David Wise

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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 ones 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. He found out beforehand that he could learn music by ear. However, he still received piano lessons. 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. This, coincidentally, was an identical fashion as to how Takeaki Kunimoto became a video game musician.

The first game Wise worked on was also the first NES game developed outside of Japan, Slalom. To create music for the NES, Wise had to learn to program the music using hexadecimal numbers for notation, as was required by Rare's sound driver. Wise has said that he was confined to the two square waves, triangle, and noise channels of the NES' RP2A03, as the company didn't have the space to use the DPCM channel's sound sampling capabilities. While some of Rare's NES games did use this feature, Wise never used it himself.

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. In addition, besides Nintendo, many other companies contracted Rare to develop games for them. However, most of these games were rushed by said publishers, resulting in poorly executed games. Usually, Mark Betteridge and other Rare staff handled sound effects, while Wise handled music. Wise said he was sometimes required to do an entire soundtrack in a week, working twelve-hour shifts seven days a week. He worked on all of Rare's soundtracks up until the SNES era when Rare hired other composers and sound designers, in which Wise would usually work alongside them. Some of these composers include Grant Kirkhope, Graeme Norgate, and Eveline Fischer. 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. He also has a video series on YouTube through the DK Creations Ltd. channel called SoundsWise.

Audio Development

According to Wise, regarding his NES music, he would get inspiration from Japanese-developed games, mostly from Nintendo and Jaleco. This explains why he rarely used arpeggios in his music like other Western chiptune musicians did. Most of Wise's musical style consists of many elements ranging from classical, hard rock, and jazz.

His musical style is also similar to that of Hideki Kanazashi's.


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.

On another occasion, Wise said the samples may have been sourced from a Roland D110 or an Emu synthesizer.

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

Game Boy

Wise used the same exact method as with his NES music; he used hexadecimal numbers for notation using a driver by Chris Stamper. The driver was most likely expanded by Mark Betteridge.

Game Boy Advance

Wise used Rare's custom sound engine.


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 went into a little more detail in an interview:

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 learn it by ear.

Despite various publishers rushing Rare to make games quickly, Wise said he was never given a set time limit depending on the publisher, and instead worked a week straight getting the music done. Wise stated on rare occasions, he would be given two weeks, but was never aware of the deadlines given to the Rare staff by the publishers.

According to Rare graphic artist Kev Bayliss, Wise would demonstrate his compositions for him using his synthesizers. Kev talked about this in his video about his work on Cobra Triangle.

While Wise stated that the company did not have the luxury of using PCM, Wise did so with Battletoads and Battletoads & Double Dragon, in which PCM drums are used in some songs, most notably, the pause music (which Wise did not write).

David also used many synthesizers to assist him in creating music for the NES. These included a Roland Alpha Juno 1 and a Roland TR-707 drum machine.


At about 7:55 in this video, Wise explained that he was trying to make the music sound like 80's synthesizer music, and did his best to adapt it to the NES.


While many SNES developers had more accessible music tool to develop SNES music, Rare's SNES sound driver still required the use of hexadecimal notation. 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 Mark Betteridge and Philip Wattis.

The samples for Aquatic Ambience in Donkey Kong Country were taken from a Korg Wavestation. Wise spent five weeks writing the song, as he was experimenting with the keyboard.

Marshall Parker also used identical Roland sound samples.


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 from computer versions and Louie Louie by The Kingsmen.
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 Yukihiko Kitahara's music from Cabal (ARC).
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 Marble Madness (ARC).
1989-03-?? World Games (NES)
1989-07-?? Cobra Triangle (NES)
1989-07-?? Sesame Street ABC (NES)
Arranged Sesame Street Theme by Joe Raposo.
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) Credited as Rare Ltd.
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 Pinbot (PBL).
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 NARC (ARC).
1990-08-?? Time Lord (NES)
1990-09-?? Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warship (NES)
1990-10-?? A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES)
Arranged One, Two, Freddy's Coming For You.
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) (バトルトード) 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 High Speed (PBL).
1991-10-?? Pirates! (NES)
Arranged Ken Lagace's music from Pirates! (C64).
1991-10-?? Super R.C. Pro-Am (GB)
1991-11-?? Battletoads (GB)
1991-11-?? Sesame Street 123 ABC (NES)
1992-??-?? X the Ball (ARC)
1992-??-?? Battletoads (AMI) 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 Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat (ARC).
1992-12-?? R.C. Pro-Am II (NES)
1993-??-?? Battletoads (GG) (バトルトード) 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) Arranged by Mark Knight.
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)
2000-06-06 Croc (GBC) Two sound effects from Donkey Kong Land (GB)
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 Scanner (NES)
Unreleased Super Battletoads (SNES)
Unreleased Super Battletoads (GB)
Unreleased Battletoads (GBA)
Unreleased Wasumi's Dream Adventure (W64)


Most of Wise's early works omit staff rolls, as it was a company policy of Rare to prevent developers from being hired. However, few games would credit him as D. Wise to obscure his first name.

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.

While not an alias, in the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Wise's name is spelled in katakana; デビッド ワイズ (Debiddo Waizu).

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