Review by Retro
"Kome join the Kong Klub in this Klassic!"
Isn't it amazing how a picture can take you back to the good old days when you didn't have a worry in the world, or drag you back to a depressing time that you wish you could forget? No matter what the current times or surroundings were like, capturing them in a photograph can preserve the memories forever. When a picture of Donkey Kong Country slides through my brain, I see not only the first SNES game I ever owned, but also a revolutionary platformer that is impossible to forget.
What was once a hoard of bananas that towered higher than the Empire State Building is now nothing but a few saddening peels left behind by some bloody thieves! King K. Rool, an obese crocodile, and his slaving Kremlings are behind all of this. Donkey Kong and his nephew/friend, Diddy Kong (nobody knows if he's really related to Donkey or not), won't live with that! They will search every last square inch of each side-scrolling level until they find K. Rool and send him back to the murky water that he came from.
The monkey named Donkey is big, strong, and he can defeat any nemesis that stands in his way. Diddy is a smaller ballcap-wearing rascal that can jump higher and run faster than his uncle/friend, but he's not as strong. These two brave souls will team up and go on this expedition together. Two heads are better than one, but sometimes it's simply not enough.
The original Donkey Kong that threw barrel after barrel at the love-stricken Mario back in the 80's is here under the name of Cranky, a balding smartass of a role model that will give you helpful encouragement and tips that are full of wisdom. A cool surfer dude, Funky Kong, will take you back to previously completed worlds in a sort of flying machine that resembles an airplane whose body consists of a brown barrel. Finally, Candy Kong is a female (she might be the only female character in the whole game), and she looks pretty dang good for a monkey. If it wasn't considered bestiality, I might would ask her out. Anyway, she's nice enough to save your game at any time, but you must first make it far enough into each world to reach her place.
Have you ever noticed that a loyal dog or loving cat can sometimes be your best friend in the world? Family members and real life 'friends' of the fellow human variety can be nice, but they can be very, very mean too, while animal friends are almost always nice to us. Apparently, the same holds true for members of the gorilla species. Donkey and Diddy's best friends in their platforming quest are animals. Hop on Rambi the rhinoceros for a ride and he'll let you use his stone-like horns to more easily hunt down secrets and to kill any enemy without even straining. Enguarde the swordfish is just as helpful in the underwater environments with his buoyancy and sharp as a knife nose; Winky is the biggest frog that has ever been seen in this neck of the woods and he can take you to never before reached heights; ostriches are supposed to be flightless birds, but not Expresso; Squawks the multicolored parrot is useful for shedding some light on places such as dark, scary caverns.
Everything in the world that is useful isn't living. Bananas are a monkey's north star in the Donkey Kong Country series. Follow their paths and collect as many of them as possible for valuable extra lives. Cranky loved barrels in the original Donkey Kong, and he is very influential, so of course the two enthusiastic heroes of Donkey Kong Country picked up the habit of throwing and rolling barrel after barrel at the ugly mugs of their enemies. Barrels also serve as a way of marking the midpoint of each stage, and when either Donkey or Diddy gets hit, he will be enclosed inside the nearest DK barrel until the remaining Kong rescues him. If only one Kong is left and he gets hit, one of your red balloons will pop (balloons serve as extra lives) and you will die before coming back alive in a few seconds.
Donkey Kong Country is, in many ways, related to the classic Mario platformers in the way it's played. Whether it's a typical enemy such as a bucktoothed beaver, or a fierce boss like an overgrown vulture named Necky that spits nuts at you, the main tactic you'll be using in defeating your foes will be jumping on top of their heads. Collecting one hundred bananas, much like collecting a hundred coins, will give you an extra life. Donkey Kong and friends would love to have as much fame and fortune as Mario and company have garnered, but they don't want to be just like their human counterparts.
One of Donkey Kong Country's best assets is some of its innovative levels. In Blackout Basement, the lights flash on and off every few seconds, leaving you to time your jumps over bottomless pits while you can see what's ahead of you! In the memorable Stop & Go Station, many tough looking creatures with demonic red eyes get up and run back and forth while the level's switches are turned to the On position. You must quickly find the next switch and switch it to Off so you can get past these hungry monsters! Oh yeah, riding a minecart as you leap over approaching minecarts with enemies inside, and simply shooting yourself from barrel, to barrel, to barrel, is always fun as well.
Just like bold, italics, and CAPITALIZATION can make certain parts of a review stand out, Donkey Kong Country's graphics are the most noticeable attribute at first glance. And it's true, the graphics are oustanding, to say the very least. The backgrounds are all very nice in their 3-D, colorful textures. The first time I saw the shining crystals flash in the background of Slip Slide Ride, I was awe struck. The hanging rocky terrains of the caves look realistic, and of course, being the weather freak that I am, I love stopping for a few seconds in the jungle environments to stare at the rainy, lightning-filled skies of the tropics.
But that's nothing. What really stands out like a pimple-faced teenager among a crowd of flawless looking models (in a good way, though) about DKC's graphics are the 3-D character models. Whether it's the good guys or the bad guys, every single one of the characters are immensely detailed both graphically and in their animation. They all move fluidly while also succeeding at being works of art. For example, you can see a certain enemy's beer belly jiggle a little as it walks fast with the next meal on its mind.
The sound effects are crisp and clear, but none of them really stands out as being above average; they're not much more than the normal, everyday clink and clonk that you've already heard in past games of the genre. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind burning myself a copy of the soundtrack; the tracks have a nice variety to them. When you complete a level or get the item you're aiming for in certain bonus levels, a cheerful and catchy tune will play from your television. On the other hand, you'll know you're occupying the space of a hectic territory when you listen to the fast paced beat of Oil Drum Alley. Not only is the music catchy and variable, but most of it also fits the current tone of your surroundings. For instance, in a certain cave level that seems rather peaceful compared to most other places, a low-key, soothing tune plays as distant drops of water are heard hitting the ground.
For all you multiplayer fans out there, you can always opt to play a game either against a friend (by way of taking turns to see who can complete the most levels) or with a friend in fun co-op gameplay in which you'll both take the controls of one of the hairy heroes.
Donkey Kong Country is a good bit clichéd from previous platformer classics, and yes, it's even a bit cutesy (but not much). Also, the game is actually pretty long with tons of levels and worlds to explore, but it seems to be short due to its low difficulty (except for the ice world, which is difficult in places).
Fortunately, the game has more going for it than it has against it. It's great how you can switch between Donkey Kong and Diddy at any time to utilize their strengths to the fullest (i.e., Diddy is better in the swimming stages since he's smaller and faster; switch to Donkey when a big, musclebound Krusha is in sight because if Diddy tries killing it, the nemesis would just laugh at him, and then kill him!). The controls are almost perfect no matter what you choose to do. The graphics were extremely revolutionary as they looked more like something that would come from a 32-bit game; the music is memorable, and the game's overall mood is that of enthusiasm and certain parts (such as many of Cranky's lines) can be quite funny.
But where Donkey Kong Country excels the most is in being fun. To jump on top of several enemies in a row without touching the ground; to risk death in the hope of finding brand new secrets; to replay the game after you've beaten it with the mindset of increasing your percentage of secrets found. That is the experience of playing Donkey Kong Country, and that is what makes it one of the best games on the Super Nintendo!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/30/03, Updated 01/31/03
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