Donkey Kong Land was a 1995 platformer game for the Game Boy by Rareware (now Rare Ltd.). I had an absolute blast playing Donkey Kong Country 2 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). When I saw a Donkey Kong game for Game Boy, I had to get it. Most times I would prefer the more technically impressive console games, but my mom never let me get a SNES. I appreciated being able to experience some Donkey Kong on the Game Boy. Now, the “Land” games were not exactly the same as the “Country” games. They made some changes to better fit the handheld limitation, but many, many elements were similar.
Donkey Kong Land’s story broke the fourth wall. Cranky Kong, the head of the family, claimed that Donkey Kong Country only sold well because of the impressive graphics and sound on the SNES. He called King K. Rool and had him steal their banana hoard again to force Donkey and Diddy Kong to prove that the game did well because of the gameplay, not just graphics and sound. I didn’t really like this story because I liked a game to absorb me. When I played a game, I wanted to go into a new world. Breaking the fourth wall was jarring to me. These days it’s the opposite. I prefer games that aren’t very absorbing, so I don’t feel guilty putting the game down. I feel like I have less freedom when playing absorbing games, like they are trying to consume all of my free time.
The two playable characters, Donkey and Diddy, mostly functioned the same, but I preferred Diddy Kong because he was smaller. It was easier to avoid being hit by enemies. If one of the Kong’s was hit, the other Kong took over. Only if both got hit did the player lose a life. Luckily, each level had a few DK Barrels around to get a lost Kong partner back.
Despite the Game Boy’s technological limitations, I really liked the music in this game. Sometimes I would just sit in a level to hear the music. My favorite was the jungle theme, but I also liked the underwater music. Speaking of the underwater levels, I found them to be mysterious and scary. There always seemed to be some fish hiding in the shadows that would suddenly dart after Donkey and Diddy. The Kongs couldn’t maneuver very well underwater either, making it even scarier.
I enjoyed Donkey Kong Land a lot. I probably started new games around ten times and completely beat it three times. I liked Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 more when it came to Game Boy platformers, but Donkey Kong Land was one of my best games on Game Boy. Many times I’d start a new file during vacation, maybe get halfway through, and continue the rest of the game at home.
Because it borrowed so many things from the original Donkey Kong, it just wasn’t original enough to topple Wario Land in my eyes. I didn’t own Donkey Kong Country at the time, but I had been able to play the game a little bit at my cousins’ house. Rareware, the developer, was able to recreate a lot of the experience, but the console games were still better. I was really happy to have my own copy of a Donkey Kong game that I could play whenever I wanted though. After such a good experience, I later bought Donkey Kong Land 2 to continue the fun.