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Retro Fire

Written: 12.24.14
Acquired: 1.20.06
Status: Cart only
Price: $8

Pub: NintendoNov. '94
Dev: Rare32 MEGS

Last month, Donkey Kong Country turned 20 years young. Over two decades ago, November 21, 1994, DKC was unleashed. It is arguably the most hyped game that ever came out on the SNES. It's also the second best selling game on the system, moving 9 MILLION copies, second only to Super Mario World. So whether you loved it or you loathed it, there's no denying Donkey Mania swept the gaming nation and drove many bananas. Let's return to the jungle...
A new Donkey Kong arrived for a new generation. It was amazing

                                       "IT'S A JUNGLE OUT THERE..."  HOW DKC REINVENTED 16-BITS

In late '94, Donkey Kong Country redefined 16-bit gaming. Magazines were gushing over it, hyping it to the moon and beyond. The screen shots looked absolutely amazing... we never thought such visuals could ever be produced on our trusty ol' SNES friend. At a time where murmurs of the 32-bit war machines were starting to run wild, Donkey Kong Country put all of the 32-bit talk on the backburner; well, at least, for the moment. When we witnessed it in motion, we shitted our pants. Not only did it look incredible, but it also captured the classic quality gameplay stylings of our past platforming favorites. I never got to play it much though, and before I knew it, we had to return it to the rental store. We never bought it, so this game became one of hundreds I never got to play thoroughly as a kid. When I came roaring back into the SNES scene January 2006, I set out immediately to rectify this childhood wrong. And it was damn glorious. There's nothing quite like playing through those games which eluded you more than 20 years ago. Long live retro

One of my all-time favorite memories with this game came 20+ years ago. My old best friend Nelson was in love with Donkey Kong Country. I remember vividly one frosty Friday morning Nelson and I were chatting on the playground before school began. Nelly said, and I will never forget this, "Steve, I can't wait for this day to be over. I wanna go buy Donkey Kong Country after school. I just want to play a good ADVENTURE game, you know?"  For some bizarre reason, it stuck with me, even 20 years later. And Nelson said the key word there. When I sit to think about Donkey Kong Country... the very first word that comes to my mind is adventure. The game has this beautiful atmosphere, conveying a somehow believable grand canvas of an epic undertaking that lies before you. From snowy mountains to lush treetops to shark-infested waters, this game exudes ADVENTURE. Whether you control Donkey or Diddy, one thing is for sure... it's going to be a hell of an adventure. At the end of the day, isn't that what video games should be all about?

                                                           IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT...

                                       Seems like EGM got wasted on the "waisted" part there though...

Thankfully, Rare allowed us to rescue and play as Diddy early on

                                       ... the best 16-bit video game ever?  Not quite... but it IS a classic

Donkey and Diddy Kong effectively swung into our gaming hearts

                                       Each has his own pros / cons. Switching between 'em is brilliant


Funky has cornered the traveling market. That's a dude I'd trust...

                                        Candy is a sweetie. She'll save your game for you free of charge

According to Rare, Cranky is the original Donkey Kong now aged

                                       He's named Cranky for a reason. Pal, try nearly 10 MILLION sold!

"Yo Cranky, UP YOURS!"  I would say that these guys did alright

                                                                       THREE WAYS TO PLAY

                                       Can you imagine: an optional co-op mode would have KILLED it


There is an overworld map, and then maps for each individual world. Let's check it out


But don't rush to the exit. Might there be something in the cabin?

                                       It's one of the easiest, most widely known secrets in 16-bit history

I love games that give you multiple ways to dispatch of a bad guy

Barrels with the letters DK on them allow you to unlock your partner (if necessary). They always seemed to be positioned just right on most of the stages. A job well done by Rare

                                                     Seeing a DK barrel when you're all by yourself is a boon

Break this barrel open to unleash Diddy Kong, a young and vibrant sidekick hero who ended up becoming one of Nintendo's most beloved heroes. Now you can switch off to play as either hero. Diddy is faster and can jump a BIT farther than Donkey, but Donkey has the power advantage which allows him to kill certain enemies Diddy cannot. NICE!

Throughout the adventure you can find some animal friends to assist you in your quest. The first of which is Rambi the raging Rhino!  These animal friends each have their own pros and cons. Rambi's one of my favorites. Come on, how can you beat riding a rhino?

Not to mention few things can rival goring enemies into oblivion

Keep an eye out for hidden bonus rooms!  There are tons of them scattered throughout

Cranky interjects with his classic "back in MY day" spiel. Love how he broke the 4th wall


A tropical thunderstorm has moved in creating a heavy downpour

                                       The sound effect it makes upon impact, plus the visual, is perfect


Slippas are such satisfying enemies to kill due to the sound effect

                                       Breaking a DK barrel to free Diddy while killing a bad guy?  Nice

Being a sidekick sure has its share of perks... this ain't one of 'em

Barrels can be used to find hidden bonus rooms. It was always a thrill to discover one



                                       Leave it to a pair of primates to make underwater levels fun again

Where's Cranky Kong when you need him?

                                       Not to mention... I can still hear the soundtrack in my head. AHH

You can't kill enemies otherwise. No wonder he's such a fan fave

                                       Thanks for restoring my faith in water-based stages, Coral Capers


Barrel Cannon Canyon [try saying that fast five times -Ed.] is, as one might expect, littered with a classic DKC staple: barrel cannons. There are a variety of them... from auto to ones that rotate continuously where you must manually time it perfectly to make your leap out

Word in the jungle is... you get a bonus life if you clear 8 in a row

                                       Barrel cannons would define the DKC series á la shells and Mario

Zingers were added in to make going from one barrel to the next a bit more difficult. Laugh it up now while you still can... because later on, you won't QUITE be able to...


Oh, Rare. You witty little chaps, you!

                                       You almost feel bad hurting the poor guy. I mean, just look at 'im


It's such a small detail, but one that sticks in my mind 20 years on


One of the true all-time classic films from the vaunted 1980s  ^_^

                                       It claimed many lives... and even some controllers along the way

                                                               LEVEL EIGHT: BOUNCY BONANZA

                                       Look at that Diddy... he's just loaded with charm and personality!

I prefer him holding it out versus Donkey holding it over his head

                                                  Diddy: Hey, I'm just returning the favor from earlier!

He's loaded with charm and character... but brains?  Not so much

                                       A small gimmick here, a small gimmick there, helps keep it fresh

[Only reason I see fit to have kept you around all these years -Ed.]

                                                               LEVEL NINE: STOP & GO STATION

                                       [Y'know, on the other hand, perhaps longevity IS overrated! -Ed.]

Stop and Go had a rather interesting gimmick. Rock-like monsters with red glowing eyes are everywhere... and they cannot be killed. Rather than getting rid of them, you have no choice but to skillfully avoid them. This is done by touching the various barrels carefully positioned throughout. When you touch a barrel to stop, Rockkrocs will assume the fetal position, allowing you just enough time to safely pass through. It's a nice change of pace

The game features a decent deal of variety to help spice things up


Diddy is too weak to kill Krusha by himself. But TNT barrels will

                                                      [Diddy's facial expression matches mine -Ed.]


Necky presents a different challenge from Very Gnawty. Very cool

                                                             LEVEL ELEVEN: VULTURE CULTURE

[The Tammy twins beg to differ... -Ed.]

                                       Yer already nodding your head. You know what I'm talking 'bout


Someone at Rare MUST have been a huge fan of Ewok Village...

Hope you like barrel cannons -- only the boldest of adventurers will make it safely across

                                                              LEVEL THIRTEEN: FOREST FRENZY

                                       The screen scrolls automatically while our primate pals scramble

It's hard sometimes to tell the collision detection but it's generous

                                                           LEVEL FOURTEEN: TEMPLE TEMPEST

                                       Many folks break dance... but only one can do it with a millstone

There's just sumthin' satisfying about swinging from rope to rope

                                                            LEVEL FIFTEEN: ORANG-UTAN GANG

                                       This level has the most hidden bonus rooms of any stage: 5 in all


Remember the music for these underwater levels?  So darn good

                                       The sound effect is spot on perfect, too. It's always the small stuff


Does the B stands for Bee?  [I was thinking something else... -Ed.]

                                       [Reminds me of my ex-wife -Ed.] Which one?  [Ya got jokes -Ed.]


In particular, if you try to beat it legitimately without the shortcut

                                       You're playing it, smiling to yourself, enjoying and takin' it all in

... and then SHIT JUST GOT REAL. Thank God for that shortcut...

                                                 RARE REDEFINED THE TERM "CHRISTMAS BONUS"

                                       33 levels, 67 bonus rooms, 1 final boss. Can ya complete all 101?


Many found DKC too easy. Rare wasn't afraid to poke fun at itself.
Yes, it was easy, overall. But a few levels will surely kick your ass

Cranky really breaks the fourth wall. He's such an endearing and memorable character

                                       Amazingly prophetic... I now understand how Cranky Kong feels


Donkey Kong Country was a critical and commercial success from jump street. Prior to DKC's release, the hype surrounding it was off the charts. It was on every gaming magazine. It was billed as a groundbreaking game that would compete against any next gen title. And not surprisingly, DKC was met with rave reviews. EGM awarded it Game of the Month with scores of 10, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan gave it a perfect trifecta. It earned 3 straight scores of a perfect 100. Super Play was a bit less than overly impressed but still ranked the game 90%. GameFan and EGM really sold the game to the public even further. GameFan was notorious for doling out high scores, but I can't recall them ever giving a previous game scores of 100, 100 and 100. DKC's killing at the press stirred much gaming discourse, lifting the game to nearly mythic proportions before it could even reach stores
Donkey Kong Country quickly developed a Paul Bunyan-like aura

                                       I miss EGM's old The Good The Bad and The Ugly opinion boxes

EGM rarely gave out tens back in the day

American magazines loved it. Let's see if UK mag Super Play did

                                       Classic Super Play -- praising yet pumping the brakes all at once

EGM and GameFan were easier to please than the boys at SPLAY

                                                   Nintendo Power rated it the 39th best game in its Top 100


Curious as to see what RVG's readers consider to be their favorite DKC game, I put it to the test a while back with a survey. The results were pretty much what I expected. The results of the poll matches overall online consensus. The original Donkey Kong Country received the most votes... with 39.3%. Diddy's Kong Quest finished just a hair behind with 37.5%. And Dixie Kong's Double Trouble came in third, with a highly respectable 23.2%. From my online travels over the years across various retro gaming message boards, when discussion of the DKC Trilogy pops up, it seems to be a dead even tie between the first and second games as people's favorite. Those who prefer the first game find it to be most "pure" of all, plus the nostalgia never hurts. Folks who prefer DKC2 love it for its refined and more difficult gameplay. They tend to also prefer controlling Dixie (with her hair spinning ways!) over the bigger and more cumbersome Donkey Kong. Last but not least, there is a small yet fairly diehard pocket of fans who claim DKC3 to be the best of the trilogy. They often cite it as having the best graphics and the most satisfying level design. I can see the argument of all 3 sides; it's just a matter of personal taste. There is no right or wrong answer here. Myself... I agree with the majority. I also think the first game is my favorite one. I concede that, perhaps, DKC2 plays a bit better, overall, but for pure fun and enjoyment there's still nothing like the original; the first one has a special spot in my heart
Whichever your favorite, ya can't go wrong with any

                                       Now of course none of them quite match SUPER MARIO WORLD


Donkey Kong Country is one of the better SNES action games. I love the sense of adventure that it captures... lush jungles, snowcapped mountains, mining caverns and more. The game has this epic adventurous feel to it that resonates deeply with me. And I wasn't the only one; the journey that Donkey and Diddy embarked on left an indelible mark on countless gaming hearts. Rare did wonders on the Super Nintendo that few even dreamed could be possible. By the end of 1994, with the next gen systems breathing down the neck of our beloved Super Nintendo, Donkey Kong Country stood as a big fat testament to the power and potential still remaining in Nintendo's trusty old 16-bit wonder. Do not go gentle into that good night... your time is coming soon, 32-bit, but DAMNIT, NOT TODAY!!
1994 was a hell of a year for SNES fans. DKC ended it with a bang

Some will complain that the game is too easy. For me it's always been more about is it any fun?  I love romping through Donkey Kong Country's world. It's one of those games where you can race straight to the exit or you can take your time to carefully find all the secrets. DKC is as basic or complex as you want it to be. I have seen some amazing videos of gameplay techniques I did not know existed because I was rushing to the exit. The game has a lot more depth than one might first think. And to me that's the mark of a great game... a game where you can play it multiple ways. DKC has some layers to it. Sure, the visuals were revolutionary for its time (oh hell, I still think they look awesome today) but the gameplay holds up as well. No, it's not Super Mario World and no, it isn't the best game ever (as it was hyped to be 20 years ago), but damnit if it isn't a blast and a true Super Nintendo classic. The addition of Diddy and all the animal allies was a brilliant move. Diddy proved to be a star. I liked the switching between Donkey or Diddy; it gave DKC a different feel from most other platformers of its era. Plus, some of those soundtracks are legendary. Overall, it's a great game and one that has stood the test of time. Well done, Rare

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 8

Overall: 9.0

Gold Award

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest review coming 2015

                                       DKC has a track that nearly mirrors one from FIELD OF DREAMS

Give it a listen. I think they closely resemble one another, particularly in the first 10 seconds...

Pretty amazing, right?!  God I love both tracks. Both are so whimsical and fun  ^_^