Nintendo of Japan’s Kenji Yamamoto and Retro Studios’s Scott Petersen did a great job with the audio on Donkey Kong Country Returns, but everyone was wondering if we’d ever hear the original voice of Donkey Kong Country, David Wise, again. Well, he’s back in action, working alongside the established duo to bring his own unique flavor to the score for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and we’ve caught some words with him about the project.
Enjoy this trip down memory lane, and get out there and start playing and listening to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze!
Hello! It’s great to get the chance to speak with you about your contributions to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I think many fans are excited to see you working on this title, so perhaps you’d like to start by telling us how you came to be involved, and your feelings returning to the Donkey Kong Country franchise and being given the opportunity to revisit themes you wrote nearly 20 years ago.
David Wise: Hello and thank you for your interest in the Tropical Freeze soundtrack. My involvement with Tropical Freeze goes back to shortly after the time I decided to leave Rare. Michael Kelbaugh, who is the CEO and President of Retro Studios had got in touch with me to ask if I may be interested in working on a potential DKC title in the future. Michael had also worked over at Rare in Twycross for six months during the development of the original DKC, and that’s when we were first introduced.
Did you take the opportunity to listen to the Donkey Kong Country Returns score to get acquainted with the direction Retro Studios and composer Kenji Yamamoto had taken the series since your contributions to the series? What did you think of their work?
David Wise: I really enjoyed playing and listening to the score for Donkey Kong Country Returns. I think Retro Studios made a great game with Donkey Kong Country Returns and I think Yamamoto-san did a great job of re-interpreting the score for the Wii.
On that note, perhaps you’d like to discuss your interactions with Retro Studios Audio Supervisor Scott Petersen and Nintendo of Japan composer Kenji Yamamoto, both of whom have had a long working relationship together. How did you fit into the workflow, and were you able to establish a team dynamic pretty quickly?
David Wise: The title Supervisor doesn’t quite give an accurate reflection of the skills and co-ordination involved, especially when you consider the soundtrack was recorded in three different continents. Scott has such a professional approach to all aspects of the audio that he made my life so much easier when writing the score for Tropical Freeze. At the start of the project I traveled over to Austin to meet Scott and Yamamoto-san in person. We would then have video conferences throughout the project to discuss progress and the direction we wanted to take the music in.
Fans are obviously excited about hearing “Aquatic Ambiance” redone in Tropical Freeze. Would you like to comment on the creation of this track for the original Donkey Kong Country and how you went about updating it for Tropical Freeze? Perhaps you’d like to share some of the tools you used this time around?
David Wise: On the original game, we had 64k of sample memory, which is simply minuscule by today’s standards. The original soundtrack relied on taking the smallest of single cycle waveforms and writing subroutines to re-sequence the order they were played back in. By contrast, this time I was using modern tools to host many virtual instruments with up to 64 gigs of memory in a very fast PC. Even with all that processing power, I still found myself throwing a lot of powerful instruments into the mix, to make it sound lush and detailed enough for a 2014 arrangement.
You must have some interesting stories from your time working on Donkey Kong Country, both past and present. Feel free to share any of those stories.
David Wise: I think one of the most interesting stories was when I met Yamamoto-san at Retro Studios. When I first started writing music on the NES system almost 30 years ago, it was a fairly unique career. I had no idea anyone else would be doing exactly the same as me, but Yamamoto-san had a very similar set-up and was working on an almost parallel career path over in Japan.
Would you like to say anything to fans of your past work on Donkey Kong Country regarding what to expect with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze? Can we hope to see you contributing to future Donkey Kong Country titles?
David Wise: I think there is a good mix of original music, interspersed with a few remixes from the original series. One of the highlights for me is a very laid back version of “Sticker-brush Symphony.” There is a very talented member of the Retro Team called Peter Nielsen, who happens to play some seriously cool sax – and this remix is used for the credits. Definitely worth getting to the end of the game just to hear this version alone. It’s one of the highlights of the score for me. I don’t know where the Donkey Kong Country series will go next, but I found it incredibly humbling that Nintendo decided to base much of the music in Donkey Kong Country Returns on the original Donkey Kong Country SNES trilogy.
Visit the official Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze website.