Nintendo Has This Theory About Donkey Kong Music

The soundtrack for the original Donkey Kong Country is so enchanting that the president of Nintendo listens to it in his iPod. How did it get so good?

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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed his love for the music from the 1994 Donkey Kong Country in a recently-published online conversation between himself and the leaders of Nintendo's development team on this fall's Donkey Kong Country Returns. The original DKC was made by Rare, a British studio no longer affiliated with Nintendo.

Those Rare composers worked some magic, magic the Texas-based Retro Studios wanted to recreate for their Nintendo bosses in Japan. Here are two of the bosses talking music, and wondering how Rare did it...


Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo: Tanabe-san, what do you think about the music [in Donkey Kong Country Returns]?

Kensuke Tanabe, producer on Donkey Kong Country Returns: It makes me remember 16, 17 years ago. When I was working on the localization of the Super NES version, I went to Rare in England. Rare, which made Donkey Kong Country, was in...

Iwata: Twycross.

Tanabe: Yes. I think it took a little over four hours by car from London. It was a long ride and I found the scenery peaceful, with rolling hills and lots of sheep and wooden fences along the road. And that went on for hours. It never changed.

Iwata: You spent the whole time watching sheep. (laughs)

Tanabe: Yeah. (laughs) Rare is headquartered in a refurbished horse stable in a country town with an old church. When I got there, they handed me a huge key like you might see in a fantasy game and gave me a room, where I worked. In my mind, the music overlaps with scenes like that.

Iwata: Do you think the music turned out the way it did because the people who made it live in a peaceful area like that?

Tanabe: You could say that. Of course, there's also the atmosphere of London...

Iwata: They mix together.

Tanabe: Yeah. That music conjures up the image of another country for me. I was young at the time, so it brings back memories, and, while I can't go into details, I got into all kinds of trouble in London during my time off. The music brings all that back for me. (laughs)

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The "Iwata Asks" series of interviews are always rich with surprise details about the making of Nintendo games. Look for many more at the link below.


Iwata Asks: Donkey Kong Country Returns

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DISCUSSION

ignore-everything-i-write-i-m-old
Ignore everything I write I'm retarded

It seriously doesn't get much better than Dave Wise. I was actually pretty disappointed that Nintendo didn't hire him to do the music for DKCR, especially since he's freelance now.

DKC2 is my favourite 2D platformer of all time, and a reasonable chunk of that is the just jaw-droppingly awesome soundtrack. Sure DKC1 had more standout tracks, but it was Diddy's Kong Quest that had the consistent awesomeness.

My favourite part is how he was hired: "I was working in a music shop demonstrating a Yamaha CX5 Music Computer to a couple of people, Tim & Chris Stamper. I'd written and programmed the music for the demonstration material. They offered me a job."

...except then I realise how far the great have fallen. None of the people who made Rare so awesome back in the day are still there. Still, I salute those guys for having basically never made a bad game on a Nintendo console.