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Donkey Kong Country – Super Nintendo

Donkey Kong Country – Super Nintendo

Platform: Super Nintendo

Developer: Rare Ltd.

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): November 25th, 1994

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Bortch

 

Taking the formula of popular platformers and giving it a gameplay twist, Donkey Kong Country is one of the system’s strongest titles with insane graphics, tight gameplay and the perfect atmosphere. The goal of the game is to explore Donkey Kong Island on DK’s quest to win back his stolen banana horde from the evil King K. Rool and his Kremling (crocodile) minion. Do you need much else from a story like this? DK’s an ape, he likes bananas, bananas gone, DK mad! Like in most old games, the reason for having any shred of a story in your game is to set up the main character’s motives before he goes out into the world and slaughters hundreds of animals, making the story pointless and more of an excuse to have fun than anything, which is good because this game really is all about having fun.

The first thing most players will notice when playing this game are the graphics. Tell me, have you ever seen such detail put into sprites on a 16-bit console? The graphics are so good, I would say they even made SEGA Genesis owners double take when this game came out. All of the environments were beautifully detailed, with at least two layers of backdrops to simulate a 3D perspective in every level. The details on each character are stunning, the Kongs, both Donkey and Diddy looked like actual monkeys in human attire, and all of their actions are smoothly animated. Even the enemies were top notch, with not a single creature looking like it had less work put into it than the rest.  All this beautiful detail, and yet I have never experienced any slow-down with this game like I have with other games in the SNES library. WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?

The graphics are not the only wonderful thing about this game, the music is also great. Did I say great? What I meant was FANTASTIC! There’s a reason Rare Ltd. has always been known for having great music in their games for the Nintendo consoles, and DKC was the start of such a wonderful tradition. The first level’s song has never left my head, in fact, I remember all of the songs perfectly. The music, like the graphics, are some of the best with an insane amount of care put into each track.

While most SNES games sound like they were obviously done in MIDI format, Rare tricks us with what appear to be actual instruments in their music. Every song sounds like it was performed and recorded for this game by a band, and that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Rare even uses ambient sounds in their songs to capture the setting of each location. The jungle levels music have monkeys hallowing at the right time in the song while birds chirp along, the cave levels add dripping water from the ceiling.  Accompanying echos set the mood for vast darkness you’re about to explore; everything about the graphics and sound in this game is perfect.

The “mounts” in DKC don’t appear as often as Yoshi in Super Mario World and are restricted to the stage they are found in, making each moment spent riding on one feel like a reward.

However, a game can’t stand on the merits of its presentation alone, the game itself has to be good or there is no point in playing it. Just at a simple glance, the game looks like it is set up like a typical platformer, nothing too special; but when you actually start playing the game, that’s when you start to take notice of what sets this game apart from the rest. For starters, the game lets you take control of either Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong while the other Kong follows closely behind. When that Kong is hit once, they run away and the trailing Kong becomes the playable character. The only way to get back the other Kong is to break open one of a handful of DK barrels located throughout each level. This system takes the “two hit death” from games like Mario to a whole new level as each Kong plays a little bit different. DK may not be as fast as Diddy, but he’s heavier and can defeat some enemies that Diddy can’t by jumping on their heads; conversely, Diddy may have a harder time taking out some enemies, but he has an easier time navigating difficult platforming areas.

Another difference is that you don’t have to defeat an enemy by jumping on its head, like in most platformers; the characters can also do a somersault or cartwheel, respectively, as a secondary attack option. Barrels can also be located throughout each level and used as throwing weapons at enemies that can’t normally be killed (such as bees). These barrels come in different varieties, each with it’s own unique properties; you can ride on metal barrels to mow through multiple enemies, use DK barrels to release a trapped Kong and defeat a single target, or score a multi-kill with a TNT barrel that explodes on impact. This system replaces a power up system with  single use weapons giving you the option to use it now, or hold onto it for a potential obstacle waiting down the road. The game also has barrel launching segments, portions of the game are strewn with floating barrels that will scroll, rotate or do both once you jump into them. Depending on whether there is an enemy in the way or a bottomless pit to look out for, timing is key in these segments and sometimes it can feel like a cheap difficulty since this part of the game doesn’t focus on platforming so much as timing and a little bit of luck. Luckily, the segments aren’t too long and don’t appear that often so I don’t really think that they take anything away from the game.

Constantly changing game mechanics keep players on their toes while making things feel fresh every few levels.

Each world is based off a different theme, covering all the DK island’s locations with lots of variety and with plenty of unique levels to play in each world. You can expect jungle levels, forest levels, water levels, mine shaft levels, factory levels, temple levels, ice levels, cave levels, the list goes on with each location serving up a different “signature” to each variety of levels. The water level in the jungle world is mostly just a plain reef while the water level in the factory world is labeled “Poison Pond” and features pollution and dangerous spiked cogs to avoid as well as other water level hazards.The boss battles at the end of each world aren’t exactly challenging and some of them are recycled, feeling more like an obligation than a cool feature, but they do serve their purpose of filling the player with accomplishment/progression at their defeat and could be much worse… believe me.

Noticed how I haven’t mentioned anything about the controls? Because they are spot on! Everything controls perfectly and even the multiple different animals you ride on throughout the game control heavenly. Speaking of your animal friends, there is a great variety of them to find and getting hit while riding one has a similar effect to losing Yoshi in Super Mario World; the only problem is that when these animals run, they FUCKING BOLT! You’re not going to catch them again unless they bounce back off a wall, and your reflexes better be fast enough to grab them. Rare realizes that riding your animals friends is a privilege, not a right, and I love it. The game has the perfect learning curve, slowly teaching you little by little, almost subconsciously your brain starts to pick up on patterns and enemy behavior; and as you proceed through the worlds and start getting closer and closer to the end boss, Rare goes from holding your hand to beating you with a dead blue hedgehog, but you’ll be ready when that happens. And that is the definition of great game design.

I even enjoy the water levels; what’s not to like about this game?

Did you read what I said about owning Kirby on the NES? If not you totally should because I am actually very proud of that review. If you did, then you would know that I said that it is a necessity to own it in your NES library. The same can be said about DKC, if you own a Super Nintendo, there are a handful of games that MUST be in your library: Super Mario World, a bunch of other games I will review later, and Donkey Kong Country. This game, like Kirby before it, redefines the standard rules of platforming while looking and sounding excellent in the process. Would you be surprised to know that this is also in my top 20 favorite games of all time? Probably not. Buy this game!

9.0 out of 10

If I had a dollar for every time I told someone they needed to buy a game… I would have a lot because I used to work in video game retail. But how often do you get to say you were shot out of a barrel at a crocodile, sent flying through the air, landed on an barrel that exploded into pixie dust only to pick up a barrel full of TNT and place it right next to a crocodile so you can watch the smirk disappear off his face with your cold, blank, monkey expression while the barrel explodes and sent that croc straight to hell? Probably not very often… unless you’re a monkey and reading this right now. And if that’s the case: take my house, all I ask is that you spare my life when the ape uprising begins and I will be your slave until the day I die. BUY THIS GAME!

Written by Nerd Bacon

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