By Joe Sigadel / June 6th, 2015
|Title||Donkey Kong Country|
|Release Date||November 1994 (SNES)|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
In the mid 90s, Nintendo was in the middle of a fierce console war with SEGA. The SEGA Genesis proved to be a worthy competitor to the Super Nintendo, and both companies spent a good deal of their time trying to one-up each other. Whereas SEGA used the blast processing power of the Genesis to market their machine, Nintendo used its impressive Mode 7 and fledgling 3D graphical capabilities, focusing a bit more on eye candy. One game that really stood out and almost pushed the SNES to its limits was Rare’s Donkey Kong Country. Nintendo wanted to reinvent Donkey Kong for a new generation, so they slapped on a big, bright, red tie and teamed him up with his “nephew” Diddy to retrieve his giant horde of bananas from the evil King K. Rool and his Kremling army. It was dazzling to look at at the time, and a hint of things to come from future “2.5D” titles. The brilliant David Wise composed the score, with such standout tracks as “Aquatic Ambiance,” “Fear Factory” and “Gang-Plank Galleon.”
There were a few gameplay mechanics introduced in Donkey Kong Country that really made it something special. First off is the co-op aspect of the game. Playing by yourself, you can freely switch between DK and Diddy, so long as you have both apes. If one gets hit, the other takes over. DK is more suited for taking down tough enemies with his sheer strength, but Diddy is lighter and more agile, and you can use his cartwheel to propel you over large gaps.
On top of this, you have animal partners to help you around in select stages. Rambi the Rhino is great for plowing through groups of enemies and ramming into walls to discover hidden bonus areas. Expresso the Ostrich is fast and has limited flight which can help you get to tough to reach places. Then you have Enguarde the Swordfish, who is vital in underwater areas, poking through almost anything that gets in your way. Without him, you’re pretty defenseless under the sea. Winky the Frog gets you around with powerful jumps that can take out unsuspecting Kremlins and nab yourself a lot of bananas. Finally, you’ve got Squawks the Parrot, who appears in a dark tunnel stage and helps light the way to the end. Squawks makes only one appearance in the first Donkey Kong Country, but he’s used more in the sequels.
Donkey Kong Country is one of those games that teaches the player as you go. Every stage in a given world introduces something different. Whether it’s barrel blasting, swimming with the fishes, running away from angry beavers in giant wheels, riding in mine carts, sliding up and down ropes to dodge vultures and jumping around flaming oil barrels, to name a few examples. The difficulty is rather forgiving at first, and you can repeat the first stage as much as you want to rack up extra lives for the later game. It really hits a crescendo once you reach Gorilla Glacier, specifically the stage Snow Barrel Blast. I would argue this single level is the hardest one in the game, since you have to precisely time your barrel shooting to avoid deadly Zingers (giant bees) and not fall to your death. Most of the time, I can’t make it and I end up losing a lot of lives. If it wasn’t for a hidden shortcut, I doubt many could clear that stage easily.
Boss fights are pretty straightforward encounters. In the earlier worlds, you fight the first version of a giant animal boss, and then later on you’ll fight a harder, faster moving version of it, with the only exception being Kremkroc Industries, Inc.’s Dumb Drum, which is more like an endurance and survival fight. At the end, you’ll face off with King K. Rool himself on his pirate ship, avoiding his crown throws, jumps and falling cannonballs. Possibly the most memorable moment of this game happens when you seemingly down the mad reptile, only for fake “kredits” to roll shortly before he gets a second wind. I’m sure a lot of kids ended up falling for that one!
All in all, Donkey Kong Country is a fantastic platformer that still holds up well today. It is a bit on the short side. Depending on how practiced you are, it might take you two to three hours to beat at most. I was trying to achieve 100%, so it took me a little while longer. It’s one of the first examples of a completionist’s game, one that rewards you for scouring every inch and finding everything there is to find. It insists that you keep trying if you miss out on them. And it’s true that Donkey Kong Country 2 plays and sounds slightly better than this one, but this is a game that shouldn’t be missed. You’ll want to come back to it from time to time to remind yourself of how much fun it is to monkey around with DK and Diddy.
Review Copy Owned by Reviewer
Donkey Kong CountryNintendoplatformerRareRetroSuper Nintendo