Sunday Game Soundtrack: Donkey Kong Country (SFC/SNES)

Happy New Year and all that belated stuff!

Wow, it’s been over a month since I’ve posted.  The holidays were absurdly busy.  I’ve been working on a ton of stuff right now (including a MASSIVE Beta Test Music concert on February 2nd… more about that in the next couple posts.)  For now, though, it’s Sunday and that means it’s time for another Sunday Game Soundtrack.  Today, let’s listen to the soundtrack to the SFC/SNES’s 2nd best selling game of all time, Donkey Kong Country.

Donkey Kong Country was developed by Rareware/Rare, a UK based software company.  The game was published by Nintendo in 1994.  According to (paraphrasing a bit here), Rare was approached by Nintendo’s Tony Harman during Nintendo’s big “search for talent” at a conference.  He observed Rare’s 3D animation sprites and reported his findings back to Nintendo HQ.  Nintendo, after some convincing, decided to go ahead with a project.  Their main stipulation, though, was that Rare develop a game that had better graphics than Virgin’s Interactive’s Aladdin, for Mega Drive/Genesis.  They allowed Rare to use the rights to the character “Donkey Kong” since well… Donkey Kong was very underutilized.  This would allow Rare a lot of freedom in development of the game since there was essentially a blank slate for the Donkey Kong universe.  The rest is history.

There’s a lot of odd facts about the game that I’d like to share, many of which I learned just today while researching the game for this post:

  • They wanted to make sure that Donkey Kong had a sidekick or a buddy in the game.  “Oh, I remember Donkey Kong Jr. from Super Mario Kart– why didn’t they use him in Donkey Kong Country?”  Rare followed this logic too and redesigned Donkey Kong Jr..  However, Nintendo did not like Rare’s redesign and decided that Rare should make a new, separate character.  “So wait, does that means Diddy Kong is Donkey Kong’s son or is Donkey Kong Jr. Donkey Kong’s son…?”  NO!!!!  CRANKY KONG is the original Donkey Kong.  Donkey Kong Jr. is CRANKY KONG’s son and Donkey Kong (with the tie, from Donkey Kong Country) is the son of Donkey Kong Jr….. and Diddy Kong is Donkey Kong’s nephew.  Does that make sense?  No?  Well uh… here’s a chart.  This was ACTUALLY in Nintendo Magazine.

This may be a new low for internet bloggers everywhere….

  • Nintendo sent a team to observe zoo gorillas to give Donkey Kong Country that little bit of extra realism… only to realize that gorillas really don’t work well for platformers.  So they decided to use horses as the inspiration for the characters’ movements…. because that makes sense.
  • The Kremlings (those crocodile characters from the game) were actually being developed for a separate game by Rare.  Rare decided to incorporate them into Donkey Kong Country because it fit the aesthetic of the game.
  • Lastly, I don’t know if there’s any interesting studies that have been done about this but DKC may be the highest selling game ever released in Europe first.  That’s right, Rare released DKC in Europe on November 24th, 1994 – a day before its US release and two days before it’s Japanese release.  That’ll teach the localization teams to ignore the EU!  Stick it to the man!

So much talking.  Anyhow, the soundtrack!  Yes, this is a blog about soundtracks.  The soundtrack is written by David Wise, Eveline Fischer Novakovic, and Robin Beanland.  Three composers… so who wrote what?  Lucky for us, there’s been many interviews about the music to this game.  We can say that David Wise was the lead composer and wrote every track except for “Candy’s Love Song”, “Simian Segue”, “Voices of the Temple”, Forest Frenzy”, “Treetop Rock”, “Northern Hemispheres”, “Ice Cave Chant”, (all by Novakovic), and “Funky’s Fugue” (by Beanland).  At least, I’m fairly confident that’s true- ahh the misinformation we find on the internet.

Okay, so now what you’ve been waiting for!  Here’s the soundtrack, all packaged up nicely in one video by JisengSo.  Enjoy!

It’s an hour long but it’s worth it.  Thanks for reading and listening.  There will be plenty more posts coming up now that I have a little more time.  I’ve done a great deal of research for my second part of “Research in Game Music”- expect that in the next couple weeks!  I know I keep saying that but… it’s true!  Promise!  Have a good Sunday, guys!


About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

2 responses to “Sunday Game Soundtrack: Donkey Kong Country (SFC/SNES)

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