1994 was a big year for Donkey Kong. Not only was there the enormously wonderful Donkey Kong Country (which, thank goodness, is finally going to be made available in the eShop) but there was another, often forgotten, addition to the series. Titled simply Donkey Kong and released for the Game Boy, it was actually one of the best platformers on the console (and, perhaps, ever – ed.).
Donkey Kong (or DK94 as I will call it for the rest of this article) is a kind of celebration of older arcade/NES/Game & Watch Donkey Kong titles of the past and, frankly, it outdoes each and every one of them. If you’re ever tempted to explore that era of the Donkey Kong series, this is the one game that you should play. It takes all the best parts of the other titles and puts them together in a lovely way.
Let’s take a look at the elements it incorporates from the other games:
Original Donkey Kong: All of the levels from this game are remade with better graphics and better controls. So, you’re pretty much getting this game as well, if you get DK94.
Game & Watch Donkey Kong: Donkey Kong Jr. was added as a villainous partner to Donkey Kong, which has been carried over. It also gave a clear city-based setting, which is used as one of the first worlds in DK94.
Donkey Kong Jr.: This game introduced a large selection of new enemies, all of which return. It also added climbing mechanics, which were carried over and some of its levels were even remade, except now you play as the nimble Mario rather than the sluggish Donkey Kong Jr., alone a great improvement.
You may notice that there’s not really anything from Donkey Kong 3, but that one was a bit strange in that it didn’t feature Mario and was actually a shooter, so you’re still getting all the best elements from this early era. As a kind of side-point, it also borrows the method of attacking enemies from Super Mario Bros. 2 which is quite fun and it’s nice to see it used again.
The main thing for me is that when you play the original titles they don’t really feel like much of a full game experience. There’ll be four levels (with the last being a bit of a finale) which just loop endlessly until you run out of lives. I know there are a lot of people who really enjoy this kind of game and dedicate a lot of hours into getting the highest possible score, but I think that’s pretty ‘hardcore’ and most people will play them every now and then for twenty minutes and then get bored. DK94 really is a full game. You go through nine worlds filled with multiple levels, fight in boss battles and explore a variety of different environments. In what other game would you have Mario chasing Donkey Kong around on the back of an aeroplane mid-flight?
This game is fun, this game is unique and this game is definitely worth a try. In terms of quality, it’s like the sum total of all the past Donkey Kong games with just a little more thrown in for good measure. As this was the last one before the series changed drastically (and for the better, I would say) with Donkey Kong Country I’d say it was nice to end on a high.
If you’re part of the North American Club Nintendo, DK94 is actually a freebie right now for only 150 coins, so there’s very little stopping you from getting this classic game right away! This version is the 3DS Virtual Console version. While it’s not free in other territories at the moment, it is available to buy on the Virtual Console anyway, and it’s certainly great value for its relatively low price.
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