Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
Although he began as the monstrous villain to Mario, the super-sized simian Donkey Kong would begin his own protagonistic niche in 1994 when the revolutionary platform title Donkey Kong Country, produced by now-legendary developer Rare, released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Sporting a bold new look and fleshing out its main character, Donkey Kong Country proved to be a franchise-establishing classic. With its jungle-cool presentation and inventive action, is DKC as good as everyone remembers?
Donkey Kong Country follows the adventure of its titular hero, Donkey Kong, as he seeks to recover his prized banana cache from the clutches of the treacherous villain King K. Rool. Along the way, Kong must defeat hundreds of croc foes and other bosses while conquering jungle, swamp, pirate ship, factory, mine, and other landscapes.
Now showing off a red tie that will become his new trademark, Donkey has one primary attack; a roll, one that handily takes care of most foes. A jump takes care of others, and still more can be taken care of with animal allies. For example, Deekay can ride a rhino and mindlessly blast through the opposition. In addition to other hidden species of steeds, innovative platform puzzle action, and remarkably clever level design, Donkey Kong Country delivers a seamless, fast-paced, enjoyable experience.
Released near the end of the SNES console generation life cycle, Donkey Kong Country shows off polished polygons in lush, three-dimensional artistic backgrounds. Even the lighting is engineered to imaginative effectiveness, specifically showcased when dynamic lighting enhances the challenge of certain stages. Enemies are colorful, Donkey Kong redefines his iconic appearance, and the entire series presents perhaps the most crisp SNES graphics in a game besides Super Mario RPG or Yoshi’s Island.
The swampy beat’s a-droppin’ on some dig-worthy tracks for this cartridge. The music complements the on-screen happenings perfectly, and the effects are reliable, including the very satisfying, guttural groan of beaten-up baddies. Nintendo spared no expense in audio production quality for Donkey Kong Country.
Creativity & Innovation
The most notable advancement may simply be the complete reload of the Nintendo character Donkey Kong. This is the video game that cast his new image, paved the way for future franchise releases, and cemented DK’s Super Smash status.
Otherwise, it also deserves credit for rather extensively testing and stretching the limits of what a two-dimensional platform adventure can do. The mine cart rides are thrilling, the hidden secrets are exciting, and the entire package is simply a solid stack of gaming.
However, as classic and fun as it is, it does have a few shortcomings. For one, there is a startling disparity in difficulty level between some stages. Some are oddly easy, while others are potentially frustrating in the dozens of trial-and-error, memorization-requiring attempts they require to complete. This disparity goes beyond the usually later-stages-are-harder formula, as some of the most difficult settings come in random, middle-of-the-game sections. The ending to the adventure is also somewhat anticlimactic, and the gameplay can get repetitive at times, though perhaps excusable for DK’s groundbreaking starring-role debut. For giving gamers a jungle-jammin’ good time from a new-look Donkey Kong, Country takes home a high mark of four stars out of five.