Donkey Kong Country – Super Nintendo
Platform: Super Nintendo
Developer: Rare Ltd.
Release Date: November 25, 1994
Nerd Rating: 10/10
Reviewed by ChronoSloth
Donkey Kong Country needs no introduction. It’s the second best selling SNES game of all time, second only to Super Mario World whose sales are boosted since it was bundled with the system at launch. Nerd Bacon even has two previous reviews of this game (so far). It is a wonderful platformer with satisfying, varied gameplay, interesting and immersive levels, impressive pre-rendered graphics, and is the first outing of the charming, tie-wearing new Donkey Kong (grandson of THE girder climbing, barrel throwing Donkey Kong) and his eager hero in training best pal Diddy Kong. If no one has convinced you of this game’s inherent greatness or to play it yet, allow me to make my best attempt.
The star of this stellar adventure, Donkey Kong (III), entrusts the overnight guarding of his banana hoard to his little buddy Diddy Kong. This may have been more of a shirking of responsibility than a test of heroism as Donkey Kong described it, and it leads to the devastating ransacking of DK’s bananas by reptiles, along with the imprisonment of Diddy Kong in a barrel (that the Kremling’s apparently conveniently labeled “DK”). Cranky Kong (the original arcade Donkey Kong, now a senior) informs Donkey Kong of the horrific event after the fact, reveling in his sorrow and calling him a bum for abandoning his post. Infuriated, Donkey Kong ventures out to save his friend, and get back every last banana. Always one to break the fourth wall, Cranky Kong states that the game’s plot is pretty thin, there’s no damsel in distress, and there would be no way it could surpass his own quarter guzzling classic. While the Donkey Kong arcade game couldn’t be topped in terms of influence, Donkey Kong Country proved to be pretty revolutionary itself, and a very fun game.
As Donkey Kong Country is a platformer, it’s safe to assume that you’ll be jumping over and onto platforms and enemies and collecting items. What makes DKC special is the sheer variety found in gameplay mechanics and the game’s expertly designed, secret laden levels. Barrels have been part of the Donkey Kong brand before bananas, and they return here. “DK” barrels free Donkey or Diddy if you’ve lost either one of them by being touched or attacked by enemies (having both Kongs allows you take two hits before losing a life, taking a hit means losing that Kong). Wooden barrels break on impact, and can be used to take out enemies or blast open cracks in the level to access secret areas. Steel barrels roll unhindered until they disappear, taking out everything in their path. TNT barrels explode on impact and will take out tougher enemies. There are also animal friends that you’ll find trapped in crates in levels who will be more than willing to give the Kongs a lift for freeing them. These include Rhambi the rhino, Expresso the ostritch, Engarde the swordfish, and Winky the frog. These uniquely talented animals are never required to finish levels, but they make finding secrets and trekking to the finish line much easier.
Collecting 100 bananas will give the Kongs an extra life, and balloons also grant instant lives. The letters K, O, N, and G are also scattered throughout each level (excluding bosses) that will grant 1 life. Collecting three golden animal tokens will allow you to play a mini-game with the animal where every 100 mini-tokens collected grants a life, and there are even secrets in these areas. Finding secret areas in levels is the key to keeping a high number of lives, if you aren’t cheating or grinding early levels for easy 1-ups. The game encourages you to keep these lives high and collect these items by being quite difficult. Donkey Kong Country isn’t quite as brutal as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but it is certainly no slouch. There will be death, but stay determined. DKC requires you to have good reflexes, but patience in equal measure. Don’t jump to a platform before it’s slid to a comfortable distance from you. Don’t shoot out of rocket barrels before those spiny bees are completely out of the way. Keep your lives high and your will strong, and you’ll come out of DKC with pride.
You may have noticed that Donkey Kong Country looks quite different from other Super Nintendo games you’ve seen. This is all thanks to the use of ACM (advanced computer modeling) for pre-rendered graphics. This is one of the first instances of pre-rendered 3D graphics on a popular home system, later seen extensively used on the PS1 in games like Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil. It was mind blowing for its time, but is still easy on the eyes and extremely charming thanks to the actual excellent art itself. Levels are lush and detailed, with plenty of inspired reptile enemies to bash. The animations for our monkey heroes during celebration, defeat, and normal gameplay are memorable and pleasing.
Aiding to the realization of the game’s beautiful world is the excellent original soundtrack by David Wise. Many songs from the game feature ambient noise that one would find in the jungles of DK Isle. Whether it be the foreboding tune found in Donkey Kong Country’s caves complete with the sound of water dripping from the moist ceilings, or the serene, yet tense track played when traversing the underwater segments, the music always perfectly complements the setting. While I prefer some over others, every song in the game is excellent. No jingle may ever be as catchy or recognizable as the Super Mario Bros. theme, but DK Island Swing is the closest any platformer song can hope to get.
From the cutscene in the beginning where Donkey Kong blasts onto the scene with his boombox playing an updated version of the arcade Donkey Kong theme to the second battle with K.Rool after his fake out death, and onto the cast and crew credits sequence, Donkey Kong Country is a classic, and a platforming masterpiece that excels in gameplay, level design, humor, presentation, and falls short nowhere. It stands tall, beating its chest, as a must-play title for anyone looking for great platforming or to appreciate video game history and is proof of 90’s Rare’s skill and genius.
Share This Post