Donkey Konga (GameCube) review
"Life is full of surprises. Until recently if someone had told me that gorillas can play conga drums I would have laughed them out of the room. Peeling bananas and tossing fecal matter around the place is one thing, but hammering out a happening beat on a set of drums is something else entirely. Who would have guessed then that Nintendo's #1 gorilla was one hip dude? Luckily for us someone did and have chosen the big fella to fill the gapping, musical sized hole in Nintendo's software line-up. Wi..."
Life is full of surprises. Until recently if someone had told me that gorillas can play conga drums I would have laughed them out of the room. Peeling bananas and tossing fecal matter around the place is one thing, but hammering out a happening beat on a set of drums is something else entirely. Who would have guessed then that Nintendo's #1 gorilla was one hip dude? Luckily for us someone did and have chosen the big fella to fill the gapping, musical sized hole in Nintendo's software line-up. With Namco behind the wheels, Donkey Konga is going to set things straight and prove once and for all that there is more to our simple primate cousins than bananas and poop. With some enjoyable yet quirky tunes and all the conga beating fun one could want, Donkey Konga is set to deliver hours of family entertainment to aspiring alpha males everywhere. Clap your hands everybody, it's time to get funky...
Donkey Konga's presentation and gameplay should be instantly familiar to arcade going gamers as it is highly reminiscent of Namco's own award winning Taiko no Tatsujin series. In typical genre fashion, the player must tap their conga drums in time to the music as a series of prompts slide across the screen into a ''hot-zone''. Left conga beat, right conga beat, dual conga beat, and clapping round out the 4 possible actions. Though it may seem simple at first, the later stages manage to up the difficulty to nigh on African tribal level proportions. The innovative clap action is not only a fun new addition to the genre, but it also neatly re-enforces the funky conga style groove that Namco so earnestly sought. By striking each timed prompt with the appropriate action, players are awarded points that go towards the stage completion targets. These points can be traded-in later for access to one of a handful of fun yet endearing mini games. Simple though they may be, events like the vine climb , banana juggle and the poop toss (I'm just kidding on that last one) are instantly engaging and their inclusion will compel players to play on even once the later levels have been mastered.
Upon the completion of a song, the game returns to the main select screen where another of the 32 different tracks may be chosen. Each of the songs are of a decent length with the average weighing in at an impressive 2 minutes of conga time. Being a Japanese game however, most of the tunes available are of course hit Jpop singles. Popular Japanese artists such as Hikaru Utada and Morning Musume among others have contributed a few of their best songs to Donkey Konga thus lending the game a serious dose of credibility. With that in mind, players not used to the sugar coated sounds of Japanese pop music will most likely be wary of the line up at first. Like all good forms of music though, exposure guarantees conversion and it wont be too long before you start to feel the beat as well. Be like us... yatta! *giggles* Anime theme songs, classical tunes and an assortment of international top 10 hits do add a little more spice to the mix by ensuring that no matter the taste, there is usually something here for everyone to enjoy. Even still, with regular update discs promised there will always be something new to check out later on down the road. Nintendo are obviously banking on Donkey Konga becoming their next great franchise.
If a new franchise is what awaits the big ape then Nintendo would do well to clean up the game's graphical presentation. Not that it's ugly, far from it, but the words serviceable and dull do come to mind. Of course, if I was going to be honest with myself then I would admit that there isn't a hell of a lot one can do with graphics for a rhythm game such as this. Still, that being said a little more pizzazz would have been appreciated. On a side note, I want to know exactly what those little animals are that scurry around the bottom of the game screen!? Never in my whole life have I seen such innocently disturbing design. For want of a better description it looks like a half banana, half chicken thing that was birthed in Silent Hill. The peeled back banana skin for a face may have seemed cute at the time of inception, but to me it looks like the poor animal has had its skin flayed back exposing its fleshy white innards. Buffalo Bill meets the fruit bowl on Donkey Island... yikes!
Like most good rhythm games before it, Donkey Konga comes packaged with its very own arcade style peripheral. The Tarukonga (aka conga drums) supplied with the game are extremely sturdy and seem capable of withstanding even the most energetic of beatings (don't hurt me). Both the conga surfaces are solid enough to prevent breakage but have enough give to make activating the hidden buttons beneath them a breeze. Located between the two conga drums is the microphone that is used for detecting the player's clap actions. Though the cheap plastic look certainly detracts from its otherwise hardy design, the Tarukonga does get the job done and is easy enough to store on most average sized bookshelves. I have no idea how Nintendo were able to package it with each copy of Donkey Konga and still keep the impact on the game's price down to a minimum. Kudos all round for the pleasant surprise though!
One of the advantages Nintendo had in selecting Namco for Donkey Konga's development duties was that they could tap the latter's wealth of rhythm game making experience. With this expertise fueling their creative fires, there was never any doubt that Donkey Konga was going to be anything less than amazing. Namco's choice to use their acclaimed Taiko no Tatsujin game design was ingenious and certainly helped to make Donkey Konga both instantly familiar and highly playable. The excellent selection of music is a pleasure to listen and beat along to while the gameplay mechanics are spot on. This is one game that is sure to go down a blast at most parties! Simple, fun, and addicting with just the right amount of challenge and cool... just the way video games are supposed to be! Don't miss out! Bananas and poop not included...
* The addition of the clap action is ingenious
* Oodles of technique to learn and master
* Simple to learn, difficult to put down
* Later levels are as challenging as they are fun
* It has a wide range of musical styles to suit all tastes
* 32 tracks to choose from
* Fun mini games give players an objective
* The pack in Tarukonga peripheral is solid and sturdy
* Promise of further expansion discs over the upcoming months
* 2 player mode available
* It has the potential to drain your social life away
Community review by midwinter (August 27, 2004)
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