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CONSOLE: Game Boy Color DEVELOPER: Rare PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 4, 2000 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Save the Banana Hoard again, now with uglier graphics and nastier sound!

Donkey Kong Country encountered unexpectedly overwhelming success when it was first released back in 1994. The graphics were amazing for their time: three-dimensional sprite rendering, utilizing the same technology that had been implemented in movies such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System also proved that it was able to fight back against upcoming 32- and 64-bit video game systems. But the game was more than just a showcase for graphical processing power. Indeed, there was a solid game engine in place as well, which added to the overall value of developer Rare's contribution to the gaming scene. And the fact that Donkey Kong, a previously established "cool" character, was given a makeover and became an even "cooler" franchise, didn't hurt any. Fast forward to the year 2000, when the world was drooling over the future of video game consoles and clamoring for PlayStation 2s, Xboxes, and GameCubes. In the handheld world, however, the Game Boy Color was beating the competition. Still, it lacked a certain killer application to keep the system selling like hotcakes into the new millennium. So Nintendo looked back to their older library... and there, they found Donkey Kong Country, just starting to collect its second coat of dust on their back shelves. Not content with letting that old horse rest in peace, they had Rare re-create their classic 16-bit masterpiece on the 8-bit Game Boy Color. That certainly wasn't necessary.

I will spare you the extensive details about the basics behind Donkey Kong Country. I've already written an extensive review of the original SNES version, which you can read by frantically clicking here. I'm really here to point out just how much Donkey Kong Country has changed during its transition from the small screen to the much smaller screen. The general storyline of DK's precious Banana Hoard being stolen by Kremlings remains intact, and he still has to find it and also free his buddy, Diddy Kong, from inside a barrel because some Kremling bullies stuck him in there. Diddy Kong is what we openly refer to as a "jungle nerd".

The first thing you'll notice when you start up the game is that, obviously, the graphics have taken a hit. And I'm not talking about just a tiny little downgrade due to the screen size. No, I mean, the graphics now look as they would on an NES, while trying to ensure that everything looks rendered like the SNES counterpart. In other words, as much as they tried not to make it so, I have to openly admit that the graphics are not pleasant. The game is viewable and playable, but the characters are not crisp enough and the backgrounds are simply not pretty. A limited palette makes all the difference in the world. I will say that Rare did a good job at getting the most out of the limited hardware they were provided with, but a game that is supposed to have 3D-rendered graphics does not belong on an inferior system like the Game Boy Color. This was the same problem that plagued the original Donkey Kong Land series for the monochrome Game Boy: everything suffers from the fact that many things simply blend together in a massive array of blotchy colours. It's difficult sometimes to make out exactly what each blob on the screen should be, and adding in a lack of backlighting on the handheld, life can be difficult. It's made even more difficult with resolution issues; there's more stuff off-screen than there used to be, leaving you to wonder sometimes exactly what you will fall into below. That's irritating. Plus, they can't even have both Donkey and Diddy on the screen at the same time anymore! And you can't ride an animal buddy -- you just transform into it temporarily. It's little things like this that make me wonder why this project was ever lifted off the ground in the first place.

The sound effects and music have also been ravaged by the simplicities of the Game Boy Color. This was to be expected, but at the same time, I never expected a dip this low. Sound effects on the Game Boy Color seem to be taken directly from Donkey Kong Land, made six years earlier, but worse yet, much of the music from the original Donkey Kong Country was also taken from the aforementioned Game Boy game! Why couldn't the complete soundtrack be transferred over? I feel ripped off! This is starting to seem more like a half-assed, two-week operation, rather than a worthy port. I feel violated too. At least the game PLAYS fairly accurately, even with a reduced button topography. Thank goodness they didn't mess with that, or I'd have popped a vein all over the screen. Then everything would be red. That's never good.

So what exactly is new in this version? I mean, why would I get an inferior version of a game I already own? There can't be THAT many insane Donkey Kong Country collectors out there. The game contains pretty much the same layout. All the levels remain more or less intact, just as they were on the SNES. The lure comes with the few extra features not available in the original. There are a couple of mindless mini-games, such as one entitled "Crosshair Cranky", where you have to shoot as many Kremlings as possible with a coconut gun by targeting the baddies and avoiding the Kongs. That's all well and good, but having to move your cursor back to the centre of the screen to reload is a nuisance. It was the same way on the N64, but tolerable enough there. I suppose it can be excused here as well, but frantic nonsense like that is not good for a handheld where the action is difficult enough to see in the first place. There's also a fishing game ("Funky's Fishing"), which is odd, considering that the Kongs eat bananas, not trout. You can actually even play this one with a friend if you have a Game Boy Link Cable, but I doubt electronic fishing competitions are exactly what the Kong fans desire. It's another reason to buy the game, certainly, but don't expect much depth out of this lake-based mini-game. It's simple fun, I suppose. Another new feature is the ability to use the odd product, the Game Boy Printer, in conjunction with DKC. Now you can print off pictures of Donkey Kong to plaster upon your bedroom wall and drool all over your pillow with DK dreams, provided you can locate these pictures hidden in the game. Finally, although the Kong family and animal buddies remain intact, Candy Kong's function has changed from Save Goddess to Bonus Barrel Beauty. At Candy's station, you can play a bonus level and win yourself extra lives and unlock some sweet multiplayer action. Saving can now be done at any point in the game, which is particularly appreciated in that snow world.

Ultimately, the only reason you would have bought this game back when it was released in 2000, or even tried it out, was because you either were curious about the Donkey Kong license, a drop-dead Donkey Kong fanatic, or just a plain oaf. There are much better ways to experience Donkey Kong Country than this. It's available on the SNES, it was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console service, and it was even remade as a Game Boy Advance game three years later. The Game Boy Color hardware could not handle the power of DKC, and it is quite clear that this game should be pushed to the back shelf in the console's library. Visit greener pastures and jungles, please.


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