Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
|Donkey Kong Jungle Beat|
North American GameCube cover art
|Developer(s)||Nintendo EAD Tokyo|
|Genre(s)||Platform, rhythm, score attack|
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat[a] is a 2004 platform and score-attack video game developed and published by Nintendo for the GameCube. It is part of the Donkey Kong franchise and follows the gorilla Donkey Kong as he sets out to defeat a series of evil kings and conquer the jungle. Jungle Beat is designed for use with the DK Bongos, a bongo drum-style GameCube controller previously used with the Donkey Konga series of music games. The player uses the DK Bongos to control Donkey Kong through various side-scrolling levels as he collects bananas, swings on vines, chains combos, rides animals, and defeats enemies and bosses.
The debut project of the 65-member Nintendo EAD Tokyo, Jungle Beat's development began around July 2003, after Shigeru Miyamoto suggested that Nintendo should commission a new Donkey Kong game. Development was led by director Yoshiaki Koizumi and producer Takao Shimizu, who sought to create a simple, accessible game in contrast to more complex contemporary games. Koizumi conceived a game that used the DK Bongos instead of a standard gamepad to control the player character, and applied lessons he had learned from previous projects during development. Because the tone differed from previous Donkey Kong games, the team chose to exclude most of the franchise's existing elements and characters.
Jungle Beat was released in Japan in December 2004, with Western releases following a few months later in 2005. It received positive reviews from critics, who complimented its use of the DK Bongos; they also praised its visuals and level design. Criticism was directed at its short length and low difficulty level. The team that worked on Jungle Beat went on to develop the critically acclaimed Super Mario Galaxy (2007), which notably retained and refined concepts that were introduced in Jungle Beat. Jungle Beat was rereleased as part of Nintendo's New Play Control! line of GameCube ports for the Wii in 2008; the port contains reworked controls and levels. This version was later released as a downloadable game for the Wii U in 2016.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a 2.5D, rhythm-based platform game in which the player controls the gorilla Donkey Kong through a series of side-scrolling levels. It features a simple plot: Donkey Kong sets out on a journey to defeat a series of evil kings and conquer the jungle. While it is compatible with a traditional GameCube controller, Jungle Beat is designed for use with the DK Bongos, a GameCube controller that resembles a pair of bongo drums and was previously used for the Donkey Konga (2003) music game. Hitting the left drum causes Donkey Kong to move left, while hitting the right drum causes him to move right. The player hits both drums to jump and claps in front of the DK Bongos' built-in microphone to send a shockwave. The player uses these controls to perform backflips, slap the terrain, swing on vines, and jump between walls.
As the player starts the game, they select a kingdom to explore; there are 16 kingdoms in total and they are gradually unlocked as the campaign progresses. Each kingdom features three levels: two main platforming stages and one boss fight. Unlike traditional platformers, Jungle Beat contains score-attack elements: the goal is not simply to get to the end of the level, but to get as many points, or "beats", as possible. Beats are obtained by grabbing bananas, which are scattered throughout levels or can be summoned by defeating enemies or interacting with objects. The player can perform combos in midair while grabbing the bananas to increase their beat count. When performing combos, a counter is started, rising with each successive combo move acquired before landing. Beats also serve as Donkey Kong's health, as the player loses beats if they are damaged by enemies or hazards. If the beat count reaches zero, the player receives a game over and must restart the kingdom from the beginning.
Like previous Donkey Kong franchise games, in certain levels the player must ride animals, each of which offers a unique attribute: squirrels allow Donkey Kong to glide slowly through the air; wildebeests charge right continuously and plow through objects that provide bananas; orcas carry Donkey Kong through water; and birds allow Donkey Kong to fly. Between most levels, there is a short minigame where the player must tap the bongos as fast as they can to earn extra bananas. The final level of each kingdom contains a boss fight against a large enemy. The game features several types of bosses, each of which must be defeated in a different manner: gorillas must be taken on in a Punch-Out!!-style arena; tanks resembling elephants must be defeated by throwing back bombs that they fire; and birds must be defeated by destroying the giant egg they are carrying.
At the end of the kingdom, the total sum of beats (after deducting any damage taken during the boss fight) is tallied up. Completing a kingdom earns a crest, while additional crests are earned by achieving certain amounts of beats. Crests are required to play new kingdoms, which is determined by the number shown. Clearing all the kingdoms in a section unlocks the next set of kingdoms. Players can revisit earlier levels to try to earn more beats, thus earning more crests.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was the debut project of Nintendo EAD Tokyo, a game development division of Japanese video game company Nintendo that was formed in 2003 with a 65-person team. The idea for Jungle Beat originated at Nintendo's primary office in Kyoto, shortly before staff moved to Tokyo to form the new division, when Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto suggested that EAD Tokyo develop a new Donkey Kong game. As such, shortly after EAD Tokyo was established in July 2003, development began. Division heads Yoshiaki Koizumi and Takao Shimizu—who had previously led development on Nintendo's Super Mario Sunshine (2002)—respectively served as director and producer. Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka also served as producers, while Koichi Hayashida was the assistant director and contributed to some level design.
With Jungle Beat, Koizumi and Shimizu sought to create an accessible, easy-to-understand game. The idea to control Donkey Kong using the DK Bongos originated from Koizumi, who had handled character controls and virtual camera systems on previous projects. He had been "hearing from many people" that controlling characters in modern games was becoming challenging, which developed into a desire to create a game with a simple control scheme that did not rely on a traditional gamepad. Upon seeing the DK Bongos, he conceived the central idea for Jungle Beat. Using the DK Bongos presented some challenges; since the controller restricted the player's movements, EAD Tokyo had to come up with new game mechanics as a workaround. The developers chose to change the camera angle when Donkey Kong encounters an enemy—altering the control scheme as a result—to keep his abilities and the action varied. The automatic camera also allowed Koizumi to avoid camera problems he found in previous 3D games he had worked on.
EAD Tokyo prioritized simplicity during the development of Jungle Beat. Shimizu commented that, as contemporary video games took considerable time to complete and lost appeal if an individual had to stop playing, Jungle Beat's levels were designed to take between five and ten minutes, without any shortcuts, to complete. He felt that the game would appeal to a busy person because it did not contain long save or load times. The developers reflected the game's simplicity through its story, which only features Donkey Kong trying to be "the best"; they sought to instead tell the story through the gameplay. Tonally, Koizumi wanted Jungle Beat to be "over the top" and hoped it "would make even bystanders giggle and enjoy themselves." The decision to exclude elements and characters from previous Donkey Kong games—the only elements returning being the Donkey Kong character and bananas—was made because of the tone, which differed from its predecessors, and because the developers wanted to reflect the style of EAD Tokyo.
During its showing at the Nintendo World event in November 2004, Koizumi and the team carefully observed player feedback, and used said feedback to polish the game shortly before its release. EAD Tokyo aimed to release Jungle Beat during Japan's 2004–2005 winter season, which Shimizu commented presented a considerable challenge. The team was ultimately able to complete the game in time for the 2004 Christmas shopping season. A two-player multiplayer game mode was planned, but did not appear in the finished product. Mahito Yokota composed the game's soundtrack. Like he did on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002), sound programmer Masafumi Kawamura attempted to synchronize the music with the gameplay, like when Donkey Kong jumps.
Nintendo announced Donkey Kong Jungle Beat in May 2004, before a demo was showcased at E3 2004 later that month. IGN's staff described it as "[t]he sleeper hit of the show" and wrote that attendees did not want to stop playing. After the showing, in July 2004 it won two Game Critics Awards—selected by journalists from publications such as Time, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN—for "Best Original Game" and "Best Puzzle/Trivia/Parlor Game". It was also showcased at Nintendo World, which took place in five locations across Japan in November 2004.
Jungle Beat was initially released in Japan on December 16, 2004. A European release followed on February 4, 2005, and a North American one on March 14, 2005. The game was released as both a standalone title and a bundle with the DK Bongos. The European version released on the same day as the Game Boy Advance Donkey Kong game DK: King of Swing. To promote the North American release, Nintendo sent 20 individuals dressed up as apes to participate in the 20th Los Angeles Marathon, which took place on March 6, 2005. The individuals wore Jungle Beat-branded clothing, carried DK Bongos, and chanted the game's title as they ran.
New Play Control! version
In October 2008, Nintendo announced that Donkey Kong Jungle Beat would rereleased as one of the New Play Control! titles, a product line comprising seven updated ports of GameCube games for the Wii. The rerelease, New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, was released in Japan on December 11, 2008, as the line's first release. This was followed by a North American release on May 4, 2009, and a European one on June 5, 2009. It was also released as a downloadable game on the Wii U's eShop on November 3, 2016.
In lieu of the DK Bongos, the New Play Control! version of Jungle Beat is controlled using the Wii Remote, using its Nunchuk accessory to control Donkey Kong's movement and its motion detection feature to clap. To accommodate the more traditional control scheme, the level designs were altered to include more obstacles, and players do not have to collect crests to progress. It also replaces the banana-based health meter with a more traditional life system, and adds a boss rush mode and support for widescreen television displays.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat received "generally favorable" reviews across both its releases. Most reviewers considered it unique and fun to play but rather short given the retail price. It was praised for its wide appeal; possessing both a simplicity targeted at new gamers, and a complex, skill-oriented combo system to attract more hardcore gamers. IGN praised the GameCube version's graphics, saying, "DK's fur makes StarFox Adventures' models look primitive". Criticisms include the game's short length, despite the replayability offered by the score system in levels. There were also complaints of repetitive boss fights, as the same four bosses are used several times throughout the game with limited features to distinguish them. One of the primary criticisms, however, was the lack of past characters and elements from Rare's Donkey Kong Country games. However, despite these criticisms it was rated the 95th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.
Non video-game publications also praised the GameCube version. The New York Times gave it a favorable review and called it "wildly entertaining". The Sydney Morning Herald gave it four stars out of five and called it "a charming romp through dazzling jungle environments via glistening ice chambers, volcanic caverns and aquatic wonderlands. But sadly, many players will complete Jungle Beat in just a few hours." Detroit Free Press gave it three stars out of four and stated that "the bongos are, indeed, special. They mean the difference between a predictable game and one that marches to a different drummer." Common Sense Media gave the Wii version four stars out of five and stated that "The bottom line is that it’s fun but brief. Even with its relatively low price tag, the new Jungle Beat might make a better rental than purchase."
Impact and legacy
Many gameplay elements from Donkey Kong Jungle Beat were reused in the critically acclaimed Super Mario Galaxy, which was made by the same development team. The helper monkeys were originally going to appear in the game as enemies, but were later removed. These gameplay elements would also be used in its sequel.[clarification needed]
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a stage based on Donkey Kong Jungle Beat appears in the form of Rumble Falls. It is a stage that scrolls upward, similar to Melee's Icicle Mountain stage. One of the music pieces that can be played on the stage is the BGM of the level "Battle for Storm Hill." Additionally, Donkey Kong's "Final Smash" move involves him repetitively hitting bongo drums and clapping for a brief time, similar to how Jungle Beat is played, and grows in range and damage if the player pressed buttons in sync with the beat. Several stickers and trophies based on the game can be collected.
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