Undoubtedly one of the greatest platformers of all time.
Donkey Kong Country was the first of a 3 game series released by Rare back in 1984, this was their chance to get back on the map after releasing some less than impressive titles under the name of Ultimate. The game is based around a rather half-assed story in which King K Rool has stolen your banana hoard for reasons unbeknown. It’s your job as the rather aggrieved marsupial to get them back with the assistance of your loveable sidekick Diddy Kong
You begin your 2D side-scrolling Jungle Journey at the scene of the crime; with the help of your trusty map you progress through a number of terrains from snowy plains to the peaks of ravenous cliff sides. Along the way expect to meet some eccentric personalities that will attempt to assist in a variety of ways; perhaps the one of highest importance is Candy Kong who allows you to save your game at certain stages of your quest. These saves can come in pretty handy given the unforgivable nature of most zone bosses.
The game plays every bit like your average platformer in that jumping is the order of the day. In addition to hopping, skipping and ummm yeah….you will get to ride in runaway mine carts, blast from over-zealous barrels and swing amongst the trees like some kind of chimp; oh the humanity. All of these activities will require the utmost skill as one hit effectively takes your character out, don’t fret too greatly though as you always have your partner to back you up in times of need; whom of which is taggable throughout the game. In some situations both characters are invaluable, each for their unique abilities; for example Diddy has the option of spin jumping which allows her to float across large areas previously inaccessible.
Extraneous of the core gameplay there is plenty of things to maintain your interest, if wrangling bananas doesn’t do it for you there are 4 collectable letters throughout each level (KONG) which will earn you an extra life for your troubles. Lives are also obtainable through various colour-coded balloons scattered around each level, the catch being their tendency to float off into oblivion. Perhaps one of the most entertaining extras is the ability to mount various animals such as: rhinos, ostriches and even a sword fish.
Donkey Kong Country offers two different types of multiplayer modes known simply as two-player contest and two-player cooperative. Contest mode plays out just like the single-player portion in that both gamers play through the levels independently. The catch being you must finish the game before your opponent, this offers extra incentives in terms of completing the entire story. The cooperative mode puts one person in control of Donkey Kong and the other in control of Diddy, now instead of tagging yourself into the fray your partner does thy bidding. Assuming regular tagging occurs this mode can be a very enjoyable way of playing through the game.
This game is nothing short of a visual masterpiece for it’s time, every pixel alive with technology and pushes the SNES to its graphical limits; certainly one of the best looking games to ever come from the console. Every background immerses you in glorious detail which proceeds to flow into the foreground, submerging your character in a highly desirable world of colour. The animations are equally impressive and run as smooth as you could ever wish for, at times you would swear this is running on far superior technology.
The music does more than a steady job with each area allocated their own musical themes, each one addictively satisfying as the next; from the somber tones of the dank caverns to the upbeat drum rhythms of the lush jungle. The sound effects are just as good, everything pings and pangs with welcoming enthusiasm and pushes the systems audio chip to its absolute potential.
Donkey Kong Country is undoubtedly one of the greatest platformers of all time, often justifiably mentioned in the same breath as Mario 64; it really does reach that high a standard. It not only raised the bar for SNES games but I believe it universally changed the way we play many of the games found in today’s market. If you only buy one retro title this year…..you aren’t spending enough on computer games.