Donkey Kong Country was a series of games I slept on back when they came out in the mid 90s. The first Donkey Kong Country was released in 1994 and while I was still occasionally buying new games for my SNES (hello Super Metroid!), I was extremely selective with my purchases due to lack of funds. I was also usually looking for either action adventure games that reminded me of my youth or sports games with depth enough to engage me when playing alone and fun enough for multi-player with my friends/roommates. To me, Donkey Kong Country didn’t fit in with the kind of game I was looking for so as a result, I wasn’t feeling Donkey Kong’s grand 1994 return on either the Gameboy or the SNES. I dismissed DKC as Nintendo’s attempt to introduce the big ape to a younger generation, which was quite accurate in reality. So while my cynical view of the game wasn’t really off base, the part I missed was the fact that Donkey Kong Country was actually quite an enjoyable game to play, regardless of one’s age.
I honestly never played a minute of DKC until I bought a used copy of the Gameboy Advance remake in the early 2000s. It felt like the perfect game for a handheld system, with it’s simple platforming and easy to pick up and put back down gameplay. I fell in love with the game so when I started looking for SNES games to add to my already existing collection, I decided I needed to own a DKC game or two. After all, the Donkey Kong Country series is considered iconic and sparked not only a resurgence in sales for the already 3 year old console it was released on, but also the use of pseudo 3D sprites in 2D platformers.
The Donkey Kong Country series was developed by Rare and published by Nintendo, which was a first for a Donkey Kong game. They did a great job with the environments, music and level designs. These games still look and sound amazing today. A total of 3 DKC titles were released for the SNES, but I only own the first two. The first game is a simple action platformer where you play as Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong (who is this previously unmentioned sibling of Donkey Kong?) attempting to retrieve their stolen banana stash back from King R. Kool. Ok, so the plot sounds extremely lame but I’ve never really been one to give a shit about plots when it came to video games, with the exception of maybe RPGs. Bottom line is this is one straightforward yet fun game. I’m a simple man with simple platforming tastes which is why the original DKC appeals to my sensibilities.
The sequel, Donkey Kong County 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest was as convoluted as it’s title implies. I always felt like the possessive was used on the wrong word and the game should be called Diddy Kong’s Quest instead. Either that or P Diddy’s Quest. The stakes are a bit higher in the sequel as you’re no longer just trying to get your bananas back, but instead your uncle. Donkey Kong has been abducted by King R. Kool and Diddy brings along his girlfriend Dixie (playa) to help rescue him. Dixie’s big asset is her long blonde hair that she can spin around like a helicopter, making it easier to traverse larger jumping distances similar to how Princess Peach could long jump in Super Mario Bros. 2. As with most sequels, the game is bigger, harder, and introduces new mechanics and options for better or worse. You now need coins to save your game (grrrr) and DKC 2 is freakin’ hard as nails. I thought the difficulty level of the first DKC was just about right but DKC2 tips the scales a bit on the “too hard” scale. DKC 2 can really get brutal in it’s difficulty which can turn off a player who’s just trying to advance a little in the game, save, and move on with their day. Don’t get me wrong, I think Donkey Kong Country 2 is a fabulous title and likely a must own for the SNES unless you hate platformers. I just find the first game more fun and more my style.
Currently in my collection:
Donkey Kong Country – game, manual, box A-
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest – game, manual, box B+