Former Rare composer David Wise is responsible for some of the best soundtracks ever heard in a video game, and for the longest time, he was the company's main resource when it came to creating music for its NES, SNES, Game Boy and N64 output.
He's been speaking to US Gamer – alongside the equally brilliant Grant Kirkhope – about what it was like to create music on Nintendo's consoles, and explains that while the N64 lacked the massive storage space needed to create CD-quality tunes, it offered some neat tricks of its own:
With the N64 having MIDI, it meant that we could have dynamic responsive scores that react to the gameplay environments. Even though our competitors could use a CD, it was a fixed track and had limited scope for reactive music.
Of course, there was nothing stopping PlayStation or Saturn developers from using the built-in audio hardware of those consoles to perform similar tricks, but the overriding trend back in the '90s was to instead pull CD-quality audio from the disc – whereas with the N64, developers had no choice but to create audio using the console's own hardware.
In the same interview, Kirkhope reveals that the high quality of Nintendo's in-house music was a constant reminder that Rare had to create the best tunes possible:
You had to try your best to write a good melody and set of chords, as most of the time that was the best you could do. Rare were huge Nintendo fans, so I was constantly being reminded as to how good the Nintendo OSTs were.
Speaking of Nintendo, Wise adds that, during the development of Donkey Kong Country – which contains what is arguably some of his best work – he played host to a very special visitor:
Miyamoto-san visited Rare whilst we were developing the first Donkey Kong Country titles. It was quite surreal demonstrating music I'd created whilst Miyamoto-san was in my studio, listening.
We'd recommend you read the entire interview here, and also check out our own recent interview with the pair here. We also spoke extensively to Wise and the team at Playtonic games about working together on the music for Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, so feel free to check out that interview too, if you fancy it.