While unfortunately obviously a remake based on the version released on the Super Nintendo back in 1994, Donkey Kong Country is a reminder to where the Kong's true talent lies. While there have been stabs at racers and puzzle games and recently drum influenced dance games, the true delight of Donkey Kong always fell in the platformer. Unfortunately since 1994, the delights of Kong have gradually decreased and even the rebirth in 3D was let down by shoddy gameplay and far too many typical platform game aspects, even with the inclusion of 4 players. So whilst being merely a remake DKC shows why Donkey Kong deserves such praise.
For those too young to remember, myself included, Donkey Kong goes out for a night on the jungle and leaves his good buddy Diddy Kong guarding his stash of bananas, as part of Diddy's "hero training." Unfortunately as fate has it a group of Kremlings take this opportunity to move in and capture small little Diddy and steal DK's bananas for what purpose, is unknown. When DK returns Cranky tells DK what happened, and DK is immediately full of rage and determination to get his bananas and free Diddy. Obviously nine years ago plot wasn't needed in a game, it was the game play that mattered.
In the days of the SNES DKC's graphics were at the pivotal point of brilliance and were truly a sight to behold. Nine years later, you'd expect them to have aged quite badly against the graphics on the GBA, but this is not so as once again the vibrant colourful environments and gorgeous edging on 3D character models succeed in impressing. The extensive detail in each and very aspect of environment give a feel of depth and the use of two layers showing off more trees or mountain ranges in the back ground add to the feel of being in a jungle. Sadly this atmosphere is lost as the levels progress underground where the detail is a little scattered and in the factory levels where there is a sense of blandness, which although suits a factory is not eye pleasing at all. Plus the lack of detail here makes the levels seem far too clean; it is a great shame the level designs deteriorate in style from the beginning but gradually they do pick up in quality as you near completion.
A nice addition to the GBA version is the fact rats and spiders sneak about in the background, just to add a tad more depth. The main praise for graphics is within the character models and their animations. Careful use of lighting has made them look even more crisp and cartoony, as is the Donkey Kong style. The way in which they move so fluidly and over emphasized is very gratifying and even if at some points they do become fairly rough around the edges, or the animations become a little slow, they still look positively excellent. Along with their life like reaction to enemies and enemy movement themselves the game has a much more hands on feel. As well as this, when looking into the cabins of Cranky, Funky and Candy you will notice they are more representative of each characters personality.
While some of DKC's soundtrack has been altered on the GBA due to the audio player differences and other tunes have been remixed for a more newer feel, however for fans of the original you'll be pleased to know all the Donkey Kong tunes are back. But not just that the usual bird cries and other animal calls have been included, along with all the other sounds such as enemy grunts or the squeals of DK and Diddy. Matching this up with the traditional jungle drum beat, you can see why Donkey Kong Country's soundtrack helps it maintain such a unique style, while giving the essence of a dense rainforest, while still slipping in its own memorable theme music.
It would be fair to say that most platform games out there have imitated Donkey Kong Country in some shape or form, whether it is level environments to enemy design. But the one aspect that seems to be repeated over and over again is the gameplay. And for a very good reason. To put that it is unbelievably addictive and enjoyable is only the beginning of it. While it will seem no different to any other platformer, you are required to run or jump your way through each stage, possibly smiting a few enemies as you go only to end up having to face a boss. The only way to defeat your adversaries is to jump on to of them, roll into them using the B button, throw a barrel at them, should a barrel be near by or hold down R and press A to pull off a special manoeuvre. This manoeuvre will vary on who you play as, for DK can free Diddy should he find a barrel shaking near by containing his imprisoned friend. While Diddy acts partially as another life, the two also have a few minute differences in attributes, such as DK can pound the ground or kill the bigger enemies, while Diddy can jump father than DK. A simple touch of the L button can flip the tag team around.
But beating enemies and collecting bananas is not what sets Donkey Kong Country apart from the rest, it is the fact each level has it's own novelty. Not as in, snow level, desert level, but meaning underwater stages, swinging across vines, riding in a mine kart (sadly now expected in every platformer) and shooting across levels in barrels. Plus there are two or three ways to get around a level usually by finding a secret passage that will allow you to find balloons or bananas that will be converted into extra lives, or trophies that you can use to ride certain animals: Rambi The Rhino who can bulldoze through any enemies, Winky The Frog who can jump high to reach new areas, Expresso The Ostrich, who can fly and run extremely fast and Enguarde the Swordfish, who beneath the sea can take out any adversaries. However one thing Donkey Kong has always lacked, and that is they are no different to the other platforming clones and as the game progresses you will end up halted at a stupidly hard jump or section of a level that will have you stumped for a while. As it is a remake Rare did not have a hard job of making the game so thoughtfully decided to add a few mini games into the fray. They include Candy's Dance studio where you must press in the direction that appears and Funky's fishing where you sit in a boat and have your partner reel fish up to you. Nothing to complex but they do add a nice feel, except they are quite rare and few.
With 34 stages to plough through and the later levels certainly being no easy feat Donkey Kong country will have you going for a fair old time. Sadly while a two player mode was included, it is just 2 player at the mini games so looses its interest fast. While in the main game there is a DK attack mode where you try the levels in time trial mode, as well as the ability to collect snap shots of images in the game and finally a new more difficult hero mode, but these can't sustain the game with the one player finished.
Arguably the best of its kind back in the SNES era, and still easily competes with any current platformer. Though the mini games can become a little to repetitive and tedious, they do break up the main game up nicely, and can become quite addictive. Funky's fishing becomes surprisingly engrossing.
The cutting edge graphics that blossomed on the SNES remain here, with a few nice added extras, but also a few problems that could have been ironed out, such as rough edges and a few bland backgrounds.
The original soundtrack is back with a few little differences but still maintains the same feel of Donkey Kong as it did in 1994. Jungle Japes is back, along with all the bird cries, monkey hoots and general jungle feel that makes up the Kongster's games.
While the game's difficulty may keep you stumped for a moment, upon reaching completion you will be left with little else to do in DKC, even with a two player mode on offer. That said, the main game is long enough to keep you going for a fair time.
If you played the original then you may find nothing of interest here, but for gamers who never experienced DKC it is a chance to play one of the games that made Rare so popular in the first place and why the Ape known as Donkey Kong is one of Nintendo's top assets.