Top 100 SNES Review: #16 – Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Symbiotic Relationships.

An Animal Kingdom Lesson in Teamwork within Opposing Forces.

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Surf and Turf.

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #16/100
Developer: Rare
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

This is the traditional way we view our animal counter parts: a hierarchy of classification, labeled and lined for our own purpose. What Aristotle started, we finished. But, what if there is more to our DNA resembling brothers and sisters?

Donkey Kong teaches us that there is an endowed balance within the universe, and the tension between these opposites can produce profound effects.

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Nature and Mechanistic.

[STORY] The prized banana hoard must be protected from the Kremlins. Diddy has first shift until midnight, where Donkey will relieve him of his duties. Diddy is overpowered by the oppositions and stuffed in a barrel while Donkey oversleeps. Upon waking, Donkey discovers his banana hoard gone and Diddy humiliated.

The two leave to defeat King K. Rool for pride and treasure.

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Innocence and Experience.

[ANALYSIS] A traditional side-scrolling adventure, DKC is unique for its cast of characters, unique challenges, and stylization.

Characters

The Donkey Kong Family has a variety of fun, non-politically-correct personifications:

  • Candy Kong – Highly sexualized and the object of Donkey Kong’s lust, Candy would be a fixture of focus for the #metoo movement if released today.
  • Cranky Kong – A poster-child of ageism, Cranky shows that seniors really do hate any and all accomplishments of post-Baby Boomers.
  • Funky Kong – Most likely smoking pot, Funky is the counter culture hero who flies airplanes and has no life plan.

Challenges

Side-scrolling still had a lot of room to grow and explore in ’94. While some genres were expanding the exploration angle (i.e. Super Metroid), DK decided to see what it could do with the more traditional dodge and duck format that Super Mario had made so popular.

It added two different characters that made the gameplay different depending on which one you used: Diddy – fast and acrobatic but can’t defeat some of the stronger enemies; Donkey – slow and clumsy but can easily mow down chiseled kremlins. This made you have to change your approach within level and added a level of strategy for you to attune yourself with.

Then, there are the unique obstacles that DKC introduced into the franchise. Additional animals are available for you to augment your abilities, including an ostrich, frog, swordfish, and rhino. There are rotating barrels that require appropriate sequences to blast across stages. Bees, called zingers, are scattered throughout stages and must be dodged or loss of life will be incurred.

There are plenty of rewards, too: hidden within walls and secret barrels, the Kongs can be transported to secret rooms in stages to obtain more lives. While this was a good addition, it took until DKC2 to perfect the reward of finding all these goodies. In DKC1, all you get is a percentage bar of completion on the select game screen — hardly an incentive to scour for everything available no matter how much trash Cranky talks.

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Adult humor in child entertainment.

Stylization

There is a certain essence of the Donkey Kong universe that is easy to feel but hard to describe. It’s a mixture of animal cuteness, British humor, and vibrant colors. No part seems out of place, and the spirit of the game is one where you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously, even if you get cheaply killed before finishing a level by the barrage of a hidden enemy at the exit 😡😡😡.

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Future and Past, Young and Old.

[CONCLUSION]

Better than DK3 but below DK2, the original is a blast to play (especially when barrel cannons are involved). Every scene is a clash of two opposing forces that is best appreciated by the two main characters: Donkey, the strong, chiseled leader vs. Diddy the immature and nimble understudy. The end result is one of the better games for the SNES and another reminder of the Yin and Yang in our own lives.

Other People’s Takes:

  • NintendoBound: “The passing of the years, the abundance of Donkey Kong Country games that followed, and the deep integration of the title’s gameplay and world into the gaming culture, as if they were two of its vital organs, have made it terribly easy – perhaps criminally so – to take for granted many of the signature elements coined within Donkey Kong Country”
  • TWOTALL4UFOOL’s Gaming & More: “Overall I couldn’t think of a better game that defines me and my video game playing skills. That game is Donkey Kong Country. That game is one of my all time favorites. Most arguably the best game on the Super NES.”
  • The Dreaming Flame: “By the time the game came out, you were already feeling great about the game: it looked amazing, it sounded wonderful, there was proof of attention to detail, there was evidence of emotion and humor in the game in the way it was presented, and it was clear Nintendo and Rare were doing everything they could to get the game in as many Super Nintendo owner’s hands as possible.”

 

Author: Casual But Smart

I review the top 100 books, movies, albums, and games of all time.

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