Version Played – Donkey Kong Country – SNES (Wii U Virtual Console)
Once upon a time Donkey Kong didn’t wear a tie, he didn’t climb inside barrels which acted like cannons, and he wasn’t so fussed about bananas more so than damsels in distress. But that all changed when British developer Rare rebooted the franchise in 1994 with Donkey Kong Country. Donkey Kong was now a cool, younger ape with a family and a home of his own. Alongside his nephew and best friend Diddy Kong, the aim of this game is to retrieve the Kong’s precious banana hoard from the likes of King K. Rool and his army of Kremlings. However while this game has given us the rendition of Donkey Kong we find most recognisable today, is the game still able to hold the attention of modern day gamers?
The answer to that question is still yes of course, as Donkey Kong Country is a solid platforming experience; that part about it hasn’t changed. It’s only that there just feels like there’s nothing special about it anymore. There are 40 levels to complete and the difficulty is spot on, meaning we can’t simply plough through the experience in one sitting. But it can seem quite limited when there’s no possible way to branch off the set path, meaning if we get stuck on a level there’s little alternative or distraction to keep us going. Sure the original Super Mario Bros. was a largely linear experience but at least there were warp pipes to help vary that progression every once in a while. Furthermore the game keeps a percentage record that can only be completed by finding every secret area in the game. This is by no means an easy feat, but the task is difficult to engage with as the game does very little to help us track what secret areas we’ve found or indeed if the stage even has such an area to discover. Thus we can feel as if we’re constantly re-treading levels without truly knowing if it’s worth it or not. Despite receiving a world map in between levels, it does little to alleviate these issues thus making the game feel rather lacking once the initial play through has been completed. Ultimately this makes Donkey Kong Country more of a short blast of enjoyment, rather than something we’d expect to keep coming back to time and time again.
Thus in regards to Donkey Kong Country there feels little more to say, I didn’t dislike the game but it hasn’t got that special factor like many other entries in Nintendo’s canon. The animal pals are a nice addition although feel sparse in the later levels and Donkey and Diddy do play slightly different so there is an element of strategy involved at times, though on a very basic level. Praise must be had for the music too, which sets the mood for each level wonderfully whether we’re in the mighty jungle or the gloomy Kremling factories. At times I even wished the subject material was more serious to match the depth of the music at hand. But we wouldn’t want the game to lose its sense of humour which is quite endearing, especially when Cranky Kong is doling out his wisdom. Indeed the game has such nice touches to round it off but again they don’t feel quite as unique today as they perhaps did when the game was first released.
Sadly age hasn’t helped the game’s presentation either. At the time of its release the 3D rendered sprites were spectacular to behold (something even the game manual boasts prolifically). However with screen resolution and TV screens so much greater than they were back in 1994, the game looks rather blotchy and confined as we can’t see very far ahead on the stage which can make the stages somewhat difficult to envision as a whole.
Donkey Kong Country has vastly improved since its first release however, with two SNES sequels and a hugely successful revival in recent memory to grant it a legacy of its own. Thus thanks to nostalgia the original classic will probably be remembered most warmly regardless of how it plays today, but ultimately the game is not overly special, just simply another solid platformer to while away a couple of hours.