Donkey Kong Country 3, the third installment in the popular Super Nintendo series, has made its way to the Game Boy Advance. The original Donkey Kong Country 3 was released at the end of the SNES’s life. This was during the Nintendo 64 hype, and it was overlooked by many, even those who enjoyed the series. The game had a few new tricks, but at its core, it was a Donkey Kong Country game. It has the same old DKC gameplay that made its predecessors so popular. Now, almost ten years later, Rare has released an almost perfect port of the game and added some new content.
Unlike the first two games, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong are nowhere to be found. In their place, you’ll find Dixie Kong and her cousin Kiddie Kong, both relatives of DK. Once again you’ll be taking on King R. Rool. Right away, you will notice that unlike the first two DKC games, you will be using an overhead map to locate the next level. The game is still linear but the map gives you a chance to buy items and try out the mini-games in-between the levels instead of going from one after the other.
There has been some new content added to the game since its original release. Most of this new content is made up of new mini games like the speed boat race and Dash game. Some of the music throughout the game has been redone (for the better) and there are a few new levels that can be unlocked. It’s nothing much and most of the new content will go unnoticed. Then again, I’m sure Rare could have gotten away with adding nothing new.
In the gameplay department, DKC3 is similar to its predecessors. The game uses the same side-scrolling, platform jumping method of getting through each level. Being apes, you have the ability to swing on vines, climb trees and do the things apes do. The ability to ride and control animals is back so you’ll find yourself riding a rhino, or taking control of an elephant, marlin or parrot. Along the way you’ll collect bananas, letters and silver which will help you to collect lives and buy items useful for your quest. Occasionally the game will throw a moving side-scrolling level, like the mine carts levels from the earlier games. This kind of level will slowly move forward forcing you to keep up but otherwise expect a traditional side-scrolling game.
Graphically the game still looks great. When the original Donkey Kong Country was released for the SNES, it looked unbelievable. It was a truly new graphical style no one had seen before. DKC3 uses the same style which looks very good, even on the GBA. The port from the SNES has hurt the graphics but only in a minimal way. The colors in the handheld version have been brightened, leading to some washed out graphics and backgrounds. A minor gripe, but there were times when the background was hard to make out.
Much of the music has been replaced in the game. The levels are still full of their jungle-ish music and sound effects which is a highlight of the game. I usually barely notice a game’s soundtrack, but DKC3’s is very good and each level has an appropriately themed song. All the screeches and hoots with their echo effect can also be heard.
Overall the game will take you anywhere from six to eight hours to complete. Rare has extended the gameplay time buy showing you a percentage of the complete game. This is encouragement to spend time exploring the map and the levels looking for hidden items, bananas, etc. The game is difficult, especially later on at the advanced levels. The jumping puzzles become more complex, the levels become more complicated and the enemy placement much tougher. The game does not have a difficulty selection, but you can save anywhere in the game from the overhead map.
Often the difference between a poor and great side-scrolling game is the control. One area in which the Donkey Kong Country series always excelled is control; it was right up there with the Mario series. Luckily, DKC3 on the GBA retains that control. The game controls as well as it ever has. Dixie and Kiddy respond instantly and inaccurately, which is very important with the jumping puzzles. The control scheme is simple. The D-Pad is used to move, while the buttons control jumping and picking up barrels and items. The same goes for the animals.
In closing, Donkey Kong Country 3 is a faithful and accurate port. It offers the same side-scrolling gameplay and pseudo 3D graphics which made the series popular in the first place. Fans of the series may be disappointed that the game doesn’t offer much new content. Anyone who has never played the game, it is well worth it. The Donkey Kong Series offers a bit of good old 2D history and shows what 2D platformers were like in their prime.