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Donkey Konga (import) Package Art

Donkey Konga (import)

If you’re reading this site, odds are you’ve adopted the philosophy that Nintendo is the King Midas of the gaming industry. If they didn’t invent the genre, they’ll set out to improve it with their memorable mascots and well-trained eye for design. So when Nintendo announced they’d be trying their golden hand at the music genre with the peripheral driven Donkey Konga, fans took notice. Unfortunately, with the game being out since December and still no concrete signs of a US release, it’s looking less and less likely that we'll ever see Donkey Konga hit the states. Lucky for you, I’ve spent some quality time with this kongariffic little package, and I’m here to let you know if this one’s worthy of an import, or better off as a treasure of the orient.


First off, as with most music games, visuals don’t need to be mind blowing to still deliver a AAA experience. Unfortunately, it’s obvious Namco didn’t even try with this one. This game could have literally been pulled off on the SNES. The game switches between a static beach and jungle background with characters from the Donkey Kong universe dancing to the beat. Well, apparently nobody ever taught these apes to bust a move as they basically just cycle through a 2D 5-frame animation endlessly. The actual HUD and gameplay icons are functional, but once again a major visual bore. Furthermore, menus are purely text driven and as bland as they could possibly get.

Again, music games don’t need to use visuals as a crutch, but that doesn’t excuse developers from ignoring them completely. Think back to Samba de Amigo, Dance Dance Revolution, and Parappa the Rapper. All of those games featured simplistic gameplay strictly reliant on your HUD, but they still provided you with a zany atmosphere to pump you up along the way, regardless of if you were paying attention to it or not. I would have loved to have seen a presentation similar to 1080 Avalanche where you’re guided around a fitting locale (such as a tiki bar) as you select your options, but sadly, this isn’t the case with Donkey Konga.


The audio’s inversely important to the visuals in a music game. While a music game can stand alone with eyesore visuals, if you drop the ball in the audio department, the whole project’s basically scrapped. Sadly, Donkey Konga bungled both aspects of the game. The game’s soundtrack consists of a mix of Nintendo theme songs, popular Japanese karaoke tunes, and nursery rhymes. Yes, you heard me right, nursery rhymes. If you thought you’d heard Continental Soldier for the last time in 2nd grade, be prepared for an unpleasant flashback. Even the Japanese karaoke tunes were butchered by having child performers record the songs. Think of it as those Kidz Bop albums you see advertised on daytime TV. Namco did manage to squeeze some great theme songs from a few of their franchises in such as the Super Mario theme and DK Rap, but in the end this leaves you with under 10 worthwhile songs on DK’s set list. Top all that off with low quality audio sampling and Nintendo has an ape-sized disaster on their hands for the game’s most critical component.


Before getting to know the game itself, I’m sure most of you are wondering how the kongas themselves (dubbed tarukongas) work. Thankfully, I can finally be the bearer of some good news in this review. The peripheral feels incredibly sturdy and works flawlessly. It always registers your hits, even when you give them a light tap. Also, the clapping mechanism turned out to be much more responsive than I’d originally thought it would. Amazingly, it doesn’t pick up background noise and register it as a clap. On the other hand (no pun intended), you don’t need to look like a moron slapping frantically in order for the clap to be heard. You can even give the side of the tarukongas a tap if you don’t feel like clapping, which is equally as responsive. Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with the tarukongas themselves. Also pleasing is the game’s simplistic yet intriguing gameplay.

I was able to pick up every aspect of the game through the bland yet remarkably functional icons and HUD within the first five minutes of play. The concept is simple: you have to line up the icons representing either a left hit, right hit, dual hit, clap, or combo-string to the beat. This seems simplistic, and unfortunately, it is. While a few songs on the hardest difficulty can give you a run for your money, the learning curve is nowhere near the likes of Dance Dance Revolution or even Samba de Amigo, which is such a shame, as the system itself could have gotten really challenging with the addition of another difficulty and a little more time spent in the design process.

Equally lacking in the polish area are the game’s modes of play. Your basic mode of progression in the game is playing in the “Street Live” mode where you earn coins for completing songs, which you can then spend in “Donkey Town”. It’s there that you can buy new sound effects for your tarukonga (cool little addition), harder versions of the songs, and even mini-games. Unfortunately, the harder songs can also be mastered in a few passes along with the sloppily designed mini-games. If you’re dedicated and have basic control of your motor skills, you can unlock everything in Donkey Konga within a few hours of play. I know what you’re thinking, “You could unlock everything in Parappa the Rapper in a couple hours and still warrant a buy through its incredible replay.” Sadly, once I unlocked everything in Donkey Konga, I had no urge to ever pick it up again. The songs and presentation just aren’t compelling enough to keep me coming back for more.


Once again, Namco dropped the ball. While the addition of a 4-player mode is a welcome addition, the gameplay is hampered by your limited screen size. Also, all of the mini-games are built around a 1-player focus, leaving a multiplayer experience either hampered or non-existent all together. Top this all off with the hefty tarukonga price tag, and you definitely have a title that works better as a hot seat title than an all out multiplayer game.


In the end, I have to admit I had fun with Donkey Konga, but not enough fun to counter my overall disappointment with the title. Although Donkey Konga's quirky peripheral is well designed and a blast to play, the game's lack of presentation, childish soundtrack, and watered down difficulty left the game in the dust of other music titles on the market. However, on the bright side, Nintendo has announced that other song disks will be released in the near future, which could easily fix all gripes I had with this first title. Keep your eyes open for that next disk, but until then, I can only recommend Donkey Konga to hardcore music genre enthusiasts, if even that.

final score 7.5/10

Staff Avatar John Guesnier
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"Life without appreciation is a life not worth living."

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