So with the 35th anniversary of Mario and having just talked about a Mario Brothers game, (Sgathaich: New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe) you might think I would keep the ball rolling… but I don’t like having multiple Mario reviews so close to each other so instead let’s look what happened to his co star in that original arcade game.
Donkey Kong Country stars the character who was originally the antagonist of the arcade game, Donkey Kong. (Well ok it’s stated to not be the same Donkey Kong and Cranky is apparently the one that was in the original, but then Mario was called Jumpman). Made by UK games company Rare for Nintendo and its second generation of home console the SNES.
Donkey Kong Country rather than using the standard pixilated look uses Pre Rendered 3d graphics (still a side scroller though this isn’t true 3d yet) which instantly gives the game a striking and noticeably different look from everything out at the time (all you and your brown shooters these days, there were times I saw lists and couldn’t tell if they were from different games).
The game is a side scrolling adventure as Donkey Kong and his Nephew Diddy Kong go from level to level fighting the hordes of the Evil King K Rool who has stolen DKs banana horde (yep no princesses this time). The levels you go through are rather varied. From Storm Struck Jungles, Icy Mountains, Deep Caves.,Somber Underwater Coral Mazes, Ancient Ruins and even some Industrial Areas controlled by K Rools Kremlings (crocodiles).
The game controls very smoothly, at no point me blaming a death on the controls… well except for mine cart or ice physics but everyone gets annoyed at those.
Each section of the game contains several levels, a hut for Cranky Kong, Funky Kong’s Flight Service (for if you want to leave that section) and Candy Kong’s save barrel if you want to save the game. At the end of the section is a boss fight that sadly is just a big version of the enemies (or a barrel) and they even reuse bosses from earlier in the game (I’m looking at you large beaver)
The levels themselves can be quite challenging, with some barrel launching, avoiding large bees and some tricky platforming and rope climbing (also the afore mentioned mine cart sections). If you get hit you lose the character you were playing as but can get them back by cracking open a DK barrel. This means at most you can take 2 hits before you die.
On some levels you also gain access to animal friends, like Rambi the rhino and Enguarde the sword fish (obviously for those underwater levels, which is the only way you can kill enemies in those, but don’t worry you don’t have an air meter, yes these apes are better at surviving underwater than Ecco the dolphin in your face Sega!… sorry old console wars stuff).
Hidden in each level are 4 letters that spell K O N G and getting those will give you an extra life. Also hidden are various hidden bonus stages that finding is entirely for completion’s sake.
But how could I talk about this game and not talk about the music. Composed by David Wise, Donkey Kong’s Soundtrack is one of the all time greats with the final boss music against K Rool (who thankfully isn’t them just making a normal enemy larger and is instead a properly unique model) often being cited as some people’s favourite boss music. The tracks can be very somber and often relaxing, heck I have a friend who once put them on to just calm themselves down.
This game is a sight to behold. Fun and inventive at a time everyone was trying to come up with mascot platformers. It allowed DK to come out of Mario’s shadow and spin off into his own series of games, of course what the original made, the sequel perfected. (Also the Cranky run isn’t real so don’t frustrate yourself trying to do that)