Donkey Kong Country
|Donkey Kong Country|
North American box art
|Series||Donkey Kong Country|
|Platform(s)||Super NES, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance|
Donkey Kong Country[a] is a 1994 platform game developed by Rare and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The game centers on Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong, who are on a quest to recover their stolen banana hoard from King K. Rool and the Kremlings.
Development began shortly after Rare founders, brothers Tim and Chris Stamper, ran experiments with a Silicon Graphics (SGI) workstation to render 3D sprites. Nintendo became interested in Rare's work and acquired 49% of the company, leading to the production of a game for the SNES using Alias and SGI technology. The Stamper brothers expressed interest in creating a standalone Donkey Kong game and assembled a team of 12 developers to work on the game over 18 months. Donkey Kong Country is the first Donkey Kong game that was not produced or directed by the franchise's creator Shigeru Miyamoto, though he was involved with the project.
Following an aggressive marketing campaign, Donkey Kong Country received critical acclaim and sold more than nine million copies worldwide, making it the third best-selling SNES game. It was ported to the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance consoles, and was made available for Nintendo's Virtual Console. Donkey Kong Country is the first game in the Donkey Kong Country series and was followed by two sequels on the SNES: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest in 1995, and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! in 1996.
Donkey Kong Country is a platforming game in which the player guides protagonists Donkey Kong (DK) and Diddy Kong (Diddy) through 40[b] side-scrolling levels. DK and Diddy are the game's main characters and the only playable characters. The player can switch between Kongs if both characters are present. The main modes of travel are running, jumping, and rolling; all of which both characters are capable. DK and Diddy have different advantages; DK defeats enemies more easily[c] and has a handslap move that reveals hidden bunches of bananas, while Diddy is faster, smaller, and can jump higher than DK can.
Levels contain enemies, bananas, and other objects and collectibles. Enemies can be defeated by stomping, rolling, barrel-throwing, and by using an animal. The game has a variety of enemies, each with varying skills and defenses; for example, the crocodile-like klaptraps must be stomped on because of their forward-facing jaws; rolling into them will cause the player to lose a Kong. Bananas are the most common collectible; collecting 100 bananas grants the player an extra life. Bananas also guide the player through the levels and sometimes indicate the presence of another collectible or hidden area. Other collectibles include K-O-N-G letters and extra life balloons, which both help the player gain extra lives. When an item is collected, a corresponding counter briefly scrolls. Barrels are common objects; an element retained from the first Donkey Kong game. Wooden barrels can be picked up and thrown to defeat most enemies and reveal bonus rooms. Barrels with a red DK icon revive a Kong when one is absent. Barrel cannons propel the player-character in the direction the cannon is facing. In later levels, the player must time the releases between barrel cannons to progress. Barrels covered with stars allow the player to resume progress from his or her position in the level.
Bonus rooms are hidden in almost every level.[d] They are accessed by destroying walls and entering hidden barrel cannons. Bonus rooms contain challenges in which the player-character can earn additional lives and items, and sometimes gain shortcuts through the level.
In many levels, the player can gain assistance from various animal characters; Rambi the Rhino, Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, Winky the Frog, and Squawks the Parrot. Each animal provides a different type of aid; Rambi is powerful and can defeat most enemies, Expresso can run quickly and jump long distances, Enguarde can skewer most fish, Winky can jump and can defeat enemies the Kongs cannot, and Squawks provides light with a lantern. Players can collect animal tokens; when three identical tokens are collected, the player-character is transported to a timed bonus level in which the player plays as the animal.
The game worlds in Donkey Kong Country are themed to resemble ecosystems— jungle, factory, underwater, mountains, treetops, caves, mines, and ruins— that are shared with many levels in that world. A series of map screens are used to track the player's progress. Between each level, the player can navigate the character to the desired area; if a level has already been completed, the player can return to the map screen. Each level is marked with an icon; unfinished levels are marked by Kremling heads while completed areas are marked by heads of the Kong family members. Each world contains three way-points that house the three other members of the Kong family; Funky Kong, Candy Kong, and Cranky Kong. Funky is a surfer who operates "Funky's Flights", a service that allows the player to visit the overworld map. Candy is Donkey Kong's love interest and operates the save points, which are the only way to save the game in the original SNES version. Cranky is the original arcade Donkey Kong who offers to the player hints and complaints. The last level of each world is a boss battle that takes place in a small arena. When the boss is defeated the player returns to the overworld map.
On a stormy night, Donkey Kong assigns Diddy to guard his hoard of bananas as part of Diddy's hero training, and promises to relieve him of the duty at midnight. Later that night, the Kremlings overpower Diddy, seal him in a barrel, and steal all of the bananas, leaving a trail of bananas behind them. The next morning, DK wakes up and realizes he forgot to relieve Diddy. Cranky Kong begins to deride him, and DK resolves to find Diddy and rescue their bananas from the Kremlings.
Before Donkey Kong Country's production, Rare's Tim and Chris Stamper had invested and programmed experiments with a Silicon Graphics Challenge workstation, with the initial intent of developing a boxing game. Although their efforts did not progress beyond the stages of initial development, senior Nintendo staff who visited their studio at Twycross 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 about securing a deal with Rare. Following talks, Nintendo acquired 49% of Rare, which culminated in the production of a new title using Alias and SGI technology, and Rare became a second-party developer. The Stampers expressed interest in making a game based on Donkey Kong, for which Nintendo gave permission.
Rare assembled a team of 12 developers to work on the game, and according to product manager Dan Owsen, 20 people worked on Donkey Kong Country during its 18-month development cycle. Upon reviewing Rare's first playable version of the game, Nintendo directed Rare to significantly reduce the difficulty because they wanted it to appeal to a broad audience and thought the game's numerous secrets would provide sufficient challenge to hardcore gamers. Designer Gregg Mayles and his team arranged the stages so players with good timing could flow between obstacles without waiting. At this point, Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto, though otherwise uninvolved with the project, made some last-minute suggestions, such as Donkey Kong's hand-slap move, that were incorporated into the final game. Brendan Gunn said in an interview with NintendoLife; "There was some wrangling over the look of Donkey Kong; we wanted to modernise the look and give him a different personality. Shigeru Miyamoto had some very strong ideas on what he should look like."
The Donkey Kong character was redesigned to have a distinct, three-dimensional appearance. Using the red necktie introduced in 1994's Game Boy version of Donkey Kong, the character gained a new look 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 credited Rare for the use of their Donkey Kong model.[better source needed] To develop DK's movements in the game, Rare staff spent hours at nearby Twycross Zoo watching and videotaping gorillas. They found that on the rare occasions when the gorillas moved, their movements were "completely unsuitable for a fast-paced videogame", and so DK and Diddy Kong's animations were loosely based on the gallop of horses.
Rare initially created Diddy Kong's model with the intent of updating Donkey Kong Jr. Nintendo thought the model was too great a departure from Donkey Kong Jr.'s original look and insisted that Rare either rework it to match Donkey Kong Jr.'s original appearance or present it as a new character. Mayles decided a new character suited the updated DK universe so he kept the redesigned model and initially renamed the character "Dinky Kong", but after legal advice Rare changed its name to Diddy Kong.
Donkey Kong Country is one of the first games for a mainstream home video game console to use pre-rendered 3D graphics, a technique used in the earlier 1993 Finnish game Stardust for the Amiga, and later in Rare's Killer Instinct. Rare took significant financial risks in purchasing the expensive Silicon Graphics equipment used to render the graphics; David Wise, Rare's composer from 1985 to 1994, said the company purchased the workstations for £80,000 each. Rare developed a new compression technique that allowed them to incorporate more detail and animation for each sprite for a given memory footprint than had been previously achieved on the SNES, which better preserves the pre-rendered graphics. Both Nintendo and Rare call the technique for creating the game's graphics Advanced Computer Modelling (ACM).
Donkey Kong Country had a US marketing budget of $3.76 million. To promote the game, Nintendo of America held an online promotional campaign through the Internet service Compuserve that involved downloadable video samples of the game, a trivia contest in which 800 people participated, and an hour-long online chat conference attended by 80 people, in which Minoru Arakawa, Peter Main and Howard Lincoln answered questions. A 15-minute VHS tape titled Donkey Kong Country: Exposed was sent to subscribers of Nintendo Power magazine. The video, which was hosted by comedian Josh Wolf, shows a brief tour of Nintendo of America's headquarters in Redmond, Washington and footage from the game in the final stages of development. Several game testers provide tips on accessing bonus levels and performing tricks in the game. Various interviews promote the level of graphical complexity as revolutionary for contemporaneous game systems. 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 (such as Sega 32X and Sega CD) that boasted superior processing power. The tape was regarded as a marketing success that significantly contributed to Donkey Kong Country's sales.
Nintendo of America partnered with Kellogg's for a promotional campaign in which the packaging for Kellogg's breakfast cereals would feature Donkey Kong Country character art and announce a prize giveaway. The campaign ran from the game's release in November 1994 until April 1995.
David Wise composed most of the music for Donkey Kong Country, with Eveline Fischer and Robin Beanland also contributing. Wise started composing for the game as 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 because he understood the importance of the Donkey Kong license to Nintendo. Rare later asked Wise to record three jungle demo tunes that were merged to become the "DK Jungle Swing". Wise said, "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 that mixes natural environmental sounds with prominent melodic and percussive accompaniments. It features a wide variety of musical styles that attempt to evoke the environments in which they appear. The music varies throughout 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, synthesiser-based film soundtracks released in the 1980s, and early-to-mid-1990s rock and dance music as influences on the music for Donkey Kong Country. Wise wanted to imitate the sound of the Korg Wavestation synthesiser.
The game's soundtrack was released on Compact Disc under the title DK Jamz. It was sent to news media and retailers in November 1994 as a promotional item, and was released to the general public in March 1995. DK Jamz consists of 50 tracks; tracks 24 to 48 are completely silent and the remaining two tracks are "secret" bonus tracks not listed on the disc cover. The soundtrack was also the basis of an OverClocked ReMix collaboration titled "Kong in Concert", which Wise later praised.
Donkey Kong Country was very successful upon release in November 1994. Within a month of its launch in the United States, its sales reached nearly 500,000 copies. It also garnered much praise in retrospective reviews, with an 89 percent approval rating at the review aggregator GameRankings. According to some critics, the game "saved" the Super Nintendo Entertainment system, which faced growing competition from more technically-proficient consoles like the Sega CD and the Sony PlayStation.
Reviewers praised the game's vibrant, colourful and "groundbreaking" graphics. IGN's Lucas Thomas expressed surprise that 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 said the game "has all the elements of a classic; outstanding graphics, involving game play, and lots of hidden stuff". At review aggregator GameRankings, the SNES version received an 89% score, the Game Boy Color version 90%, and the Game Boy Advance version 79%. Nintendo Power gave a positive review to the Game Boy Color version of the game, saying it was "improved with multiplayer minigames and a GB Printer feature", and that although "the graphics lack the detail of the classic, they're still worth going ape over". It was later ranked as the 90th-best game made for a Nintendo system in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list in 2006. Next Generation reviewed the SNES version of the game, and called it "an amazing cart" while noting that the gameplay "falls a hair short of the typical Nintendo blockbuster."
The game was awarded GamePro's best graphic achievement award at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show. It won several awards from Electronic Gaming Monthly, including Best SNES Game, Best Animation, Best Game Duo, and Game of the Year, in their 1994 video game awards. It also received a Nintendo Power Award for Best Overall Game of 1994 and two Kids' Choice awards in 1994 and 1995 for Favorite Video Game. It is the only video game listed in Time's top ten "Best Products" of 1994; this achievement is somewhat overshadowed by the game's later inclusion in Time's 2005 list of Top 10 Most Overrated Games of All Time. The game also rated ninth in GameSpy's 2003 list of the 25 most overrated games of all time. Although described as "overrated" by some critics, the game has appeared on many best video games of all-time lists.
Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto reportedly criticised the game and called its gameplay mediocre. Miyamoto has since addressed these rumors and expressed fondness for the game. The game eventually sold a total of nine million copies. In the United States alone, its Game Boy Advance re-release sold 960,000 copies and earned $26 million by August 2006. Between January 2000 and August 2006, it was the 19th highest-selling game launched for the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable in the US.
Donkey Kong Country's financial success was a major factor in keeping sales of the SNES high at a time when the next generation of consoles, including the Sony PlayStation and the Sega Saturn, were being released. The game sold six million units in its first holiday season. After selling nine million units, Donkey Kong Country became the second-best selling SNES game and set a record for the fastest-selling video game of all time. Rare's redesign of the Donkey Kong character has been used in all future Nintendo games featuring him, including his appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series and various Mario Kart games. Donkey Kong Country's popularity spawned two direct sequels for SNES; Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest was released the following year to critical acclaim and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! debuted the year after that. Despite Microsoft's acquisition of the game's creator Rare in 2002, Nintendo has since revived the series with Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U, released in 2010 and 2014 respectively. In addition to starring in Donkey Kong Country 2, the character Diddy Kong was popular enough to feature in his spin-off; 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 (GBC). The GBC version has a new stage in Chimp Caverns called "Necky Nutmare" and a redesigned, longer version of Winky's Walkway. Some of the music from the original game was replaced in the GBC version with music that originated in Donkey Kong Land. In 2003, another version of the game was released for the Game Boy Advance; this version has increased brightness at the cost of contrast and colour saturation, to make the game easier to see on an unlit LCD screen. Both games have some new features, including new minigames, hidden pictures, and a Time Trial mode. The GBA version also has multiplayer games. Both versions have 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 in North America on 19 February 2007. The Donkey Kong Country series titles were removed from the Wii store in November 2012, but were 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. On 24 March 2016, Donkey Kong Country was released for the New Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.
The game was re-released for the Game Boy Color (2000), Game Boy Advance (2003), Wii Virtual Console (2007), Wii U Virtual Console (2014), New Nintendo 3DS (2016), and is pre-installed on the Super NES Classic Edition (2017).
Notes, references, and bibliography
- Released in Japan as Super Donkey Kong Sūpā Donkī Kongu (スーパードンキーコング)
- The Game Boy Color version has 41 levels because of the additional level "Necky Nutmare"
- Donkey Kong can stomp on Klumps and blue Krushas, while Diddy bounces off them. Donkey Kong also defeats Armies in one hit, while Diddy requires two hits; one to knock the Army idle and the next to knock it off the screen.
- Underwater stages are the exception.
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