Reviews: Donkey Kong Country 1

How I Learned to Love (and Hate) the Kong

Donkey Kong Country is one of those rare (see what I did there?) games from Nintendo's halicons days that hasn't aged as well as it should've. There's no denying that when the game came out, it was nothing short of brilliant. The graphics were groundbreaking, the music was exquisite, and while the gameplay didn't break the wheel, it was still top-notch. It was a tour-de-force, and for good reason.

But time hasn't been as kind to it. These days, while a lot of the overall feel and atmosphere still shine through, the actual game can be a pain in the arse to play. Part of this is that each Kong only has one hitpoint. Period. If one of your Kongs get hit, you lose that Kong. Getting an Animal Friend can give you some extra protection, but they're few and far between.

Now, you might say that this shouldn't really be all that damning. After all, a lot of the Mario games don't give Mario that much health either, and seeing as DKC is techinally a Mario a spin-off, there's no reason why he shouldn't be subject to the same foibles. The problem is that Mario doesn't actually have to interact with enimies all that often. They're more of an nuisance than anything else. They can be more of a pain depending on the situation, but generally speaking, a goomba or koopa plodding on the ground isn't going to give Mario much trouble.

That isn't the case with DKC. Due in part to the larger sprites and how the levels are designed, there isn't as much room to manuever around, which means you'll be doing a hell of a lot of fighting compared to your average Mario game. Which also means you're that much more likely to get hit, and that much more likely to lose your precious Kongs. It's a difference in design, and so what proves doable in your average Mario game makes for some noticable Fake Difficulty here.

Of course, that isn't the only problem with it. The level design itself can also be a roadblock, espically later on. Granted, it's not all bad. About half of the levels in the game are intiutive, fun, and a blast to play. But the other half seem to inspire Damn You, Muscle Memory! more than anything else. If you aren't exactly on point in some of these, you're a goner, and there's next to no wiggle room. And while that might have been acceptable back then, all of this wouldn't fly today. Gamers today are used to their games being a tad more forgiving, and being forgiving is something DKC just doesn't care to be.

In spite of that, this is a game still worth experincing from beginning to end. What holds up still holds up damn well, and there's a reason DKC is still a house-hold name. Just don't go in expecting it to hold your hand, because DKC is a game that will end you the moment you let go.
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