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Why does GoldenEye 007's iconic watch music sound different on Nintendo Switch than on N64?

UPDATE: It sounds good!

GoldenEye 007
Image credit: Microsoft

UPDATE 27th Jan 2023: GoldenEye 007 is out now and thankfully the watch music is present and correct!

ORIGINAL STORY 26th Jan 2023: GoldenEye 007's watch music is one of the most iconic tracks in video games, a cool beat Bond raised to the screen whenever the player pressed pause.

But those who play GoldenEye 007's soon-to-launch re-release on Nintendo Switch and Xbox may notice the watch music sounds a little different than they remember it did on the N64 back in the 90s.

Here's the GoldenEye 007 Nintendo Switch launch trailer.Watch on YouTube

Yesterday, Nintendo tweeted a clip of the watch music from the Nintendo Switch version of the game. Give it a listen:

Now, listen to the original watch music:

Watch on YouTube

Notice a key difference? As ResetEra's Lady Bow pointed out, the Nintendo Switch version of GoldenEye 007 misses that iconic pitched down cymbal sample, an almost gong noise that helped lend the game an atmospheric edge.

Even ex-Rare composer Graeme Norgate, who worked on GoldenEye 007, noticed the difference and took to Twitter to point it out.

Why has this happened? I asked retro expert John Linneman from Digital Foundry for some insight, and while he stressed he doesn't know the exact details, he did suggest it had to do with emulator issues.

"The thing is, N64 doesn't have an actual sound chip so everything is done in software," Linneman explained.

"So I suppose the emulator simply isn't emulating the sound chip correctly. Older versions of N64 emulators had this issue in the past. It really sounds dire in the NSO version."

What isn't clear right now is whether the Xbox version of GoldenEye 007 suffers from the same issue. As Linneman explained, the Xbox version of GoldenEye 007 will use a different emulator to the Nintendo Switch version, which uses the NSO emulator.

We'll find out tomorrow, 27th January when GoldenEye 007 makes its much-anticipated arrival on Switch as part of its Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership and on Xbox via Game Pass.

Meanwhile, I noticed former Rare composer Grant Kirkhope, who wrote the watch music, tweeted about it last night, and he sounded delighted people are enjoying it all over again.

"It's so bizarre that the GoldenEye pause music has developed a life of its own, something that took me 20 mins to write and I didn't have a clue what I was doing," he said.

Indeed it has, Grant!

Watch on YouTube

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