Thursday, 13 August 2015

SNES Game review 82:Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! Or as it is known as in Japan Super Donkey Kong 3: Mystery of Kremis Island is surprise surprise a platforming video game developed by Rare and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1996. The game was the final instalment in the Donkey Kong Country series to appear on that console and it very much sticks to the formula set by the first game. The game was also ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2005 but it had a different soundtrack and added features, I guess this makes it one of the games which added to the SNES based library on that machine making people often refer to it as a sort of portable SNES. Still I am glad it got rereleased like this because I don’t think it got the attention it deserved. I would defiantly argue that Sales of the game were hurt by the release of the Nintendo 64 console, which came out a few months before this game. Sure the original Playstation came out around the time of the second game but that was a rival machine and some people loved Nintendo so much that they wouldn’t jump ship, but this game launch alongside their own ‘’superior hardware’’ this resulted in this game having even lower sales than the previous entry. I must admit though even though it didn’t do the numbers I think it deserves it did far better than one might expect and Nintendo could defiantly consider it a success.

I have to admit I don’t have a big story about how I came to play this game. I don’t think I even had a go on it at release. None of my friends got it, none of the independent shops I knew were letting people play it, heck most of them didn’t even seem to be stocking it. I wasn’t pre-occupied with a Nintendo 64 either as I didn’t get my first one of those till over a year after release and then it was a second hand machine which I sold about another year latter to help fund my second PC for doing college work on (I did get another one not to long after). I guess I was pre-occupied with my PlayStation, I think around this time I would have been hammering Tekken 2 and Kingsfield (This is a game made by the people responsible for dark souls games and can be seen as something of a predecessor to them). I got my first copy of Donkey Kong country 3 as an American version long alongside American version of the rest of the trilogy. I am trying to pin down exactly when in my mind but it’s difficult, I know they were a Christmas present and I remember the gamecube being the console under my main television. My SNES was set up upstairs and I had gotten a good number of retro games that Christmas. Once dinner had been taken care of, I had played with my daughter and finally put her to bed for the night I went and started to play through the games and this session would be my first proper experience of the third Donkey Kong country game.

So in this game Dixie Kong has got a promotion from sidekick status and is the main hero, and her sidekick is her baby cousin named Kiddy Kong. This is something I always found a little weird with the Donkey Kong country games. Mario is the hero in the first Mario, the hero in the second the hero in more or less every game only going missing or getting captured for strange side projects, if he is missing Luigi fills in but is automatically demoted the second his brother is back. In the Donkey Kong games in an actual numbered sequel Donkey Kong is gone and his side kick has become the hero, in a numbered sequel it blows my mind. So you take that knowledge and then when you hear that a third one is coming you sort of go Oh the Kong man will be back and in charge and maybe just to add to it and go one bigger one better he will have Diddy and Dixie tag along. What we got though was a promoted sidekick’s sidekick now becoming the star of the 3RD game with a sidekick of her own. I never really got the Dixie character I know a lot of people complained that Diddy was a product of board meetings on throwing in something that was hip and cool at the time, a cap wearing boom box carrying, dancing down with the kids walking promotional tool and that might be how he started his life but within a few levels of the first Donkey Kong Country he had found a place in my heart, the way I saw him was as a youngster following around and trying to emulate the much bigger older Donkey Kong, he was the shortround to Donkeys Indiana Jones so to speak. Dixie felt like hey lets have a female Kong so we aren’t seen as sexist and girls might like this, maybe other people feel different to me on this and I guess beyond a mild annoyance it doesn’t really alter the game really. Kiddy Kong also feels a little barrel scrappy to me to be fair. Personally I had kind of hoped that they would have gone a little bigger with things, that we would have had some Super Mario 2 (Mario USA) going on with like 4 characters you can select from all with their strengths and weaknesses, so you’d choose 2 to take on your adventure.

OK I am very aware that I have gone a little negative here but let’s just stop and admit that the first game in particularly shocked the living heck out of us all, people assumed it was headed for the N64 and didn’t think the humble SNES could handle something like that, so it’s a bit negative of me to expect giant leaps. What we did get was a series which consistently provided a high level of entertainment and tried to provide more and more content despite the fact it must have been pushing the ever living crap out of the system.

So let’s get on to the positives. The level designs in Donkey Kong country 3 give players more opportunity to interact with the environment than the layouts in the previous games did.
Sure the game still contains the standard mix of platform jumping and enemy killing, rope climbing and barrel blasting, walls and floors to smash, but now there are also switches to pull, rocket barrels to ride in and other little added bits. There are a few forced scrolling stages too, involving mine carts, sleds etcetera which add a great change of pace every now and then. Riding on top of and transforming into animal friends once again comes into play. Rideable animal buddies are once again in the game but there are some new faces added here. One area where I would argue this game improves upon is the bosses they just seem to be that little bit more creativity than those in the previous DKC games did, I would also say in some cases the way you dispatch them is also more interesting but I don’t want to give spoilers here as more people really need to give this third entry a try. It can be argued that the changes I have mentioned on top of the already high quality found across the whole series make this third instalment the best of the trilogy even if it is nothing much more than a cookie cutter sequel with the expected added layer of chocolate sprinkles.

The game has amazing graphics, great sound, bags full of replay value, both in the way there is lots to collect but also in the way that it is so fun to play you won’t care if you have finished it before or not. Do I recommend it? Well that depends do you own the original Donkey Kong country? If you don’t own that game then it is the perfect starting point to this adventure and you can most likely pick it up far cheaper than this game. If you own or have finished that game though and want more then YES get this game, and grab number 2 while you are at it. It is important to mention that the GBA version does have added levels and features so if you are a GBA fan you might want to consider that version. Personally I am glad to own the SNES one as its great to have all 3 games across the same platform. If you want this game it is available on the Wii U for the usual price of a SNES virtual console game but if you want a cart based copy then you will be looking at about £18 to £25 pounds for just the cart (I have seen it as high as £55 in some retro shops) looking at price upwards of £40 for a boxed pal cart. If you have the ability to play imports then the cheapest way to go is to go for a Japanese loose cart of the game which you should be able to find for around £7 on ebay including postage (although people do try and get the same kind of £20 price for these sometimes).

I do wonder if demand for this and the other SNES Rare games will increase now with Rare Replay wetting peoples appetites it wouldn't be a bad thing if that game encourages people to look for the Rare games that didn't make it on there for various copyright and space issues. I also hope that the Number One chart position Rare Replay hit along with their general high quality output in the past will give the company a rebirth with Microsoft treating them a bit more seriously and investing. I know a lot of people who made Rare into Rare have long since left but I don't think the spirit of Rare is dead, even if it is treading water on life support at this moment in time, let’s all hope Rare Replays sales can be the start of an attempt at resuscitation.

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