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Donkey Kong Country

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Donkey Kong Country
Dkc snes boxart.jpg
North American box art
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Tim Stamper[1]
Chris Stamper[1]
Designer(s) Gregg Mayles[1]
Programmer(s) Chris Sutherland[1]
Artist(s) Steve Mayles[1]
Kevin Bayliss[1]
Mark Stevenson[1]
Adrian Smith[1]
Writer(s) Gregg Mayles
Dan Owsen[1]
Composer(s) David Wise[1]
Eveline Fischer[1]
Robin Beanland[1]
Series Donkey Kong Country
Platform(s) Super NES, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance
Genre(s) Platformer
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

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 centres on Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong, who must recover their stolen bananas from King K. Rool and the Kremlings.

Development began shortly after Rare founders 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, which culminated in the production of a game using Alias and SGI technology for the SNES. The Stampers expressed interest in creating a standalone Donkey Kong game and assembled a team of 12 to work on the game over 18 months. Donkey Kong Country is the first Donkey Kong game that was not produced or directed by Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto, although he was still involved with the project.

Following an aggressive marketing campaign, Donkey Kong Country received critical acclaim and more than nine million copies were sold worldwide, making it the third-best-selling SNES game. It is considered one of the best video games of all time. It was rereleased 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).[2] The first in the Donkey Kong Country series, it was followed by two sequels, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest in 1995 and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! in 1996.


The player controls Diddy Kong (top) in "Jungle Hijinxs", the first level of Donkey Kong Country.

Donkey Kong Country is a platform game where players must complete 40 different side-scrolling levels (41 in the Game Boy Color version) and recover the Kongs' banana hoard, which has been stolen by the Kremlings.[3][4] 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.[4] 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 usable only 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[4][8] Some animals can also give players access to bonus games.[7]

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.[7] 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.[9]

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 completed areas are marked by members of the Kong family.[9] 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.[10]


Donkey Kong, after investigating his "Kong's Banana Hoard", located just below his home, and discovering that his banana hoard has disappeared, embarks on a journey to recover it from King K. Rool and the Kremlings. While collecting bananas on the island's vastly different regions, Donkey Kong defeats 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 on 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.


The official announcement poster for the development of Donkey Kong Country, showing the character's new pre-rendered appearance

Before Donkey Kong Country's production, Rare's Tim and Chris Stamper invested and programmed experiments with a Silicon Graphics Challenge workstation,[11] with their initial focus centred on a boxing game.[12] 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.[12] 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.[12]

Rare assembled a team of twelve to work on the game,[13] 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.[13][14] 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.[14] Designer Gregg Mayles worked with his team to arrange the stages so that players with good timing could flow between obstacles without waiting.[13] 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.[14]

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.

— Brendan Gunn in an interview with NintendoLife, February 2014[12]

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.[13] 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.[15][better source needed] To develop Donkey Kong's movements in the game, Rare staff spent hours at nearby Twycross Zoo observing and videotaping real gorillas.[12][14] 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.[13]

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.[13] 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.[13]

Donkey Kong Country is one of the first games for a mainstream home video game console to use pre-rendered 3D graphics.[12] This technique is also used in the earlier 1993 Finnish game Stardust for the Amiga, and later in Rare's Killer Instinct.[14] Many later 3D video games also use pre-rendered 3D together with fully 3D objects. 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 that Rare had purchased the workstations for £80,000 each.[12] 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 had been previously achieved on the SNES, which better preserves the pre-rendered graphics. Both Nintendo and Rare refer to the technique for creating the game's graphics as "ACM" (Advanced Computer Modelling).[13]


Donkey Kong Country had a marketing budget of $3.76 million in the United States.[16] To promote the game, Nintendo of America held an online promotional campaign through the Internet service Compuserve. This involved several online events, including 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.[17] 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.[11][18] 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.[11] 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. 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.[18] The tape was regarded as a marketing success which significantly contributed to Donkey Kong Country's phenomenal sales.[19]

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 Kellogg's breakfast cereals would feature Donkey Kong Country character art and announce a prize giveaway.[20]


David Wise composed the majority of the music for Donkey Kong Country, with Eveline Fischer and Robin Beanland also contributing.[21] Wise had started 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 Jungle Swing": "I guess someone thought the music was suitable, as they offered me a full time position at Rare."[21]

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.[22] 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.[12] 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 a lot of rock and dance music released that same decade as influences in creating the music for Donkey Kong Country.[21] In composing the music for DKC, Wise wanted to imitate the Korg Wavestation synthesiser.[22]

The game's soundtrack was released on CD under the title DK Jamz. It was sent to news media and retailers in November 1994 as a promotional item,[23] 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.[citation needed] The soundtrack was also the focus of an OverClocked ReMix collaboration titled "Kong in Concert", later praised by Wise.[24]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (SNES) 89%[25]
(GBC) 90%[26]
(GBA) 79%[27]
Metacritic (GBA) 78%[28]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame (SNES) 4.5/5 stars[29]
(GBA) 3.5/5 stars[30]
EGM (SNES) 9.25 of 10
Famitsu (SNES) 31 of 40[31]
Game Informer (SNES) 9.5 of 10[25]
IGN (Wii) 8.5 of 10[7]
(GBC) 9.0 of 10[32]
(GBA) 8.0 of 10[32]
Nintendo Power (GBC) 8.3 of 10[33]

Donkey Kong Country was very successful upon release in November 1994, receiving critical acclaim and becoming the fastest-selling video game to date. High praise also abounds in retrospective reviews, with an 89 percent approval rating at the review aggregator GameRankings.[25] Some critics even argue that Donkey Kong Country "saved" the Super Nintendo Entertainment system in the face of growing rivals such as the more technically-proficient Sega CD and Sony PlayStation systems.[7]

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.[7] GamePro declared in their review that "DKC has all the elements of a classic: outstanding graphics, involving game play, and lots of hidden stuff".[34] Later, the game was released as a pack-in game in the SNES "Donkey Kong Set" (which contains a console, controller, connections, and the game). This facilitated additional sales of more than 1 million copies, contributing to it getting the Player's Choice re-release treatment 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%.[25][26][27] Nintendo Power gave a positive review to the Game Boy Color version of the game, finding that the game was "improved with multiplayer minigames and a GB Printer feature" while noting that even though "the graphics lack the detail of the classic, they're still worth going ape over."[33]

The game was awarded GamePro's best graphic achievement at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show.[35] 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.[36] It is the only video game listed in Time's top ten "Best Products" of 1994.[37] This achievement is somewhat overshadowed by the magazine's later inclusion in its Top 10 Most Over-rated Games of All Time list before the 200th anniversary issue in 2005.[38] The game also made the #9 spot in GameSpy's 2003 list of the 25 most overrated games of all time.[39]

Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto allegedly criticised the game, calling its gameplay mediocre.[40] However, he has since addressed these rumors and expressed fondness for the game.[41] Although described as overrated, it was ranked as the 90th-best game made for a Nintendo system in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list in 2006.[42] 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.[11] The game would go on to eventually sell a total of 9 million copies.[43] In the United States alone, its Game Boy Advance re-release sold 960,000 copies and earned $26 million by August 2006. During the period 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 that country.[44]


Donkey Kong Country's financial success was a major factor in keeping the SNES's sales high at a time when the next generation of consoles were being released, including the Sony PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Donkey Kong Country sold six million units in its first holiday season.[45] After reaching nine million units, Donkey Kong Country became the second-best selling SNES game[12] and set a record for the fastest-selling video game of all time.[46] Rare's re-design of the Donkey Kong character then became a standard for all future Nintendo games featuring him, including his appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series and various Mario Kart games.[13] Furthermore, Donkey Kong Country's popularity spawned two direct sequels on SNES, with Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest released the following year to critical acclaim and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! debuting the year after that. Despite Microsoft acquiring Donkey Kong Country 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 being featured in Donkey Kong Country 2, the character of Diddy Kong was popular enough to spawn his own game; Diddy Kong Racing was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997.[12]


In 2000, a version of Donkey Kong Country was released for the Game Boy Color. The GBC version has a new stage in Chimp Caverns called "Necky Nutmare", as well as a revamped and longer Winky's Walkway.[32] The GBC version had some of the music scrapped and replaced, often with music that had originated in Donkey Kong Land. In 2003, another version of the game was released for the Game Boy Advance.[47] 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; additionally, the GBA version had multiplayer games. Both versions also 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.[47]

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.[citation needed] 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.[48] 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.[citation needed] On 24 March 2016, Donkey Kong Country was released for the New Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.[49]

Notes, references, and bibliography[edit]


  1. ^ Released in Japan as Super Donkey Kong Sūpā Donkī Kongu (スーパードンキーコング)



Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]