I love flowing water and it was my old dream to make something like this. Finally I've made it in a form of a bg for a platformer. Tools: Photoshop 4-frame water animation. 8 frames total for crazy-super-sonic-badly-animated-birds. )
Mostly by the tone and saturation. Background can't have light tones above certain level. White is absolutely forbidden. This particular work might brake the rule, I don't remember paying attention to this aspect in this work. Because it wasn't really intended to be used in a certain game. The waterfalls and jungle trees stand far too much, from my metroidvania world.
You are a master pixel artist! Also, I think I see a giant bird head in the middle of the sky (not the flying birds in the right). Was that intentional? Either way it's really really cool. Oh, and one of the ground bushes looks like a raccoon! Ok, I think I'm seeing animals everywhere.