This is a guest post from DT Majesty, a video game cover artist whose cover of “Wizpig’s Theme” is one of the entries for Pixel Mixers’ February Cover Contest: “90s battles”. This theme from the racing game Diddy Kong Racing would seem to be an unconventional pick, so DT offered to write a guest post explaining his reasoning.
As we begin [editor’s note: end] a new month in the Pixel Mixer community, a new contest is brought upon us. This month, the theme is “Battle Music”. While most people would probably default to an RPG or Fighting game theme, like you’d find in Final Fantasy or Street Fighter, I immediately began to think outside of the box. To me, the music that goes with the final races against Wizpig (from Diddy Kong Racing) should fit the “Battle” theme. However, as Diddy Kong Racing is a kart racing game, most people would not see it that way.
So let’s start with the game itself. How is Diddy Kong Racing (DKR for short) any different gameplay-wise from a game like Mario Kart, F-Zero, or Wave Race? If we look at these games in their most basic form, you can say these are all racing games you can play either by yourself against computers, or go split screen and play against your friends. One thing that makes DKR stand out from these other games is the fact that it has a Story mode to it, rather than just a Grand Prix/Time Trial mode. With this story mode, it plants the seed for the eventual final race, or “battle”, against Wizpig.
But Wait, There’s More
Most racing games have one goal for the player to achieve, and that is to simply win the race. DKR is no exception to this rule, however saying that’s all there is to the game is selling it short. With the story mode, you get introduced to the evil pig-wizard Wizpig. He has taken over the island where the game takes place. This island also happens to be where the main characters of the game hang out and have fun. Your goal for the game is not only to win races, but also to drive (no pun intended) Wizpig out for good.
As you make your way through the game, the courses you play on get progressively more difficult. This allows the player to ready themselves for the few boss fights found in each stage, and also prepares them for the final races against Wizpig.
Something About a Battle
So how do the races against Wizpig differ from any other race? Normally, with most races, when you win, you just get to advance further along in the story by unlocking more tracks. However, with the Wizpig races, there’s actual purpose and incentive to winning the race. If you put yourself into the mind of the game’s characters, your goal is to get rid of Wizpig by any means necessary, which in this case means kart racing. By defeating the evil wizard on his own tracks, you hope that he never returns to mess with the island or it’s inhabitants again. If you lose these races, Wizpig still remains the ruler of the island.
This is where we can start to call these races, “battles”. You must win these races, using all of the skills that you have learned playing through the rest of the game. If you win, you can claim the island back for you and all of the other inhabitants. Once you win the first race, you realize that Wizpig is not done yet, and you must face him one more time, this time with more traps and hazards to try and inhibit you.
As you approach the final race to stop Wizpig, he appears on a rocket which he uses to race against you. You avoid flying rocks, electrical traps, and small caves as you push your way towards first place. If you manage to beat Wizpig, he will be flabbergasted by losing to you. He loses control of his rocket and flies off into space, heading towards a moon. Eventually, he crashes into said moon and the rocket that he rode in on is now demolished, leaving behind a sizeable explosion. Being a Nintendo game, we can’t say that he died in that explosion. However, we can at least come to the conclusion that he has no way of making it back to terrorize the island that you saved.
So how does that compare to any other games typical battles? When you think of a battle, be it large or small, there is usually a set of conditions that happens: before, during, and after.
Before a battle, you are advancing along a path that you must get through to beat the game. That can be a literal path like you would find in Pokemon or other RPGs, or something like in Street Fighter where your “path” is a set group of people/tasks that you must defeat/complete. In the case of DKR, since the “battle” of that game is Wizpig, your “path” can be considered all of the races and bosses you must complete to get to him.
During the battle is pretty self-explanatory. In most games, that means you are faced in combat with an enemy that you must defeat to progress. Same with DKR, you must defeat Wizpig to progress.
After the battle is usually where you are rewarded. In some cases, you may be awarded with some Experience Points, or some type of currency. Sometimes you’ll unlock new items or areas for you to explore. When it comes to DKR, when you defeat Wizpig, your reward is claiming the independence of the island from his evil that he held over the land.
Although it may not be conventional to think of Diddy Kong racing to have a “battle” in it, I believe that you can make a case for this one particular race, even if it is somewhat weak. In fact, I’m sure many of the people reading are probably thinking I put in too much effort just to try and bend the rules my way for this contest. In any case, I will stand by my argument. This is why I believe that Wizpig’s Theme from Diddy Kong Racing should be in consideration for a Battle Theme. It’s not his character theme, and there’s no way to play these tracks outside of the story. It is only when you are battling against Wizpig.
What is a video game battle theme? Do only certain genres of video games have battle themes? Can stage themes or character themes count as battle themes?
The theme for the Pixel Mixers February 2017 Cover Contest is for fan musicians to cover video game music from the ’90s that were used as battle themes. (If you are a musician and would like to participate, click that link for more information about our monthly contests.) But within just a few days of announcing this theme, I received several questions about what counts as a battle theme in a video game.
What are obvious choices for video game battle themes?