Perfect Dark Soundtrack -The Dark Mission-
Perfect Dark Soundtrack -The Dark Mission-
Nintendo of Europe
June 17, 1999
Buy Used Copy
Released as the spiritual successor to GoldenEye at the tail end of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle, when developer Rare could seemingly not go wrong in any of its projects, Perfect Dark pushed the console to its technical limits (and arguably beyond, considering the game’s occasional frame rate problems). Reviews for Perfect Dark were ecstatic, but despite becoming a multimillion seller and the starting point of a new franchise, the game didn’t nearly reach its predecessor’s lofty sales figures, nor did it became as much of a cult hit — likely because the Nintendo 64 was already on its way out, being eclipsed by the next generation of consoles.
As usual for a Rare title of that era, the utmost care was lavished on every aspect of the game’s production, including its soundtrack, which was made available as an impressive double CD release to subscribers of Nintendo of America’s official magazine. Outside of the USA, the score was available only through one of Nintendo of Europe’s many soundtrack releases of the late 1990s, which were soon to become increasingly rare. However, in contrast to previous, more extensive releases, The Dark Mission – Music From The Original Perfect Dark Soundtrack only contained six tracks, three original cues and a remixed version of each. Does the release still warrant a collector’s attention?
The three original cues picked for this soundtrack release do a as well a job in representing the game’s score as one can hope for. “The Dark Mission (Original Version)” skillfully conveys an atmosphere of sneaking through the corridors of a high-tech office building packed with enemies through its muted five-note melody, laid over a rich bed of choir pads and sometimes booming synth percussion instruments. Meanwhile, the accompanying, foreboding low synth drone gives the track an epic feeling and does a great job in hinting at the immense scope of the events about to unfold. In its last third, the piece picks up the pace (mirroring events in the game which cause the onscreen action to intensify) by stripping the cue of its melody, emphasising the percussive elements, and adding some jabbing synths.
“Rain or Die (Original Version)” is even more atmospheric, beginning with a melancholic, rising and falling motif played on a light, plucked instrument. Gloomy strings enter, before a subdued melody is heard on what sounds like a synth woodwind instrument and then on a whistle. The piece becomes more intriguing still when the opening motif is passed to the synth violins, while the deep strings and the whistle play beautiful countermelodies. The composition’s perfect mix of melodic and ambient elements — the piece even incorporates some expertly used rain sound effects — makes this track a joy to listen to.
“The End is the Beginning (Original Version)” provides an unusually subdued atmosphere for an ending titles cue and sets heavy beats against somber choir pads and strings. The dark atmosphere is lifted to a degree by a tinkling melody, before the piece becomes more intense at 1:40 with the additions of abrasive synth stabs and high-pitched string pads. The track’s most fascinating moment soon follows with a short, unsettling passage featuring dissonant choir harmonies. Befitting a composition with such a name, “The End is the Beginning (Original Version)” doesn’t exude a feeling of victorious closure, but rather hints at the existence of still more things hiding in the dark, waiting to be discovered.
What do the remixes then bring to the table? Unfortunately, not much, although this will not come as a surprise to collectors familiar with the remixes that Nintendo of Europe used to garner their releases with. All three remixes are littered with tons of repetitive voice samples and sound effects, which proves highly problematic, considering how much the original pieces relied on their suspenseful, tense atmosphere — which is now mostly destroyed due to the intrusiveness of these new sound elements. “Rain or Die (Utopia Mix)” predictably suffers most from the addition of sound effects to the music’s texture, and the beat added to the composition’s soundscape doesn’t help much, but rather clashes with the moody ambient and melodic layers imported from the track’s original version. The remix does hint at the potential it holds at one time by featuring a more colourful orchestration during its middle-section, when the melody is given to a higher-quality woodwind instrument and a piano. But these changes are not enough to make up for the damage done, and the lengthy, sound effect-laden outro ends the track on a particularly sour note.
The other two cues suffer less from the remix treatment they get, but that’s about the best one can say about them. “The Dark Mission (Joanna’s Dub)” takes the original track’s ambient string and choir layers and marries them to slightly more varied, higher-quality percussion samples — an approach that works reasonably well, without achieving outstanding results (the lighter percussion mixed in at parts works against the composition’s darker overall atmosphere). And while the obnoxious sound effects spliced in are already annoying here, they finally become intolerable on “The End is the Beginning (Club Remix)”, which does away with the original’s lugubrious mood and replaces it with a driving, generic four-on-the-floor beat. The track becomes slightly more interesting when more percussion layers are added, together with ominous sounding choir pads. Again, the remix hints at its potential when its 4/4 beat is juxtaposed against the original track’s beat, creating ear-catching polyrhythms — but that flash of originality soon disappears again after a few seconds.
Essentially, what the collector gets with this soundtrack release are three great compositions one also finds on the complete score release, and three remixes which are largely unnecessary and artistically misguided (just taking out those sound effects would have helped a lot). The remixes do hold some promise, but it goes by unrealised. There’s no reason to seek out this release, unless you’re an absolute completionist. Otherwise, forget about the The Dark Mission – Music From The Original Perfect Dark Soundtrack and seek out the full soundtrack release instead.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Simon Elchlepp. Last modified on August 1, 2012.