Any fanboy (or girl, dog, cat, penguin, gorilla, etc.) of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System remembers Donkey Kong Country as a title that completely changed any preconceived notions one may have had of the Super Nintendo’s capabilities. The graphics were completely out of this world, the music sent the unknowing gamer into an auditory euphoria that enveloped their entire being, and the controls were fluent and smooth with a very small learning curve.
More adventurous gamers were rewarded for their curiosity through the discovery of barrels and caves that transported them to bonus rooms, with content ranging from banana collecting to playing as one of the game’s animal mascots on a wild frenzy to collect items, with every 100 items rewarding the player with an extra life at the end of the game! In a sense, it is a game that ANYONE can play with EXTREMELY REWARDING GAMEPLAY! What more could a gamer ask for?
So how does all of this translate to the Gameboy Advance, you may ask? Now, I will go on record that I was hesitant about buying a GBA title that I already own for the SNES, and to tell you the truth, I did not want to be let down. I didn’t want a simple translation to a smaller platform; I wanted something more. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
After being greeted with the GBA’s generic splashscreen with its memorable tones, I was greeted with the dynamic, full motion logo of Rareware against a jungle background, which meant whatever I was about to play would be a quality product. I have been playing Rare games since Slalom for the NES, and they haven’t let me down yet!
Shortly afterwards, the Donkey Kong Country logo came falling down from the top of the screen, followed by the memorable opening theme to its SNES counterpart, albeit more electronic-sounding, but offering more notes in somewhat of a remix. Next, I was greeted with a menu screen that game me 3 options: 1) Start, 2) DK Attack and 3) Extras.
As you can imagine, start takes you to a menu where 3 files are given as your options. After selecting a blank file, I was given the option to have it be either a one-player or two-player game. In one-player mode, the player can switch between DK and Diddy by simply pressing the Select button, and in two-player mode, when switching between the characters, a prompt comes up that says “Press Start to Continue”, which means that two people can share the same GBA and trade off between characters instead of having to bother with a Link Cable.
That’s amazing, seeing how I am a discount gamer and cannot afford EVERY SINGLE PERIPHERAL that is released!
The second option on the main menu is DK Attack, which is DKC’s version of a speedrun. The player is given a small duration of time to complete each course. Throughout each level, more time can be added to the total by either defeating enemies, or by collecting + numbers throughout the course. This mode is more or less for veterans who want to test their skills by seeing how fast they can complete a level and is not recommended for the casual gamer who wants to explore at their leisure.
I played through the first level and found that I COULD still explore if I wanted, but I would have to be sure to bop as many enemies and collect as many numbers as I could to extend the time. I enjoyed it, but I am also VERY familiar with the layouts of each level, so a newcomer may want to brush up on their level-by-level knowledge before attempting this.
Finally, the Extras menu takes you to a screen where the player can select between two new game modes: Funky’s Fishing and Candy’s Dance Studio. The object of Funky’s Fishing is to collect as many fish as possible of the indicated color. My first playthrough required I collect red fish and no others, but this could change later on as I have only played through the first world at the time of this writing.
The hook system takes some getting used to, but the hook falls through the water on its own, and when the A button is pushed, the hook flies up and gathers any fish that are unlucky enough to be in its path, throwing them into the boat. The boat moves on its own accord, however, so timing is crucial in order to land the fish.
Candy’s Dance Studio is all about timing, as Diddy and DK take the stage with her in a dance-off. At the top of the screen, the player is given a ticker board of sorts that shows a bunch of bouncing yellow dots, with an occasional button thrown in. In order to complete the dance successfully, the player has to hit the corresponding button while it is inside of the white box in the center of the screen.
If the player misses, DK shakes his head; if the button is somewhat in the box, “Hit” is displayed; and when the button is EXACTLY inside of the box, “Perfect” is displayed. The score is tallied up at the end, and just as in Funky’s Fishing, the player who achieves a high score can enter their initials onto the leaderboard of the respective game that was played.
Another new addition to the GBA version of Donkey Kong Country is the pictures that can be found in each level. When the player discovers these pictures, whose icon looks like a camera, they can view the gallery by pressing Start on the World Map and selecting Scrapbook. An exclamation point will appear when there are new pictures to be viewed.
This makes the search for hidden items even more rewarding, as the pictures are both refreshing and nostalgic at the same time! I was pleasantly surprised to see new content added that could help me relive those first moments when I popped the original cartridge into my SNES for the first time!
Another great aspect of this game is the ability to save ANYWHERE! You heard right….ANYWHERE! In the original SNES adaption, a player would have to battle through the levels of a world map until they got to Candy’s Save Point, where they could record their progress. If this point was not reached and the game was turned off, the player would be taken back to the last point where they saved, which was very vexing, especially if a player was unable to pass a stage before reaching the save point.
This meant replaying levels that were previously beaten and potentially getting stuck on the same level before exhausting all lives or turning off the system! In the GBA version, the player simply has to press the Start button and select “Save Game”! It’s that SIMPLE! This is a feature that I have been wishing for since the release of the original game and was GREATLY PLEASED that it made its way onto the GBA version!
Now onto the NOT SO PRETTY…
I was, however, mildly disappointed by one aspect of the game: the music. Every level not only maintained its layout while offering new content, but also its original music, more or less. The GBA translation of the SNES’s in-game music was not up to the same level as the original’s, and sounded more tinny and “electronic”, for lack of a better term. This was not a deal-breaker, however, as I am aware that the SNES has proven its meddle time and again where game music is concerned.
One only has to compare the Genesis version of Doom with the SNES version to get the gist! One cannot fully expect the GBA to be able to emulate the music perfectly, and I feel that to a degree, this added to the experience of playing this great game on a handheld console. I do feel, however, that the music could have been smoothed out JUST A HAIR more to make it more fluent.
Another aspect that mildly disappointed me was not even any fault of Rare’s: the scrolling screen mechanics and the GBA’s small display. I know that I could not reasonably think that the ENTIRE world map could be displayed on the GBA’s small screen without the characters being microscopic, so I expected some zoom so that the characters and sprites could actually be viewable. This is not so much a problem in itself, but set the tone for what could be expected while battling though a level.
One cannot rely on their memory to guide them through this game, as the scrolling screen makes it a completely new experience. Because of the small screen size, the reaction time to clear an enemy or obstacle is greatly reduced and forces the gamer to be more alert and completely relearn any previous experience they may have had with the game on the SNES. I died multiple times in Mine Cart Carnage due to this, especially the part where the characters have to jump over downed carts laying on the track while making sure they are able to land on the next stretch of track detached and either higher or lower from the one they are currently on.
I’m not sure if this problem is prevalent when played on a GBA player that is available for the Nintendo Gamecube, but on a GBA handheld, it has cost me plenty of lives. Newer gamers may not even suffer from this malady, but for veteran players, it forces them to forget their memories and adapt to the new system of play!
In conclusion, Donkey Kong Country for the Gameboy Advance is an AWESOME game chock-full of new content to keep both veterans and newcomers entertained for hours. The GBA’s small screen size only seems to negatively effect veteran gamers, where newcomers don’t seem to have any issues. The music is not on par with the SNES version, but is still memorable and nostalgic. The controls are tight and responsive, making full use of the GBA’s button layout to create an enjoyable experience. I have only played through the first world and CANNOT WAIT to complete the game! If you have not taken the plunge and picked this title up, I would give this game a resounding “GREEN LIGHT” that could be heard from the digital jungle hut of Donkey Kong HIMSELF! Thanks for reading!
Lumpz the Clown is an avid gamer who does Let’s Plays, reviews and other assorted clowny goodness He aspires one day to make video games his full-time career and enjoys interacting with like-minded individuals with the same passion for gaming.