Okay, so in the essence of recounting euphoric nostalgia, if you want to know the first game this writer ever remembers laying eyes on, it’s the SNES favourite Donkey Kong Country. The details are a bit spotty, but the kid at the controller was playing the famous mine cart level, and instantly my childish Hobbesian urges to rip the controller away from him were subdued as I froze in awe. For a brief moment anyways. It wasn’t long before I remembered I was five and the diplomatic classics “Gimme gimme”, “My turn!” and “Mom!” were unholstered.
Almost twenty years after legendary developer Rareware got their IP ball rolling on the Nintendo 64, Donkey Kong Country is still as apishly awesome as it was in 1994. The first thing that immediately comes to mind about this near-perfect platformer are its graphics. As one of the first games to utilise pre-rendered 3D graphics on the Super Nintendo – next to StarFox – DKC showcased a visually compelling world that played left to right yet struck you with artificial depth. From lush green forests to snowy tundras, to the oceanic abyss – apparently these monkeys had gills – Country mesmerised gamers at another next-gen juncture when polygons were set to replace pixels. Faulty hit detection remains the only lingering issue in the game (jumping on enemies is not as easy as Mario makes it look).
Country mesmerised gamers at another next-gen juncture when polygons were set to replace pixels.
This side-scroller was your run of the mill platform game. You navigated Donkey Kong Isle via the map screen on your way to King K.Rool’s ship and getting back your sacred banana hoard, with several climatically diverse regions sporting several stages each – average affair. Once you get into the game, you can switch between Donkey and Diddy Kong. Occasionally you’d come across a rhino or a frog or some other animal that you can take a ride on, and many stages feature secret areas hoarding a stash of secluded bananas.
And it’s a good thing the local wildlife feels partial to come to your aid, because your simian family of Kongs do nothing but monkey around. Navigating the map screen was always a personal pet peeve. In a ‘rare’ case of bad game design, you’re unable to move from one region to another. Instead you have to find Funky Kong, trade some idle chit-chat, and jump in his barrel cannon to take you back to the main map screen. The absence of expediency here is enough to make you go bananas. Cranky Kong is absolutely useless, subjecting you to one of the worst hint systems in memory – yes, worse than Navi from Ocarina of Time – doing more to rib your cages than provide any actual useful information. And then there’s the suggestively dressed Candy Kong – your save checkpoint – who specializes in sexual euphemisms involving diving into her cannon.[yt_video id=”UWDFolSymws”][/yt_video]
The bosses were easy for the most part and were short on variety, cycling between big birds, bees, and beavers. Then you made it to K. Rool, who wasn’t much of a final challenge – so long as you keep in mind that he comes back to life at a conspicuously placed credit roll. The first time this happened, a GAME OVER screen was assured. You were going to die, and you were going to have to replay the whole boss over again. Kruel, indeed. It was an inevitable monkey in the wrench designed by some fleabag at Rare – okay, that’s unfair – by some, ahem, gentleman and scholar who felt the urge to piss us all off. Yeah, that’s a more kind evaluation.
As annoying a platformer as it can be at times, Donkey Kong Country is still one of the best the SNES has to offer, with graphics that, next to games that showcased the FX chip (StarFox mentioned above) got us ready for the jump to 3D rendering with sort of a midway appetizer. Also, mine carts are awesome!