Two decades ago on this day, Donkey Kong Country was released in Europe on the SNES. Our esteemed editor, Mr. Wapojif, was but 10 years old at the time. Now this game was a big deal way back in 1994 as the pre-rendered 3D graphics were unlike anything seen before in console gaming. British developer Rare, handed the Donkey Kong license by Nintendo, went all out with new technology to create a unique gaming experience. It was a sensation and became the SNES’ second bestselling title.
The game was, essentially, a standard platformer with an edge – those fancy new graphics. They really did capture the attention of the world, as it didn’t seem possible for the SNES to do that! All rather tame now, of course, and the main focus is on British composer David Wise‘s incredible soundtrack. He was talent spotted by Rare creators Chris and Tim Stamper in the 1980s (he played them a few of his songs on a keyboard in the store he was working in and was hired!) and some of the compositions from the game have past into gaming legend, dragging the Donkey Kong Country along with it.
Donkey Kong Country
Putting it mildly, it’s all a nostalgic trip for us this 20th anniversary and we, like the lunatics we are, still listen to the DKC soundtrack to this day. The game is also good, although overhyped at the time and, although enjoyable, it’s actually quite a simplistic and disappointing affair.
Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto even criticised it as so. Reminiscing can be fun, and seeing as the game was released on the Wii U recently it’s all been rather groovy! Nintendo and Rare had a close relationship in the 1990s. The Japanese giant nurtured the mysterious British company, who would pay them back in dividends as they went on to create iconic classics such as Goldeneye 007, Banjo Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Killer Instinct, Diddy Kong Racing, and others.
Anyway, Rare certainly took notice for the sequel (in what would become a famous SNES trilogy) as Diddy’s Kong Quest improved immeasurably on the first outing, although didn’t match the first title’s commercial success. However, other than Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, it remains the high point for the series.
Even more legendary than the game is the soundtrack. David Wise took an unusual route, moving away from the type of chirpy, boopy music you’d expect with a game like this. Instead, he went emotive with pounding drums, pulse racing dance music, and at other times incredibly sedate and beautiful chill out music. It’s a triumph!
Wise would, of course, later grace the sequels Donkey Kong Country 2 and Donkey Kong Country 3 with even more exceptional music, turning the trilogy into an unusually dramatic experience. The highlight was, no doubts, DKC 2 – its soundtrack is regarded by some as the greatest in gaming history! It’s arguably true as well. It’s a work of genius and we have nothing but huge respect for the man who created it.