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Super Donkey Kong Original Sound Version :: Review by Chris

Super Donkey Kong Original Sound Version Album Title: Super Donkey Kong Original Sound Version
Record Label: Pony Canyon
Catalog No.: PSCN-5020
Release Date: February 25, 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. One of two Japanese releases, Super Donkey Kong Original Sound Version features just the game's original music and no arranged bonuses.


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 Kong Page", "Candy Kong Page", and "Bonus Level" are highly whistleable all these years later. However, easily the most enjoyable tracks are those such as "Title Screen Page", "The Map Page", and "Jungle Level" 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 "Jungle Level" 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. "Water Music" 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 "The Mine Level", the fierce thrust of "The Cart Level", and the horror scoring of "Moving PLatforms", all of which pushed the SPC sound chip to the limits.

The action themes on this soundtrack are among the less memorable contributions. "End of Level Baddie" 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 "The Pirate Ship" 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.


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 import version is excellent for revisiting the original music. Some may prefer to import the Super Donkey Kong Jungle Fantasy instead to listen to some bonus arrangements, though they're frankly not of sufficient quality to be particularly worthwhile.

Overall Score: 8/10