Nothing beats pirated games. Well, okay, all the other games out there beat pirated games. They're usually pretty sub-par (probably because experienced developers aren't involved). But you can't help but smirk a bit when you see a unique product like Donkey Kong Country 4 that shows that someone really put a significant effort into their pirated project. It's a very unique retrotechnological perspective on the Donkey Kong Country series, whose first three games (excluding those semi-ugly Game Boy beasts) actually appeared on a far superior console. This time around, the graphics have been devoided of excessive detail so that they have that classic NES appearance. It actually looks more like one of Virgin Interactive's NES outings, like The Jungle Book or The Lion King.
Donkey Kong Country 4 is basically Donkey Kong Country... to a certain degree. The overworld map screen is more or less the same where you climb what I have always presumed to be DK Mountain, completing a variety of areas along the way. All of the graphics and environments have been ripped (and subsequently downgraded) from its SNES contemporary, so you'll be able to trot through the jungle, swim through the ocean (if apes can do that), and sneak through the poorly lit hallways of underground mines and oil factories. The music also has roots from the SNES original, but they are far more grating on the ears.
Unfortunately, with the conversion to a lesser console comes sacrifices. Regrettable omissions include the mini-map screens for each individual region, the ability to ride animal buddies, and, perhaps most troubling for avid fans of DKC, mine cart levels. That's right -- everything's done by foot, though the special moves still work... some of the time. The lack of cart-based glory may have turned off numerous individuals right there. But back to the lack of a map, basically each area just runs through a few levels, then the boss battle for that area (which, surprisingly, haven't been cut but are far more challenging). The environs (not the layouts) tend to repeat themselves a fair bit, albeit with a few palette swaps. You'll be visiting the same jungle many times over, essentially. Get used to it. The layouts have taken a severe hit, though, feeling as generic as humanly possible.
As well, the coding is far less perfect. Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong no longer move in pixels but in invisible tiles on the ground, thus making movements less precise. This also affects the hit detection, which is far less forgiving. If you're even CLOSE to an enemy, you will be injured. You don't necessarily have to visually touch it anymore. This alone increases the difficulty significantly, as DKC games were often about narrowly escaping close shaves. As well, if you die over a pit, you just die period, regardless of whether you have another dude available, making for an even more difficult adventure, considering how many deaths will likely take place over a crevasse. But it's also the little things that are troubling. DK and Diddy used to be able to hop across palm trees, but now the foliage is just for show. Perhaps more disconcerting, the arrows of bananas which often pointed to hidden secrets have been left in, but they now point to absolutely nothing. It's pretty unlikely that there are any secrets in the game anyhow. Some things DID survive, though, like blasting barrels and those cool bouncy tires. Be thankful for that. Nonetheless, relatively insignificant aspects such as these still make this port seem like anything but.
Still, with all its many flaws and shortcomings, it's amazing a game looking this decent actually made it to a final state. Those with a sharp curiosity for all things Donkey Kong may find their interests piqued by this item. However, it's likely difficult to find an actual copy, considering how small the distribution circle likely was. However, these screenshots should help give a general idea of how the game turned out: