Video Game Thoughts: Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country was a 1994 platformer game by Rareware (now Rare, Ltd.) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I never got to play this game much as a kid because we didn’t have a Super Nintendo. I got to play it a few times at my cousins’ house. It seemed like a fun game, but I could never put in much time with it. I did, however, get to play Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong-Quest extensively after one of my sister’s neighborhood friends let us borrow their Super Nintendo and the game. In the last year, I found that many of the old games I had missed out on were re-released by Nintendo on the Wii U’s eShop store. I purchased many of them and am now slowly playing through them. Recently, I finished Donkey Kong Country.

Because I played Donkey Kong Country 2 before this one, I made a lot of comparisons to it while playing. I definitely think the sequel is better than the original. That is to be expected. Video game sequels usually do tend to be better because the developer is able to refine the gameplay even more plus add extra gameplay to add depth. I found the original Donkey Kong Country to still be a lot of fun. I know some fans of the series prefer this original over the sequels. I can see why because the first game had the most pure gameplay of the trilogy. It didn’t have as much variety as the sequels, but what it did have is top-notch.

In Donkey Kong Country, the player could play as Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong while navigating the terrain to get to the level’s exit. The Kong family’s nemesis, King K. Rool, had stolen their banana hoard. Their quest was to get them back while defeating King K. Rool and his allies. There were many similarities between this game and the Super Mario Bros. games. Instead of collecting 100 coins to gain a life, the Kongs collected 100 bananas. A nice addition was bunches of bananas that contained 10 bananas in each. Levels also had four Kong letters. Collecting all four letters to spell the name “KONG” awarded an extra life, similar to the Dragon Coins in Super Mario World.

Unlike Mario, the Kongs could not find power-ups to make them stronger. Instead, they worked as a team. If the player got hit by an enemy, the back-up Kong would take over. The two Kongs played very differently. Every player had their own preference, but my favorite was Diddy Kong. He seemed just a little more agile than Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong Country wasn’t completely original, but I liked these small twists on the gameplay. They did enough to make it feel different from Mario while still being a lot of fun. I haven’t completed Donkey Kong perfectly by collecting everything, but I did beat the game. That’s enough for now. These retro games are cheap enough, I don’t feel pushed to do everything in them. It’s definitely something I’d like to do some day, but I try not to get too worked up doing everything possible in games these days.

The game mechanics were very similar to Donkey Kong Land for the Game Boy. I felt comfortable already from the beginning. The handheld game had the same Donkey and Diddy Kong duo. The levels were different, but they had pretty much the same mechanics. I think the Game Boy levels were a little harder because of the smaller screen and lack of good screen lighting. This was a common problem with the early handheld games. It wasn’t until the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable that handheld games had good screens. My experience with Donkey Kong Land somewhat dampened the newness of Donkey Kong Country, but it had been so long since I played that old Game Boy game, the gameplay felt pretty fresh.

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