Retro Game Nostalgia: Donkey Kong Country Review

Although its flaws are a bit more apparent, Donkey Kong Country proves it still has some punch nearly two decades after its original release.

Before taking the nostalgia goggles off and doing a review of this game, I'd like to say that Donkey Kong Country is one of my favorite Nintendo titles of all time. It and its sequel were some of the first games I played, as well as the first two games I completed on my own as a child. The level design (especially in the second game) is amazing, the music is superb, and the gameplay is stupendous. Enough flattering the designers, now it's time to take the goggles off, boot up the SNES, and see if the game still feels like it used to.

Sound

The music in Donkey Kong Country still holds up, in my opinion, as some of the most memorable music in any video game of all time. Revisiting it, each note is like an old friend passing by, giving your ear drums a gentle massage. The drums at the beginning of Jungle Groove still get me pumped up to return some stolen bananas.

Besides the music, the game has some great sound effects. Whether it's the screaming of your bonked enemies, the swooshing of the marlin in the water, or the hilarious ape sounds your partner makes when stuck in the DK barrel, all of the sounds are memorable and iconic. The cart clanking noise still gives me shivers to this day. Yikes.

Graphics

Donkey Kong Country has awesome character designs. All of the individual characters and even the levels themselves look good, but the one thing this game does suffer from is recycled level themes and enemies. There is a decent variety of enemies overall, but they do tend to reuse the same enemy sprites, just color swapped. The sequel improved upon this, but playing the first game again, it's like "Okay, we get it, bees come in every color!"

Level Design

I'm a bit torn on what to say here. The level design is definitely memorable, but playing through it now, you see where a lot of the levels are just repeats of previous stages with a slightly different twist. It still provides you with some entertainment, but this game could've been better by making each stage vary a bit more.

Despite the level design being a bit repetitive, one of the best features of Donkey Kong Country comes from the large amount of secrets placed in each stage. These bonus mini-challenges provide a lot of entertainment and help you build up lives for when you start going through the difficult levels.

Gameplay

I am pleased to say that the gameplay is still amazing. Whether you're looking to try and speed run through it or you're taking your time going through every secret, Donkey Kong Country is nearly flawless.

The only times Donkey Kong Country itself isn't fun is when you get stuck on a rather difficult part on one of the levels that makes heavy use of the rotating barrels or some of the mine cart levels. However, beating these levels does feel you with a sense of relief and pride, making them worth the effort.

The difficulty level fluctuates in this game. I made it through the first world without dying, but as soon as I hit a cart level, I watched my lives drop like stock in parachute pants come the 1990s. Who thought it would be a bright idea to put apes in carts?

Donkey Kong Country feels like it's a lot shorter now that I'm no longer a kid. There's not that many worlds and you go through each pretty quickly, unless you're throwing your controller against the wall due to shooting out of a barrel a millisecond too soon.

Verdict

Donkey Kong Country has its flaws, but ultimately, it is one of the best games available on the SNES and I had a great time playing it again for this review. It provides a solid platforming experience with a bit of difficulty. If you get over some of the repetitive level design, it'll steal your heart, just like Donkey Kong's banana horde.

Due to retaining its charm throughout the years, the author of this Donkey Kong Country review awards a Friends-era Matthew Perry out of ten.

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Published Jan. 17th 2013

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