The Binding of Isaac, Cave Story 3D, and crying at poop: an interview with composer Danny B

Above: Cave Story 3D's reveal trailer.

GR: Are there any popular game franchises or titles you want to make music for?

DB: I guess Fallout, but I don’t think I’m the guy to do Fallout. It requires a kind of music I’m not very good at, which is subtle ambient stuff. I redid the music for Cave Story last year, and that was really fun and really cool. If you would ask me a year ago, I would have said Cave Story. Usually I don’t like to re-do people’s music, but in the case of like, a Star Wars game, that would be really cool to work on. But as far as something original… I guess I don’t even think of it like that. All of my influences from back in the day are from games that aren’t around anymore. I’d say Final Fantasy, but Final Fantasy music is fucking awful now. Final Fantasy XIII’s music… I can’t remember one theme from XIII, but I remember everything from VI.

I’d love to do stuff for Tim Schaffer, though. That’d be amazing, but he’s got his guy.

Some people have been making the Tim Burton/Danny Elfman comparison with me and Edmund, and that’s like the best comparison that anyone could ever say. Ever.

GR: It seems like you’re his go-to guy, and I don’t think anyone is going to complain. Now you mentioned doing Cave Story 3DS’s soundtrack – that’s a hefty responsibility. That game is beloved.

DB: I KNOW! I know dude.

GR: Are you worried at all?


GR: The reaction to the changes to the graphics have been nuts. People are like “you can’t change Cave Story! That’s blasphemy!”

DB: I am worried. I mean, but who is going to be commenting the most? Random YouTube comments? So that makes me less worried. And the few things that have been out there have gotten a pretty good reception. When people don’t like it, it seems to be that they don’t like to be the original music, not so much that they think it’s horrible like they did with the WiiWare version. The WiiWare version had a huge backlash because people weren’t feeling the music. I think they learned from that. They gave me more freedom than they gave the other guy. The other guy had to redo it with midis and midi sounds, and that’s difficult to do. In that position I wouldn’t have made a very good soundtrack either.

GR: Like forced retro?

DB: Yeah. More like half-way retro. Like it’s not completely retro, but it’s not new. When it comes to how I did the tracks, it was basically to keep the composition and arrangement the same. Whenever I’d deviate at all Pixel just wasn’t having it, which I completely understand. But I kind of occupy this niche, it’s like 12-bit music. It’s fully, CD quality “real” music that has this old-school sound to it. I think it has to do with the sounds that I choose. Like, the Super Nintendo sound chip is like my favorite sound in the world, you play anything through that chip and I love it.

Above: Cave Story 3D's starting area, which looks like the original's... but in 3D.

GR: Someone did that with the Game of Thrones theme.

DB: I’ll need to hear that.

GR: Well it’s had an uprising recently. I’m sure you’re a big fan of chiptunes, too.

DB: I mean, I like them, but I don’t go to shows. I’m not an aficionado. I’m not comfortable with people calling my music chiptunes, even though sometimes it is. Real chiptunes use specific hardware. I don’t do that. I’m a cheater. I use samples. I’m not a connoisseur. But I definitely like it, I used to listen to Nintendo and Super Nintendo soundtracks when I was a kid, all the time. When I think of how something should sound that’s what I’m drawing from. And I guess that’s why I did so much better in the gameplace than the filmspace. I was better at anticipating what gamers want to hear because I listened to it and loved it for so long.

Hollander Cooper

Hollander Cooper was the Lead Features Editor of GamesRadar+ between 2011 and 2014. After that lengthy stint managing GR's editorial calendar he moved behind the curtain and into the video game industry itself, working as social media manager for EA and as a communications lead at Riot Games. Hollander is currently stationed at Apple as an organic social lead for the App Store and Apple Arcade.