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La Bande Originale de Donkey Kong Country :: Review by Chris

La Bande Originale de Donkey Kong Country Album Title: La Bande Originale de Donkey Kong Country
Record Label: Nintendo of France
Catalog No.: DIDX-026334
Release Date: 1995
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Donkey Kong Country, known in Japan as Super Donkey Kong, was one of the legendary platformers of the Super Nintendo era. It was the first Donkey Kong game not created by Shigeru Miyamoto and was instead designed by British developer Rare. While in few ways innovative, the game was a major success, gaining rave reviews and selling over eight million copies. Led by Dave Wise, the catchy and diverse music for the game was a big part of the overall charm. The soundtrack was released in multiple versions in America, Europe, and Japan, each with their own track listings. La Bande Originale de Donkey Kong Country was the French release of the soundtrack and was offered with the first releases of the Nintendo Game Boy game Donkey Kong Land. Though not an obscure item, it will be acceptable for those looking for just the original music.


Inspired by great platformers like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog before it, David Wise put the emphasis on the Donkey Kong Country on the feature most guaranteed to win listener's hearts: strong melodies. Practically every piece on this soundtrack exudes a certain lyricism that has become a representative feature of Rare's games. There are all sorts of classics and even short and superficial tracks like "Cranky's Theme", "Candy's Love Song", and "Bonus Room Blitz" are highly whistleable all these years later. However, easily the most enjoyable tracks are those such as "Simian Segue", "Theme", and "DK Island Swing" that integrate the series' infectious jazz-influenced main theme for the game. Interestingly, Dave Wise greatly elaborated on Yukio Kameoka's jingle for the original Donkey Kong in these pieces to create a worthy main theme for the series.

That said, the soundtrack is still one with plenty of depth. For example, it's fascinating how the "DK Island Swing" evolves from its upbeat tropical introduction into a mystical and haunting piece. It makes the rather expansive locations in the game all the more multifaceted. "Aquatic Ambiance" meanwhile is a stunningly beautiful example of soundscaping — David Wise blends the synth pads and percussion in an artful way to achieve a feeling of floating in the sea. While ambient in name and nature, it still features a charismatic synth melody from the 1:25 mark, making it no doubt a favourite with fan arrangers. Further delights come in the form of the unpredictable percussion of "Cave Dweller Concert", the fierce thrust of "Mine Cart Madness", and the horror scoring of "Misty Menace", all of which pushed the SPC sound chip to the limits.

The action themes on this soundtrack are among the less memorable contributions. "Bad Boss Boogie" certainly gives the impression of being confronting by a formidable enemy, but also focuses a little too much on a few chord sequences. The final boss theme "Gang-Plank Galleon" meanwhile is a little strange for the way it evolves from a sea shanty into an action theme, though it works quite well in context. The rocking climax also secures its place as one of the Super Nintendo's most memorable final battle themes. In SNES tradition, there is also a relieving ending theme, though it's neither as expansive nor memorable to compare with Nintendo or Square favourites. Finally, it's of note that "Jungle Groove" is an arranged track created by Yoshiyuki Ito, taken from the more expansive import release of the soundtrack. It's a fairly enjoyable jazz interpretation of the main theme, though suffers from clunky synthesis and little development.


In summary, Donkey Kong Country features one of the best soundtracks for a platformer. It combines the memorable melodies and rhythmical impetus of classics such as Mario and Sonic with the artistic soundscaping and stylistic diversity that only expert synthesis on the Super Nintendo could offer. The result is a suitable accompaniment to the goofy characters, varied levels, and swinging antics of the game. This soundtrack ought to belong in the collections of all classic game music collectors and this particular domestic version is excellent for revisiting the original music. Some may prefer to import the Super Donkey Kong Jungle Fantasy to listen to some bonus arrangements, though they're frankly not of sufficient quality to be particularly worthwhile.

Overall Score: 8/10