Perfect Dark Dual CD Soundtrack
Perfect Dark Dual CD Soundtrack
Nintendo of America
November 15, 2000
Buy Used Copy
Developed by the same team as GoldenEye, Perfect Dark took listeners on a sci-fi adventure with new protagonist Joanna Dark. Though its storyline was a little disjointed, the game delighted as a whole with its addictive gameplay and wonderful presentation. The score for the title was a large part of the appeal — complementing the scenery and action with its rich soundscapes, enhancing the interactivity with its dynamic transitions, and, above all, making the experience all the more attractive with its memorable melodies. The Perfect Dark Dual CD Soundtrack is a full soundtrack release for the title that was available through Nintendo of America’s score. The music proves just as enjoyable for stand-alone listening as it does as an accompaniment to the game.
Graeme Norgate’s theme for the first stage “DataDyne Central: Defection” sets the tone for the entire soundtrack. Many elements of the composition resemble Norgate’s previous work on GoldenEye, from the slow-building bottom-up development, to the appearance of various melodic fragments, to the overall tense atmosphere tinged with heroism. However, the soundscaping is somewhat mellower to represent the feminine protagonist and electronic rather than rock fusions are offered to emphasise the futuristic sci-fi setting. Furthermore, there are major improvements to the synthesis and the samples, while not hyper-realistic, bring plenty of subtle moods and emotions to the game. With elements of danger and moments of revelation, the entire composition is an excellent fit for climbing a futuristic skyscraper of a corrupt corporation.
The rest of the stage themes, most of which were created by Grant Kirkhope, develop the foundations set by Norgate. For instance, the themes for the other two missions in DataDyne Central continue to capture the nature of the building with deep electro-acoustic soundscapes, while representing novel aspects of the gameplay. Investigation captures a feeling of infiltration with its various catchy piano grooves, though still reflects the danger and importance of the situation with a rousing military interlude. The epic opening riff of Extraction meanwhile is perfect for representing the descent into darkness and the soundscaping thereafter is perfect for exploring the eerie and chaotic twilight. In each case, Kirkhope nevertheless ensures the compositions are still attractive for stand-alone listening with rich timbres and catchy hooks.
Though all the stage themes on Perfect Dark are highly enjoyable, some stand out as particularly exceptional. “Chicago: Stealth” is a beautiful complement to the rainy cityscape with its downbeat opening motif and only immerses further as it develops to incorporate a wailing synth lead and a Collins-esque drum beat. The melodic treatment here is also especially expansive, capturing the inherent lyricism that featured throughout Kirkhope’s Banjo works within a much darker mood. Whereas this portrayal is filled with humanity, “Area 51: Rescue” stands out as more alien with its eerie suspended vocals and slow-building development, being one of the most defining sci-fi tracks in the score. “Airbase: Espionage”, on the other hand, embellishes the militaristic component of the score, developing from its heavy orchestral opening into a vast and rousing nationalistic anthem.
One of the most interesting features of the soundtrack is that each stage theme actually has two variations, the main versions used during most exploration and the so-called X versions used during the action-packed climaxes of each mission (usually a showdown or escape). The transition has a wonderful interactive effect in the game — enhancing the drama and pumping the listener in a way that visual elements alone cannot. The arrangements themselves generally achieve that by increasing the tempo, thickening the texture, emphasising the melodies, and adding pulsating beats to the original tracks. Though the variations are a little similar in nature, they’re still delightful for stand-alone listening, given they emphasise Kirkhope’s strong melodies and are so rhythmically compelling. In the Perfect Dark Dual CD Soundtrack, these variations are actually featured on the same track with a shift in the last third.
“Carrington Institute” is an exception to the ‘two variations’ approach and there are actually three arrangements for different contexts. The first arrangement is used for the game’s training area and is mellow yet downbeat; the melody becomes all the more immersive as its develops through memorable new passages above increasingly elaborate accompaniment. It makes an action-packed yet heroic variation for a surprising climactic mission in the game — where the institute is overrun aliens — as well as a final beat-heavy arrangement. Just as the institute is the central location of the game, it seems fitting that its music develops to be a main theme of sorts with these variations. Its arrangement for the end credits theme solidifies its iconic status with its delightful guitar melodies and ecstatic beats, easily remaining the most superficially enjoyable entry of the entire album.
While the stage themes are the main highlight of the album, there is plenty of other music featured across the second disc of the soundtrack. Grant Kirkhope’s final battle theme incorporates all sorts of thematic and stylistic references into a single track, featuring everything from science-fiction to horror to military elements. The composer always puts his all into final battle themes and this is perhaps his best. David Clynick, in addition to contributing the superb bittersweet theme for the penultimate mission “Attack Ship: Covert Assault”, contributes a range of suitably moody event music for the title. His crowning achievement is likely the ending theme “Alien Conflict”, which captures a sense of victory with its liberating beats and melodic recapitulations; however, the eerie sci-fi vibes throughout also reflect that the drama is not over, paving the way for his contributions on Perfect Dark Zero.
Ten years on, the soundtrack for Perfect Dark is still very impressive. Although it has been surpassed in recent years in terms of production values and dramatic underscoring, very few scores offer such rich and interactive complements to the missions. Furthermore, the score is highly enjoyable on a stand-alone basis with its memorable melodies and immersive soundscapes. The soundtrack release is complete and impeccably presented, so is highly recommended for those who enjoyed the score in the game. While now out-of-print, the score is available second-hand through various sources.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.