Thursday, March 9, 2023

Platform Game Mega Review: Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country, a platform game by Rare based on the Nintendo character Donkey Kong, was so popular that it created a series that still continues to this day.

The plot of the game is simple in that it is just a quest to get Donkey Kong's stolen banana stash back from King K. Rool. It stars a gorilla named Donkey Kong, the son of Donkey Kong Jr., and the grandson of the original Donkey Kong who now goes by Cranky Kong. He is joined by a monkey named Diddy Kong, who is an original character created for this game. Rare's original intention was to use Donkey Kong Jr., but when Nintendo didn't accept their redesign of Junior, they created their own original character instead.

Donkey Kong is a slow brute that can kill enemies that Diddy cannot as well as find secrets by slam jumping on the floor. On the other hand, Diddy Kong can move faster as well as jump higher, allowing him to get to areas that Donkey Kong can not. One character is played at a time and can be swapped at will as long as the current Kong's partner is present. If a partner is present when hit by an enemy, that Kong will run away and will be replaced as the player Kong. There are DK barrels that contain the partner Kong if he is not with the player Kong.

The game world is populated with crocodile-like creatures known as Kremlings, which were originally intended for a point-and-click adventure that was cancelled by Rare prior to this game's release. One of the things that makes this game unique is that the Kongs can ride an animal companion. These range from the quick ostrich, to the rhino that can defeat enemies and find hidden passages with his horn, to the swordfish that makes swimming underwater easier and also acts much like the rhino in that he can defeat enemies with his sword-like snout.

Another unique thing about this game is the many barrels that are dotted along the path, especially in later levels. This is a clever take on the original Donkey Kong arcade game that had DK toss out barrels to try to trip up Mario. Here, the Kongs jump from barrel to barrel. There are barrels that go up and down and barrels that spin. These require the right timing in order to shoot to the next barrel rather than falling to your doom. There are also barrels with stars. These shoot the Kongs out as soon as they land in them. These sometimes shoot to other barrels and sometimes shoot up to hidden areas.

The early computer-generated imagery that was converted to sprites still looks good. The backgrounds, especially, are eye-catching and gorgeous. Because of the low resolution of the SNES, the characters look a lot like pixelated versions of clay models, which works in the game's favor. 

The music is great as well. I remember getting a promo VHS for this game and being impressed with both the graphics and the music. The underwater music is particularly memorable for its calm quality yet with a bit of a bubbly feel that works perfectly for the water levels. 

This game led to two more Super Nintendo Entertainment System games, three Game Boy games, two modern game revivals, and many spin-offs. It also had a Game Boy Advance remake that played just like the SNES version yet had brighter colors to compensate for the lack of a backlight in the original GBA model. The easiest way to play the game today is with an emulated version. The Wii, New Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U Virtual Console versions are no longer available, and neither is the version in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition. However, as of this writing, the game is available in the emulator for the Nintendo Switch Online service for the Nintendo Switch console. 

Donkey Kong Country is a fantastic game that has stood the test of time. The graphics and music are top-notch. The gameplay is excellent as well, leading to many sequels as well as inspiring other games that came after it. Because of the game's popularity, it has been ported and emulated on many of Nintendo's consoles. No matter how you choose to play the game though, it is a game that is well worth playing.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5