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Diddy Kong Racing Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Diddy Kong Racing Original Soundtrack Album Title: Diddy Kong Racing Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Pony Canyon
Catalog No.: PCCG-00448
Release Date: April 1, 1998
Purchase: Buy at eBay


In 1997, Rare developed a popular adventure racing game called Diddy Kong Racing and introduced now-popular characters such as Banjo and Conker to video game fans. David Wise returned from the Donkey Kong Country series to score the entire game. Given the youthful nature of the game, he largely took a light-hearted and melodic route, though nevertheless coloured the soundtrack with some quite diverse themes. While there were several releases of the soundtrack, the Japanese release Diddy Kong Racing Original Soundtrack is the most complete and recommended.


As with all of Dave Wise's soundtracks, the Diddy Kong Racing is hardly short of memorable melodies. In fact, in terms of sheer catchiness factor, this soundtrack probably has more to offer than his other works. After all, pretty much all the stage and lobby tracks take a poppy approach, and there is plenty of them spread across the album release. Listens can enjoy everything from electrifying rock organ leads in "Jungle Falls", to mellow bossa-nova elements in "Dino Domain", to nostalgic Christmassy sounds in "Walrus Cove". Whatever the elements used to present it, every melody simply shines with enthusiasm and lyricism. Wise's so-called 'whistleable' factor is back... More climactic pieces such as "Battle Theme", "Star City", or "Haunted Woods" still put melody first and are much more light-hearted than equivalents in the Donkey Kong Country franchise. In fact, even the various menu and select themes are highly memorable all these years on...

Despite the continued melodic emphasis and poppy feel throughout, there is plenty of diversity in the soundtrack nevertheless. Each lobby and its accompanying stage themes has a distinct feeling to them. For example, the Dino Domain themes prove to be a suitable and representative introduction to the game; however, they still have a percussive emphasis to them, most notably in the blistering "Hot Top Volcano". The themes for Sherbert Island and Snowflake Mountain meanwhile feature plenty of wintry clichés, though are a little too numerous. Perhaps the most exciting and futuristic tracks are those used in Future Fun Land, namely "Darkmoon Caverns", "Spaceport Alpha", and "Star City", though these have some weaknesses in retrospect. Occasionally, the soundtrack becomes darker too, most notably to accompany the cinematic sequences and races involving the antagonist Wizpig. There are also plenty of Easter Eggs for those willing to shell out on the full release.

While impressive for its day, the Diddy Kong Racing score hasn't aged that well. Compared to Dave Wise's Donkey Kong Country scores, Diddy Kong Racing is far more light-hearted and superficial. It fits the game well and offers lots of catchy melodies, though can become quite irritating on stand-alone listening. "TT's Theme", in particular, is a cringe-worthy homage to Kool & the Gang's "Celebration". Even tunes that attempt to be a little more edgy or multifaceted also end up sounding like disco anthems, for example "Jungle Falls" or "Darkmoon Caverns", perhaps intentionally, perhaps not. What's more, the MIDI samples used certainly don't push the Nintendo 64 to its limits and often have a 'cheap' feel to them. Some of the lead samples are especially, for example the feeble glockenspiel in "Sherbet Island", the bluegrass violins in "Everfrost Peak", or the jarring brass in "Spaceport Alpha". While the intentions are clear, they fall down due to poor synthesis and mixing. It was only in Diddy Kong Racing DS that these tunes were finally rearranged and resynthed into something more substantial.


Overall, Diddy Kong Racing falls considerably short of being a classic score on par with Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest. David Wise is able to offer many catchy melodies on the soundtrack, but largely loses the experimental edge in favour of a somewhat tacky approach. The final result is colourful and memorable, but not always inspiring or accomplished. Nevertheless, those who enjoyed the music in the game will still find it enjoyable to revisit the score in a stand-alone release. It is imperative to import the soundtrack from Japan, as the domestic release lacked numerous important tracks.

Overall Score: 7/10