Donkey Kong Country
|Donkey Kong Country|
North American SNES box art
|Series||Donkey Kong Country|
Donkey Kong Country is a 1994 platforming video game developed by Rare and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was first released in November 1994, and under the name Super Donkey Kong (スーパードンキーコング Sūpā Donkī Kongu?) in Japan. The game was later re-released for the Game Boy Color (2000), Game Boy Advance (2003), Wii Virtual Console (2007), and Wii U Virtual Console (2014).
The game is set on "Donkey Kong Island" and centres around Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong, who must recover their stolen hoard of bananas from King K. Rool and the Kremlings. Development of the game first began shortly after Rare's Tim and Chris Stamper ran experiments with a Silicon Graphics workstation, rendering realistic 3D sprites. Nintendo became interested in Rare's work and soon acquired 49% of the company which culminated in the production of a new title using Alias and SGI technology for the SNES console. The Stamper brothers expressed an interest to create a standalone Donkey Kong game, and assembled a team of 12 to work on the game over an 18-month development cycle.
Donkey Kong Country is the first Donkey Kong game that was not produced or directed by Shigeru Miyamoto, the character's original creator. It was directed by Tim Stamper instead, although Miyamoto was still involved with the project. Following an intense marketing campaign, Donkey Kong Country received critical acclaim and more than nine million copies were sold worldwide, making it the second-best-selling SNES game.
Donkey Kong Country is a platform game where players must complete forty different side-scrolling levels (forty-one in the Game Boy Color version) and recover the Kongs' banana hoard, which has been stolen by the Kremlings. Each level is uniquely themed and consists of varying tasks such as swimming, riding in mine carts, launching out of barrel cannons, or swinging from vine to vine. The player begins with a minimum of six lives. Players lose a life if they get hit by any enemy or fall off the screen. To defeat an enemy, players can either execute a roll, jump or hand slap (a move only usable by Donkey Kong). However, some enemies cannot be taken down in this manner, so the player must throw a barrel or use the assistance of an animal. Enemies vary in difficulty, usually becoming tougher to take down as the game progresses. When the player has lost all their lives, the game is over. However, the player can gain additional lives by collecting items scattered throughout the levels, including bananas, golden letters that spell out K–O–N–G, extra life balloons, and golden animal tokens that lead to bonus levels. There are also many secret passages that can lead to bonus games where the player can earn additional lives or other items, as well as gain possible shortcuts through the level.
Players of Donkey Kong Country control one of two characters: Donkey Kong or his nephew Diddy. The player can switch between characters if they are both on the screen. Donkey is the larger of the two, and can defeat enemies more easily while Diddy is faster and more agile. In several levels, players can gain assistance from various animals, who are found by breaking open crates. These helpers include Rambi the Rhino, Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, Winky the Frog, and Squawks the Parrot. Each animal can be found in an appropriately themed level: for example, Enguarde can only be found underwater, and Squawks is found in one cave level. Some animals can also give players access to bonus games.
The game offers single-player and multiplayer game modes. Multiplayer allows two players to play alternatively in one of two different modes: the competitive "Contest" mode or the cooperative "Team" mode. In Contest mode, each player controls a different set of Kongs and take turns playing each level as quickly as possible; the objective is to complete the most levels in the fastest time. In Team mode, each player takes the role of one of the two Kongs and play as a tag team: the active player's Kong will control the progression of the two players while the other player is dormant; the other player takes control if the active player loses his Kong from damage or if the active decides to switch out.
Donkey Kong Country uses a series of map screens to track the players' progress. Between each level, players control their character on the map screen, navigating to the next level they want to play. Each level on the map is marked with an icon: unfinished levels are marked by Kremlings (the game's main enemy), while friendly areas are marked by members of the Kong family. Every individual world map screen has one boss enemy at the end of the course, which must be defeated to travel back to the main map screen of the whole island. It is possible to access previous world maps without defeating the boss by finding Funky Kong and borrowing his barrel plane. Players use this ability to select the world from the main screen, then the level within it. During play the game interface hides most game-related information, such as the number of bananas, letters, and animal tokens collected, as well as the number of lives remaining. When an item is collected, the relevant information briefly appears on the screen.
In the game, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong must recover their stolen hoard of bananas from King K. Rool and the Kremlings. Upon investigating the empty "Kong's Banana Hoard", located directly underneath his home in the Kongo Jungle, Donkey Kong embarks on an adventure throughout his native Donkey Kong Island. While collecting bananas on the island's vastly different regions, Donkey Kong must defeat various enemies, including the reptilian Kremlings, and other hazardous creatures native to the island. Aiding him in his quest are some of the other Kongs: Diddy accompanies Donkey Kong on his quest, Cranky provides hints and comic relief, Candy operates the island's save points, and Funky offers a means of transportation around the island. Also assisting Donkey Kong at times are various 'animal buddies' (Rambi the Rhino, Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, Winky the Frog, and Squawks the Parrot), each with their own unique abilities. After progressing through the island's different areas, Donkey Kong ultimately arrives at a pirate ship called Gangplank Galleon, where Donkey Kong's nemesis and the leader of the Kremlings, King K. Rool, awaits with Donkey Kong's Banana Hoard. Upon his defeat, the game ends with a final shot of Donkey Kong's Banana Hoard restored to its former glory, filled with bananas once again.
Before Donkey Kong Country's production, Rare's Tim and Chris Stamper invested and programmed experiments with a Silicon Graphics Challenge workstation, with their initial focus centred on a boxing game. Although never reaching beyond the stages of initial development, senior Nintendo staff who visited their Twycross studio were impressed with their progress after being shown a working demo. Genyo Takeda was dispatched to Japan to advise then-president of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi on securing a deal with Rare. Following talks between Yamauchi and Rare staff, Nintendo acquired 49% of the company, which culminated in the production of a new title using Alias and SGI technology and the addition of Rare as a second-party developer. The Stampers expressed interest in making a game based on Donkey Kong and were given Nintendo's permission.
Rare assembled a team of twelve to work on the game, and according to product manager Dan Owsen, a total of 20 people worked on Donkey Kong Country over an 18-month development cycle – the most that Rare had ever assembled for one project at that point. When Rare presented the first playable version of the game to Nintendo, Nintendo directed them to significantly reduce the difficulty, as they wanted the game to appeal to a broad audience and felt that the game's numerous secrets would provide sufficient challenge to hardcore gamers. Designer Gregg Mayles was tasked with re-arranging the stages so that the player could "go first time" past obstacles and would eventually slow down into more difficult stages as the game progressed. At this point Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto, though otherwise uninvolved with the project, also made some last-minute suggestions which were incorporated into the final game, such as Donkey Kong's hand slap move.
The Donkey Kong character was redesigned with a distinct, three-dimensional physical appearance. While borrowing the red necktie introduced in 1994's Game Boy version of Donkey Kong, the character featured a new look that would become the standard that continues to be used in nearly all games featuring him. Until Microsoft's purchase of Rare in 2002, all Nintendo games featuring Donkey Kong (including Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros., and the Mario Party series) credited Rare for the use of their Donkey Kong model. To develop Donkey Kong's movements in the game, Rare staff spent hours at nearby Twycross Zoo observing and videotaping real gorillas. However, they found that on the rare occasions when the gorillas moved, their movements were "completely unsuitable for a fast-paced videogame", and so Donkey and Diddy Kong's animations were instead loosely based on how a horse gallops.
Initially, Rare created Diddy Kong's model with the intent that it be their update of Donkey Kong Jr. Nintendo felt that the model was too great a departure from Donkey Kong Jr.'s original look, and insisted that Rare either re-work it to match Donkey Kong Jr.'s original appearance or present it as a new character entirely. Mayles decided that a new character suited the updated universe of Donkey Kong so he kept Donkey Kong Jr.'s redesigned model and initially renamed the character "Dinky Kong", but after legal advice Rare changed it to Diddy Kong.
Donkey Kong Country was one of the first games for a mainstream home video game console to use pre-rendered 3D graphics. It was a technique that was also used in the earlier 1993 Finnish game Stardust for the Amiga, and later in Rare's Killer Instinct. Many later 3D video games also used pre-rendered 3D together with fully 3D objects. Rare took significant financial risks in purchasing the expensive SGI equipment used to render the graphics. David Wise, Rare's composer from 1985 to 1994, admitted that the workstations Rare purchased were worth £80,000 each. A new compression technique they developed in house allowed them to incorporate more detail and animation for each sprite for a given memory footprint than previously achieved on the SNES, which better captured the pre-rendered graphics. Both Nintendo and Rare refer to the technique for creating the game's graphics as "ACM" (Advanced Computer Modelling).
As a part of Nintendo's marketing campaign, a 15-minute VHS tape titled Donkey Kong Country: Exposed was sent to subscribers of Nintendo Power magazine. Hosted by comedian Josh Wolf, the video shows a brief tour of Nintendo of America's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, and footage from the game when it was in the final stages of development. Several game testers provide tips on how to access bonus levels and perform tricks throughout the game. Various interviews promote the level of graphical complexity as being revolutionary for game systems at that time. A segment at the end of the video reminds viewers that the game is available only on Nintendo's 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System console and not on rival 32-bit and CD-ROM based consoles (e.g., Sega 32X and Sega CD) that boasted superior processing power. In a "hidden" section at the end of the cassette, the host of the video opens a door and discovers that Nintendo of America testers are playing an early development version of the Killer Instinct arcade. A character resembling Chief Thunder is shown with notable differences.
Nintendo of America partnered with Kellogg's for a promotional campaign running from the game's release in November 1994 until April 1995, in which the packaging for all of Kellog's breakfast cereals would feature Donkey Kong Country character art and announce a prize giveaway.
David Wise composed the majority of the music for Donkey Kong Country, with Eveline Fischer and Robin Beanland also contributing. Wise had start making compositions for the game when he was still a freelance musician. He has said that he originally assumed the music he composed for the game would later be replaced with compositions by a Japanese composer, since he understood how important the Donkey Kong license was to Nintendo. But he was later asked by Rare to record three jungle demo tunes, which were connected together to become the "DK Swing": "I guess someone thought the music was suitable, as they offered me a full time position at Rare."
Donkey Kong Country is known for its atmospheric music, mixing natural environmental sounds with prominent melodic and percussive accompaniment. It features a wide variety of different musical styles that attempt to be evocative of the environments in which they appear. This varies with the differing areas of the game, and includes music from levels set in Africa-inspired jungles, caverns, oceanic reefs, frozen landscapes, and industrial factories. Wise cited Koji Kondo's music for the Mario and Zelda games, Tim and Geoff Follin's music for Plok, synthesizer-based film soundtracks released in the 1980's and a lot of rock and dance music released that same decade as influences in creator the music for Donkey Kong Country. He has stated that he wanted the music produced by the SNES's SPC700 chip for the game to sound similar to the Korg Wavestation synthesizer, but ended up composing most of the music himself.
Donkey Kong Country also had a soundtrack which was released on CD under the title DK Jamz. It was sent to news media and retailers in November 1994 as a promotional item, and released to the general public in March 1995. DK Jamz consists of fifty tracks, of which tracks 24–48 are completely silent, and the remaining two tracks in the end are "secret" bonus tracks not listed in the back of the disc cover. The soundtrack was also the focus of an OverClocked ReMix collaboration titled "Kong in Concert", later praised by Wise.
Donkey Kong Country was very successful upon release in November 1994, receiving critical acclaim and high praise in retrospective reviews, with an 89 percent approval rating at the review aggregator GameRankings. Many critics consider that Donkey Kong Country "saved" the Super Nintendo Entertainment system from the growing influence of rivals such as the new PlayStation and the rising popularity of the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
Reviewers praised the game's vibrant, colourful and "groundbreaking" graphics. IGN's Lucas Thomas expressed surprise about how Nintendo's 16-bit system could deliver rendered 3D models and praised the detailed character animations, "lush backgrounds" and the "verdant jungle" setting of the game. GamePro declared in their review that "DKC has all the elements of a classic: outstanding graphics, involving game play, and lots of hidden stuff". Later, the game was released as a pack-in game in the SNES "Donkey Kong Set" (which contained a console, controller, connections and the game). This facilitated sales of over 1 million copies, making it a Player's Choice re-release title around 1998. At review aggregator GameRankings, the SNES version received an 89% score, the Game Boy Color version 90%, and the Game Boy Advance version 79%.
The game was awarded best graphic achievement at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show by GamePro. It won several awards from Electronic Gaming Monthly in their 1994 video game awards, including Best SNES Game, Best Animation, Best Game Duo and Game of the Year. It was the only video game to be listed in Time's top ten "Best Products" of 1994. However, it was also considered by the magazine to be one of the Top 10 Most Over-rated Games of All Time before their 200th issue anniversary in 2005. The game also made the #9 spot in GameSpy's 2003 list of the 25 most over-rated games of all time. Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto notably criticised the game, calling its gameplay mediocre. However, he has since criticised rumours that he disliked the game and expressed fondness for it. Despite this, it was rated the 90th-best game made on a Nintendo system in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list in 2006. It also received a Nintendo Power Award for Best Overall Game of 1994 and two Kids' Choice awards, one of each for Favourite Video Game of 1994 and 1995. The game would go on to eventually sell a total of 9 million copies.
Donkey Kong Country's financial success was a major factor in keeping the SNES' sales records high at a time when the next generation of consoles were being released, including the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Donkey Kong Country sold six million units within its first holiday season. After selling nine million units, Donkey Kong Country became the second-best selling SNES game. Rare's re-design of the Donkey Kong character would then become a standard for all future Nintendo games featuring him, including his appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series and various Mario Kart games. Furthermore, Donkey Kong Country's popularity managed to extend its own series - following up with a sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, which was released the following year to critical acclaim. The character of Diddy Kong also gained enough popularity to spawn his own game, Diddy Kong Racing was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997.
In 2000, a version of Donkey Kong Country was released for the Game Boy Color. The GBC version had a new stage in Chimp Caverns, "Necky Nutmare", as well as a revamped and longer Winky's Walkway. The GBC version had some of the music scrapped and replaced, often with music that originated in Donkey Kong Land. In 2003, another version of the game was released for the Game Boy Advance. This version had increased brightness, at the cost of contrast and colour saturation, to make the game easier to see on an unlit LCD screen. Both games had some new features, including new minigames, hidden pictures, and a Time Trial mode; additionally, the GBA version had multiplayer games. Both versions also had lower sound fidelity and a number of minor changes. Candy Kong no longer runs a save point, so players can save the game in any area.
Donkey Kong Country was re-released on the Virtual Console for the Wii in Oceania on 7 December 2006, Europe the next day, and North America on 19 February 2007. The Donkey Kong Country series titles were removed from the Wii store in November 2012, but were ultimately reinstated for the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014. In Europe, Donkey Kong Country was released on the Wii U Virtual Console on 16 October 2014, and in Japan on 26 November. On 26 February 2015, the first three Donkey Kong Country games were released on the Wii U Virtual Console, and were reinstated for the Wii Virtual Console in the United States.
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