In some really exciting news regarding E3, Nintendo announced that fan favorite composer David Wise has returned to his roots and is now composing the music for the also announced Donkey Kong Country Returns Tropical Freeze. For those who are not following me at the moment, David Wise is the chap that created the music for the Donkey Kong Country trilogy of games back in the Super Nintendo era. He joined Rareware back in 1985, with him being the only composer until the arrival of Robin Beanland, Graeme Norgate, and of course, Grant Kirkhope. All those memorable tunes in the Donkey Kong Country games were created by this fellow; Jungle Hijinx, Aquatic Ambience, Stickerbrush Symphony and, my personal favorite, Forest Frenzy.
Donkey Kong Country – Forest Frenzy | David Wise
That being said, the last Donkey Kong Country game he composed was released in 1996 and, other than the ports of the DKC series to the Game Boy Advance, he hasn’t been doing much more Donkey Kong work. So, what has David Wise been up to in the period between the DKC trilogy and his upcoming soundtrack for Tropical Freeze? People say he doesn’t really get enough work but, actually, he has had plenty of work; it just hasn’t reached the popularity levels that Donkey Kong did. This piece of writing, however, is going to shed some light onto what he has been working on before his glorious return to the Donkey Kong franchise.
David Wise’s transition to other franchises was slow, and this was shown with Diddy Kong Racing. Just a year after DKC3 was released, the racing game developed with Donkey’s buddy Diddy taking the spotlight hit shelves. Wise was able to beautifully marry a soundtrack full of exciting wonder, mixing up the use of different instruments and motifs to convey the mood of each stage. From Arabian themes, to Caribbean, pre historic, and Christmas like themes, the wonders just don’t stop catching you by surprise. One of my favorite things David did was the implementation of bells to Christmas levels, and Caribbean sounds to the beach levels, while the medieval tracks had trumpets and fanfares to them. All of these motifs were combined with a pop and upbeat feel to them, in order to complement the somewhat kiddy, yet beautiful backdrops of the racing tracks. I mean, listen to ‘Frosty Village’ and I dare you to not want to go out and sing jingles while snow gently falls from the sky.
Diddy Kong Racing – Frosty Village | David Wise
Variety and the ability to master different moods is good in a composer, which Wise proved with Diddy Kong Racing. But Wise returned to the atmospheric nature sounds he knows best with the release of Star Fox Adventures, the 2004 Nintendo Game Cube adventure. A game that played more like Zelda and less like… well, Star Fox; Wise took in the world of Dinosaur Planet and made sure each area of the game had distinct soundtrack to it, all combined with a recurring melody; adding a fantastic but whimsical aspect to the environments. Being a very primitive but magical planet, Dinosaur Planet blends with the environment to create all these tribal sounds (as different tribes are present on the land).
One of the main tracks, Thorntail Hollow, begins with rattles and whistles leading to a buildup of the upcoming marching drums and chains, as to signify an oppressed tribe that has been under control by a tyrant in an endless cycle. After so, the chains stop and the pizzicato string join in to emulate the whimsical aspect of the entire soundtrack. Furthermore, as the game changes from day to night in real time, again in a very Zelda like fashion, we also transition to a night time version of the Thorntail Hollow theme, that marries the fireflies and peacefulness of the land during the night. The drums are replaced with the sounds of choir and harps that accompany the melody, now played by a more subtle flute.
Star Fox Adventures: Thorntail Hollow (Daytime) | David Wise
Star Fox Adventures: Thorntail Hollow (Nightime) | David Wise
With Rare’s swan song with Nintendo’s partnership now out of the way, David Wise went to work on the soundtracks of the Game Boy Advance ports of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. The one I want to highlight the most is the Donkey Kong Country 3 port, released to the Game Boy Advance in 2005, as Wise decided to compose an entire new soundtrack to it. This particular job is well known to fans and to Wise himself in the OCReMix fan made arrangements titled “Double the Trouble” where the fan arrangements comprised both the console version and also the Game Boy Advance version of the game. David Wise decided to on board of the project and created an arrangement called “Spanish Jitter”, which pays homage to the GBA version of the track Jungle Jitter, which in turn shares a lot of similarities to the classic Donkey Kong Country track, Jungle Hijinx. The arrangement created by Wise features smooth jazzy bass, accompanied by a spanish guitar, trumpets that he has mentioned to love and have relearned from when he was a kid, and alluring flutes, all then blending with the combination of a jazz big band-like feel, with so much energy pumping through the entire track.
Double the Trouble: Spanish Jitters [Jungle Jitters] | David Wise
It’s time now to go a little bit more obscure. While working on Donkey Kong Country 3 for GBA, David Wise also worked on War World: Tactical Combat. What’s that? You don’t know what that is? War World is a game released on PC in 2005 by Third Wave Games, a team comprised of former Rare employees that worked on Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, among other titles. The game plays as a third person mech shooter, sort of along the lines of Tribes. David Wise worked on a more modern feel to the soundtrack, which features futuristic sounds that you’d find in such modern movies and games like Call of Duty, Transformers or the Bourne trilogy of movies. This is the soundtrack that varies the most according to his style, as not many of those lush environment sounds can be found, trading it in for a more military type composition.
War World: Tactical Combat Game Play | Third Wave Games
After War World was ported to Xbox Live Arcade in 2008, a Nintendo DS version of Vita Piñata was released the very same year subtitled Pocket Paradise. Here, David Wise took over the musical reins over his buddy Grant Kirkhope, who composed the soundtrack for the original version. Wise attempted to recreate the same feel Grant Kirkhope incorporated in the console version of the game, a soundtrack full of whimsical proportions. He still used the same low strings to carry the subtle melodies of the flute. However, aspects like a bassoon, which is one of Kirkhope’s favorite instruments, is not present, but instead it pushes the whimsical aspect more, combining Wise’s trademark ambient sounds. In its own way, both soundtracks share their similarities, but are very distinct to one another, which is a good thing to be able to differentiate.
Viva Piñata Pocket Paradise: Daytime | David Wise
And with that we conclude this look back, as this brings us to his next work: Donkey Kong Coountry Returns Tropical Freeze. There was a five year gap between this game and Pocket Paradise but, during this time, he started his own venture named David Wise Sound Studios. All in all, David Wise is someone who is really passionate about his work, and very involved with the community and his fans, as it’s clearly seen with the inclusion of him into the community of OCReMix. Currently, Tropical Freeze is slated for release this November 2013, only five months away from us and, personally, I cannot wait to play an amazing game and listen to David Wise’s excellent work. Here’s hoping that he continues to perform exceptionally in this industry!