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RELEASE DATE (NA): September 27, 2004 GENRE: Rhythm
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Um Bonga, They Drink It In The Konga.

As a follower of the "Donkey Kong Universe" and a proud supporter of the Donkey Kong franchise, Konga rubs me the wrong way. It kind of chafes a little, rather than kneading me properly. It's pretty awful when you're expecting a nice firm massage and you end up getting scraped with sandpaper. A new technique, she said. Huh.

Konga forgoes the logical style of gameplay one would expect from the series that had effectively been dead since 1996. Instead of providing the long sought-after hop-and-bop side-scrolling gameplay the series had made its name on, the game rather felt it better to be a mediocre attempt at a rhythm action game. Well, the genre was popular at the time, and with Namco on board, there's no way it could turn out badly. Right? RIGHT!?

Not only does this game manage to bore me senseless, it is also a reskin of a far more enjoyable game, known as Taiko Drum Master in English-speaking territories. It's Bongo no Tatsujin: Donkey Daiboken time! So how does one make a Donkey Kong-themed rhythm game? Bongos wash up on DK Isle, and our hairy hero discovers they are magical! Well, it's not like the DKC games were without references to magic: even Diddy Kong Racing had magic space genies, so at least this seems sensible. The main game mode is called "Street Performance", but I don't see many streets in the game. Where exactly is Big Ape City, damn it?

Each song's difficulty is shown by it how many bananas it has above its name; the higher the number of bananas, the more cruelly unfair the timing will be. Armed with your trusty bongo controller (in some cases sold separately), you need to tap and clap your way through various uninspired choices. Hope you like Rock Lobster by the B-52s, because when I think Donkey Kong, I think Rock Lobster. Also, this game has that horrid butchering of the DK Rap that we first heard in Smash Bros. Melee, because nothing is sacred.

We could have posted Donkey Konga 2 screenshots and you wouldn't be able to tell.

Once you manage to cobble your way through a song, you will be rewarded points that you can spend on absolutely nothing. The game supports up to four players in multiplayer modes, but finding three other people to play this game with you is probably not possible. I suppose you could post something on Craigslist: "Wanted: Three Donkey Kong fans to play Donkey Konga until 3 a.m. in the morning. Must like Rock Lobster by the B-52s." You can tell them from a distance, because everyone was wearing matching ties.

Konga uses pre-rendered assets, which strikes a good nostalgic feel toward the original DKC games, even though they're certainly not on par with what Rare(ware) were producing back in the day. The backgrounds are nice and generically Donkey Kong (caverns, jungles, you know), but I wasn't at all disappointed with them. Apart from Donkey Kong's raving arm-waving lunatic dance when you're doing well, the game is overall genuinely pleasing on the eye.

Depending on your region, you may have a slightly better time with Donkey Konga. The Japanese release gives us Nintendo anime songs from Hamtaro and Kirby. It even manages to slide in fantastic Aya Matsuura, Ayumi Hamasaki, and Morning Musume songs, but they're all covers. Shame that goes for all songs, all regions — ugh, cover versions. Are you THAT cheap? In their place, the American version gives us The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Blink-182, and The Troggs because "what." The European version is loaded with Supergrass, Jamiroquai, and Chumbawumba. Naw, pass me the chundawunda bucket, I think I'm gonna tubthr'up something up from my stomach. At least the game only uses up three memory card blocks. If you're going to shell out on Konga and a set of DK Bongos, you might as well buy Jungle Beat too (in some cases sold seperately). These DK Bongo games remain fascinating because it just makes me wonder, "Nintendo, what the hell were you thinking?"

Take solace in the fact it wasn't another Donkey Kong 64. Eeeesh.

[Editor's Note: Donkey Kong 64 is actually fun the majority of the time.]

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