Donkey Kong Country is a famous SNES platform game, created by British developer Rare and published by Nintendo in 1994.
It is famous for a number of reasons. Primarily because it was one of the first mainstream games to use pre-rendered 3D graphics in a 2D setting. And also because it was one of the biggest cartridges Nintendo ever produced, and was a massive-seller.
Graphically, this first DKC game is outstanding. Pretty much all the creatures, objects and backgrounds have been rendered on a Silicon Graphics workstation and they look a bit like claymation movie models. Of course there’s some 2D art in there too and it all melds together very nicely. It looks a little dated now, but – compared to the DKC sequels, which I think are rather ragged-looking – its appearance is mostly clean and tidy.
The gameplay mechanics are fine too, and are basically the same as you’d see in a Mario game – except slightly simpler, and in this one you control Donkey Kong – or Diddy Kong – they work together in both single and two-player mode. In single-player mode Donkey Kong collects Diddy from a barrel and the computer controls him. You can switch between them at any point. If you get hit by an enemy or fall to your death you lose whoever is in focus at that point and continue with the other character. In two-player mode one player controls Donkey Kong and other controls Diddy.
You jump on the heads of enemies to ‘pop’ them*, collect bananas for bonuses, and collect hidden letters to spell KONG which gives you extra lives. *= Some enemies you can’t jump on, like wasps, which you’ll find out as you play. Donkey Kong can also roll into enemies to kill them and it also gives him a speed boost so he can jump further.
In addition, you get to ride on special animals that are found hidden inside crates on some levels. There’s a rhino, a frog, a swordfish, and others, and they each offer different extra abilities to the Kong duo when ridden.
There are underwater sections; there’s a very challenging mine cart ride; two-player Contest and Team modes… Donkey Kong Country is certainly varied – to a degree…
And – as you’d expect from Rare and Nintendo – there are a lot of nice touches throughout the game. I particularly liked the interesting colour palette cycling which shows day scenes turning into night. There are some nice lighting effects too, like the moving lamps in Winky’s Walkway.
If I had any criticisms of Donkey Kong Country it would be that the game is a bit too simple for my liking, and I also found the boss battles to be not very interesting, but otherwise it’s a decent enough game that has meaning to a lot of people.
Donkey Kong Country did sell over nine million physical copies worldwide and is the third biggest-selling SNES game of all-time.