Review by Light_Inside
Get down 'n' dirty in the jungle
Am I surprised not to see a review on this game? I am not sure exactly, although it would make sense for a majority of people to be reviewing the more "up to date" games, so perhaps not.
In November of 1994, Nintendo and Rare released Donkey Kong Country" for the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) and the main character is, well, you may have guessed it "Donkey Kong", whom is absolutely naked, except for a red tie sporting his initials. You don't need to be a fan of Nintendo especially to be aware of who Donkey Kong is, as when computer games where much simpler in terms of graphics, Donkey Kong spent most of his days in an arcade game along side "Super Mario", in which he kidnapped the Princess. Well, Donkey Kong has now become the "good guy", and he isn't on his quest alone either, as his much smaller relative, 'Diddy Kong', tags along as his partner.
The storyline is fairly simple. Donkey Kong wake sup one morning to discover that his gigantic hoard of bananas have been stolen by the evil King.K.Rool, whim resembles a cross-eyed crocodile, with a fat yellow stomach, a cape and crown. Now, I am not exactly sure why he wants to steal these bananas. I can only come to the conclusion that he is trying to restrict the Kong familys food supply, hoping that they will die, so he can take over the island. Regardless of King.K.Rool's true motives, Donkey Kong is angry - and sets off with Diddy Kong to get his beloved bananas back....
Before jumping in to the game there is a small amusing anecdote here. I saw this game advertised in the local paper, so I rang the number up. I arranged to go and collect the game, and then discovered I was speaking to my next door neighbour, who was new to the area, and as a result I didn't actually know.. Anyway, that is how I got hold of this game.
'Donkey Kong Country" is your typical side scrolling game if the 90s, in which you must make your way from the left hand side of the screen to the right hand side, doing battle with various enemies, collecting various power ups and navigating various traps. There is a nice and what was quite original idea at the time present here however - the ability to press the "select" button on the control pad, which would result in Donkey Kong switching places with Diddy, so you could use each of the characters, both of which hone (slightly) different skills. For example, Donkey Kong can roll in to his enemies, where as Diddy cartwheels in to them, then there are the actions each character performs - walk, run, jump, climb and swim.
However, each Kong can only take one hit from an enemy, before they run off in worry, leaving the remaining Kong to continue exploring. So, another way to look at the relationship of having 2 characters is this - they act as an energy bar - by this logic you have 2 hits until you lose a life. However, if you drop down a hole, the other Kong will follow (as the one you sure not using mimics your actions), which will result in certain death. Luckily there is a variety of items which can help you on your quest. Scattered across each level are 4 golden blocks, each with one of the following letters on them - K,O,N,G. Collecting all four per level will result in you gaining an extra life, as will collecting 100 bananas, or by simply collecting balloons shaped as the Kong's heads - which you will find slightly trickier to acquire.
Other items include golden animal shapes, which are rare and often acquired on small bonus stages within each level, if you manage to obtain 3 identical animal shapes, you will be transported to another variety of bonus stage. In which you will resume the role of an animal, and set the task of collecting star shaped items, there are more than 1000 present, and with each 100 you gain an extra life. It is pointless in a way, as you can only gain around 200 or 300 at most, so by theory you may as well be dumped in a room with 3 "extra life balloons". Then again, I guess it adds more fun to the game with this aspect. Not that there isn't enough fun anyway, as on various stages you will come across crates. Smashing these open will reveal an animal which can be ridden by Dk or Diddy. Animals include a frog, a rhino, an ostrich and a swordfish. They all hone different abilities and provide invaluable for locating out of reach areas (the rhino can batter down walls, for example), and the frog can jump at great heights.
You will also come across a variety of instrumental objects, instrumental in the terms that they provide you with assistance for reaching bonus areas, (of which are over 100 over the course of the game) or simply assist you to complete a stage a little easier than it normally would be. These items include a springy tyre which can be rolled around and used as a spring. In fact, one level forced you to ride a mind cart Indiana Jones style, over a rollercoaster styled mine track, littered with large gaps which must be jumped over. It is exciting and tricky stuff. I also shouldn't forget to inform you about various "barrels" which are littered throughout of the game, and perform a range of actions, such as acting as a mid way point (so if you die, you can continue from midway through a level), and most barrels act as canons and will shoot you in to the air on to various platforms. Some of the barrels shoot you out automatically, where as others do not, some barrels stay stationary where as others move - there are some very complex barrel patterns later in the game which occur in mid air - and potentially death of the Kong if not navigated with extreme caution.
It isn't just gaps in the landscape's ground that cause a threat, as with most games, enemies do exist. The main enemies in this game being 'Kremlings', crocodiles that generally stand on two legs and try and attack you by jumping or charging in to you. Donkey and Diddy can beat these generally easily by jumping on them or rolling/ cart wheeling in to them, however not all enemies can be disposed of this simply. Some Kremlings are fatter and stronger, and as a result require the strength of Donkey Kong to beat them or perhaps a near by metal barrel to be picked up and launched at the enemy. Other enemies include wasps which are usually best avoided than attacked, nut throwing vultures and goofy blue furred beavers.
As for the underwater levels, you will discover that all you can do is swim, which as a result sees you dodging the enemies as they swim in various patterns, trying to catch you out. Luckily, the swordfish can be located in these levels, and you can use his sword like snout to kill the enemies.
Sadly, the boss battles are not great. Well they are fun, and provide some tension, especially as they speed up as their defeat nears the horizon. However, the designs are not that original, as they are merely giant versions of regular enemies sighted throughout of the game, and the latter half of the game sees these same bosses again, albeit with different colour variations, and a bit more tactic.
Now, this is an aspect I almost completely forgot to mention. The game is a 2 player, and you and work as a team to complete the game, which allows, for example, yourself resume sole responsibility of Donkey Kong. The other player must watch and wait until you decide to press "select" (or if the person currently playings character is defeated) before they can resume control of their character ('Diddy', if the above scenario is in process). This can be tricky, and can probably cause small squables as you moan to the person currently in control "No! You've missed that! Go and collect it!" - "I can't do it, "Let me take control!" - So, team work is indeed important, as is patience. Another mode with a friend is basically as follows: You control Dk and Diddy as you would in 1 player mode and complete a level. Then, the second player must has their own set of characters (Dk and Diddy, albeit coloured differently) and they must complete the level you just have. It is sort of a race to end so to speak.
The graphics of the game are now dated, although at the time these graphics were top notch (although in terms of SNES graphics, they still are tops), especially as they pushed SNES to its limits, with fully 3D rendered models in a 3D looking environment. This doesn't mean that this game IS 3D like the 3D games we see now days with every direction accessible. Remember, this game is simply a 2D sidescroller, however, appears 3D. To achieve this effect, Rare used a super computer by the name of "The Challenge", which allowed them to produce models with Advanced Computer Modelling (ACM), which consists of 32 megabits.
From lush green jungles, snowy mountain ranges, pine forests and industrial factories, your eyes will never get bored due to the high level of detail. This rings true for the foreground and the background, especially as the levels usually house a multi scrolling backgrounds. This means that there are multiple layers to the scenery which scroll at slightly different paces as you move along the level, create a much more realistic effect, and it creates the effect that the areas you are in are much more larger. It does wonders for the atmospherics of the game, which twinned by the music makes exceptional gaming - but more on the music later. Returning to the theme of the multi layered backgrounds, more examples of this being put to an effective use is how the sky darkens as you approach the end of a stage, which will result in a lavish sunset over the jungle area you are in. Or, the stages which resemble snowy mountain ranges will have a back drop of snow the background, however, as you graduate further in to the stage, a blizzard will appear in the foreground, creating not only a more absorbing atmosphere, but an increase in the stage's difficulty will be apparent, as you struggle to view where your characters are going in the dangerous blizzard.
The graphics do not only shine in aspects of the environments, but also the sprites - that includes anything from the characters (the kongs/enemies) and the items which can be collected and such. The bananas have a slight discolouration to them, the tyres have a slight shine to them. However, it is the hair on the Kong clan, and the scaled bodies of the Kremlings that are impressive. The details on them are not necessarily gigantic, but it is always the small details that make you realise that effort has gone in to a character/game's design, and here in this game you are bound to find small quirks in characters to cause amusement.
As for the game's music and sounds, well, I can not fault it. The music is very relevant, as are the sounds. For example, in the deep jungle there are various chimpanzee shrieks, along side a low bongo drumming and bongo beat, which eventually builds up along side a jazzy piece of instrumental, which creates a really comical jungle atmosphere, in fact, this tune is used throughout of many of the games in the Donkey Kong series. In the industrial factories, you will hear the clanks of metal, and a deep bass hum, creating a really dangerous atmosphere, the kind that says "I shouldnt be here... Along side the wood wind instruments in the pine forest, and tinkling glaciered noises of the snowy mountains, my favourite music has to be that of the under water levels. The reason being it houses a tranquil theme, this music builds up on various points and well, you you'd have to hear it to believe how nice it sounds. The music takes a turn for the frantic on stages such as the bonus levels, and the mine cart levels, as you go speeding through the mine shafts at dangerous speeds. Many of the enemies have different sounds, the buzzing of the spiny wasps, the goofy laugh of the beavers, the fog horn like croaks of the Kremlings and victorious (and, shamefully crying) noises of the Kong's depending on their victory/ defeat. It is fair to say that the music or sounds will not annoy you, well; except for the music would sounds during the loss of a life, which brings me to speak briefly about the difficulty...
The game is fun for all ages, there is no restriction. I remember in the early 90s when it was released that I used to get to a certain part and find it difficult, it is true that the game's difficulty increases. However, practice does make perfect, and luckily you are able to save your game at various points (without needing a memory card or anything, cartridge based games such as this save data on the cart), which will prevent you or anybody else having to start all the way from the beginning. I find it generally easy to locate extra lives on this game, but that doesn't mean take the game lightly as I just suggested, you will surely be using these lives up.
As for how long will the game last, well, I find that the first play through could result in a few months. There are not millions of levels, although it could very well feel like it on the first playing. It is due to the harder levels towards the middle and the end, that require you to replay the levels over and over that result in the illusion that there are tons of levels. After you have finished it, you may want to leave this game a while, and then you may feel compelled to replay it again, perhaps from the beginning, or a favourite level you have opened on a previous playing. Either way, it is a classic game for the SNES and one that is bound to please.
Of course, the Kong's adventures do not end here, there are two more games in this series, although neither allow you to control Donkey Kong as a main character (he is kidnapped in the next two), but you do resume the role of other Kongs. So, if you did enjoy this game you'd be wise to check out Diddy Kong's Quest and Dixie Kong's Double Trouble. Of course, Donkey Kong also returned as a playable main character in "Donkey Kong 64" along with other new friends.
It's hard to locate this game brand new now days, however, you can guarantee to find this game floating all over EBay.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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