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CONSOLE: SNES DEVELOPER: Rare PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 22, 1996 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Save the... okay, what are we saving this time?

Donkey Kong Country sold extremely well for a video game back in 1994. A year later, its sequel was released to rave reviews as well and sold in droves. So if anyone in the world had any doubt as to whether a third entry in the popular series was being produced, they should have been given a slap with an aluminum glove. Developer Rare put their pencils to the proverbial drawing board to come up with another Donkey Kong Country game, and they decided to try and add some additional elements to the game in order to keep the formula mildly fresh. However, somewhere along the line, the feel of the first two seems to have slipped through their fingers. While this is not a terrible game by any means, it simply has a different atmosphere than the rest, and ultimately suffers from a slight disconnect from the first two games.

At this time, the aging SNES was competing with some new consoles in the industry. Forget the Sega Genesis: we're talking about the Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation. Donkey Kong Country 3 had to keep itself fresh somehow. For reasons unknown, the three main characters from previous games -- Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in the first DKC game, and new addition Dixie Kong to replace the kidnapped Donkey in the second -- were simply not enough. In the third episode of the ongoing saga, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong have both gone out in search of a fabulous fishing adventure. However, when they don't return home within a reasonable period of time, Dixie Kong freaks out and opts to go and search for the pair of apes herself. But she can't do that alone. Luckily, token toker Funky Kong has played the role of really awful babysitter and pawns off Dixie's overweight baby cousin, Kiddy Kong, on her. Kiddy Kong is a whiny potbellied runt that is only good for his strength in throwing Dixie Kong high into the air, and also for being able to break floors below you. Don't invite him to your house party if you have a weak foundation. Together, they must venture out and find Donkey and Diddy. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the area that they live in (which doesn't resemble much of the original layout of DK Island at all) has become infested with Kremlings yet again. They are now controlled by a being known only as KAOS, which (as I shall spoil for you now), turns out to be a robot controlled by K. Rool (renamed Baron K. Roolenstein for absolutely no reason). To make matters worse, Donkey and Diddy are brainwashed and inside the robot! It's amazing how strange and convoluted storylines get after a couple of sequels pass by.

The gameplay is typical of the Donkey Kong Country series and does not necessarily equal an evolution or revolution of any sort. Dixie Kong keeps her floating helicopter hair from DKC2, and Kiddy is introduced with the ability to roll up into a ball to bowl down enemies. This fetal position can also be used to skip across bodies of water if your jump-button timing is right. It's a bit difficult to perform, but it can be done with persistence. The two can lift each other up and toss them, but Kiddy is far too heavy to throw far upwards. However, when he comes back down, he can break through cracked floors and such. The controls are tight as usual, although ensuring that your other character is tossed exactly where you intended is a skill learned over time. In addition to controlling the regular monkey pair, you will also get access to animal buddies, just like in the first two games; on occasion, you'll even get the opportunity to transform into them for a short while. Some managed to survive the cut while others were not as fortunate. Squitter the spider, Squawks the parrot, and Enguarde the swordfish are still prevalent. Unfortunately, Rambi the beloved rhino met his temporary demise here...

Oh, Rambi...
Well, you came and you stopped me from shaking...
But I sent you away
Oh, Rambi...

New additions to the fauna fleet include Ellie the elephant, who is capable of using her trunk to hold and also use its sucking power to lure barrels towards her. She can also suck up and hold water to shoot out at enemies. There's also Parry the Parallel Bird, who flies above you, parallel to your level on the ground. If you jump, it flies up too. It can get items that are too high to grab and also poke fatter birds with treasures in them. But Parry is no good against enemies, so unless you are agile, it will touch an enemy once and fly off. What a terrible inclusion.

In addition to the typical "get through the level and find all the bonus barrels" mentality, the developer decided to wedge a couple of additional side-quests into the mix. You'll be given the opportunity to search for hidden caves (that you won't be able to see until you pretty much walk up to them) and save crystalized Banana Birds by pressing a series of buttons that the game prompts you with, almost like that old electronic game, Simon. Collect them all and you'll be able to free this giant Banana Bird Queen, who will chase down K. Rool in a second ending to the game... which I just spoiled. Secondly, this game includes an additional form of currency: Bear Coins. You can use these to buy things from any of the newly-founded locations run by the Brothers Bear (who will be mentioned shortly). In essence, they added a run-around where you have to perform a series of pre-planned item trades. That's great for an old point-and-click adventure like the King's Quest series for the PC, but I came here to stomp and collect bananas, not stop and swap! Some platformers should just remain platformers. Of course, the Bonus Coins are still around, as are the much larger DK Coins, the latter being guarded by a Kremling called Koin who uses the DK Coin as a shield and protects himself from whatever angle your Kong is standing. Try to hit him with a steel barrel from behind to knock his block off and free that coin!

The Kong Family seems to have remained intact from the previous game, although the whereabouts of the ever-kissable Candy Kong has yet to be explained. (Have you checked the local dumpster?) Funky Kong, who now has the appearance of an amalgamation between a marijuana cultivator and a buff garage mechanic, has stepped into the watercraft business by fixing up old boats that wash up in his direction. He can only fix things, however, provided you bring him special materials to help him finish the job -- like a patch. Yeah, he has a boat shop but he isn't even stocked up on a single patch. He must not have performed any market research. Swanky Kong is no longer chained to his classic 70s game show set, but instead is wedged inside a barrel as the Kongs enter Swanky's Sideshow. Here, you can play several mini-games that all seem to relate to tossing rocks at Kremling-based targets faster than your opponent, who happens to be none other than our crotchety saviour, Cranky Kong. I guess he is trying to prove that age doesn't matter and that he still has some agility left in him. At Swanky's Sideshow, you can't win extra lives, but you can earn yourself bananas and bear coins. Yummy. Last, but not least, we have Wrinkly Kong, who has retired from teaching and lives in a cave. I thought she would live with Cranky in his old cabin, but I guess a cave was more luxurious than his wooden shack. Inside the cave, she either plays her Nintendo 64 (complete with music from Super Mario 64, which was released only two months earlier -- a nice touch and a fine example of subtle in-game advertising), falls asleep in her armchair, or exercises to a bossa nova beat... Ack! Wrinkly limbs! Nooo! You can save your game for free in this cave, and it also serves as a sanctuary for all the Banana Birds you have freed. In addition to the Kongs, there are also the Brothers Bear who have various locations around the game area. You'll be able to purchase valuable information and buy or trade items in exchange for other items or Bear Coins. This is a somewhat superfluous addition to the game; item collection and transport to other locations really isn't necessary for a Donkey Kong Country game. Thankfully, the series of trades and purchases are not required to complete the game, but they will assist in achieving the maximum score of 103% and the secret second ending, which is a bit more entertaining and satisfying.

The graphics in this game are as good as ever, and in fact perhaps more so, considering that there are parts in the game where you can see Kiddy and Dixie (plus Cranky when you face off against him in Swanky's Sideshow) more close-up than usual, and manipulate those sprites. Everything is as colourful as ever, taking into account the fact that there are far more earthy colours this time around because this game is set in a seaside setting. There is also a bit more variation with the visuals, such as differentiating the background and the foreground for playing at Swanky's Sideshow and also for one boss in the snow-capped world where you must toss snowballs at a giant snowman named Bleak either up close or far away, depending on where he pops up. That's neat. As for the character design, I think things went off in a slightly more surreal direction. They took out the beloved mouse, Neek, and replaced it with an uglier, more purple design. Likewise for the Zingers from the first two games; they have been replaced with Buzzes, which are essentially green or red wasps with buzzsaw blades going on their backs. Why, Rare, why have you forsaken our beloved enemy friends? The last scraps of original enemies are gone. Of course, the bosses are a bit more unusual in this game, and the developers were plucking the most random of ideas. A giant belching barrel? Eyeballs and a squirting mouth? Get real. The giant sea urchin, Barbos, was a decent enough concept, although the battle itself has caused me to curse and lose many lives. The surroundings are also very picturesque and crisp, and are quite varied to include a factory that keeps acid out in the open, harbour docks, and snow-capped peaks. (The massive snowfall that corrodes your view from the original DKC is back, unfortunately.) I didn't even talk much about Krematoa, the hidden world...

The music is a bit more flighty and laidback, perhaps reflecting the generally calmer attitude of the game as a whole. However, it does not feel as fresh as before, even though the same fellow from the first two games had a hand in its composition. In fact, I don't even remember many of the songs from DKC3 (well, at least fewer tracks than the previous two games). The sound effects are just as wacky as before, and the ability to honk your boat's horn is a swell testament to the humour of the developing team. And yes, monkey wails are rolled out regularly.

Donkey Kong Country 3 is not a bad game by any means. It's certainly infinitely better than awful SNES games such as the sugar-smacking Captain Novolin or that nasty adaptation of Home Alone 2. But the overall atmosphere and whimsy that surrounded the previous titles has somehow been pushed to the wayside. They tried a bit too hard this time around. And why did they need to create ANOTHER new Kong character? The series wasn't stale yet! I can still safely recommend Donkey Kong Country 3 to anyone who enjoyed the first two games, or is interested in trying out the series. However, if I was able to only prescribe one title out of the three, I will still suggest Donkey Kong Country 2. But don't ignore this entry either -- it's just as good, but without the fresh flair...


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