Donkey Kong Country (Nintendo Game Boy Advance, 2003, Donkey Kong Country

Rare would like to thank: Sega, for allowing them to “borrow” the half pipe minigame from Sonic 2

Any old school gamer remembers how amazed they were when they first saw Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. I remember getting a promotional VHS in the mail from Nintendo Power when I was about ten years old, and thinking “No WAY are the graphics gonna be that good.” After being raised on simple sprites, it was unbelievable to see rendered characters that appeared to be three-dimensional. Fortunately the gameplay was just as good as the graphics, and DKC is considered to be an old-school classic. It was followed by two sequels, both of which more or less followed the same framework of the original, albeit with different characters. With the arrival of DKC3 on Game Boy Advance, Dixie and Kiddy Kong”s adventure has gone portable.

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This third game in the series is easily the least played, mostly because it was released right around the same time that the 32-bit Playstation and Saturn were getting all the attention. The same situation happened with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi”s Island (which is a shame considering it”s one of the best platformers ever). This re-release should give younger gamers a chance to check it out, as well as those that missed out the first time.

Players control Dixie Kong and Kiddy Kong, the latter of which seems to have been forgotten by Nintendo and Rare. Granted, he”s not particularly interesting or useful. Other than the ability to break planks and skip across water, he controls almost identically to Donkey Kong in the original DKC. Dixie Kong is far more useful, considering she can slow her descent using her ponytail. I”m not sure how the physics work on that, and I”m also not sure how a monkey grows a ponytail, but it”s a helpful ability (especially in jump-intensive levels). While she”s certainly useful, I found neither her nor Kiddy to be as likable as Donkey or Diddy Kong.

All of the core gameplay mechanics remain unchanged from the other titles in the series. Getting a DK barrel still regains your partner, shiny barrels are checkpoints, collecting K-O-N-G gives you an extra life, etc. Almost any of these levels could have been included in the original game, and they wouldn”t have stood out. Barrel-throwing is still prevalent, as well as the ability to turn into (or ride) your various animal friends.

The only real change they implemented is more mini-games. “Cranky”s Dojo” allows you to play as the elder Kong as he blocks incoming enemies with a shield. Another mini-game is almost completely identical to the half pipe minigame in Sonic 2, and features your character collecting items and avoiding spikes. Some courses are timed races, and will feature a horde of insects chasing you the whole time. One level includes a giant ominous saw coming at you from the bottom of the screen. Others are set in low-gravity situations, allowing you to jump ridiculous distances.

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Considering it”s been a decade since the original release of this game, the graphics aren”t nearly as impressive. The GBA screen doesn”t display colors as well as the SNES did with the original, and the initial “wow factor” from the mid-90s is gone. The sound is still solid (especially if you”re playing on a DS), and features some catchy tunes and appropriate sound effects.

There are a ton of secrets to be found, including DK coins, “banana birds”, and silver coins that can be used to play minigames. It”s a fairly lengthy title, and a solid addition to the GBA library (possibly one of the last as well). If you”re looking for a different experience than DKC or DKC2, you won”t find it here. It”s just more of the same, which isn”t necessarily a bad thing.

Graphics: C

Sound: B-

First Play: B

Last Play: C+

Gameplay: B-

Overall: 78% C+

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