The truth behind GoldenEye 007’s “uncompressed” soundtrack
Chances are you may have seen the internet explode when YouTube user Video Game Tracks uploaded original, “uncompressed” tracks from the soundtrack to revolutionary 1997 Nintendo 64 first-person shooter, GoldenEye 007.
The versions of “Archives,” “Bunker,” “Cradle,” “Frigate,” “Perimeter,” “Statue” and “Streets” you’ll hear in that YouTube video will be noticeably clearer and crisper than the heavily compressed compositions we ended up hearing on the original cartridge.
The video spread like wildfire online, with websites like FACT, Consequence of Sound, IBTimes UK and Polygon reporting on it and marveling at how much better the music sounds when it’s not constrained by N64 architecture.
The tracks themselves indeed sound amazing, and give the tunes we’re so used to a breath of new life. Unfortunately though, as is the case when it comes to a lot of internet phenomena, there was a bit of misinformation being spread regarding the origin of these tracks.
FACT claims that “the obsessives at Video Game Tracks have uploaded the entire soundtrack, uncompressed for the first time.” The issue here is that these tracks are neither uncompressed, nor is it the entire game’s soundtrack, which is considerably longer than the proclaimed “28 minutes of music” that is featured in the upload.
It was also erroneously reported by Consequences of Sound that Video Game Tracks had ripped these files from the game’s cartridge, which was revealed to be untrue by none other than the game’s main composer, Grant Kirkhope.
Kirkhope cleared the air surrounding these tracks on Facebook, explaining that these files were not uncompressed and had been available for streaming on his personal website for years before Video Game Tracks uploaded them to YouTube.
“It’s not uncompressed. When I first started working on the game I didn’t have an N64 dev kit so I just recorded the music straight out of my mixer onto DAT. That’s why there’s only a few tunes at full quality as I stopped writing this way when my dev kit turned up. After that I had to re sample all the instruments down to the lowest quality I could get away with without it sounding too terrible to fit it in the tiny memory space I was allocated!”
Asking him about the recently enormous reaction to these tracks, Kirkhope, who coincidentally is celebrating his birthday today, previously told me he had assumed everyone already knew about them. “All of a sudden this is getting everywhere. Weird ….I’ve had these on my website for years!”
Kirkhope sheds more light on the creation of these tracks on his website:
“GoldenEye was my first big title at Rare(although I didn’t know it at the time!) When I first got there in October 1995 I was put to work on the Donkey Kong 2 conversion from SNES to Gameboy. I got this out of the way quite quickly and was then asked if I’d like to help out on GoldenEye as Graeme Norgate was doing Blast Corps at the same time and was really busy. I knew we had the license to use the original Monty Norman theme so I got started. It was immense fun to write that video games music,I don’t know how many times I listened to all the past theme tunes from the movies, probably hundreds. It was the first time I’d had to do any sound design too, finding lots of gun shots and over the top ricochets was obviously my first task!”
When speaking with Kirkhope at E3 2015 about the possibility of a Bandcamp release of GoldenEye 007’s soundtrack, which was also co-composed by Graeme Norgate and Robin Beanland, Kirkhope dismissed the idea, explaining that James Bond franchise holders Eon are too litigious and film composer Monty Norman is very protective of his things. A release of that soundtrack would prove to be quite a licensing quagmire.
So there you have it. These uploaded tracks are not uncompressed by any means, they are the only GoldenEye 007 tracks created in this manner and they’ve been dwelling on the internet for quite some time now. Right under a lot of fans’ (including this one’s) noses, no less.
Posted on July 10, 2015 by Patrick Kulikowski. Last modified on July 13, 2015.