Retro Gaming Brunch: Donkey Kong Country


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You guys are hilarious. I specifically state that SNES games aren’t allowed for Retro Gaming Brunch because they’re too long and then over 50% of the requests I get are SNES games. Well I caved in this week and did one, but don’t expect me to continue to be weak willed. Next week will be a shorter game. Anyways, this week’s selection is by Emily K. and it’s the original Donkey Kong Country for the SNES. Please don’t forget to keep emailing us recommendations for next week. You can also leave a comment down below.

expresso ostrich Retro Gaming Brunch: Donkey Kong Country

I love this Ostrich

I literally think everyone knows what this game is. There is no way a person even remotely interested in gaming hasn’t played or seen a Donkey Kong Country game. When the original trilogy first started in the mid-nineties this game was the talk of the town. The pseudo-3D graphics were the pinnacle of gaming technology and therefore this game sold like a motherfucker. If memory serves me correctly, it was a holiday ’94 release, and it was nearly impossible to get. Out of a class of 34, only one of my friends managed to snag a copy. This game was hot!

The story of Donkey Kong Country is kinda plain: DK’s banana stash has been stolen by King K. Rool and so he goes on a quest to recover it. Donkey teams up with his nephew Diddy and they trek across Monkey Island-er…Donkey Kong Island to get it back. You can play this game solo or with a friend, but either way it doesn’t really matter as the game doesn’t get more difficult with additional people. I actually prefer playing it solo since you get another chance when your player gets hit. Donkey Kong has a larger sprite and is slower, and Diddy is faster but weaker. I find myself playing as Diddy much more than DK because I like his personality more and I feel he’s easier to control in the air. Donkey is only useful when you have to take out a muscular enemy.

jumping claptrap Retro Gaming Brunch: Donkey Kong Country

Who puts an enemy at the exit of the stage?!?

As I mentioned earlier, this game had amazing graphics when it was released. The story goes that Nintendo was impressed by Rare’s graphical abilities with the SGI engine and allowed the Donkey Kong license to be used. The visuals still look nice today, but I feel they haven’t held up that well. The sprites look blurry and almost plasticy up close. When the game was released I thought the graphics were great, but I wasn’t blown away. The game looked nice but I felt the actual gameplay was lacking.

Many people disagree with me but I think DKC is just an average platformer. The stages are straightforward and I find many of the level gimmics are annoying. Rare played around too much with the filters on many of the stages, and I feel it makes the game unnecessarily frustrating. Snow effects are overdone and make jumps difficult to see, the lights going on and off is frustrating, and the flashlight parrot makes turning into a chore. Every time your character turns in ‘Torchlight Trouble’ the game has a shimmer effect at the player and it is SO ANNOYING. In a game where precise platform jumping is a necessity, you shouldn’t blind the player with every jump. I literally was at the end of my rope when this stage ended, so thank God they only added this mechanic for one level. The boss battles are fun but I didn’t find them very creative. I wish they hadn’t recycled the bosses several times over, but what are you gonna do? The gnawty gerbil boss laugh is charming though.

polluted water donkey kong Retro Gaming Brunch: Donkey Kong Country

Do you see the hidden fish ready to kill you?

However underneath the impressive graphics and unimaginative stage mechanics, there is a competent platformer here. In a time where platforming games were king, DKC was easily ahead of the pack. When I recall games like Aero-the-Acrobat, Bubsy or Addams Family, I can appreciate what DKC does well. The environments are varied, enemy placement is sound and the music is amazing. While I never found myself hankering to collect every piece of swag in the game, I know many people enjoyed the collecting aspect.

As a child I was a big fan of the original Donkey Kong arcade game, but not the DK character. Donkey Kong was a villian and seeing as I hated the Donkey Kong 2 NES game, I wasn’t exactly dying of anticipation when Donkey Kong Country was announced. The game doesn’t break any new ground in gameplay but it’s a solid platformer. I personally feel DKC2 was the peak of the series, but I do recognize the amount of content and characters the original DKC presented. Overall, Donkey Kong Country is a good game but I feel it was overrated and only received special treatment due its glossy pre-rendered sprites. Not a bad game by any means, but Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island beats it in every respect.

  • Randy

    Fantastic John. I went nuts when my parents got me this for Christmas. I feel like the game is universally panned by the gaming press, but you can’t deny how strong peoples’ nostalgic feelings are for this game. I hated the second blizzard level, the one where the snow gets worse and worse as the level progresses. Also a bonus stage within a bonus stage? Only way I found out about that was in the Nintendo Power player’s guide back then.

    For as much hate as this series gets (I’m definitely not a fan of dkc3) I love what Rare did in DKC2 with the pirate theme. It has a lot more character over the lack of variety we got from the standard jungle platformer here.