In a fantasy land far, far away there was once a developer named Rare. They were not forced to program silly motion-based Kinect games. Nope, they created some of the all time classics we’ve come to know and love today. One of these was Donkey Kong Country. It’s been ported to the Wii U as a Virtual Console game and has lost none of its charms
The hero is of course Donkey Kong, the scary villain that Mario once had trouble with back in the early arcade days. Going about his own business back in his natural habitat he notices that his ‘Hoard of Bananas’ are missing. The slimy King K.Rool and his Kremling minions stole it! Without much reason, other than that, he sets off to find the culprit with his nephew, Diddy Kong, by his side.
This SNES platformer fits right into the ‘AAA hit’ mould of the era. Donkey Kong, and Diddy alike, can both crouch, jump on enemy heads, swing on vines and swim. Unlike the modern Donkey Kong games he simply attaches to vines once he touches it – no need for timed button presses as with Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. You can also stomp the ground as Donkey Kong and you can do an attacking cartwheel move as Diddy Kong, which deals with foes that can’t be attacked from above. That does not mean the difficulty is toned down. One touch and Donkey Kong will die. If you’re lucky enough to find a DK barrel you’ll have another chance at surviving, but another touch and it’s back to the last checkpoint. It’s exceptionally unforgiving, especially towards the last few levels in the game. This is why you keep your eyes open for Animal Buddies.
Animal Buddies helps you through some of the tougher levels and by default adds a third life. Rambi the Rhino crushes through all danger; Expresso the Ostrich can glide from heights (yes, an Ostrich gliding – it’s a video game okay?); Enguarde the Swordfish can dash into foes while submerged in water and Winky the Frog can jump to platforms that’s generally out of reach. Using these animals helps you gain extra bananas. Collect 100 bananas and you’ll be granted an extra life. Red Balloons, when popped, will also grant an extra life, but these balloons are often placed in areas that has you meeting a certain death. So it’s always a risky approach. It’s generally very challenging and requires pin-point accuracy and timing, but the levels are so beautiful that you’ll keep trying.
Donkey Kong Country launched in November of 1994, just ahead of the PlayStation launch. At the time it had some of the best graphics available on any console. More so, once the PlayStation did launch Donkey Kong Country (and the sequels, which we’ll review in the future) gave the 32-bit system a run for its money. The lighting and animation is exceptional, considering that the game is now 21 years old. The music is also timeless and really catchy. I was bopping to music while searching for hidden treasures and K.O.N.G letters.
The Wii U version can of course also be played on the Gamepad, which I found looked better as it was very pixelated on my 48″ LED. You can also create a Restore Point at any point in the game to continue from where you left off, though it’ll also make use of the in-game saving mechanism and checkpoints. Unfortunately the multiplayer modes don’t quite work in this straight port. When playing a 2-player game, whereby you take turns to tackle a level (it’s not co-op), you’ll find that it simply does not work when it’s player 2’s turn. So, that’s a bit of a bummer for those who have offline friends… on the same couch. For the rest it’s a little banana in the road.
If you’re in the mood for a great platformer this SNES game won’t disappoint. The map will remind PlayStation gamers of the Crash Bandicoot years and there are even cameos from Cranky and Funky Kong for Kong family fans. In fact, you should be going bananas for Donkey Kong Country if you’ve never played it and you’re a platformer fan.