Game Reviews
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History Lesson: Donkey Kong Country 3

The first two titles in the Donkey Kong Country series are the pinnacle of platforming on the SNES.  In retrospect of my childhood, I played Donkey Kong almost as much as Super Mario World, which shows they were both fun and addicting.  After both games became instant classics, what is the next logical move?  Make another, even better sequel, right?…Well in this case, I think it backfired, and instead of getting another evolution of the series, we actually see the gameplay take a few steps back.

In the third installment, DK and Diddy are captured and it is up to Dixie and Kiddy to team up and save them…yeah, its the usual “been there, done that” feeling you get with most long-running Nintendo franchises.  Anyways, The problem I had was that while Dixie is quick and has a very useful helicopter move with her hair, Kiddy feels absolutely useless.  I had the displeasure of being stuck as Kiddy the entire game, since my girlfriend and I did co-op, and she felt that she should be the girl character, so I saw firsthand how sluggish and awkward he is.  So if you are just playing this on single player, don’t be surprised if you find yourself never playing as Kiddy unless you get Dixie killed.

In his case, its okay to shake a baby.

While the visuals and music stay pretty much solid throughout, I think the main problem with DKC3, is the fact that the developers ran out of ideas.  Looking back at DKC (my favorite in the series), it had a good mix of platforming, creature-based levels, and gimmicks (for instance, the mine cart levels).  With DKC2, we saw those great attributes fleshed out a bit more and it kept it fresh, while DKC3 tried to do everything and was just kind of sloppy with the execution.  I think the fact that we have already been on a similar adventure twice before, will really turn a lot of gamers off, since DKC3 didn’t really improve very much.  Even though I didn’t care for the characters, I must say the addition of an open world map was pretty cool and unique for the time this came out.  You would ride around in a watercraft to various islands on the map (you can usually choose between a few at a time), but there were limits.  Once you beat an area, Funky Kong would upgrade your craft so you can go over terrain, and get farther along in the game.  Even though it seems pretty typical, I thought it was cool that I sometimes had a choice as to where I wanted to start first.

The gameplay this time around seemed to take a huge hit.  I thought this game would be “more of the same” which is never a bad thing with such a good series, but it seemed like the team over at Rareware, just didn’t put as much love into the level design;  there was less fun platforming, and more tedious bullshit.  The only reason I could think this game felt unpolished, was the fact that it came out around the time of the Nintendo 64, and most developers were more excited about the future generations of gaming.  There were so many levels that relied on trial and error with you hitting the right switches, making the right jumps in a mine cart, etc.  While I found many levels annoying, there was one that reigned supreme in the kingdom of cheap, crap levels…”Lightning Look-Out”.  In this level, not only are there baddies, but you are also having to dodge lightning every few seconds.  It wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t water throughout the entire level, and if you didn’t hit that barrel JUST right, you land in the water and get electrocuted.  As you progress and get closer to the end, you will find that you are no longer having fun and pretty  much just beating the game, instead of it beating you.

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Wrapping up, this is a game you should get if you just have a lot of nostalgia for it or are a completest.  I know I sounded a bit harsh, but this really isn’t an awful game…I just feel it isn’t good enough to be a part of the DKC series.  If you are looking for a good platformer, stick with the original two, and leave it at that.  With uninspired gameplay that didn’t keep the formula fresh enough, you will find yourself becoming bored and really having to force yourself to finish.  To me, that does not make a good gaming experience, and your 800 Nintendo Points can be spent on something better in the Virtual Console library.

2 comments
Phaethon
Phaethon

I only played this at friends' and at kiosks way back when (never had a SNES, pity me) but I remember liking it a lot. But back then, being young, I was still more amazed that I was controlling what was on the TV than anything else. I've gone back and played a lot of games from back then and gone "I liked this?" So I believe to some degree nostalgia affects our judgment. I with Hollowman that the first two were better though. Like you said this one did seem to have its gameplay elements out of balance.

Sp00ns
Sp00ns

By the third game in the series, it had all been done before - but instead of developing on the fundamentals they had established in DKC1-2, they tried to branch into too many new things, and the top-notch platforming and graphics of DKC3 get lost in the shuffle if collecting items, birds, coins and bypassing levels you might never see.The graphics were stunning, though. The colorful sunset over the lake on the docks in the first few levels was simply amazing. Not since Snow Barrel Blast in the original has a 2d 16-bit background felt so immersive. And Kiddy wasn't that bad of a character to control, he was big, like DK, but felt certainly felt clunkly compared to Dixie's grace.