The game that began a timeless trilogy
In 1994, Rare released a game for the Super Nintendo that would be the first game in a glorious trilogy which stands out as my favorite video game series of all time. Donkey Kong Country impressed and wowed many people with it's astounding graphics (made using Silicon Graphics), smooth game play, great levels, and fun bosses. Yes, the first DKC acted as a great way to kick-start the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, although it honestly is my least favorite game of the 3. That doesn't mean I find the game bad, of course. It's still a great game, and one of the best on the SNES.
In this game, Donkey Kong and his best friend, Diddy Kong, must take on a horde of crocodiles called the Kremlings, who have stolen all of the bananas from Donkey's banana hoard. Donkey and Diddy will have to travel through 6 different worlds on Donkey Kong Island, defeat the toughest of the Kremlings, and then stand up to the Kremling King himself, King K. Rool, to reclaim all of the stolen bananas. On their journey, the Kongs will travel through many different environments, such as jungles, caves, mines, temples, factories, forests, and a few other areas.
The graphics in the game are certainly incredible, as each stage has a very well-designed background, with a special shout-out going to the snow stages. The gray skies and the snow that starts out slow but then turns into a fierce blizzard... nothing short of impressive, really. The amount of attention the developers spent on making the stages look beautiful is certainly noticeable. Also noticeable are the amazing character sprites. Donkey and Diddy are animated very well, and sometimes can do some pretty amusing actions, like when Diddy throws his hat down and stomps on it angrily if he loses on a bonus game, or when Donkey claps his hands and makes happy monkey noises when he defeats a boss. The enemies and bosses are all animated nicely as well, thanks to the wonders of Silicon Graphics.
The variety of game play in each stage of the game is wonderful too. In some stages, you will ride on a mine cart and try to jump over obstacles such as pits, bees, and kremlings riding in mine carts. Some stages have you hop in barrel cannons and shoot from one cannon to the next to get over large pits (these stages are HARD! Your timing has to be dead-on!). And there's even one stage that takes place in a factory where the lights flicker on and off constantly, allowing you to only see the Kongs, so you need to watch your step
Also, you can use animal buddies in this game. In certain stages, you will find a crate containing an animal buddy, and you can ride said buddy up until the end of the stages. There are 5 animal buddies in total, the first being a rhino named Rambi who can jump on enemies or knock them away with his horn. Controls are a bit more slippery with him though, but not too much. Next up is Engarde the swordfish, who you will only find in the underwater stages, but you want to get him, because he can plow through almost any aquatic enemy (not all of them, like the spinning croctopi). There's also Winky the frog, who can bounce high and land on enemies (including those pesky bees!), and Expresso, an admittedly burdensome bird who can fly briefly, but cannot hurt enemies. If you get hit while on an animal, the one you're on will run off, and it could very well run right into a bottomless spit, where it's gone forever. Last but not least, we have Squawks, a parrot who appears in just one stage to light the way as you explore a dark cave.
Speaking of animals, look for animal tokens in the game. These tokens will be shaped like either Rambi, Engarde, Winky, or Expresso, and if you get 3 of one token, you will get to do a bonus with that animal where you run around and collect small golden tokens. Once time runs out, you get 1 extra life for every 100 tokens you got.
While exploring DK Island, you want to keep your eyes peeled for bonus rooms. Sometimes you'll find a hidden barrel that will launch you to a bonus rooms, and other times you will have to use a barrel to break open a wall and reveal a hidden doorway. The bonus rooms give you chances to get plenty of extra lives, which can certainly be helpful. Sometimes you will have to spell out words by hitting letters that spin in the air (make sure to spell properly or you lose), sometimes you have to jump on enemies to collect bananas, and sometimes you have to match certain symbols on barrels, like KONG letters or extra lives.
Speaking of, each stage has 4 letters, and if you collect them all throughout the stage, you can spell KONG and get an extra life! If you run out of lives, it's game over, and you start from where you last saved. That brings me to the subject of the other three Kongs you will find on your journey. Donkey's grouchy grandfather, Cranky (my favorite Kong), is the Donkey Kong from the old Donkey Kong arcade game, and he will lecture you about how games used to be so great when they were just on one screen ("Whisking off maidens and throwing barrels around the place seven
days a week, I was. That's how I got where I am today, you know. Hard
and also give advice on how to find certain goodies or bonuses. Funky Kong will let you use his airplane to visit any world or stage you're already been to, and Candy Kong lets you save your progress. Each Kong appears once on each world, so make sure to visit them all (you can't listen to Cranky without suppressing an urge to laugh).
And of course, one does not simply talk about DKC without bringing up the musical score. The soundtrack, composed by David Wise, is very ear-catching and has many tunes that will get stuck in your head. The final boss theme, Gangplank Galleon, is one of the best boss themes I have ever heard, with a catchy start followed by an epic transition. The regular boss theme is frantic, yet catchy, the title theme is as catchy as a title theme could ever get, and the theme for the jungle stages is just unforgettable.
The bosses in DKC are memorable, but they are on the easy side, as only one of them could actually be called challenging. Still, fighting the bosses in a cave of bananas while listening to the epic boss theme will have your heart pumping, as you fight creatures like giant beavers, huge angry bees, and a big drum that conjures up many enemies for you to fight.
So, the big question is, "why is the original DKC your least favorite DKC game?". Well, it is a great game, but the soundtrack to me isn't quite as ear-catching and captivating as the soundtracks for the second and third DKC. Also, the bosses are so simple, and you always fight in a cave of bananas, except for on the last boss. And I honestly think the graphics, while great, really ended up improving in the second and third installments.
So, DKC is an amazing game, despite my slight criticisms. It's the beginning of my favorite video game series of all time, and boy, once you start playing, it isn't easy trying to stop! It's more fun than a barrel of... well, you know.