- Atlus
  - Capcom
  - Cave
  - Falcom
  - Konami
  - Microsoft
  - Namco Bandai
  - Nintendo
  - Nippon Ichi
  - Grasshopper
  - Sega
  - Sony
  - Square Enix
  - Western Games

  - Castlevania
  - Chrono
  - Dragon Quest
  - Final Fantasy
  - Kingdom Hearts
  - Mana
  - Mario
  - Megami Tensei
  - Mega Man
  - Metal Gear
  - Resident Evil
  - SaGa
  - Silent Hill
  - Sonic
  - Star Ocean
  - Street Fighter
  - Suikoden
  - Tales
  - Ys
  - Zelda

  - Masashi Hamauzu
  - Norihiko Hibino
  - Kenji Ito
  - Noriyuki Iwadare
  - Koji Kondo
  - Yuzo Koshiro
  - Shoji Meguro
  - Yasunori Mitsuda
  - Manabu Namiki
  - Hitoshi Sakimoto
  - Motoi Sakuraba
  - Tenpei Sato
  - Yoko Shimomura
  - Koichi Sugiyama
  - Masafumi Takada
  - Nobuo Uematsu
  - Michiru Yamane
  - Akira Yamaoka

Home Contact Us Top


Donkey Kong Country Trilogy :: Review by Chris

Donkey Kong Country Trilogy Album Title: Donkey Kong Country Trilogy
Record Label: Nintendo of America
Catalog No.: 1470-Winter96
Release Date: November 1, 1996
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. Its two sequels only expanded upon the success of the original game and both featured enjoyable soundtracks, especially the highly experimental Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest album. The Donkey Kong Country Trilogy album is essentially a three disc compilation of the individual releases of each soundtrack in the United States.


Donkey Kong Country

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.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest

Once again, Dave Wise's compositions for Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest are highly accessible. They were written to appeal to a young and diverse audience, much like the soundtracks of Nintendo and Sega platformers of old. Compositions such as "Disco Train" and "Hot-Head Bop" once again shine with Wise's distinctive lyricism. They develop in such an exuberant fashion during their extended playtimes and thus remain appealing throughout their respective levels. There are also a range of short catchy compositions such as "Swangy Swing", "Cranky's Conga", "School House Harmony", and "Snakey Chantey", many of these are based on existing favourites from the original Donkey Kong Country soundtrack. Even the much-loved Donkey Kong Country theme makes a reappearance in "Token Tango", used for a novelty bonus stage.

Nevertheless, there are some differences between the Diddy Kong's Quest soundtrack and its predecessor. Most notably, there is an increased emphasis of darker tracks to reflect — and, to an extent, define — the considerably more serious feel of the game. The opener "K. Rool Returns," for instance, sounds more like an epic cinematic cue from a fantasy movie than a Super Nintendo game. Others such as the swashbuckling overworld theme "Welcome to Crocodile Isle", the orchestral-industrial fusion "Lockjaw's Saga", or the Mussorgsky homage "Haunted Chase" make an even greater impact on listeners given their central use in the game. At the end of the soundtrack, "Lost World Anthem", "Primal Rave", and "Crocodile Cacophony" are especially compelling with their heavy beats and discordant chords, giving a sense of the impending climax. Of course, the SPC sound chip is still limiting, but it's still incredibly impressive what Dave Wise manages to achieve with it.

Away from the darker tracks, several additions to the soundtrack stand out as especially impressive. "Forest Interlude" and "In a Snow-Bound Land" are premiere examples of gorgeous ambient soundscaping on the Super Nintendo. The former gradually develops to incorporate more organic elements to depict a forest coming to life over the course of a level. In contrast, "In a Snow-Bound Land" maintains a minimalistic and percussive emphasis throughout to depict more barren snowfields. In each case, the samples used are excellent and are blended together beautifully. "Stickerbrush Symphony" meanwhile is the spiritual successor of "Aquatic Ambience" in style, not location. Wise was clearly inspired by 'new age' artists here with his ethereal synthpads and subdued beats. However, it is the Celtic-inspired melody that really captures listener's hearts and is on par with the very best in Chrono Trigger. It shouldn't work in context, yet it does, and it is even more wonderful as a stand-alone listen.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Diddie Kong's Double Trouble

Right from the title theme "Dixie Beat", it's clear that the series' music is back on form. Once again, Dave Wise puts the focus on a highly whistleable melody, actually arranged from the original Donkey Kong Country soundtrack. He peppers the melody with authentic-sounded muted trumpets and booming conga lines to maintain the distinctive 'jazz meets jungle' style of the series. However, the carefree phrasing and dainty harmonisation also makes clear that a new protagonist will take the helm during the game — a youthful female one. Dave Wise's contribution to the soundtrack is otherwise quite small. He offers several charming if superficial arrangements of familiar character themes, most notably the Mario-meets-Wrinkly fusion. He also makes a few other original contributions, such as "Crazy Calypso" and "Brothers Bear", but neither are on par with his best from earlier titles.

Eveline Fischer was responsible for the various stage themes during the game. It's clear from tracks such as "Northern Kremisphere" and "Treetop Tumble" that Wise's experimental approach rubbed off on her. The former is a bizarre yet effective accompaniment to the water-dominated landscape of the game. It seems inspired by experimental electronic artists with its complex beats and ethereal vocals. It's certainly still catchy and compelling, but not in the conventional sense. "Treetop Tumble" meanwhile is a much darker theme that builds in a minimalistic manner upon several crisis motifs. In context, it is particularly immersive and facinating. Fischer also offers another treat in "Water World". Her approach is dark and organic compared to Wise "Aquatic Ambience", but nevertheless equally as beautiful and accomplished.

However, a lot of the soundtrack does take a superficial approach. This will appealing for those looking for a highly melodic and straightforward soundtrack, though it is arguably a regression after the much more artistic Donkey Kong Country 2. Some tracks such as the "Stilt Village" with its intricate lyricism or "Jungle Jitter" with its classic references work well. However, others such as the Christmassy "Jangle Bells" and "Frosty Frolics" definitely lack the timeliness of favourites such as "Aquatic Ambience" and are merely short-lived novelties. Away from the lighter pieces, Fischer uses dark ambience to portray the antagonists in "Boss Boogie" and "Krematoa Koncerto", though neither is as effective in and out of context as Wise's equivalents. The attempts to produce a badass rock themes in "Big Boss Blues" and "Chase" also fall fairly flat, but they are still above-average compared to most Super Nintendo music out there.


In summary, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy features some 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 games. For collectors, the Donkey Kong Country Trilogy is a definitive purchase; it compiles essentially all the music from the trilogy and is presented in an impressive way.

Overall Score: 9/10