Developer Rare teamed up with Nintendo and released one of the best platformers to ever grace the Super Nintendo in 1994 when “Donkey Kong Country” debuted. Paired with a massive marketing campaign, unique 3D sprites, and an iconic soundtrack, Donkey Kong Country became the third-bestselling game for the Super Nintendo. So how do our favorite gorilla and his monkey pal hold up over 25 years later?
I wasn’t sure if Cranky Kong was the original Donkey Kong from the 1981 game starring Mario but after further research, it turns out it is him! He’s grown old and rightfully so has become quite cranky. He lives on Donkey Kong island with his grandson “Donkey Kong” and their hoard of bananas.
One night a large crocodile named King K. Rool and his army of kremlings take over Donkey Kong Island and steal the hoard of bananas. Donkey Kong is a massive brute with large gorilla arms, he has a nephew named Diddy Kong who is more speedy and nimble but not as strong. The pair set forward on an adventure to reclaim the Kong Bananas and kick the kremlings off their island.
With some advice from Cranky Kong, and some help from Funky Kong who can shoot them from a barrel to different parts of the island and Donkey Kong’s girlfriend, Candy Kong who saves their progress, D.K. and Diddy make their way to King K. Rool’s pirate ship off the coast of their island. After defeating him, the Kongs take back their banana hoard and return home after a job well done.
I instantly am taken back to my childhood if I hear the soundtrack to Donkey Kong Country. It’s very iconic and well-done from the opening music when starting the game up to my favorite track of the first water stage. The music is superb. The sound effects aren’t too far behind as I can picture a barrel breaking, a snake hissing, or snagging a banana if you play the effects from the game. Most games I don’t appreciate the sound enough but in Donkey Kong Country, I fully appreciate the effort that the composers did.
The next thing I appreciate is the sprites of the characters in Donkey Kong. I’ve heard that some people aren’t fans, but I love the design. I think it looks great and shows off what the Super Nintendo is capable of. The gameplay is near perfect with the way the programmers introduce challenges and new elements into the platforming levels. Throughout the game, the challenge and difficulty will progress and once you’re near the end, most levels will challenge your reflexes. You can switch between D.K. and Diddy at any time during the level and if one of them gets hit, they’ll disappear but don’t fret, you can earn them back with a barrel with the initials “D.K.” on it. If both apes are killed or if you miss a jump it’s back to the world map or back to the midway point of the level. You’ll die numerous times throughout the game but by collecting 100 bananas, or collecting letters in each level that spell out “Kong”, and even grabbing red balloons, these tricks all earn you an extra life. So while you’ll die often, you’ll be restocked with plenty of lives.
As D.K. and Diddy travel throughout the land they’ll face different environments from jungles, caves, water, forests, snow, and treetops, each environment offers different challenges. Some levels are very unique and if you’ve played Donkey Kong Country, you’ll remember the mine cart levels which are tons of fun as they are fast-paced and tricky. There’s also levels where you need to turn lights on/off, a switch for “stop/go” for clay monsters that come to life, and a platform that needs to be refueled every five seconds to progress. There are tons of challenges in Donkey Kong but they are all fair and it never gets old or too overwhelming. This is about as good as platforming gets on the Super Nintendo.
The animation is fantastic and the sprites will react differently to their environment. If D.K. is on the edge of a platform his eyes will pop out as he looks below while trying not to fall. Diddy can do cartwheels, and D.K. can pound the ground. If you leave them idle for a while, D.K. starts beating his chest and howling while Diddy flips his hat in the air. These small details add a lot to the game. Secrets are littered throughout the entire playthrough. There will be tons of hidden caves, secret barrels that blast you to new areas, and even a few animals to ride around on like frogs, rhinos, swordfish, and ostriches that make the level easier to navigate or plow through enemies. All of this makes Donkey Kong Country a game with high replayability as there’s always a new secret to discover.
Boss fights are fairly easy, but I still appreciate them in the game. Typically, you’ll face an enemy much larger than D.K. with their doom coming by bouncing on their head. You’ll fight gophers, vultures, drum barrels, queen bees, and of course King K. Rool. When you face him, he’ll pretend to be defeated and fake credits will roll. I admit that they got me at first when I played this game but after playing a second time for the review, I knew what was coming. It’s another little feature that makes this game great.
Okay, if you’ve been reading my reviews since day one, you’ll know that I had a friend who I used to go over to his house after school in elementary as his mom babysat me. This is the kid that had Driver, Medal of Honor, Blackthorne, and Donkey Kong. All of them made huge impressions on me but I don’t think he had any other games that I loved to play or at least that I can remember. I can picture his PlayStation and Super Nintendo perfectly in his basement. He actually didn’t care for video games much but they certainly left an impression on me.
A massive marketing campaign made everyone aware of Donkey Kong Country but the tremendous platforming, masterpiece soundtrack, and vivid sprites and environments made Donkey Kong Country a must-own if you had a Super Nintendo. I have yet to play Super Mario World so I can’t say if Donkey Kong Country is a better platformer but I love this game.
Donkey Kong Country scores a 9.6 out of 10.
Do you remember when Donkey Kong Country first came out? Were you blown away by the sprites or music? Who did you like to play as more D.K. or Diddy? Did you have a favorite level or favorite boss? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!
If you’d like to own a copy of Donkey Kong Country, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Super Nintendo from eBay for $25.