The upcoming release of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for Wii got me in the mood for some retro Donkey Kong action, has it really already 15 years since former Nintendo love kids Rare released Donkey Kong Country on the SNES? Yes amazingly it is! Well for just 800 Wii Points you can re-experience this classic platformer once again by buying it from the Wii Shop Channel. Let’s have a closer look at quite possibly my favourite platform game of all time in my review of Donkey Kong Country for Wii on virtual console.
It’s surprising to think that before Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong himself had hardly been seen since his outings on the NES, so it must have been a bit of a gamble for British team Rare to take on this classic Nintendo IP and try to outdo Nintendo’s own Mario platforming games
The story goes that one day Donkey Kong wakes to discover that the giant hoard of special Banana’s he’d stashed away for a rainy day have been stolen. Obviously feeling a bit peckish he decides to head off and find out who the culprit is, give them a good bash on the nose and most importantly, get the damn Nana’s back. Your adventure is based here on Kongo Island; it appears the nasty Kremling tribe ruled by King K Rool (King Cruel, geddit?) have invaded your once peaceful abode. This is where you take over; you control Donkey and Diddy Kong across many worlds (well locations around the island really) filled with levels all with gorgeous environments like the Jungle, Snowy Mountains, Industrial Factories, Caves, Ruins, Treetops and Underwater lakes.
Each are filled with many monsters which can usually be defeated with a simple jump on the head whilst others like the evil Zinger wasps need a barrel in the face because they are covered in spikes. This doesn’t apply to the underwater levels; you’ll need a special friend to help you take out the baddies there. The friends I mention are your animal buddies, these semi wild friends appear in certain levels hidden in wooden boxes (No I don’t know why), simply smash the box open and take them for a ride. Rambi the Rhino is your trusty strong pal, with his big tusk can bash pretty much every enemy into submission as well as uncover secret entrances (which I’ll come to later), Expresso the Ostrich is a fast but flightless bird, she’s not very strong and can’t really defeat enemies but her wings can help you flutter to out of reach places that the Kong’s could not jump to on their own. There is Enguarde the swordfish who can defeat baddies with his big pointed nose, though you’ll only find him underwater. Winky the frog is a pretty good jumper, he can help you jump big gaps and reach items up high in the sky. Finally there is Squawks the Parrot who can follow you around with a torch in some of the dark levels. It isn’t generally essential that you use your animal buddies, but they do make your life easier.
As you traverse the worlds you’ll also come across some other Kong’s who have setup station in a bid to help you, first there is Cranky Kong. He’s the mad old granddad of the family and will never give you an easy time no matter how well you do, though he does have some useful advice here and there. Second is Funky Kong, he’s a cool surfer who will help you travel back and forth between worlds, this is very handy if you want to fly back to the easier levels to gain extra lives or simply if you want to go back and uncover more secrets (which I promise I will come to soon). Last but not least is Candy Kong who appears to be the only female ape on the Island, she wears a tight pink leotard and has a bow tie in her hair, I don’t know about you but I think Donkey Kong is on for a bit of action if he plays his cards right and is successful in finding the bananas, I don’t know of any woman who would say no if you brought them a big banana. Til then though, she’ll save your progress so that you don’t have to start at the beginning of the game when you run out of lives. Speaking of lives you’ll need lots of them, this is a tough game. Thankfully though there are many ways to increase your life tally, you can collect 100 bananas or collect a 1up balloon which depending on the colour will give you 1, 2 or 3 lives (red green and blue respectively). If you’re lucky enough to find three golden statues that represent your animal buddies you will enter a bonus round where you have a limited time to collect as many golden statutes as you can and again, collecting the magic 100 will result in a 1up. Oh the other thing you can do is collect the four golden letters that spell out KONG in each level.
Ok, ok get off my back monkey; I’ll talk about the secrets now. Every level in the game has at least one secret; usually this takes the form of a bonus room where you can earn more lives, bananas or animal statues. The best bit though is actually finding them; it’s not easy as it sounds, especially in the later levels. Sometimes you’ll have to smash a barrel against a suspect looking wall to reveal an entrance, or other times you have to take a leap of faith and dive into a hole in the ground and either fall to your doom or land into a barrel that will send you skywards to your bonus. In the underwater levels you’ll have to swim up against every wall in the hope of finding the few secret paths into a reward zone. Once again it’s not essential to the game to find any of the secret areas, though the extra lives come in handy and the 101% ranking on your save screen will impress your friends if you do.
I haven’t mentioned the bosses yet have I? Each world has an end of level boss, usually a giant freak version of one of the enemies you met earlier on in that world only this time they’re more deadly and you’ll have to study their pattern before you get a chance to thwack them.
Probably my most favourite part of DKC is that if you want to, you can play the game with 2 players cooperatively, one player as Diddy and one as Donkey. It’s not real time cooperation as you have to take turns during the level, either when you press the swap character button or when one of you takes a hit.
The graphics in Donkey Kong Country were amazing at the time and stand up pretty well today in 2008. You know there are games on the Nintendo DS which fail to impress me as much as DKC does, and considering the DS is capable of 64bit graphics and the SNES only 16bit, you can see why this was such a graphically revolutionary game. DKC was the first console title to be produced using the ultra powerful Silicon Graphics workstations which would later be the development standard for the Nintendo 64. The downside is that Donkey Kong Country on VC hasn’t been optimized for Widescreen TV’s, if you play in 16:9 you’ll find the picture looks horribly stretched and pixelated. My advice is to switch over to standard 4:3 ratio to view the game in its original glory.
The soundtrack is stunning; you’ll memorize every tune and be humming them to yourself for weeks at a time. That reminds me; I really should try and download them onto my iPod when I get a chance.
The problem with Donkey Kong Country is that it’s so big and there is much more to talk about, but then you don’t want me to spoil the whole game for you do you? No I thought not; let me say though that the game does get quite difficult later on. It’s only going back to it now that I realise how tough games were back then, we’re really spoilt nowadays but back then you needed to practice and practice to get through a game. I recommend playing the game using the Classic Controller as opposed to the GameCube pad for better button alignment but apart from that Donkey Kong Country is a great example of retro gaming being fun in the 21st Century.
Quite simply, Donkey Kong Country is the ultimate Mario esque platformer and scores a fantastic 9 out of 10.
Get Donkey Kong Country now
New: Buy Donkey Kong Country from Amazon.com