song reaches the minute-and-a-half mark, I’m fully energized to kick King K. Rool’s scaly butt. Even outside of the context of the game, this song is just exhilarating. Gang-Plank Galleon is a prime example of effectively transitioning from one end of the spectrum to the other.
4. Darkmoon Caverns (Diddy Kong Racing)
Perhaps moreso than any other track on this list, Darkmoon Cavern’s is simply fun. Throughout the past 15 years or so, this has kind of become the definitive racing song for me. Not that I, er, play this song while I’m driving, though, no.
3. Dark Ice Mines Underground (Star Fox Adventures)
Contrast those with Dark Ice Mines, which may not put you in the best of moods. Say what you will about Star Fox Adventures as a whole — personally, I’ve found it to be one of the better Zelda clones — but this game features some of Wise’s most underappreciated tracks. Thorntail Hollow, Cape Claw, and Dark Ice Mines (surface) are just a few that nearly made this list. This track excels, though, in that it captures a palpable sense of dread — the plight of a mammoth tribe that has been forced into slave labor. Not exactly a cheery piece, but a beautiful one nonetheless.
2. Stickerbush Symphony (Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest)
C’mon, you knew that if I was putting together this list, Stickerbush Symphony had to be present somewhere! There’s just so much going on here. I don’t think it’s too hyperbolic to say that this was something of a benchmark, as this broke new ground in terms of what could be accomplished with video game music. Stickerbush Symphony is one of those atmospheric tunes that resurfaces memories of not only Donkey Kong Country 2, but of video games as in general. If there’s one song that I am crossing my fingers to hear a remix of in Tropical Freeze, it’s this one, easily.
1. Title Theme (Diddy Kong Racing)
Although Stickerbush Symphony may be the better song, the opening theme of Diddy Kong Racing holds a particularly special place in my heart. Simply put, it’s the first video game music that I remember hearing; it set the tone for the adventure to come, and kind of helped spawn my love for the medium as a kid. Heck, without Diddy Kong Racing as a whole, it’s likely that I wouldn’t even be writing for this site.
From what I’ve heard of Tropical Freeze, a couple of tracks have the potential to trump some of these over time. I’ll be sure to put together an individual list for that game’s tunes within the next couple of weeks.