Ah, Donkey Kong Country…Only for Nintendo. And they meant it.
I was, in fact, never a subscriber to Nintendo Power (sorry, Greg Noe!), but somehow still got access to a VHS tape called Donkey Kong Country: Exposed, which was a behind-the-scenes tour of Nintendo of America’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, with bonus early game footage and tips from testers on how to access hidden bonus stages. Think I “borrowed” the tape from a friend’s house. Ahem. “Borrowed.” And it, much like the game itself, ended up parting with me some time during my switch from SNES to PlayStation 1. I have a strong feeling though that the VHS tape sold at a neighborhood yardsale for 50 cents. Oh yeah, made a profit.
Moving on, this plus about four other SNES titles more or less were my collection for the longest time. Money was tight, and if I didn’t get a game for Christmas, well…I was just a wee lad then that would water the grass or wash a neighbor’s car for pocket money. Was not rolling it, as they say. I relied a lot on renting games for a few days or borrowing them from a friend. Notice I said borrow and not “borrow”; no way I would’ve gotten away with something like that, not when a kid’s SNES or Sega Genesis was his or her only friend. Oh, and those other games consisted of Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and–don’t laugh, kids–Jurassic Park. I’ll talk about Jurassic Park for the SNES one day, but I am just not ready yet; the scars have not healed.
It’s clear that Donkey Kong Country came to be from other platformers of that day and age, most namely Super Mario Bros. The plot is essentially the same. Instead of saving the princess, you need to save DK’s stolen banana loot. The game has you collecting bananas in levels for extra lives; you can die by falling down holes in the level or getting touched by enemies; and you use a world map to select where you want to go. Sure, sure, the game did some original things too, but it pays a lot of homage to its elders.
But Donkey Kong Country is a very memorable game, and I think fondly about it a lot. The music, the jumping, the level progression, the mine carts, and the shooting from barrel to barrel to moving barrel. There was a lot going on within, and it was very successful in pushing the SNES to its limits and then mocking rival 32-bit and CD-ROM based consoles with purported superior processing power. I think many will first remember the pre-rendered 3D graphics, which really helped bring the 2D side-scrolling platformer to life; the early jungle levels are full of green and treetops and towering hills while the snow levels are replete with blizzards and glistening ledges. This engine was also used on Rare’s other title Killer Instinct, still in my collection now.
By and far though, my favorite stages in Donkey Kong Country were any where you rode an animal. These included Rambi the Rhino, Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, Winky the Frog, and Squawks the Parrot, and all were tied to a specifically themed level. Yup, even as frustrating as the underwater levels were, once you got on that swordfish it was ::ahem:: clear swimming from there. Later games would introduce even more animals, and those also were worth looking forward to.
The only negatives I ever put on Donkey Kong Country‘s shoulders were its coin-based save system and boss battles. The boss battles all followed a very repetitive strategy and once you figured that out, it was hit ’em, hit ’em, an hit ’em dead. I ate everything else up with wide eyes and an open heart.
Tara and I combined our SNES collections back when we first started dating in 2008, and she had Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, a pleasant surprise, as well as a decent filler for the time being. That said, I’m definitely interested in seeing how Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii plays out despite having a paper-flat title.
GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.