Being able to play Donkey Kong Country on the go in its original, unfettered form has been wonderful these past few weeks, despite having to shell out more cash for the game yet again. I was eight years old when the title launched on Super Nintendo. Eight and incredibly impressionable. I’m rapidly approaching being a geezer as I hurtle towards my 30s, so forgive me as I wax poetic once more about just how stunning it was to see a game like DKC for the first time. Young players of today are so ensconced in the world of HD that it’s almost impossible to imagine something like DKC being a show-stopper, but that’s exactly what it was.
“There’s no way this is a Super Nintendo game!” was the overwhelming response the game received as passersby glanced at it being played on a TV screen. It just looked too darned good to be real, and that’s exactly what my prepubescent mind thought as I made my way toward that inevitable final showdown with King K. Rool. From the jungle to the forest to the industrial wasteland of Kremkroc Industries, every corner of this world that Rare crafted set my imagination on fire. Not only because it was gorgeous, but because it was so fun, too. It was like Mario… and not. Fluidity was a huge part of the experience in DKC; bopping enemies in rapid succession, or even rolling through them like a wave of annihilation, all felt smooth as butter. Donkey Kong was more lumbering, while Diddy was the lightweight speedster, but both facilitated a fantastic sense of speed and agility that was distinct enough from Super Mario to make the game stand out on its own.
Like some of the greatest games of all time (including Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man X, Ocarina of Time, and more), DKC has a soundtrack that’s as memorable as its gameplay. I personally love the melodies in Donkey Kong Country 2 perhaps just a might bit more than DKC, but the creativity here on the part of David Wise is really breathtaking. There are standout pieces, of course, with more melodious works such as Aquatic Ambiance, but the more somber pieces of music that play in caves are equally memorable for being so minimalist. Perhaps here more than either of the sequels did Wise create a sound that perfectly captured the animalistic qualities of Donkey Kong and his world while still managing to be catchy. It’s the stuff of game soundtrack legends for good reason.
The remakes and re-releases were certainly fun in their own ways, of course. DKC on Game Boy Advance played pretty much the same, but never looked quite as impressive as the SNES original. The same for the Game Boy Color version, which also played great, but was more notable by virtue of running on such weaker hardware as well as it did than anything else. Playing DKC on Wii and then Wii U was of course a perfect recreation of the title on home console, but always sitting in the back of my mind was the thought that one day, somehow, some way, I have to play this game on the go. And now I can! And am. DKC is timeless, and a real testament to the creativity of Rare at its peak. It not only revitalized Donkey Kong as a character and franchise for Nintendo, but laid the groundwork for the series as fans know it today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more Kremlings to bash, and you, dear reader, have a game to download if you haven’t done it already!