Retro Profile: Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

It feels like it was only yesterday that I had first laid my eyes on that commercial for Donkey Kong Country all bright-eyed, wishing for a Super Nintendo. I always jumped at the chance to play it at my local game store. I usually only got past the first two levels before I had to go home, but I didn’t care…I was just happy to play it. DKC made a big splash with gamers of all ages, and helped to line Nintendo’s already fat pockets with our cash. And really, it was worth every penny since the game was a 32 megabyte cartridge featuring awesome level designs, beautifully rendered characters and backgrounds, and some of the best graphics on the Super NES.

This game gets things started off on the right foot by having Donkey Kong blast out of his house, ready to start the journey. Things really get rolling after you free Diddy from the “DK” barrel and go on to romp through the jungle. You can easily switch between Donkey or Diddy by tagging the character to jump in front. This will prove to be very useful, as both monkeys have their own specific abilities. Donkey Kong, for instance, is the strongest and best at defeating the tougher enemies in the game. He can even pound the ground to make hidden bananas appear in certain levels. Diddy isn’t as strong, but he is faster, able to fit in smaller places, and can jump to higher ledges that are just out of the reach of Donkey. With that in mind, you’ll find it useful to have both characters available to you if you want to have an easier time making it to the end of the game. At the same time, it won’t be impossible to progress through the many levels of DKC, but you will definitely come across certain spots that are easier to navigate through with either Diddy or Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong Country was truly one of the more challenging games on the SNES at the time of its release. At first, you’ll start off doing the simple everyday platforming duties- jumping chasms, pouncing on enemies, and swinging on a rope or two. But as you progress through the different sections of the island, the game gets much more involved. You will find yourself having to guide the Kongs through mine cart rides, carefully blast them from cannon to cannon, travel through a blizzard storm in the icy glaciers, and many other interesting tasks. Some of the levels can feel a little gimmicky at times, but it’s not too bad and it serves to keep you on your toes. It’s also quite a task to get a 100% rating by the time you finish the game. There are many secret areas to be found in DKC, and most people have spent months trying to discover everything….people like me. And I still have yet to find everything. So without a doubt, this game has a high replay value to be enjoyed by all.

Although the game is of a side-scrolling variety, every character has been modeled in 3D, which makes for some uncommonly realistic animations on the Super NES, as I mentioned before. The backgrounds are also in 3D, but they’re pre-rendered. Even so, it was big deal back in 1994 and a nice milestone for Nintendo’s 16-bit hardware. Some of the most vibrant levels are the ones that feature rain, snow, or take place under water. The various special effects of each environment add to the richness and polish of DKC. In short, your eyes won’t be sore or just plain bored from the visuals to be seen in this game. Not by a long shot.

Play or Stay? Overall, DKC has enough charm and challenge to please even the most hardened of platforming veterans and beginners that may have never played the series before. If you don’t have it in your gaming collection, I highly recommend that you track down a copy for yourself. Or better yet, download it on the Virtual Console. Donkey Kong Country is more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Jamie Alston is somewhat of an unusual gamer. While most people crave the visual delights that can be found in many of the current generation consoles of today, he actually prefers the 8-bit & “super 8-bit” (SNES) glory days of yesteryear. This is probably due in part to the fact that his brother chose the Nintendo Entertainment System over the Sega Genesis back in 1989…or maybe it had more to do with that time when he fell and hit his head on the blacktop in elementary school. Whatever the reason might be, Jamie has an undying love for those unnecessarily big cartridges he spent so many summer afternoons playing. When he’s not raiding trucks that “have started to move” for rations and key cards, he stays busy supporting his gaming hobby by working as a Policies & Procedures Analyst for a financial company in Baltimore, Maryland. And when he’s not working for “the man”, he’s working on the next retro review for the week. And when he’s not fighting off writer’s block and much needed sleep, he’s raiding trucks that “have started to”—well, you get the idea. Currently living in Randallstown, MD, Jamie sums up his life long dream this way: “If I one day find myself driving on the highway in a 2004 Honda Accord with an NES directional pad for a steering wheel, you can bet that I’ll be holding the up direction for that turbo boost on the straight-aways. That’s when I’ll know that I’ve finally made it in life”.