Can someone really say that they like a song if all it ends up making them feel is sad? I don't know really. I happen to enjoy a very popular song from Cowboy Bebop called The Real Folk Blues, and that song, while beautifully composed and just flat out rocks, also makes me feel kind of sad. And I suppose it's not just what happens to certain characters within the show, but it also makes me reflect on things that have happened to me as well. And the same is true of this particular song from this 16-bit classic. So I guess it makes me more introspective than sad. Still, when it comes down to it, I do tend to slip more into the bluer side of things when the song is over.
So why am I writing about a song that makes me feel this way?
When I first played DKC as a young boy in 1994 I was anything but sad. All of the commercials and video game articles I was reading from the grocery store book stands pointed to this game being everything spectacular and amazing. So when I finally got my hands on it, the hardest thing anyone could do was to get me to come away from the television screen. I not only wanted to master this game's many pit falls and dangers, but I also wanted to discover all of the secret rooms. I believe I even once had a strategy guide to help me find all of the secrets in each level. I think I eventually scored a 101% on the game's completion scale.
But as I came back to DKC over the years, again and again at certain points, something stuck out to me about this song. It not only seemed to capture the melodious and beautiful nature of exploring an underwater environment, there seemed to be an undercurrent (to use a pun) of sadness coming from the composition. Like something was lost, or taken, and had to be regained through perilous adventure. I know that's me reading too deeply into a classic of 16-bit music, but that's what I always came away with every time I listened to this song. And whenever I felt at a loss about things, whether it was about who I was growing up to be, or things that I felt that I missed out on, I always felt like this tune was playing in my head.
It's now been 20 years since I originally played Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo and the game still holds up very well as a platforming classic. I even played a few levels, including the one that plays the song I'm talking about here, just before I started writing this entry. It's still an amazing game with a unique, stylized look that should be played by anyone who wants to enjoy a great platformer and have a fun experience. Perhaps you'll listen to Aquatic Ambience and come away with a different feeling than I take from it, but I think anyone can still just appreciate it for being a great piece of amazingly made music from a wonderful era in gaming.
And it would be a sin if I didn't mention the amazing cover of this song by the extraordinarily talented Smooth McGroove. I think I might even prefer his cover of the song over the original!