It is hard to believe that it has been nearly fifteen years since Donkey Kong Country was released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Back then, its computer graphics were unlike anything ever seen before, and it quickly became a favorite among players. The game was so popular that it ended up being remade not once, but twice. A Game Boy Color version was released in 2000, and a Game Boy Advance version followed in 2003. So which of these versions is the best, which is the worst, and which is somewhere in the middle? Allow me to provide my own opinion on the issue, since I just happen to own all three versions.
First, we have the Super NES version, released in 1994 when 16-bit systems were still the main sources of console games. This was the first time that Donkey Kong was a protagonist, as opposed to being Mario’s enemy back in the 1980s, and also marked the debut of several new characters, including young sidekick Diddy Kong. Players were challenged to romp through over thirty action stages, in such environments as jungle, underwater, snow, and forest. Along the way, they could collect bananas and balloons for extra lives, use animal sidekicks for assistance, and hunt down the bonus rooms that would help them earn the maximum score of 101%.
As mentioned, the graphics were quite impressive at the time, and it was amazing that they could be seen on a 16-bit system rather than the 32-bit systems that were waiting in the wings. The game play was both challenging and addictive, and it took a lot of effort to find every last bonus area, some of which were hidden rather well. The boss battles were cool if a bit on the easy side for the most part, the soundtrack was epic and filled with memorable tunes, and the stages were so fun, they could be played again and again. No wonder it became a best-seller and spawned two sequels, both of which also won praise among players.
Six years later, Rare and Nintendo decided to release their 16-bit masterpiece on the 8-bit Game Boy Color. This portable version included several new features, including stickers that could be collected and printed out using a Game Boy Printer. Some new mini games were added, as well. Funky’s Fishing challenged players to catch as many fish as they could, boosting their score as they went. Crosshair Cranky was a shooter game, where players had to shoot at Kremlings and other things to pass various challenges. There was even a brand new stage, Necky Nutmare, filled with pesky vultures that gave our simian heroes grief.
As can be expected, the graphics and sound are not nearly as good as they were on the Super NES, though they are still fairly good for the Game Boy Color. The main problems, however, lie in the game play related features that were adversely altered in the translation. The screen was reduced, so players could not see as far ahead as before. More enemies were added in spots, and the hit detection was made far worse, so seemingly legitimate hits could actually result in a loss of life. Areas were made harder due to the lack of memory, and one would have to finish the game three times (once normally, once without DK barrels, and once without midpoint barrels) just to obtain 101% since stickers only appeared in certain difficulty modes. This would seem to be proof that 16-bit games do not translate well to a less powerful system.
In 2003, Rare decided to try to re-release Donkey Kong Country again, this time for the Game Boy Advance. There were some more new features for this version, such as a new side quest where players could collect pictures of Donkey Kong and his friends and adversaries. Funky’s Fishing was brought back, and Candy’s Dance Studio, a Dance Dance Revolution-style dancing mini game, was added. Some stages were switched around on the enlarged maps, so later stages in the original would be visited earlier, and vice versa. The boss battles were altered with new strategies, and new opening and closing cut scenes were featured. There was even a mode that challenged players to complete stages with the highest score.
This version is closer to the original than the Game Boy Color version was, and is clearly the superior hand held title of Judi Slot games that are more identical to casino games that we use to play on internet. The graphics and sound are more like the original, though they have been watered down for the Game Boy Advance. The stages feel like they did on the Super NES, and the mini games and photo side quest are both a lot of fun. On the downside, the new ending was nothing too special, save that it “hinted” at a sequel (the other two Donkey Kong Country games were also ported to the Game Boy Advance); and the game was still a bit on the short side. Even so, it remains a pretty good game and one of Rare’s better post-Nintendo 64 titles.
So which version is the best? For me, the Super NES version wins this battle. The graphics, the sound, the game play, the bonuses…everything was perfect, despite a rather short quest. The Game Boy Advance version is a close second, with downgraded features, but addictive game play that makes up for its shortcomings. By far, the worst version is the Game Boy Color version, not because of its altered graphics and sound, but because of its poor hit detection and the overall act of artificially making it more difficult. All three games are worth trying out, however, because Donkey Kong Country is truly a landmark title. Play the Super NES version right away if you never have, try the Game Boy Advance title and be as pleasantly surprised as I was, but approach the Game Boy Color version with caution. Try them all out, and see which version is the best one for you.