Review: Donkey Kong Country (SNES/Wii VC)

Recently while I was wandering around through the articles here on ACGV, I happened to stumble (once again) upon Caleb’s rant on Donkey Kong Country Returns. It’s such a shame to see a beloved series tarnished with an entry so difficult that fans of previous installments can’t even enjoy it. So to finally give some semblance of balance to the disappointment generated by DKCR, I decided to revisit DK Isle in the first entry of the original SNES trilogy of 2D platformers. Maybe doing so could bring back some happier memories.

There’s not a lot that I remember from the last time I played Donkey Kong Country aside from several bosses and levels, so I figured this would be a nice stroll down Nostalgia Lane. Back to a time when Kremlings were relevant, the banana hoard was enormous, and it didn’t take 250 lives just to see the ending. Cranky ranted and gave advice outside his cabin, providing some humor if you cared to stop by. Most importantly, there were no pigs.

If you’ve ever heard of DKC, then chances are you know the nonsensical plot of crocodile men stealing DK’s banana hoard for some reason. DK grabs his little buddy Diddy and takes off across the island to reclaim every last banana. Through jungles, ruins, abandoned mines, a snowy mountain, modern buildings, and dark, dank caves the duo pass through. DK is out to teach those Kremlings and their associates a lesson: Never steal his bananas.

That’s one determined ape.

From area to area, level to level, you traverse the isle made up mostly by a giant ape-head-shaped mountain from DK’s home to deep within Kremling territory. The levels sometimes have multiple paths but they usually have hidden shortcuts. Most levels though have small secret rooms that hold things like: bananas; extra lives; a letter to complete the word “KONG” for another life; Animal Buddies to help you go through a stage; an Animal Token (3 earn you access to a timed bonus round for a chance to get, yep, more lives); or a mini-game. In addition, each little secret you find adds to the percentage of completion. If you’re a perfectionist, finding them all without a guide is bound to drive you up a wall. At the same time though it gives a sense of freedom instead of confining you to always advancing from point A to point B for every level.

This freedom combined with the level designs is one of the reasons for DKC’s long-lasting appeal. During my brief play through I was surprised at how, even after nearly two decades since its release, this game is still fun (when it’s not frustrating at any rate). Even more so this time for reasons that escape me. The controls are simple and smooth, but being careless can mean an easy death (thank you for that reminder, Bouncy Bonanza).

So much bouncing, it should be illegal!

It’s embarrassing, but sometimes I died because I wasn’t paying attention to DK and Diddy’s position, not just because of an ill-timed barrel launch. Instead I was looking at beavers in wheels, vultures ducking their heads behind a wing, the movements of barrel-throwing orangutans, a zinger that wasn’t the zinger that was going to injure a Kong, and coral among other things. Rare did a great job designing the enemies, the Kongs, and environments with minor details easily seen. The shift in time or weather in certain levels is also a neat touch.

Maybe they did too good a job? Or maybe I’m just easily distracted?

Or maybe I should just get on with the music. In short: not a fan, but it’s memorable with some really great tracks. I can’t say that there’s anything really special about them, but that’s just me. Although several of them keep getting stuck in my brain.

I will admit that there should be more remixes of this soundtrack. But since there are no new DKC remix albums in the foreseeable future, all that’s left is to waste time in a stage to let a particular track play for a few minutes longer. As a music addict I find this completely normal.

Now, I may not be a big fan of the original DKC, but I can appreciate how Rare presented it. Donkey Kong’s name went from being associated with kidnapping women to kicking Kremling butt. Oh, and causing brain damage to an already crazy Kremling king. K. Rool stole his bananas and ended up taking another title for himself due to a concussion. Probably.

K. Rool should've stayed hidden.

Too bad there was nobody to play with this time around. The competition and co-op modes just sat there uselessly.

Er, point is DKC plays well, looks good, sounds good, and never gets old (figuratively). If you’ve never played it, and you have a Wii, go download it. It’s not painful forking over eight bucks for this classic.

(Yes I know there are remakes but since I’ve never played them I can’t tell you anything about them. Sorry.)

About SmashQueen

Staff writer for ACGV.