Unbelievably, it’s essentially been two decades since the legendary Donkey Kong Country trilogy closed its doors on the SNES. Donkey Kong Country 3 (from now on known as DKC 3, okay?) followed in the footsteps of its predecessors with imaginative and action-packed platforming fun, an ambient soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and the odd puzzle element. It was gaming bliss upon its release in November 1996, indicating great things were to come on the N64 from British developer Rare.
A landmark series in gaming, all three DKC games have a special place in our cold, black, emotionless hearts for various reasons. Nostalgia inevitably plays a heady part in this, but this word usually has negative connotations in gaming (i.e. the only reason you like an old game is due to sentimentality) which is entirely misplaced here. The games are simply excellent and have stood the test of time well, so let’s celebrate DKC 3 as it hits 20.
Donkey Kong Country 3
The general consensus in the gaming community is Donkey Kong Country 2 is the best in the series. There’s no denying it has the best soundtrack (an extraordinary feat of creativity by the legendary David Wise – it’s arguably the best game soundtrack of all time), but for us the minor puzzle elements and level design make the trilogy closer at least as good as DKC 2.
The game certainly looks beautiful and it stands up to any modern indie title. Musically, however, it’s something of a disappointment, simply because DKC 2 (and the first in the series, Donkey Kong Country from 1994) is so stunning.
This is largely due to Eveline Fischer’s increased role. She wrote most of the compositions, although Wise also made contributions. The result is another great soundtrack, but one lacking the hefty clout of genius which has made DKC 2 so legendary – you can have a listen to one of the pieces below.
We feel DKC 3 is looked down upon as a game as the soundtrack doesn’t match the second title. This is rather unfair. Comparing the two, you can also see it also moves at a more sedate framerate than DKC 2, which flies along like it’s on drugs, but this has advantages and disadvantages for both games.
The relaxed pace, we’ve found, allows players to settle back and enjoy the experience more, with the additional puzzle elements and greater sense of exploration making for the most advanced title in the trilogy. The ambient soundtrack complements this all rather fittingly.
It is, however, easier than the notoriously difficult DKC 2, but minor flaws aside here we have a fantastic 2D platforming experience which was, thankfully, acknowledged at the time. We remember the UK’s official Nintendo magazine awarding it 98% in an attempt to get people to rush out and buy it. It’s not quite at that standard, but it was still an essential purchase. 20 years on, we’re in love with it as much as when we were stupid kids – hunt it down on the Wii U’s virtual console or the 3DS if you’d like to try it out.
Over the last three years, we’ve marked the 20th anniversary for each installment in the DKC SNES trilogy, which flowed out over consecutive years like a tidal wave of joy and monkey droppings. Why? As we bloody adore the games. From the gameplay to the music and graphics, they connect us back to our youth, but also offer glorious new experiences with each new playthrough now we’re mature adults (allegedly).
It has a lasting legacy which causes people like us to bleat on and on about them. However, whilst the graphics were revolutionary for the time, and the games outstanding, what really gets people stoked up and generates such a strong emotional attachment to them surely has to be the soundtracks. David Wise worked his genius on them and millions of people have an incredible emotional attachment to him as a result.
The good news is the Donkey Kong Country Legacy continues. The brilliant Retro Studios picked up the license from Nintendo for the Wii with the first new DKC title in 14 years in 2010. It followed this up with the masterpiece Tropical Freeze in 2014 on the Wii U, which is arguably the best game in the series (with David Wise, fittingly, providing another glorious soundtrack).
So… we’ve gone on a lot about donkeys today and some of you reading this will have been confused about the enthusiasm. Rest assured, we’re not maniacs. Millions of other lucky kids got to play these wonderful games back in the 1990s, but the series is far from finished and it continues to generate awe and love in equal measure. Long may it continue!