The Choice of Systems
Donkey Kong Country (DKC) is one of the most meaningful games to me – as I already highlighted in my retro section of Benny Kong. I own and have played Donkey Kong Country for several Nintendo home consoles, but first fell in love with the game as many others, with the OG version for the Super Nintendo (SNES) from 1994. Consequently I also bought the digital versions for the Wii (2006) and the Wii U (2015). I was actually super excited having this fantastic game playable on (back at the time) Nintendo’s current generation of video game consoles, but something was missing:
The OG Super Nintendo Controller. It provided me not only with super-power when playing with it back in the day, no: It brings back exactly this Donkey Kong Country vibes I felt as a kid – or teenager. Plus: As of now, I consider the Super Nintendo Controller the best controller to navigate Donkey and Diddy through Donkey Kong Island. To me, playing Donkey Kong Country with the original Super Nintendo Controller is a mix between functionality and reminiscences.
Revisiting the digital versions of DKC were never that enjoyable to me, since I was missing that level of control that I usually have with the Super Nintendo Controller. So when I was in the mood for some Donkey Kong Country in the past 20 years to this point, I usually put out my Super Nintendo. As soon as the SNES Classic Mini hit the market in 2017, you could finally play DKC with the Original SNES Controller and relive the DKC vibes – and all good? Basically yes, but there was indeed something that bothered me again:
Since I don’t have a dedicated playroom (yet), from a practicability standpoint it is not the most convenient approach to have a controller cable across the living room, since the controller needs to be connected to the console – as back in the day. That’s cool, but as a kid, I was playing while sitting on my bed, close to the TV; or sitting on the carpet, directly in front of the TV. So nowadays, players like me usually play in different set ups – since the times and places of playing, have changed.
This has of course nothing to do with Donkey Kong Country necessary, but due to this set-up, the SNES Classic Mini has not made my revisit DKC at the end. For sure I could have bought a wireless 3rd party controller, such as the popular ones from 8BitDo* that are quite similar to the OG controller, but only quite.
Finally! In September 2019, Nintendo made an announcement that made many “retro bugs” like me very happy: With a Nintendo Switch Online membership you will now have access to a large collection of Super NES games. Hooray! But wait? No Donkey Kong? Exactly, to the disappointment of many, the Donkey Kong Country series was not added to the catalogue of SNES games for Nintendo Switch Online any earlier than July 2020. And we are not talking about the entire trilogy here, since at the time of writing, only the first title in the series, Donkey Kong Country, is available for Nintendo Switch Online.
Equipped with the wireless Super NES Controller that Nintendo launched in December 2019, I happily took the opportunity to join Donkey and Diddy in one of their best adventures in August 2020 – and played the game like I used too as a kid.
Donkey Kong Country and Super NES – Nintendo Switch Online Features
Donkey Kong Country is considered a hard, but fair game. But! Be prepared to eventually play passages of a level multiple times and to feel relieved when finally reaching the checkpoint (Continue Barrel) or the rewarding exit of the level. It will be necessary to time your jumps, or study certain patterns of enemies or spinning objects, such as moving platforms or Barrel Cannons. Sometimes it can be a real challenge to time the moment when the Kongs are supposed to be shot out of a Barrel Cannon over gaps or to other Barrel Cannon. Certain types of Barrel Cannons are even automatically firing the Kongs when entered.
After you timed precisely several shots out of a Barrel Cannon in a row, just to fire yourself into a Zinger and lose your last Kong! Moments like this can be annoying and the Nintendo Switch online feature “Rewind your game” can come handy to decrease these moments of frustration. I tried nevertheless to use this feature as little as possible, to keep the game as close as possible to the experience from back in the day. But for sure:
Sometimes it’s just too handy to quickly rewind the game when you were hit by this lonely Kritter waiting for you directly in front of the exit, instead of restarting the level from the Continue Barrel. On the other hand these moments are also bittersweet, as you are kind of upset with the developers of the game (back at this time: Rareware, second-party developer for Nintendo, now Rare and a studio of Xbox Game Studios) and ask yourself “Why-the-Kong” they are so mean doing this to you! But this anger usually drives you in the second try for a perfect run, just in order to show “them” (the developers) that you can do better. And by re-playing, you will usually automatically collect bananas and other valuable items to be rewarded with extra lives as a positive side-effect.
So don’t over-use this rewind feature since nowadays platformers usually are not “trolling” you that much anymore. Enjoy these R(r)are moments!
I can remember the struggle as a kid, teenager or now adult, how difficult it was sometimes to reach Candy Kong in order to save your progress in the game. In particular in later worlds, such as in Vine Valley or Kremkroc Industries Inc., mastering 3 or 4 levels in a row without the opportunity to visit Candy’s Save Point, can be a real struggle.
As a result you saw the Game Over screen once in a while (or maybe even too often), but at some point and after sufficient enough practice (and after some cursing here and there), you finally made it to Candy. In the Nintendo Switch Online version it’s up to each gamer if they want to use Nintendo Switch Online’s “Pick up and play” feature, where you can create individual save files and jump back into the action where you left off:
Using this feature makes playing Donkey Kong Country obviously much easier as on the original SNES version, where you had to fight hard for a save point.
Even Candy confirms that we are coming a long way!
It is also important to know that Candy’s Save Point only saves your progress and does not save lives or bananas collected. So in case you stacked up a lot of lives and resetted or switched off your SNES, you started exactly with 5 lives again. And 5 lives sometimes aren’t enough tries to get to Candy – or to use Funky Kong’s “Funky’s Flight” that allows you to travel to areas of Donkey Kong Island that you already visited, and jump in Candy’s “Save Barrel”.
Start and Select Instead of Rewind
Both Nintendo Switch Online features (rewind, pick up and play) are absolutely not unique to Donkey Kong Country, but in my opinion they do have a big influence on the gaming experience – maybe even to a bigger degree than on other games. Creating aforementioned suspend points can provide a certain level of convenience in games such as Super Soccer, where the player doesn’t have to use any passwords anymore. But this convenience aspect does not have any influence on the difficulty of the game itself, such as in DKC, or Super Mario World, where the gamer usually needs to access a save point in order to save the progress.
Paired with the rewind feature, both Nintendo Switch Online functionalities reduce potential moments of frustration and Game Over screens significantly, which makes Donkey Kong Country more accessible and enjoyable. This is great for e.g. players with less experience in platformers, but also comes handy for gamers that aren’t used to such challenging games as we had back in the day. In nowadays platformers there aren’t usually even any Game Over screens or progress lost in order to avoid frustration and also to appeal to a younger generation of players.
The rewind feature can be great for backtracking and screening the level for secret paths and bonus rooms. But when it’s about to beat the level in the first place, the feature should be used with care in my opinion, since it can break the smooth gameplay that the game provides. In my experience the player is better off when just playing a certain passage again to get into the flow, practice to time jumps or memorize patterns of enemies, or it’s recommended to press Start and Select to quickly exit and re-enter the level. This not only increases the likelihood by finally mastering the passage you had problems with, but this additional practice might also contribute to your overall DKC gaming skills. And last but not least: You will automatically collect bananas and stack up some lives, what makes the game a bit easier to beat eventually. Same applies as well for backtracking: When you smash a Barrel into a wall, hoping the fragile wall will lead into a Bonus Level, what turned out unsuccessful: Just hit Start and Select.
Donkey Kong Country is a Must-Play
In case you haven’t played the Donkey Kong Country yourself yet:
Please do so, it’s really great! In my opinion, Donkey Kong Country is one of the best games ever made. It’s absolutely worth playing in 2020 and beyond. Donkey Kong Country sold over nine million copies and became a milestone in gaming history. Highly innovative and ground-breaking graphics in 1994, as well as a never aging, fantastic and remarkable soundtrack in 2020. Without Donkey Kong Country, this blog would not be called Benny Kong. And playing it via Nintendo Switch Online, with the wireless Super NES Controller, that’s the best package. The Donkey Kong Countries series and the Super NES Controller belong together.
I truly hope that Nintendo will release Donkey Kong Country 2 & 3 at some point as well and I am also looking forward to playing these games again – on my Nintendo Switch. Preferably I’d love to have a Donkey Kong Country Trilogy HD Remaster Collection (for instance paired with Donkey Kong Country Returns) on one cartridge.
Or some more wishful thinking: Imagine there will be true remakes, that will let us enjoy the Donkey Kong Country series games in such a brilliant quality, as it is being showcased here for Donkey Kong Country 2:
But until we get there, I’m happy to have these remarkable games accessible via Nintendo Switch Online. And it seemed as Big N has read my thoughts: Basically in the midst of publishing this article, Nintendo announced that the direct sequel to Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2 – Diddy’s Kong Quest, will be added to the Super Nintendo – Nintendo Switch Online library, September 23, 2020. That’s fantastic news!
Please stay tuned – I am not done with my Donkey Kong Country coverage: In of my next blog posts I’ll be taking you on my journey through Donkey Kong Island, going for all 101% that you can find in the game.
What are you thoughts on Donkey Kong Country – and maybe in particular playing it via Nintendo Switch Online? Which Donkey Kong Country game is your favorite in the series? Let me know in the comments section!
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