2 Decades Late

Donkey Kong Country

The quest to play Super Nintendo titles for the first time and review them has taken me to some pretty fun titles. As can be evidenced by my last entry in this series, which happened to fall on Review a Bad Game Day, I have also run into some stinkers. I decided, this week, to play a game I have seen played many times, but never played myself. Donkey Kong and friends burst onto the SNES with what some think is one of the greatest platformers of all time. If there is one thing I hope that I have made abundantly clear in my time here at the Castle, it is that I do not care what some think. For that matter, I don’t care what most think. I must see for myself. So, Donkey Kong Country, let’s dance.

Immediately upon turning on the game, I am impressed. There is a very fun opening sequence featuring the great theme music of this game. We are off to a great start. My first real issue with the game comes early but it is nothing the game itself can be faulted for. You are thrown directly into gameplay with no explanation of who your enemy is or what your quest is for. I have to imagine that this was all thoroughly explained in the manual. You see, kids, back in MY day, games came with manuals. The manual told you what the buttons did, but they also usually gave you a pretty extensive back story as to who was who and why this game exists. We didn’t sit through 45 minutes of cut scenes before the game started to find that out. Not having a manual, I lose all of that. Back to the game though.

I was really stunned as to how beautiful this game was, especially on the SNES. They did that odd magical thing where they made 2D sprites seem to be 3D. It was bright and vibrant. Even the pallet swap enemies seemed unique. The animations were fantastic and I found myself lost in each world, just drinking in the beauty and admiring what had to be painstaking work to create such amazing environments. Some levels even evolve as you progress in them. For example, I noticed in one of the early levels that the level gradually turned to nighttime as I progressed through it. That is amazing.

The audio is all very well done here as well. The soundtrack for each level is appropriate for the environments. The sound effects are very fun. They also weren’t lazy with them. For example, there are many different types of barrels you can smash. They each have a unique sound effect so that my barrel full of TNT doesn’t sound the same as say, my standard wooden barrel. Details, people. It’s all in the details. They nailed them here.

Donkey Kong Country

Well, I seem to have a rhino. Yes, you are screwed.

Let us discuss the most important aspect of a platformer, the gameplay. I should start by at least mentioning the genius of this concept. What if they had kept Donkey Kong as a princess stealing, barrel throwing bad guy? What if he essentially became Wreck-It Ralph? The character would probably have faded into lore. By making him the hero of a new franchise, we got someone we knew doing something we didn’t expect. Genius. The game plays wonderfully. It is easy to control, but it is still challenging. Having the blast barrels launching you around the screen is just plain fun. Collecting bananas instead of coins is another stroke of genius. It’s funny, you see, because he is of the banana eating kind. The bad guys don’t look like they will be challenging but always seem to catch you napping. There is a nice variety of levels. Even the dreaded water level which brings me to my question. Are the Kongs amphibious and I didn’t know about it? They definitely do not require air underwater. Come to think of it, neither did Mario. Sonic did though. I smell a conspiracy…

You also got to uncover animal friends for Donkey and Diddy. I know they have names, but they don’t tell you what they are in gameplay so I liked the rhino a lot. It was fun to just barrel through (no pun intended) knocking everyone out of your way. Also a fun aspect of this game was the amount of secrets and hidden things to uncover. It adds a lot of replay value. I imagine that a lot of schoolyard conversations went on where one friend would tell another about a secret room he found, causing the friend to rush home to find it. That sort of thing tells me that the developers really cared about their finished product.

I was very impressed with DKC. Even now I think it holds up among other platformers that came out after it did. I have heard many speak of this game in high regard over the years and they were right to do so. If you are looking for a copy, the current going price for a loose cartridge is around $15. Unless, of course, you have some other means…