Number 6: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Yesterday I said that Twilight Princess was an example of Nintendo's composers at their finest. So some of you may have read that and expected that no more Nintendo titles would be appearing on this list. Wrong I say, and as you may have just realized, because this years sixth position goes to none other then the absolutely stellar-in-every-way Donkey Kong Country Returns! Which was actually developed by Retro Studios, so technically it isn't one of Nintendo's composers behind it.
For many of us, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a return to our childhoods. It's a classic tough-as-nails platformer that's been polished until it gleams, with beautiful graphics, stellar gameplay, and of course the focus of this list: The absolutely incredible soundtrack.
The best way to describe the soundtrack to DKCR is a mixture of atmospheric and ambient music. Each track is designed to flesh out a particular mood or setting, often with use of certain themed instruments and melodies. The end result is a very organic soundtrack that flows naturally from progression to progression along a very recognizable musical journey. The use of recognizable here is twofold: first, that it is very easy to track the flow of the soundtrack from the beginning to the end, second that many of the melodies along the way will sound familiar to players of the earlier games. Which isn't too surprising given the classic nature of the series themes, and honestly I would have found the soundtrack somewhat remiss if it hadn't managed to work in some of the original series melodies in some way.
Outside of its clear understanding of the series roots (although I must mention now there is no Stickerbrush reference, hopefully they're holding it for a sequel) one thing that DKCR really nails is its ambient music. A lot of ambient music even when created for games, has the unfortunate problem of falling flat to the listeners ear, being too cautious to really catch anyone's ear. DKCR on the other hand, plays its ambient tunes perfectly, falling just enough on the ambient side while still being fully enjoyable tunes in their own right.
DKCR is simply put an incredible soundtrack. It's clever, unique, slightly familiar, and above all fun. DKCR's takes it's place with flying colors. This is what a platformer soundtrack should sound like! Fun, gripping! Engaging and exiting one minute, fresh the next!
DKCR scores incredibly high, grabbing a perfect score in both Composition and Game Representation, and a near-perfect score in Stand-Alone Quality. It does manage a bonus point for Non-Gamer Approval, but being a recent game and with a large quantity of original music on display does not qualify for the Nostalgia bonus.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Stand Alone Quality: 4.75
Emotional Reaction: 4.5
Game Representation: 5
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a showstopper of a performance from start to finish, and will likely go down for me as one of my all-time favorite soundtracks. That said, DKCR is well deserving of its high score and position as the number six best game soundtrack of all time.
Number 6---Donkey Kong Country Returns by Kenji Yamamoto