Game: Donkey Kong Country
Year Released: 1994
While the Super Nintendo classic Donkey Kong Country is remembered by many as a lovely, super-fun platformer, I had never actually played it until a few months ago. It was one of many SNES games I never played the first time around, and honestly, I never felt the need to. After all, even before I had my own Super Nintendo, I spent many hours playing Super Mario World (which to this day remains my favorite platformer of all time). Why would I care about some game from one of Mario’s associates when I could have the real deal?
However, it’s now 2008, and they just don’t make platformers like they used to. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could go for a new 2D platformer every once in awhile. I love Super Mario World, but I’ve played each and every level inside and out, and I recently wanted something new—even if it was actually old. So I picked up Donkey Kong Country for the first time, and found myself enjoying it much more than I thought I would.
As the title suggests, Donkey Kong Country stars Nintendo’s number one ape, DK, along with several of his friends. Most notably, Diddy Kong appears as DK’s sidekick, and the two are interchangeable throughout the game. The player chooses which one to play as, and each have different attributes: DK is bigger and stronger, but Diddy is quicker and can jump further. Additionally, other members of the Kong family will show up throughout each world, assisting DK and Diddy in various ways.
Story-wise, there is not much to DKC; Donkey Kong’s bananas have been stolen by King K. Rool, the Bowser of the Donkey Kong series (starting with this game). DK and Diddy set out on a quest to get them back and defeat K. Rool, along with all of his Kremlin minions. The Kongs’ journey will take them not only to the country, but several other environments as well. The basic structure is remarkably similar to that of a typical Mario game: each “world” or island contains multiple levels set against a similar backdrop, with a boss marking the end of each section. I guess when one series already has it right, there’s no need to change things up too much.
One thing that Donkey Kong Country did do right in 1994 was graphical capability. Looking at the game now, it looks pretty, nicely detailed, but with the advancements that have been made in video games over the last decade or so, it’s easy to forget what good graphics were in the early 90s. Well, let me tell you, DKC is possibly the best-looking game on the SNES. Since I spend a lot of time playing old-school games, I have a pretty good basis for comparison, and I can’t even imagine how this game must have blown everyone away when it first came out. The levels are beautifully-detailed, and as a whole it just looks fantastic; I’m guessing this is probably a big reason why this game is still regarded as one of the best the 16-bit generation had to offer.
As far as the actual gameplay goes, Donkey Kong Country is an above-average platformer. In addition to the basic jumping around and stomping on bad guys, DK and Diddy employ several other friends from the animal kingdom to help them out, such as a charging rhino or a swordfish who helps the player move more smoothly through underwater levels. Most levels are fairly straightforward as far as making your way from Point A to Point B, but there are also many secrets and hidden caverns within the game ripe for exploring. This helps lengthen the experience of DKC, because on its own it is a little short.
Although Donkey Kong Country is a memorable title and still a lot of fun today, it is definitely not perfect. The levels, while pretty, can get repetitive quite quickly, and some of the segments implemented to break up the platforming can be kind of frustrating. Also, I would have liked to see a better save system implemented; saving immediately after each level was beaten would have been a lot easier than having to track down Candy Kong, especially if I only have a few minutes to play and just want to go through one level. I guess in the age of auto-saves and built-in hard drives, I have become a little spoiled, but if a game is going to feature a save ability, it might as well do it right.
I had fun playing this game and will continue to do so in the future, as well as eventually trying out its sequels. However, the game lacked that extra something, that rare spark that makes me want to play something over and over again, no matter how many times I’ve beaten it. For me, Donkey Kong Country is very enjoyable as a new experience, but it’s certainly no Super Mario World. However, that shouldn’t stop you from picking it up on the Virtual Console, because it is certainly worth the price. Few games can attain perfection, but this very ambitious SNES title is definitely a valiant effort.