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Donkey Kong Country (SNES) artwork

Donkey Kong Country (SNES) review

"Donkey Kong was a horny gorilla that shot to fame in the mid-eighties in his rusty arcade classic. It introduced us to the big ape, who had kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend, Pauline. Back in 1981, it was the hottest game in town. It was the title that refined arcade gaming and was so popular that Nintendo created two sequels, which did not get the fame they sought, mainly because they were both rather average titles. After this, Nintendo shut the lid on the primate and for eleven years and the gr..."

Donkey Kong was a horny gorilla that shot to fame in the mid-eighties in his rusty arcade classic. It introduced us to the big ape, who had kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend, Pauline. Back in 1981, it was the hottest game in town. It was the title that refined arcade gaming and was so popular that Nintendo created two sequels, which did not get the fame they sought, mainly because they were both rather average titles. After this, Nintendo shut the lid on the primate and for eleven years and the great ape lay dormant.

Until the developer Rare came along, eleven years later. Instead of bringing the great ape back into a puzzle world, they decided to give him a whole new setting, complete with new friends, new foes and a whole new world to explore. The girders, ladders and flaming drums were replaced by the deep jungle, helpful animal buddies and a whole lot of bananas. It threw the old concept of what Donkey Kong was about and replaced it with a new platforming approach. Not only did it provide top quality platforming action but also it had some of the most advanced graphics that anyone had clapped their eyes upon. It was an instant classic and put Rare in the limelight.

The original Donkey Kong had hung up his barrels a long time ago. He is now nicknamed Cranky Kong, who is a typical old geezer who does nothing but moan about the current state of the world and how “back in the day” games were a lot better. His grandson is the new tie-wearing Donkey Kong that is the star this time around. His pal Diddy Kong was asked to guard the dark cave in the jungle that contained DK’s enormous hoard of bananas. He was waiting alone at night, guarding this precious stash when a group of crocodiles called the Kremlings attacked him. The leader of these crocs is no other than the evil King K. Rool, he must have gone on a strictly vegetarian diet because he’s stolen all of DK’s bananas and he’s also locked poor Diddy in a barrel. It is up to Donkey to save the day and kick some Kremling ass.

You control Donkey Kong at the start and when you reach a barrel with “DK” labelled on it, you can smash it open to release Diddy. When you have both apes, you can switch between them by pressing select. They both play very similar to each other but have one or two very small differences between the two. Donkey is bigger, slower and cannot jump as high as Diddy, he can also perform a ground slap that can unearth buried treasures and obtain bananas from enemies. Donkey can also perform a roll technique that can kill enemies and he can take down large bulky enemies that Diddy cannot kill. As for Diddy, he can perform a cartwheel and is more agile than Donkey. You’ll find yourself switching between the two for certain obstacles, Diddy will be able to leap over bigger gaps than Donkey but you’ll switch back to Donkey so you can slam some bigger enemies down.

The duo will hike through the jungle, swing from vine to vine and leap from tree to tree. These are standard platform levels where you’ll collect bananas, the letters that spell KONG, kill enemies and smash barrels. They’ll also walk along suspended platforms in dark and dank caves and go flying down a rickety track in a mine cart at breakneck speed. These worlds are reflex busting, as you will have to react to anything that moves with lightning precision. Donkey and Diddy will also go on an underwater safari, moving slowly and unable to defend yourself is not exactly the best way to go about. The underwater levels require a lot of precision and patience, especially when you’re being chased by berserk croctopi, rotating horrors that chase after you like a bullet. It’s not amazingly fun but, thankfully, the occasion is quite rare. Lastly, we have the barrel style levels. These are pretty tricky, requiring a precise button tap to use the barrel as a cannon to go flying past enemies into another barrel, which repeats the process.

You’ll find barrels scattered around levels, some of them will do different things. Normal barrels will simply kill most enemies and smash when the make contact with anything. Metal barrels will roll across the floor and sweep away multiple enemies. TNT barrels will blow up walls to unlock hidden rooms and can pack a punch on foes. If you encounter the barrel covered in stars, it will act as a checkpoint. If you die on the same level, you will be brought back here. Lastly, DK barrels will release either Diddy or Donkey from prison and the flight barrels at Funky Kong’s flights will transport you to worlds you have already cleared.

The Kremlings will be the primary obstacles on your journey. These crocodiles range from basic enemy troopers that can be killed easily by any Kong. Some of them may prefer to jump around; either staying on the spot or moving across the plain, you’ll crush them with ease. You will also come across wasps, which can only be killed if you smash a barrel off them or you’ll find scruffy orang-utan’s who also throw an array of barrels at you. The most complicated of enemies are Krusha and Klump who can only be killed by Donkey Kong’s weight. They will brush off Diddy and laugh but the little monkey can take down a Klump if he does his cartwheel. The range of enemies is quite mixed, you’ll encounter a variety of foes and a lot of palette swapped versions of enemies, mainly Kritters (the basic bad guys) but you’ll also battle with flying vultures, small gophers and a host of underwater terrors that cannot be defeated.

DK’s bosses were quite a let down because they are easy and rather basic. On two occasions, the same bosses are revamped up and made a little harder. For example, the first boss is Very Gnawty, a giant version of the regular enemy who uses his ultimate power of jumping towards you . You will meet a palette swapped revamp of him called Really Gnawty, who does exactly the same routine except his jump is a little bit higher. You will also fight a gigantic vulture on two occasions that spits a number of coconuts at you, the second vulture will spit a few more at a faster rate but the same conditions apply: you use the tyre as a spring to land on the vulture’s skull. The other two include a barrel that throws out regular enemies at you and a gigantic version of the bee enemy, who can be defeated by smashing barrels off his face. I’d have liked to have seen a bit more variety here as it is the only thing that really pissed my off about Donkey Kong Country. A little more creativity could have been injected here to improve things but since the bosses were so damn easy, it only took up about ten minutes of my time.

King K. Rool battles you on his galleon, with some radically awesome accordion music. He will throw his crown at you and try to squash you with his weight. Not only will he do this, but he’ll cause cannon balls to plummet from the sky. They’re hard to avoid but apart from this, the boss isn’t too tricky. Rare do throw you off guard with the false ending, which was a little harsh. I had my controller on the ground expecting a pleasant ending but I got a shock when K. Rool got up and proceeded to kick my ass. He’s a hard boss, especially when he is compared with the others but when you know your stuff, he shouldn’t be a problem.

Throughout your quest, you will be helped by a numerous amount of animal buddies; These creatures have been imprisoned in crates that are ready to be busted open. You can get Rambi the rhino, which uses his horn to destroy enemies and break down walls leading to secret passages. Enguarde the swordfish will accompany you underwater and use his blade to poke enemies down. You’ll also have Expresso the ostrich, who sends you speeding through levels and Winky the frog, who can jump phenomenally high and can even kill wasps by jumping on them. The worst beast is Squawks the parrot, who flies above you and lights your path. His mediocre involvement is perhaps the only area that was improved by the sequel (but I will not go into that!) The range is quite dense and every creature has its own abilities and barely any flaws, it has the best beasts in any of the DKC games, excluding the update of Squawks.

DKC’s graphics were very revolutionary at the time of its release. The use of 3-D modelling and rendered sprites really paid off for Rare, it was one of the main factors that made the game so popular. The Kong’s have brilliant animation, Donkey always looks really pissed and looks majestic when he stands up and beats his chest. Diddy portrays an innocent theme as he sits and scratches his head, looking rather dumbfounded. The Kremlings and other enemies are also beautifully crafted, the Kritters slump towards you with evil grins slapped on their faces and overweight Klumps, with their flabby stomachs hanging down look great. It may look like nothing now but back then, it was stunning.

The old Donkey Kong theme starts up before the title screen, giving you an instant retro throwback. It is then instantly remixed into this new funky theme. The in-game levels have great quality and although the majority of the in-game tunes are repeated frequently, sticking to themed levels, they are not very memorable. The beginning stage had a mean track to it, which is almost unforgettable, but the others slink into obscurity quickly, despite being constantly repeated. The boss music was awesome as well, the game’s greatest tune, without a doubt. The monkey like noises are the only redeeming sound effects, the rest are just standard platform stuff. Others, such as buzzards being nailed, are high-pitched and rather annoying.

DKC is a classic, without a shadow of a doubt. We have two characters can have an opposite balance, one being fat and slow, the other being small and speedy. We have an array of smooth and easy to use animal helpers, only one of them was a little off putting. It provided a lot of innovative level design, creating some interesting creative levels. Unfortunately, some of the levels can be a little boring and promote basic platform action but we have some real classics here. DKC is not that hard either although it can take a while to finish it with the entire hidden bonus rooms uncovered. It is a must have classic for the SNES that doesn’t overstay its welcome, like its sequels.

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Community review by goldenvortex (May 07, 2005)

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