The Let's Play Archive

Donkey Kong Land

by Simply Simon

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Original Thread: Donkey Kong Land [100%] - Amazing 8-bit Ape Adventures



Hello everybody! I am proud to present you one little gem of a game.
Many, many people have played Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. It was a game with an absolutely amazing presentation, the best graphics seen on the system, an outstanding soundtrack and a very solid engine to play with.
However, it wasn't outstanding in every area. While pretty solid in general, at some points its level design was severely lacking. A few annoying gimmicks too much, a few stages that were too hard for no real reason, and a few too many levels that were just filler.
Donkey Kong Country 2, the direct sequel, fixed all of those problems and added more on top of it. It's considered by some the best platformer of all times, and I'd be inclined to agree, with a little philosophy of mine added: Once you reach a certain level of good, there is not better or worse, just multiple levels of "the best".
And in-between those games, Donkey Kong Country was used as the base for a Gameboy outing of the series. It's the game I'm going to present here. And you know what? I think it fits seamlessly. That means, while it has the great basis of DKC, its level design philosophy is at many points reminiscent of DKC2 - one can see how they tried out stuff here that would be refined to perfection later.

In conclusion, making obvious excuses for the system it's on, Donkey Kong Land is, in my opinion, a better game than the one it's based on. I won't draw too many direct comparisons, though; it's pointless. What I am setting out to do is simply to stress that DKL is very, very good, and you should give it a try if you can!


Rareware developed the game in their strongest of times, and it was published by Nintendo for their Game Boy system. It came out in June, 1995 in North America; a month before its Japanese and two months before its European release.
It's one of the first games to have Super Game Boy support, with automatic palettes for each level and a snazzy jungle border for the game screen.
I'm going to play on an emulated Super Game Boy, by the way.

The game on:


Copypasted from someone who copypasted it from the manual:


Cranky Kong, aging video game pioneer and primate patriarch, swayed back
and forth in his rocking chair as he harassed his grandape, Donkey Kong, and
his little buddy, Diddy Kong.

"Well, I've got to admit, your last adventure was more successful than
I ever thought it would be..." he jibed. "Course, put a few fancy graphics
and some modern music in a game, and kids'll buy anything nowadays..."

Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong tried to discretely cover their ears as they
stared out into the jungle surrounding Cranky's cabin. The old ape continued
his taunting. "Back in our days, understand, we had an extremely limited color
palette to work with, and we still made great games... No way you could
duplicate that feat today, Donkey my boy! No siree!"

Cranky had been going on and on like this for what seemed like hours,
Donkey Kong had finally had had enough.

"People liked Donkey Kong Country for more than just the 'fancy
graphics', you old coot!" he snapped. "The number of colors, the resolution,
it doesn't make a difference. It was just plain fun!"

"Yeah, and we worked hard fighting K. Rool and his goons!" Diddy chimed
in. Both he and Donkey Kong still had the bumps and bruises to prove it. Cranky
nodded his head knowingly. The two youngsters had predictably risen to the
bait and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

"So you're saying that an adventure like your last one would be a success
even on an 8-bit system, like...Game Boy, for example..." Cranky said slyly.

"That's right!" DK exclaimed without hesitation. Diddy joined him in
accepting the challenge. "We'll even let the Kremlings steal the banana horde
again, and this time we'll get it back on Game Boy!" Diddy boasted. Hey, a
golden opportunity to get out of DK's ridiculous guard duty training, he

"I'll believe it when I see it!" Cranky scowled. "I'll call old K. Rool
and arrange everything. You'll wake up tomorrow without your bananas." Donkey
and Diddy looked up at each other, realizing they had been set up. "This time,
the Kremlings will hide your bananas in all new places around the island,"
Cranky continued gleefully. "I'll tell the King to spare no expense and bring
out some new tricks and foes for you, too. No more cushy adventuring for you
two, no siree."

Donkey could barely contain his anger. He was hoping he could just loaf
around the tree house tomorrow, after all, Banana Bowl was on, and... But
he wasn't about to let the old ape get the best of him.

"Bring it on, old ape, bring it on..." was all he said as he walked off
to the tree house. He was going to get some sleep for the adventure ahead.

Man that's way too many words for "go jump on some Krocodiles".

The system limitations

Compared to the original, there have been a few changes owing to the loss of half its bits. The rolling physics are a little quirky; it takes longer to get going, and this can and will spell your doom in many situations if you were used to the original. This is the biggest problem, in my opinion. The four-colour-limitation means that stuff can be pretty hard to see sometimes, and some of the secrets kind of rely on you spotting stuff from the edges of the screen, which is borderline impossible sometimes. They tried very hard to emulate the 3D-prerendered sprites of DKC, and while it does certainly look very recognizably like that game, it's simply a bit too complicated for the Gameboy.
You can't see both Kongs on the screen at the same time like in the big brother, so there's this annoying and overly long warping-in animation if you get hit with a guy in reserve. It can also make for instantdeath in situations where you wouldn't expect it because the game can't find a good spot to warp the partner to.
And, most obviously, DKL only has four worlds and a pretty bare-bones presentation apart from the levels themselves.

On the other hand...

I can't stress enough how impressed I am that they didn't make a lazy port of DKC which wouldn't ever have worked well. Every single level in this game is original, and, as said, on average more competently designed than DKC's. Imho. Many of them have completely new level themes, both graphically and music. There have been new enemies added (flying pigs, come on!), the bosses are all new and all better, and in a gesture of niceness, the secrets are actually hidden intelligently and fair. I got all of them without having to look a single one up, which I would have never been able to do in DKC.

Me and this game

Man, when I was a kid, I was playing a lot of Gameboy, and on it...
...Pokemon, almost exclusively.
I would like to add more nostalgia, but I actually first played Donkey Kong Land about a month prior to starting this thread! Don't worry, I practiced a lot. I think this is as good a testament as any of how much it impressed me from the very beginning.

So can we get this fucking thing going already jeez why do I like writing so much anyway?


I'll do more than one stage per level, but not entire worlds. I'll just go for what I think flows right, so there's no fixed length.

World 1: Gangplank Galleon Ahoy!

Jungle Jaunt, Freezing Fun, Simian Swing

Deck Trek, Rope Ravine, Tire Trail

Riggin' Rumble, Congo Carnage, Arctic Barrel Arsenal, Wild Sting Fling

World 2: Kremlantis

Tricky Temple, Kremlantis Kaos, Reef Rampage, Snake Charmer's Challenge, Chomp's Coliseum

Nautilus Chase, Swirlwind Storm, Seabead Showdown

World 3: Monkey Mountains and Chimpanzee Clouds

Pot Hole Panic, Mountain Mayhem, Track Attack

Spiky Tire Trail, Sky High Scamper

Landslide Leap, Collapsing Clouds, Mad Mole Holes

World 4: Big Ape City

Construction Site Fight, Kong Krazy, Balloon Barrage, Fast Barrel Blast

Skyscraper Caper, Button Barrel Blast, Oil Drum Slum, K. Rool's Kingdom


One of the composers for the first game, David Wise, also overlooked this game. He got joined by Graeme Norgate, who also worked on other Rare games like Blast Corps or GoldenEye 007. Both of them did a tremendous job, in my opinion; from great ports of DKC tracks to fantastic original compositions.


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