Resonance: Forest Interlude

I’m of the opinion that Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is home to one of the best soundtracks of the SNES era. It just has so much variety to it. In one section we’ve got the tense exciting tones of a high-seas adventure, while in another we get the claustrophobic tension of trying to navigate a dank and deadly castle. The music also compliments the game in a way that I don’t notice very often. See, it’s very easy to line up a game’s tone and/or style with it’s music, but how often would you say that you’re able to relate the music to the game’s pacing? Probably not very often. Pacing is a difficult thing to identify outside of story beats, yet the music of DKC2 is allows us to do just that, and I’d say that “Forest Interlude” is a excellent example of this.

(video by YouTube user: BrawlBRSTMs3)

“Forest Interlude” is the theme for “Ghostly Grove”, the opening level for “Gloomy Gulch”. The previous section, “Krazy Kremland”, was perhaps the most fast-paced and frantic of the areas traversed up to this point. It was filled with the tension of unfamiliar mechanics, the adrenaline of speedy (and broken) roller coasters, and the terror of having to flee (and later fight) a giant bee. Most players would want to stop and catch their breath after all that. However, this is DKC2, so it’s not going to stop throwing new and crazy things at you. It’s not a heartless game though. It can at least let you feel like you’re getting a break, and that’s exactly what “Forest Interlude” is for.

Just like every area-opening level before it, “Ghostly Grove” isn’t afraid to push your platforming skills. It’s signature mechanic are the disappearing “Ghost Ropes”. These annoying, yet oddly endearing, ropes force the player to carefully and quickly execute their jumps, lest the rope disappear and send out favorite monkeys careening down a bottomless pit. The result should be a level that feels just as frantic as anything that cam before it, but that’s not the case  here. It would be if it were paired with many of the other themes in the game, but with “Forest Interlude” it feels like we’re just having a pleasant walk in the woods.

This is a theme that works hard to make it’s listener feel calm and at-ease. It absolutely has to if it’s going to counteract the fast-paced gameplay style of DKC2. It’s slow base, and constant tempo aren’t enough to accomplish that though, so it goes a step farther. Now this might just be me, but I get a very “dreamy” feeling from this theme. It kind of makes what’s happening on the screen feel other-worldly and disconnected from what I’m trying to do as the player. I still want to beat the level, and I still feel a small sense of frustration from a death, but there’s no tension to it. I’m not scrambling to beat the level, and I’m not feeling rushed or hurried by the “Ghost Ropes”. It’s all happening apart from me somehow, and the result is a calm and relaxing romp through a level that I believe would otherwise be quite aggravating.

Of all the themes in the game, I’d say that “Forest Interlude” is the most aptly named. It opens the segment of the game meant to act as, well, the interlude: the cool-down period before the final and punishing push to the end. It introduces “Gloomy Gulch” as a break in the action, and it also acts as a reminder of that fact after the terror of “Haunted Hall” and the white-knuckle parrot piloting of “Parrot Chute Panic”. It’s an excellent musical trick that helps remind us of where we are in the game as well as making us feel like we’re getting a bit of a reprieve from DKC2‘s platforming onslaught (even though we’re getting pushed just as hard as ever). It’s a solid theme that does a solid job in a rock-solid game!

What’s your take on “Forest Interlude”? What theme(s) in DKC2 do you think serve a similar purpose?


Image by Flickr User: JD Hancock (cc)

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello, and thank you for the great read.
    I couldn’t agree more! It might just be me, but it seems as if “forest” themes in games usually have the qualities you discussed. It’s late and the only other ones that come to mind are the foresty themes from Super Mario World and Super Mario RPG, both contemporaries with DK2. They’re mysterious and evocative and peaceful. Why do you think that might be? Is this just how we view forests?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      It could be. Forests always seem to be ponderous places in stories. People are always getting lost in them or making unexpected discoveries. The Forest Maze theme you just mentioned is a great example of that I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was so inspired by our little back and forth and your post on the Forest Interlude that I wrote a little ditty about the recurring Forest theme concept. Check it out at your leisure!
    https://thewellredmage.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/forest-themes-1/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. duckofindeed says:

    I loved Forest Interlude. I completely agree, this song is really calm and soothing. I should feel stressed by disappearing ropes, but I don’t thanks to that calming music. That’s interesting what you were saying about the pacing. I never thought about it like that before, but it’s true. It’s a nice break between that frightening battle against the giant bee and the final main world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      You know what they say: If an element of the design is doing it’s job right, you won’t even realize it.

      It only recently dawned on me that the world of DKC2 is laid out with a certain pacing in mind: lead in, ramp up, level-off, ramp-up, break, final ramp up, climax. It feels so natural while you’re playing that you don’t even realize what it’s doing!

      Like

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