Da Banana Bunch - The Original Donkey Kong 64 Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
Most Nintendo 64 gamers spent countless hours playing Donkey Kong 64 around the turn of the century. The game was a significant departure for the series since it offered expansive 3D levels similar to Banjo-Kazooie instead of the 2D platforming of the Donkey Kong Country series. The composers Grant Kirkhope and Eveline Novakovic ensured that the series' characteristic melodiousness and diversity was kept alive. However, they also carefully adapted to the new gameplay by offering multiple variations of each level theme that varied according to the environment. It was a challenge to select the tonne of tracks from the original score into a single one disc soundtrack release. The Da Banana Bunch - The Original Donkey Kong 64 Soundtrack was a European promotional album that attempted to achieve this. Although it featured more elaborate track titles, bonus arrangements, and a screensaver, it failed in comparison to the Donkey Kong 64 Official Soundtrack and Donkey Kong 64 Soundtrack CD in several ways.
The soundtrack is opened by the infamous "DK Rap", now dubbed "Da Banana Bunch". Opinions were initially mixed about this track, some finding it a fun accompaniment to the title screen and yet more people finding it an abomination to rap music. One good thing about the rap is how each verse is dedicated to one of the five characters of the game and even features accompaniment by each of their instruments. This works amusingly with the visuals and helps to establish their personalities from the outset. However, the lyrics are so cringe-worthy ten years on with lines such as "He's finally back to kick some tail" even winning dubious awards. Many will want to skip this one, although revisiting it is bound to bring back strong memories. The other iconic theme on the soundtrack is the enjoyable arrangement of the Donkey Kong Country main theme for the Jungle Japes level, "Jungle Madness". A synthesized big band provides a jazzy take on the melody while boisterous percussion and animal sound effects bring the jungle to life. In the game, the theme is arranged multiple times in simple ways to represent the changing environments, though the soundtrack appropriately focuses on just the original theme.
The various worlds for the game is each portrayed by a fitting and memorable theme. Angry Aztec's "The Sands of Mystery", for example, features intricately shaped melodies and distinctive instrumentation stereotypical of ancient civilizations and accessible to people of all ages. Frantic Factory's "Toys R Alive" gives a sinister image of clockwork toys coming alive with a focus on tuned percussion, metronomic features, and pseudo-horror passages. However, it's definitely Creepy Castle's "Haunted Banana" that contains the most horror parodies with its organ backing and haunting laughs, though Kirkhope's characteristic light-hearted lyricism remains as prominent as ever. Other additions include a Banjo-Kazooie influenced dance to portray Fungi Forest during the daytime and a beautiful depiction of the Crystal Caves with pizzicato strings and tuned percussion. The boss themes featured for the Angry Aztec and Fungi Forest levels tend to be fast-paced orchestral variations on the level themes. They can be generic on a stand-alone basis, though they're very effective in the game and occasionally showcase orchestral brilliance during their development.
The main problem with this release is that it fails to include many of the most interesting pieces from the original score. Though the loss of a few action themes and jingles doesn't really matter, the serene "DK Island", moody "Gloomy Galleon", and action-packed "Hideout Helm" represent a much larger loss. Surprisingly, there are nonetheless two exclusives to this release the overly clichéd villain's theme "The Mad Scientist" and the straightforward reprise of the "DK Island" theme for the ending theme "Kong-Conclusion". The main reason for the various absences is that Nintendo of Europe's Acoustic Department once again decided to remix several themes as a bonus for the soundtrack release following their infamous work on N64Y2K. Once again, they do a hideous job, making the rap a hyper-repetitive mess, adding a vapid beat to Angry Aztec, and offering nothing substantial to Jungle Japes. All three remixes are instantly missable.
The Donkey Kong 64 soundtrack was certainly a good effort within the game. The various levels were portrayed with appropriate and catchy themes, though also sustained extended gameplay due to the interactive arrangements, while the boss and character themes were also convincing in context. On a stand-alone level, the melodic charms and intricate developments of the level themes still comes across despite the absence of the interactive feature. However, this particular soundtrack release features too many major omissions and superfluous additions to be worthwhile for most fans. It's not acceptable that three world themes were omitted while completely pointless remixes made it. It is therefore best to purchase the better presented Donkey Kong 64 Official Soundtrack and Donkey Kong 64 Soundtrack CD instead.
Overall Score: 5/10