MY FIRST TIME: Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country was like nothing I had seen before when it was released in 1994.

There are some games that literally make you expand your mind as to what is possible in video gaming. Seeing the original Mortal Kombat with its digitized characters that featured motion capturing from real actors was mind-blowing in 1992. On the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), a game named Donkey Kong Country possessed a similar type of “wow” factor and showed the gaming world what could be accomplished on a 16-bit platform.

Back in 1994, there was no such thing as YouTube or an expanded version of the Internet where a person could easily access game information. Gamers mainly received their information through video game magazines at stores and newsstands. Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro, GameFan and Nintendo Power were some of the notable publications of the day. I remember receiving a promotional video in the mail for the game as a Nintendo Power subscriber and I lost count of how many times I watched that video. The graphics and the gameplay I saw in that piece of media left me in awe. I knew that I was going to purchase that game the moment it was released.

Rare was the developer behind the original Donkey Kong Country. Before the SNES, the company was known for developing RC Pro-Am for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Even though Rare had been in existence since 1985, it was Donkey Kong Country that showed the company was a major player in the gaming industry. Rare would go on to develop other beloved titles such as the combo-based arcade fighting sensation, Killer Instinct, as well as the N64 shooter classics, Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, before transitioning under the Microsoft umbrella in 2002.

Similar to Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country had overworld maps that housed all the levels.

To prepare for Donkey Kong Country’s arrival, I saved my lunch money and went days at a time without eating at school in order to total the full amount needed to purchase the game. Of course, I do not recommend that anyone do this today. I’m only sharing how I was living off of chips and soda during those day to convey just how interested in the game I was. And even though I earned good grades in school (I was a high school junior in 1994), I didn’t come from a family where I could just randomly ask my parents to buy me a game. So I found other ways to achieve my goal.

Donkey Kong Country lived up to its hype in every way I could think of. There was no other game on the console market that could match the beauty and sophistication of this game at the time. It was truly a gaming masterpiece on display. I was blown away by the detail of the all of the characters, the colors and the vibrance of the different levels with the music and sounds being a tremendous compliment to everything I was seeing. The setting changed throughout the game as you traversed jungle, water, snow, mines, factories, and more. This provided the game with so much visual variety. Before this game, I had held up Super Mario World as the best platformer to date but Donkey Kong Country was on a whole different level. It was truly superior to Super Mario World both visually and audibly.

The game was just a marvel to play. There were many levels of all sorts of varieties with a ton of secrets to be discovered along the way. The way the Kong family was implemented in the game was terrific with Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong being the main protagonists. Diddy was a great addition because he complimented Donkey Kong’s strength with speed and agility. The game allowed you to switch between the two at will provided you freed Diddy from the “DK” barrel. Cranky Kong (the original Donkey Kong), Candy Kong and Funky Kong rounded out Kong clan. From there, you had various creatures that assisted you in your journey such as Rambi the Rhinoceros and Winky the Frog. This was a game that I ended up playing through and beating several times.

Slipslide Ride in Donkey Kong Country is one of my favorite levels in any video game.
Courtesy: YouTube (VideoGamePhenom)

Every gamer has games that they can look back on with such a fondness that there isn’t anything negative to say about them. The memories are not tainted with regret or associated with despair. These are games that bring a smile to our faces every time we think of them. Whether the magazine reviews give it a high score or not, we believe these games are a 10 out of 10 in our hearts. These games represent the very best of the gaming industry.

Donkey Kong Country is one of the best video games ever created. I convey this with absolute certainty and I won’t believe anything different. Rare put out an astounding title that was revolutionary in its time. Yet the game is worthy of your attention even today, especially if you are a fan of Donkey Kong and you like platforming games. It led to two sequels on the SNES (Donkey Kong Country 2 & 3) as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Nintendo Wii and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze on the Wii U and the Nintendo Switch. All of these are very good games, but they exist because of how epic the original Donkey Kong Country was. It was a game changer.



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