Tagged: David Wise

Game composers recycling their own music.

Let’s say you’re a fairly notable game composer. You’ve worked on some bangers and lesser-known hits. You got a good pedigree of work, and you’re suggested to work on someone’s new game. Life feels good.

Though, sometimes your creativity fails you. You struggle to make a new composition and the game’s about to go gold. So you dig into your back catalog of previous works, adjust the tempo and change a few instruments, and bam, you got a new song.

I call this “Game music recycling.” It’s a phenomenon that has existed for a long time, even outside the video game realm, but I’m particularly interested in the gaming side specifically.

Now I’m gonna lay down some ground rules for this. They’re not particularly complex, but they’re to avoid things that wouldn’t really count. So here they are:

  • The tracks in question have to be in a commercially released game. Bobby Prince released a handful of demos of licensed music for Doom that later got reused in later games, but since those weren’t made to be commercially released, they don’t count.
  • The recycling has to come from the same composer. Tim Follin basically redid the theme to Starsky & Hutch for the NES game Treasure Master, but that’s more of an homage than anything.
  • It has to be a full song. A composer throwing in a jingle from another game they made as a tribute doesn’t really give me much to work with.
  • It must come from different games in different franchises. There will be an exception with this first entry, but this is to avoid the obvious of someone blaming a composer for using the same theme in every game.

For this entry, the recycled music are all from composers based in Europe. American and Japanese composers have done similar recycling, which I’m gonna save for future entries. Let’s get started.


David Wise:

This first one was one I didn’t really know about until someone on Twitter pointed it out fairly recently.

I have never played a Sid Meier game. Basically simulations that require me to complex strategy to succeed really bores me and at times feels like it has too high of a skill ceiling to really enjoy anything out of it. It’s why I’ve never played Civilization. But the original Pirates! seemed to have a modest following, and got ported to a bunch of different systems, including the NES in late 1991.

While it was released on several platforms, there wasn’t a distinct soundtrack for each, thus each version has their own unique set of music. This was ported over by Rare, who pretty much one of several go-to contract developers for NES games throughout the late 80s-early 90s. David Wise, at the time Rare’s sole composer, made a simple little ditty for the game’s main menu as you planned out your pirates story.

Cut to a few years later. Rare works on what is one of the biggest games of the year, Donkey Kong Country. The final boss, King K. Rool, takes place on a giant pirate ship. Naturally, this was the most fitting place to rearrange a small tune made for a port of a Commodore 64 game. While it does borrow part of the melody from the Pirates! tune, it does go off into its own tune after that.

The tune would get a second arrangement in the game’s sequel, Diddy’s Kong Quest. Called Snakey Chantey, the tune is a much more deliberate homage to that specific menu track, this time with a bit more of a jazzy sound to it.

Until I was made aware of this, I only had two entries for this article. I’m a strong supporter of the “rule of threes,” and two just felt too little. Then this started making the rounds, and gave me a third entry, anda  good starting piece. Thanks to TheBalishChannel on Twitter for finding this one.

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Game Show Themes vs. Their NES Counterparts.

Woflogocomparison

Okay, it doesn’t fit one-to-one, but you get what I’m going with this, right?

There’s two things that I love fondly that I grew up with: Video games (natch), and game shows. I’m not exactly sure what gravitated me towards game shows: Could be the flashy sets, the catchy themes, the thought of people winning $25,000 in mere seconds; but whatever it was, I was hooked. I still enjoy the classic game show every now and then, even though my interest in the genre has waned in recent years.

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The rare sunburst logo. The common white and blue logo wouldn’t show up ’til the 1990s.

Since I like game shows and video games, having the two come together sounds amazing. It’s my version of a peanut butter cup. There were a whole bunch of them on the ol’ NES, almost all of them published by GameTek, a US-based software company. I think the game show games were their only hallmark, though they did publish games like Frontier: Elite II and Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, as well as working on publishing Robotech: Crystal Dreams before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1999. There were some NES game show games published by other companies, such as Hi-Tech Expressions, but the less said about those games, the better.

Now, there’s a fair share of game show games on the NES by GameTek, including four different editions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, as well as Double Dare, Hollywood Squares and many others. What most people don’t know is that some of these were developed by Rare. Yes, that Rare. Donkey Kong Country Rare. Banjo-Kazooie Rare. Kinect Sports Rare. For those who don’t find that as surprising as I do, Rare is a games company based in Twycross, England. All the game show adaptions that they had made weren’t as well known on British TV at the time, so to have a company based in England to do American TV game show video games is funny. I would assume the production companies would send them episodes of the show as well as the rules of the game so they understand what they’re trying to make.

David Wise is one of my favorite European composers, next to Tim Follin, Richard Jacques, and Simon Viklund. You could consider this post part of the “David Wise Appreciation Station,” if really you want to.

Since Rare was a small skeleton crew throughout the ’80s, they only had one composer: Dave Wise (pictured). Wise pretty much composed all of Rare’s games solo up until the early ’90s, and seeing him try to recreate some of game show’s iconic themes on the NES sound chip sounds intriguing. Let’s see how well he did on each of them…

Jeopardy! (1987 NES)

The NES version:

COMPARED TO: 

“Think!”, Jeopardy!‘s theme from 1984-1991 (originally composed by Merv Griffin):

The theme to Jeopardy! is undeniably the most well-known and iconic game show theme. Merv Griffin’s little think tune eventually became the show’s hallmark theme since the show’s revival with Alex Trebek. Being one of the earliest Rare/GameTek collaborations, this is probably one of the closest. However, the intro – used during the contestant selection in the game – goes up three keys rather than two like the actual theme does.

There were two later releases of Jeopardy! by Rare, a Junior Edition in 1989, and a 25th Anniversary Edition in 1990. There’s no changes music-wise, outside of 25th Anniversary adding a little ditty during the copyright screen, which would reappear in Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition (see more information below)

Wheel of Fortune (1987 NES)

The NES version

 COMPARED TO:

“Changing Keys,” Wheel of Fortune‘s theme from 1983-1989, originally composed by Merv Griffin:

Wheel’s theme was another Merv Griffin-composed tune called “Changing Keys,” which was made to replace the original theme composed by Alan Thicke when the show entered syndication. The theme was modified a few times over the years, before being completely replaced with a Steve Kaplan composed tune in the late ’90s.

In the NES game, however, Wise used the bridge that usually appears during the show’s credits as the theme, rather than the introduction that was associated with the show at that point. It’s only something the game show diehards like me would notice, but it’s close enough to the main theme that it’s not a bother. Plus you’re likely only gonna hear a few seconds of this before you go into the game itself anyway.

Like Jeopardy!, Wheel had two additional releases done by Rare: Junior Edition in 1989 and Family Edition in 1990. Oddly, Family Edition completely changes all the music to completely original compositions such as this:

It sounds okay, but for a Wheel of Fortune game to lack the famous theme song is a strange omission, especially since the show had still had Changing Keys by the time Family Edition was released, albeit in a new arrangement.

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