David Wise

From Video Game Music Preservation Foundation Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
David Wise
Dave Wise - 01.jpg
Born ca. 1967
Birth Place Leicester, England
Nationality English   England.svg
  • D. Wise
  • Dave Wise
  • Rare Ltd
  • デビッド ワイズ (David Wise)
  • David
  • D W
Website www.davidwise.co.uk/

David Wise is an English video game musician, and is one of the most popular in the industry. He is known for composing music to many popular games such as the Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, and Wizards & Warriors series. His best known song is probably Aquatic Ambiance from Donkey Kong Country (SNES), which he says took him an entire month to write.

Wise's passion for music started around when he was 8 years old and his older brother was taking piano lessons. Due to fairness, he had to wait until he was his brother's age until he could get piano lessons, too. He then found out beforehand that he could learn music by ear, but he also ended up getting piano lessons as well. He also learned how to play the trumpet around then and eventually joined a brass band. When he was 14, he had a paper route and used his earnings to save up for a drumkit. After buying the drumkit, he joined a band.

Later, Wise started working at a music shop, working in the drum department until a Yamaha CX5 arrived at the store. He learned how to create music on it. He demonstrated the computer to many customers which led to the sales of many of them. One day, Rare's founders Chris and Tim Stamper came into the music shop and asked Wise to demonstrate the computer for them. While David was doing so, he was playing his own compositions. Chris and Tim were mesmerized by his music so instead of buying the computer, they offered Wise a job at their company, Rare, as a sound composer, and Wise accepted their offer.

Wise's first work of video game music was Slalom on the NES in 1987, the first game for the platform to be developed outside of Japan. Wise felt confined to writing game music on the NES because not only did he have to go from writing MIDI files on music computers to programming the music in hex code, but he also had only four channels to work with on the NES' soundchip. The fifth channel which used digitized audio, Wise couldn't use because the company didn't have the luxury of cartridge space. Though some of Rare's games used digitized audio, Wise was not responsible for them.

During Rare's NES development, they usually handled arcade conversions, so Wise had to take the challenges of learning the original arcade's music by ear and replicate a good 8-bit conversion which he was always successful in doing. David composed the music for over 40 NES titles, which is probably more than any other NES composer. He worked on all of Rare's NES soundtracks until the SNES era when Rare hired other composers and sound designers, in which Wise would usually work alongside them. Most of Wise's musical style consists of many elements ranging from classical, hard rock, and jazz. Wise stayed with Rare up until 2009 when the company was acquired by Microsoft. Wise also cited major changes to the company as his reason for his departure. Wise still continues to create video game music to this day, and he likes to use Cubase and Pro Tools for his music.

Music Development


For the Battletoads arcade game, Wise wrote the music in assembly hex code and sampled his instruments from a Roland U-110 and Korg Wavestation, but composed the songs on an Roland MT-32. The music was then converted to Brian Schmidt's sound driver, as he invented the BSMT2000 sound chip which was used in the game.

Wise most likely used the same method for X The Ball.


According to Wise:

I remember getting my DX21 - and copying and adapting the data to work on the YM2612 soundchip. There was definitely some scripting involved for me. I can't remember the details vividly. I remember that the DX21 data needed a bit of coaxing to get it to play nicely on the MD. I believe the sound engine was part of the SEGA SDK.


From David Wise's OCRemix interview:

There was no MIDI, instead, notes were entered data style into a PC. I typed in hex numbers for pitch and length and a few commands for looping subroutines. And this method of writing video game music continued right through to the end of the SNES development.

David also had this to say about how exactly he composed on the NES:

The way it worked, I would use HEX numbers (16 numbers, 0-F) writing in one number for the pitch of the note and one for the length. For example “81,08”– where 81 would be a low c on the keyboard, followed by a length of 8 units. We had certain codes and routines which enabled us to do pitch bends, etc. From memory I think there were two variable pulse waves, a triangle wave and a noise channel for creating the sound tracks/FX. There was also a way to play back very crude samples, but we never had the luxury of that much memory.

According to Wise, Chris Stamper programmed the first version of the sound driver, and a later version of the same driver was programmed by Mark Betteridge. For the arcade conversions, he was sometimes given sheet music for the original arcade music, but other times wasn't, and had to painstakingly learn it by ear.

Wise presumably used an identical approach for his Game Boy music.


Wise wrote in 65C816 assembly machine code using hexadecimal notation, similar to his NES music. His instruments for his SNES music and the Battletoads arcade were sampled from the Korg Wavestation and Roland U-110 sound modules. He wrote his music in the text editor called Brief. The sound driver was originally programmed by Chris Stamper and later reprogrammed by Philip Wattis.


Released Title Sample Notes
1986-10-17 Vs. Slalom (ARC)
1987-08-?? Slalom (NES)
1987-12-?? Wizards and Warriors (NES) (伝説の既視エルロンド)
1988-??-?? California Games (NES) Arranged Chris Grigg's music.
1988-02-?? R.C. Pro-Am (NES)
1988-09-?? Jeopardy! (NES)
Arranged Merv Griffin's Jeopardy! Theme.
1988-09-?? Wheel of Fortune (NES)
Arranged Merv Griffin's Changing Keys.
1988-11-?? Anticipation (NES)
1989-??-?? Cabal (NES) Arranged music from the arcade version.
1989-??-?? John Elway's Quarterback (NES)
Arranged Sam Powell's music from Quarterback (ARC).
1989-??-?? WWF Wrestlemania (NES)
Arranged wrestler themes.
1989-01-?? Sesame Street 123 (NES)
1989-02-?? Taboo: The Sixth Sense (NES)
1989-03-?? Marble Madness (NES)
Arranged Hal Canon and Brad Fuller's music from the arcade version.
1989-03-?? World Games (NES)
Arranged Steve Mage and Jeff Webb's music.
1989-07-?? Cobra Triangle (NES)
1989-07-?? Sesame Street ABC (NES)
1989-08-?? Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (NES)
1989-09-?? Hollywood Squares (NES) Arranged Stormy Sacks theme song from the TV show.
1989-09-?? Who Framed Roger Rabbit (NES)
1989-10-?? Jeopardy!: Junior Edition (NES)
Arranged Merv Griffin's Jeopardy! Theme.
1989-10-?? Wheel of Fortune: Junior Edition (NES)
Arranged Merv Griffin's Changing Keys.
1989-12-?? Ironsword: Wizards and Warriors II (NES)
1989-12-?? Silent Service (NES)
1990-??-?? The Amazing Spider-Man (GB)
1990-??-?? Arch Rivals: A Basket Brawl! (NES) Arranged Dan Forden's music from the arcade version.
1990-01-?? Fortress of Fear: Wizards & Warriors X (GB)
1990-03-?? Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition (NES)
1990-04-?? Double Dare (NES) Arranged Edd Kalehoff's theme song from the TV show.
1990-04-?? Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off Road (NES)
Arranged Sam Powell's music from the arcade version.
1990-04-?? Pinbot (NES) Arranged Chris Granner's music from the pinball machine.
1990-06-?? Captain Skyhawk (NES)
1990-06-?? Jeopardy!: 25th Anniversary Edition (NES)
Arranged Merv Griffin's Jeopardy! Theme.
1990-07-?? Snake Rattle N Roll (NES)
1990-08-?? NARC (NES)
Arranged Brian Schmidt's music from the arcade version.
1990-08-?? Time Lord (NES)
1990-09-?? Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warship (NES)
1990-10-?? A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES)
1990-10-?? Super Glove Ball (NES)
1990-11-?? WWF Wrestlemania Challenge (NES) (WWFレッスルマニアチャレンジ プロレスゲーム) Arranged wrestler themes.
1990-12-?? Digger T. Rock: The Legend of the Lost City (NES)
1991-??-?? Battletoads (GEN) Composer; Music arranged by Hikoshi Hashimoto.
1991-??-?? WWF Superstars (GB) (WWFスーパースターズ)
1991-05-?? Marble Madness (GB)
1991-06-?? Battletoads (NES) (バトルトード)
1991-07-?? High Speed (NES) Arranged Bill Parod and Steve Ritchie's music from the pinball machine.
1991-10-?? Pirates! (NES)
Arranged Ken Lagace's music from the C64 version.
1991-10-?? Super R.C. Pro-Am (GB)
1991-11-?? Battletoads (GB)
1991-11-?? Sesame Street 123 ABC (NES)
Arranged Joe Raposo's Sesame Street Theme.
1992-??-?? X the Ball (ARC)
1992-??-?? Battletoads (AMI) Composer; Music arranged by Mark Knight.
1992-??-?? Championship Pro-Am (GEN)
1992-01-?? Beetlejuice (GB)
1992-01-?? Beetlejuice (NES)
1992-03-?? Wizards and Warriors III - Kuros: Visions of Power (NES)
1992-08-?? Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat (NES) Arranged Sam Powell's music from the arcade version.
1992-12-?? R.C. Pro-Am II (NES)
1993-??-?? Battletoads (GG) Composer; Music arranged by Hikoshi Hashimoto.
1993-??-?? Battletoads in Ragnarok's World (GB)
1993-??-?? Snake Rattle n Roll (GEN)
1993-08-?? Battletoads and Double Dragon (NES)
1993-??-?? Battletoads In Battlemaniacs (SNES)
1993-02-19 Battletoads and Double Dragon (GEN)
1993-10-?? Battletoads and Double Dragon (SNES)
1993-12-?? Battletoads and Double Dragon (GB)
1994-??-?? Battletoads (ARC)
1994-??-?? Battletoads (CD32)
1994-11-25 Donkey Kong Country (SNES) (スーパードンキーコング)
1994-12-?? Monster Max (GB)
1995-06-?? Donkey Kong Land (GB) (スーパードンキーコングGB)
1995-12-?? Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
1996-09-?? Donkey Kong Land 2 (GB)
1996-11-?? Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES)
1997-11-14 Diddy Kong Racing (N64) (ディディーコングレーシング)
1999-11-22 Mickey's Racing Adventure (GBC)
2000-11-04 Donkey Kong Country (GBC)
2002-09-23 Star Fox Adventures (GC) (スターフォックスアドベンチャー)
2004-11-15 Donkey Kong Country 2 (GBA)
2004-12-07 It's Mr. Pants (GBA)
2005-11-07 Donkey Kong 3 (GBA)
2007-02-25 Diddy Kong Racing DS (NDS)
2008-09-05 Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise (NDS)
2008-10-01 War World: Tactical Combat (X360)
2012-??-?? Tengami (IOS)
2013-05-02 Sorcery! (IOS)
2014-02-21 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (WIIU)
2015-03-25 Star Drift (IOS)
2016-03-10 Star Ghost (WIIU) Re-used from Star Drift (IOS)
2017-03-28 Snake Pass (W64)
2017-04-11 Yooka-Laylee (W64)
2018-05-04 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (SW)
2019-10-08 Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (W64)
2020-08-10 Tamarin (W64)
Unreleased Card Sharks (NES) Composer?
Unreleased Super Password (NES) Composer?
Unreleased Family Feud: Unreleased Version (NES) Composer?
Unreleased Classic Concentration: Unreleased Version (NES) Composer?
Unreleased The Price is Right (NES) Composer?
Unreleased Roller Thrasher (NES) Composer?
Unreleased Exterminator (NES) Composer?
Unreleased Super Battletoads (SNES)
Unreleased Super Battletoads (GB)
Unreleased Battletoads (GBA)
Unreleased Wasumi's Dream Adventure (W64)


To prevent their staff being hired by other companies, Rare obscured their employees' first names from staff rolls, with only the employee's first initial + last name shown (D. Wise).

For Wizards & Warriors II, Wise was credited under the moniker Rare Ltd. This was most likely due to Zippo Games being the developer, and the company outsourcing their sound to Rare. In addition, they probably received the music files from some random Rare employee, and the music code either didn't have it, or they didn't bother to check the music code for Wise's name.

Picture Gallery