Retro review: The Donkey Kong Country trilogy

In the mid-1990’s, Nintendo and Sega were at each other’s throats. They were at war with each other for sales in a competition later termed the “Console Wars.” We still have this competition today, but we don’t hear about it as much as back then. Sega had their Genesis console with its attachments, the Sega CD and 32X, supporting superior graphics. Losing sales to the Genesis, Nintendo needed something to bolster its sales of the Super Nintendo console. Along came Donkey Kong Country, which was released in Nov. 1994 as a joint project between United Kingdom-based developer Rareware and Nintendo.

Back then, the game leapt off of store shelves to the tune of over nine million copies sold, making it the third best-selling Super Nintendo game, behind Super Mario World in 1991 and Super Mario All-Stars in 1993. The reason being is that the game made use of revolutionary graphics. These graphics were first rendered in 3D using Silicon Graphics engines and then converted into 2D for use in the game. More importantly for Nintendo, it gave its users and their families a reason to stick with the Super Nintendo over the Genesis and gave Nintendo the victory over Sega in the first console war.

Donkey Kong Country is more good than bad. At its heart, the game is a version of Super Mario Bros. but with the apes Donkey and Diddy Kong, instead of Mario and his brother Luigi. There is a difference, though. In Super Mario Bros., you have only one player to control and when you die you lose a life. In Donkey Kong Country, you control both apes and you have two chances to complete a level and if you lose both apes, you lose a life. The gameplay is rock-solid and the plot is easy to wrap your head around; King K. Rool has stolen Donkey Kong’s banana hoard and you have to recover it. Donkey Kong Country is a solid entry in the trilogy that started over twenty years ago.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest was released a year later in 1995. The game is notorious for some really hard levels and the difficulty curve. The game’s plot was a continuation of the previous game. Instead of having the banana hoard stolen by K. Rool, he has kidnapped Donkey Kong and you have to save him. You may be asking yourself, how are you supposed to save Donkey Kong with only Diddy?

Have no fear, you will have his girlfriend Dixie along for the ride. With her blond ponytail, you can jump long gaps as you traverse through the tough levels in the game. The notorious level “Animal Antics,” found in the Lost World, is in this game. In the level, you have to transform into all five animal buddies (Rambi, Squidder, Engarde, Squawks, and Radley) with the only instruction being, “LOL good luck have fun.” The Squawks portion is what drives fans and gamers up the wall; when you transform into the adorable bird, and the wind flies you around, you have to be extremely careful not to hit the vines or you die. Still, the game is a solid entry in the trilogy.

Finally, we come to Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, which was released two decades ago. In this game, you have to rescue both Donkey and Diddy Kong from the clutches of K. Rool. Dixie is back, and this time her cousin Kiddy is with her to go through all the levels. This one is the weakest game because of the repetitive nature of the plot (kidnap and rescue), as well as other aspects. Some of the hardest levels in the trilogy can be found here. One example is called “Rocket Rush,” in which you have to rely purely on your memorization skills in order to beat it. It is known for being difficult because of that and much more. The game is still a solid entry in the franchise, but with the repetitive plot and whatnot, it detracts from it a little bit.
Thanks for this last retro review!

Wes Huntington

Wes Huntington is a senior mass media student. He is also the senior host of Radio a La Carte on KMSU-FM, which airs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every weekday. You can reach him by emailing him at wes.huntington@mnsu.edu.

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