The Let's Play Archive

Donkey Kong Country Series

by Artix

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Original Thread: Donkey Kong is a War Criminal - A Brief History of the Great Ape Wars

If you liked this LP, you might also like Armored Core by ArclightBorealis, Dead Space 3 by CJacobs, JamieTheD, Blind Sally, nine-gear crow and Final Fantasy XIII-2 by Artix, Fedule

Introduction



A Brief History of the Kongs

Donkey Kong has always been a bit of an odd duck in Nintendo's stable. Despite debuting with Mario, he's always played second fiddle to the plumber in just about every way. He had a somewhat successful run of NES/Arcade games, but certainly nothing like what Mario would do after the runaway success of Super Mario Bros and its sequels. In fact, it wasn't really until 1994's Donkey Kong Country that the big ape really got a fair shake, and what a shake it was. The original DKC was no masterpiece, but thanks to a huge marketing push and being packed in with the console, it would go on to be the second best selling SNES title (behind only Mario himself, of course), and Rare would go on to develop two excellent sequels.

After that, things got ugly. A few Game Boy ports and pseudo-remakes were all the big guy had to his name until DK64, which to this day remains THE example of how not to design a collect-a-thon. And once Rare was sold to Microsoft, things got dire. The GBA ports of the originals were passable but nothing to write home about, and on the console front, Jungle Beat and Donkey Konga weren't exactly lighting up the sales charts. After the disastrous Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast, the franchise was thankfully dropped for a few years.

Enter Retro Studios - hot off the heels of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, Retro asked to take a stab at a new DK game, overhauling just about everything in the franchise. Gone are the Kremlings, all the animal buddies except Rambi, and all of the Kongs except DK, Diddy, and Cranky. The game is harder, faster, and focused more on level setpieces. And it was incredibly successful - within six months it had sold 5 million copies, and the 3DS port added another 1.5 million a couple years later. With the Wii U on the horizon, people were hoping for a Metroid Prime 4, but Retro had other ideas...

The Game

For everything Retro got right with DKCR, it's hard to argue that it wasn't an extremely safe game. While the levels themselves are different, the world themes are very similar, and over half (if not more) of the soundtrack was remixes of DKC1 tunes. However, now that Retro had proven they could handle the IP, Nintendo gave them a much longer leash and that brings us to this game. Tropical Freeze is in many ways the Banjo-Tooie to Returns' Banjo-Kazooie, and I mean that in a mostly good way. The fundamentals are the same, but there are bigger setpieces, longer levels, more partners, a soundtrack composed by David Wise himself, and a few features that probably should have been in the original Returns, most notably water levels. There are less worlds overall (6 compared to Returns' 8), but otherwise I think it compares favorably to DKCR in just about every way, and it even gives DKC2 a run for its money as my favorite game in the franchise.

Videos

Lost Mangroves - Part 1, Part 2
Autumn Heights - Part 1, Part 2
Bright Savannah - Part 1, Part 2
Sea Breeze Cove - Part 1, Part 2
Juicy Jungle - Part 1, Part 2
Donkey Kong Island - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Secret Seclusion - Part 1

Bonus games





Released in 1994, Donkey Kong Country was Nintendo's silver bullet against the Genesis. It's gorgeous, certainly, but it was Rare's first crack at the big ape and...well, it shows. The physics are kind of slippery, the hitboxes are questionable on a good day, it can be hard to tell what's background decoration and what's an actual platform, and the level design clearly has a few kinks that still need to be worked out. However, unlike some of their later output, there is a good game buried in there somewhere. Every so often you get a level that has a really good gimmick and isn't just "Generic cave level #207", they're just few and far between.

If it sounds like I don't like this game very much, well, I don't. I think it misses the mark far more than it hits, and ultimately is a pretty mediocre experience. However, I also think that in order to appreciate just how much DKC2 improved on it, you really do have to sit through it at least once. It's not a long game - a casual player can probably barrel through the whole thing in about 3 hours, and I'd highly suggest you play it yourself if you're interested in where the LP is going. But for everyone else, let's get this trainwreck rolling.

Kongo Jungle
Monkey Mines
Vine Valley
Gorilla Glacier
Kremkroc Industries
Chimp Caverns
Gangplank Galleon

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The year is 1995; DKC has come and gone, the N64 is just on the horizon, and Rare was hard at work crafting a sequel. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest is the game that DKC wanted to be. The platforming is tighter and more varied, the animal buddies have been diversified, bonuses now have actual rewards and come in a bunch of different minigame flavors...I could go on and on, but suffice to say that it is a clear improvement over the original in just about every imaginable way. Frankly, even with the few problems it does have (hitboxes still being fucked, having to pay to save your game), I would still consider it the best game in the series, and among my favorite games ever made. It's almost impossible to describe just how well the game flows with words alone - you really need to see it in action, or better yet, play it yourself. In fact, more than any other game in this thread, I suggest you play this one yourself first. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

This time around, Donkey Kong has been "kidnapped" by K. Rool (presumably to face justice for his crimes), so it's up to child soldier Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie to bust him out. This brings a lot of changes to the game, not the least of which is Dixie's hair twirl, allowing her to slow her descent. This is just as broken as you can imagine, but we'll talk about all that in due time. For now, let's get our revenge on.

Gangplank Galleon
Crocodile Cauldron
Krem Quay - Lost World 1
Krazy Kremland - Lost World 2
Gloomy Gulch
K. Rool's Keep
The Flying Krock - Lost World 3

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1996 - The N64 is here at last, and Super Mario 64 has taken the world by storm. The 3D revolution is in full swing, which makes it the perfect time to...release a 2D sidescroller on a legacy system? Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble is a bit of an odd duck in the series, for a number of reasons. Even ignoring the somewhat questionable release timing, DKC3 still has to contend with a lot of legitimate design problems. After all, how do you follow up one of the best platformers ever made? Well, Rare's answer (as it tended to be later in their life) was more. More worlds (a full 8 instead of the 7.5-ish of DKC2), a full overworld, more collectables, more bonus types, and most importantly, more gimmicks. And that's the big sticking point a lot of people have with this game - unlike how DKC2 had very general platforming gimmicks (barrel cannons, wind, etc), DKC3 goes all in on level-specific gimmicks. This means that a level's quality is often directly tied to the quality of its gimmick and...well...suffice to say there are some really bad gimmicks in this game.

And you know what? Fuck that noise.

DKC3 has always been my personal favorite of the original trilogy. Maybe it's because I could actually beat it as a kid, unlike DKC2. Maybe it's a healthy dose of nostalgia, combined with the level gimmicks making them more memorable. It's not wrong to say that DKC2 is better in just about every objective measure, but I know which game I liked better as a kid, and I hope this playthrough means as much to you as it does to me.

Lake Orangatanga
Kremwood Forest
Cotton-Top Cove
Mekanos
K3
Razor Ridge
Pacifica
Kaos Kore - Kaos Kastle
Krematoa - Knautilus
SNES/GBA Soundtrack Comparison

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[Blurb and LP courtesy of ChaosArgate]

Pop quiz: which developer had proven themselves to Nintendo that they were a very capable studio worthy of entrusting their beloved properties to and got the go ahead to make a Donkey Kong game? Here's a hint, their name starts with an "R."

If you answered "Rare," then you're right, but that's not the answer I was looking for. Retro Studios took on the challenge of making a Donkey Kong game after their wildly successful Metroid revival and this game, Donkey Kong Country Returns is widely considered the start of a successful DKC revival as well. Featuring a return to 2D platforming across 8 very imaginatively named worlds, DKCR set itself apart from its predecessors by putting more focus on great set pieces in the levels that just was not possible on SNES. That said, it's also incredibly similar to DKC1, to the point where I'd consider it a modern re-imagining of DKC1. It's a perfectly competent and fun platformer, it's just not very ambitious.

To really appreciate what makes Tropical Freeze even better, Artix, myself, and assorted guest commentators will take a look at this game on the side, to show off the bar that Retro set themselves.

Jungle - Part 1, Part 2
Beach - Part 1, Part 2
Ruins - Part 1, Part 2
Mines - Part 1
Forest - Part 1, Part 2
Cliff - Part 1, Part 2
Factory - Part 1, Part 2
Volcano - Part 1, Part 2
Golden Temple - Part 1
Cloud - Part 1, Part 2

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[Blurb and LP courtesy of FPzero]

Thread, I would like to present yet another exhibit in this war trial. The following videos will provide the evidence needed to prove that the defendent, Donkey Kong, is the true war criminal of the Kong Islands.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat came out for the Gamecube in 2005 and used a very special controller as its primary method of controlling the game. Namely, it used the DK Bongos controller that Nintendo had made for their Donkey Konga rhythm game series.



You'd think using a rhythm game controller with just two buttons and a clap sensor to control a platformer with a decently high skill ceiling would go poorly and yet, I can't imagine playing the game without it. Once you get the hang of using the controller, you'll find yourself able to pull off all sorts of stylish tricks and combos to get the highest banana scores and do...whatever it is DK is looking to accomplish. The game never really makes it clear what the plot is and neither does the game's manual. Best we can figure, DK has set his eyes on becoming King of the Jungle and he'll beat up anything and everything in his path to accomplish that. Maybe even establish his banana hoard at the same time.

Join myself, Artix, and some rotating guests for a fun ride as we watch DK establish his dominion over the kingdoms on land, in the sea, the air, and maybe even in space too.

World 1 - Part 1
World 2 - Part 1, Part 2
World 3 - Part 1, Part 2
World 4 - Part 1, Part 2

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This is it. The final war crime. I'm being followed. They're after me.

This is all the footage I have left.


[Blurb and LP courtesy of Tyty]

Donkey Kong 64 is a nightmare. Released in 1999, developed by Rare for Nintendo, it was DK's first big foray into the 3D world. It's well known for being plagued with framerate issues, poor level design, and many many glitches... Well, that, and the DK Rap. It was no surprise when no-one else in the group wanted to actually record or play this game besides me, with a trumped up sense of nostalgia... And honestly, it still isn't that bad. It's more the tipping point of an entire genre of games that no longer really exists. The grand collectathons of the N64. There's bananas, coins, fairies, banana medals, golden bananas, crowns, blueprints... Just way too many things to collect in levels that are really too big. It's a mediocre game at best, and a bit frustrating at its worst. But it remains as probably the worst main-line DK game, and probably the worst of Rare's N64 titles.

Join myself, FPzero, and poorlywritten as we drag you through the remnants of an LP that should have never been. I present to the court: DK and his friends cheating at boxing.
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