Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo) Second Opinion Review

By Renan Fontes 19.08.2016 11

Review for Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo

Just as Mario shifted from arcade to home console, it was Donkey Kong's turn one generation later. Ready to dive into a new world of platforming, the neck tie-wearing gorilla was met with overwhelmingly positive reception, differentiating itself just enough from Nintendo's other platformers whilst adding its own spin. Nearly 22 years later, does Donkey Kong Country still hold up as strong, or has it dwindled in comparison to bigger entries in the genre?

A crocodile steals a banana hoard and a gorilla and his chimpanzee compatriot trek across a jungle to hunt him down; or so the story goes. Donkey Kong Country isn't really in the department of a tight plot, but it does offer tight design.

Instead of using power-ups, a timer, or a health bar to signify life, DKC uses its two player characters, with each one representing one hit point. Once Donkey or Diddy are hit, they leave the stage and control is forced to whichever character wasn't hit.

While both characters have their differences in speed and weight, each stage is designed to make sure that it's beatable with either Diddy or Donkey. The differences between the two are comparable to how modern Mario titles interpret the two brothers; Donkey Kong is a bit heavier and is more precise to control, while Diddy is faster and a bit slippery. Stages accommodate this by making sure pitfalls and enemies are properly telegraphed ahead of time, so nothing ever comes as a surprise.

Nintendo is almost infamous for its constant use of the same platforming layouts; grass world, water world, desert world, fire world, etc. - mix and match until everything's set - but Donkey Kong Country shows a lot of restraint by adhering strictly to its jungle environment.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo

There are, of course, stages and worlds that fall into the formula of themes, but it's all back-dropped by the jungle. It doesn't feel out of place when Donkey and Diddy go underwater or climb a snowy mountaintop, because the context of the jungle allows this world to flow between the stereotypical platforming layouts naturally. It's not to say that adhering to a formula is a strictly bad thing, but that DKC uses creativity to make the formula work to its advantage.

Aesthetically, the jungle and characters are modelled to look almost 3D, with proper shading, textures, and filters to simulate a living world that's popping out at every step. Each stage is almost diorama-like, with trees and plants sticking forward from background terrain, and character models moving with appropriate shadows following them. It looked amazing in 1994, and it still looks pretty damn good in 2016.

Despite a very solid eye for game design and aesthetics, it's the sound design that takes the prize in Donkey Kong Country. The music utilises ambience to create immersive settings that blend in with the nature around it. Some of the most memorable tunes of the SNES era can be found amongst DKC's many different stages. The background noises and sound effects of each stage only add to the life of the jungle, simulating a real world of wonder of Kongs.

For all the greatness DKC offers, it tends to suffer under its own sporadic difficulty curve. Levels will start off at a good pace, but occasionally hit a brick wall of incredibly precise platforming that can challenge even the most hardened veterans. Thankfully, those spikes don't appear too often, but they appear enough to leave behind a slightly sour taste. Despite those moments of brutal difficulty, however, Donkey Kong Country primarily offers gameplay that can be enjoyed by just about everyone, with most levels needing basic skills, but rewarding more advanced play styles.

Screenshot for Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Donkey Kong Country isn't nearly as polished as Nintendo's other SNES platformers or its successors, but it gives a valiant effort that can still be appreciated two decades later. Overflowing with a distinct ambience, DKC offers a more relaxed, yet still engaging interpretation of the side-scroller formula, using its music and scenery to create stages that linger in the mind long after they're over. With design that adheres specifically to its two characters' sizes and weights, and a careful attention to detail, DKC leads the Country series off to a powerful start.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (16 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


I like the first DKC the most out of any of them.

Not as polished as other platformers on the console! You're having a laugh!

It's one of the most polished games on SNES. In my opinion, it's the best game of the trilogy. The sequels didn't improve anything over the original, they just added more stuff (unnecessary stuff in my opinion). The first Donkey Kong Country is a more distilled version of the game compared with 2 and 3 and it actually has the title character in it. I don't like how the other characters handle compared to Donkey Kong but we're forced to play as them in 2 and 3. 

The music of the first game is (overall) the best too. The other games reach some high points with their soundtrack, but they aren't as consistently excellent. 

I can definitely agree with what you're saying, Trepe.

There is often this pre-conceived notion that DKC2 is the best in the series right off the bat, when the reality when going back to play the trilogy today is that DKC2 introduced too many gimmicks and needless difficulties. I loved the mix-ups and what it tried to do differently - for example, controlling the animal buddies directly mid-stage (although I do prefer to see the Kongs riding them around), the much better bonus levels with original designs (even Tropical Freeze failed in this regard), Dixie Kong, more hidden collectibles, unlockable worlds, and variety in stages. But there are too many parts where the difficulty is ramped up and it becomes frustrating - the worst offenders being the verticality they started to introduce into the levels, with problems exacerbated when these are animal stages, like the snake or Squawks.

And I have to agree on the music. It's an exact point I've said many times recently - there are some beautiful and fantastic tunes in 2 and 3, but DKC's soundtrack is consistently brilliant the whole way through.

But I am glad about the Diddy-Dixie tag team in 2. I love Dixie's gameplay, but my only regret is that DKC3 wasn't DK and Dixie on a quest to save Diddy, instead of introducing Kiddie.

I am, however, starting to see a few more people online agreeing that DKC2 is overrated and prefer DKC1. I mean it's obviously not a bad game - it's still, in my book, brilliant - but I think people are starting to see the common complaints people are having when playing the trilogy back to back. DKC1 is a smoother and more fun experience that maintains a steady difficulty curve.

Out of the three games it's the one I constantly go back to, to play. I have the most fun with it and I occasionally just stop on a level too and let the music play. I don't know why they couldn't have kept Donkey Kong in all of them as a playable character and had Kranky kidnapped. We should have written the review Azuardo. Haha.

Hah, well, I do think Ren's review is very fair overall; it's more just the "polished" line that you mentioned is debatable. Still think the verdict is more or less spot on, since DKC2 and 3 did introduce things I would have liked in DKC1 as well. I think one thing for sure is that there's not a platforming trilogy like it. DKC1-3 is almost unrivalled, in my view. Only Yoshi's Island and Mario World can compete on the SNES.

Seriously? Wow, I really didn't like DKC, but loved DKC2 and really enjoyed how DKC3 developed things further as well. For me it's easily DKC2 -> DKC3 -----------------------------> DKC

I always felt DKC was just a weak copy of the Mario series and that Rare picked up its game from the sequel onwards, but then ruined it all with DK64's stupid collectathon.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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To me DKC2 is better than the original, because I liked all the things it added, and I like tougher games. DKC at this point of my life is a piece of cake, while DKC2 it still offers a good challenge.
I also believe that DKC2's OST is even better thant DKC.
All in all, the difference is very small.
DKC did a thing that DKC2 didn't: it revitalized the SNES. At that time PS1 and other consoles threatened the SNES longevity pretty badly. But the DKC's graphics and easy-to-pick gameplay make a great bundle that lengthened the SNES life. In a sense, without DKC, maybe, we wouldn't have received games like Chrono Trigger or Super Mario RPG. Its influence is undeniable.

( Edited 21.08.2016 21:52 by Bedex )

It's a charming game but there's a lot wrong with DKC. The hidden sections are pretty meaningless as they grant no significant rewards and overall the platforming is solid but humdrum apart from the the odd highlight. The mini-game levels are pretty boring too. However - it kept me playing. One of the few non 1st party platformers I completed on the SNES. I still own the copy I bought back in the day and it's unlikely I'll part with it. I never progressed to the sequels.

( Edited 22.08.2016 18:37 by davyK )

The hidden sections are pretty meaningless as they grant no significant rewards and overall the platforming is solid but humdrum apart from the the odd highlight. The mini-game levels are pretty boring too.

Definitely one of the areas that was improved in the sequels. The collectibles gave a little more reason to go bonus room hunting in 2 and 3.

What I would say that was pretty awesome that started with DKC as well, and carried through to 2 and 3, is the co-op and competitive 2-player modes. I'm not sure if DKC was the first to introduce it to platformers (I don't actually know others that do it like DKC), but it was certainly the first I knew where you could play with a friend and they would take over with the other Kong if you died.

The competitive mode saw you taking it in turns as separate Kong teams after you died or completed a level in a bid to see who could complete the game first.

I can't think of any other platformers that did this like DKC, bringing a more focused co-op and competitive element to the games.

It's for these reasons I wish Nintendo would go the extra mile and add an online function to their Virtual Console releases. We can do it with emulators, and devs like Capcom (and I think SEGA?) have done it with VC releases of Street Fighter, so there really isn't any reason they can't do it. I'm tired of the lack of cross-buy in the VC releases (and hope to god that is sorted with the NX), but I would certainly consider purchasing VC titles if online play was added.

( Edited 16.11.2016 03:35 by Azuardo )

Amen to that. I have a lot of SNES games that I'd buy again for my 3ds.

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