Jump to content
Register Now

Thoughts on Donkey Kong Country 3

Recommended Posts

Whelp, it's available for the Switch now and I hadn't played it in years, so figured I might as well give Dixie Kong's Double Trouble another playthrough over the last couple days. Ya know, out of the original trilogy of DKC classics originally released on the Super NES, you really can't top Diddy's Kong Quest, IMO. Not only did that game introduce actual reasons to explore off the beaten path more meaningful than just the pursuit of extra lives that you'd lose anyway as soon as you turned off your system, but it also upped the difficulty level in a way that would satisfy veterans of the original, gave you two agile Kongs who are just a joy to control, the coolest helpers in the trilogy, a fun pirate theme that justified a perfect balance of dark backgrounds and bright foregrounds and super shiny coins that really seem to glisten, and one of the most rightly beloved soundtracks in all of video games. That said, my recent refresher course served to reinforce my conviction that Dixie Kong's Double Trouble is often underrated. It remains my second-favorite out of the original trilogy, above the original.

Dixie Kong's adventure catches a lot of flack for characters like Kiddy Kong and the Brothers Bear and a supposedly generic soundtrack and I've even seen people complain that it's too short even though it has more content than either of its predecessors. Some of the common criticisms I agree with, but others not. My main grievance with DKC 3 is a small one: Kiddy Kong. Yes, he's lame. I mean that in both the aesthetic and practical senses. Let's start with the practical:

Kiddy Kong is clunky and not as fun a companion as Diddy. The official rationale for reverting back to having one lightweight character and one heavyweight to play as was that it supplied the player with more reasons to change characters (and therefore to take turns in the at the time almost-presumable two-play cooperative mode most players would be using). Yeah here's sorta how that works most often for me: I'm using Dixie Kong by default because it's more practical in the vast majority of situations thanks both to her comparative agility, higher jumps, and helicopter spin. Then I run across a Bonus Barrel I conveniently can neither reach nor toss Kiddy up to. If Diddy were my companion instead, this wouldn't be a problem since he's a lightweight character too, but because Kiddy is my companion instead and only his toss can reach that barrel, I'm forced to switch to him if I want the Bonus Coin. Then the bonus area starts and it turns out to be an aerial-focused one or something of this nature that I'd do better to use Dixie for, so I switch right back to Dixie the second the challenge begins and press on with her. Kiddy's utility is well-demonstrated in the fact that using the WATER code to start the game with all 85 Bonus Coins so you don't have to visit the game's bonus areas renders him all but useless. Frankly though, you could level most of these critiques against Donkey Kong himself as well, which is why I preferred DKC 2's duo. (Am I bothered by the fact that "Donkey Kong" is in the title of all three installments, yet the big ape is playable in only one? Nope! I always thought of like how "Zelda" was in the title of all the Legend of Zelda games up to that point, yet never playable in what ostensibly was her own franchise or like how "Super Mario World 2" had you play as Yoshi. I just thought of it as one of those Nintendo things. 😋)

Aesthetically, Kiddy Kong doesn't seem like a match for the other player-controlled Kongs either. Donkey Kong Country was supposed to be Nintendo's answer to Sonic the Hedgehog (the platforming franchise that, at the time, was leading the Sega Genesis to victory in the North American market over Nintendo's Super NES), complete with teen/tween/young-adult anthropomorphic animal heroes "with attitude" and two-player co-op and taking advantage of the particular strengths of the console their games were for (in the case of Sega Genesis, that meant speed, in theory, and in the Super NES it meant graphics). DKC, in this connection, was part of a whole trend that Sonic's success touched off throughout the 1990s in the platforming genre that included everything from Bubsy and Aero the Acro Bat to Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon (on various levels) and beyond. The cool factor was important here. Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, Funky, and in their own idiosyncratic ways even characters like Wrinkly, Cranky, and Swanky had it. To state the obvious, Kiddy does not. It befits his addition to the player character roster that the stereo and guitar earnable segments at the end of each stage from the previous game were eliminated and not replaced, as there was nothing stylish that Kiddy might have offered. This is the factor that makes him a distinctly less enjoyable companion for me than Donkey Kong.

In fact, that last point about Kiddy's aesthetic speaks to the rest of the issues I have with Dixie Kong's Double Trouble. The first world in the game sets the tone and the theme here is...cute. Attempted cute anyway. Cute specifically in the sense of a babyish aesthetic. "Babyish" permeates everything from the one-sidedly bright color palette that prevails to the babyish-sounding tunes one often hears playing in the background to the looks of many of the boss characters to the lazy way in which Bonus Barrels and Hero Coins that were invented in the previous game to encourage player exploration are now much more often "hidden" in plain sight right along your normal pathway so that such exploration is no longer so necessary. It's almost as if the developers decided on a female headline character this time around and opted therefore, in response to this choice, to try and craft a DKC adventure "for girls" in the most crude and stereotypical senses of the concept; a game that is bright, super-cute, and easy because that's what girls want to play...right? Kiddy Kong is just the most obvious symptom is this larger attitude problem that permeates much of the game.

Those are my criticisms anyway. But there's also lots of good stuff to this game! Let's go through some of that:

Right from the first second your adventure begins, you discover that the world map you're thrown into is the most interactive and non-linear one in a Super NES platforming game and the developers have created incentives for you to explore the game's yes very cool map in the form of collectable Banana Birds that unlock the game's final, real ending thingy. The first Banana Bird cave I blew open kinda blew my youngish mind back in the day when this game was new and the memory games you play therein really were/are fun! Nothing revolutionary by today's standards at all, but something neat by the standards of games for 16-bit systems back then for sure. Speaking of the map, the need of various vehicles (which is way more fun than traveling on foot!) gave Funky Kong decidedly more utility than in previous DKCs. There's even one point where you can choose which of two worlds to play through first, which just wasn't done in either of the previous two games. It also made the Lost World more fun to discover. And the Brothers Bear added, well, some incentive to visit everywhere as well anyway, especially in as far as it might lead to more Banana Birds.

The bosses in Dixie Kong's Double Trouble are the most unique and complex in the original trilogy. Those in the first game generally were defeated in similar ways. Those in Diddy's Kong Quest added a little more complexity and a lot more style. The bosses in this game are all defeated in quite individual ways that involve more strategy. Need I even remind one of Barbos and his multiple levels of the depth? Or of Bleak the ebil snowman? Or Squirt? The boss fights here are the most fun in the original trilogy to me!

Let's also not forget what is retained here of the classic DKC formula either: each stage has its own distinctive gimmick and so stands out from the way you play the others. This is the real magic of the classic DKCs that made you want to keep playing all the way to the end to see what the developers would throw at you next, and that magic is still very much present in this game too, be it in the form of a giant saw progressively cutting down trees right behind your ass while you're trying to scale them or the evils of lightning bolts that you have to dodge and use to defeat certain enemies or fueling a rocket that you then must use to ascend the stage at top speed without crashing into anything. The level designs may generally be more straightforward than in Diddy's Kong Quest, but the core thing that motivates you to keep going is still there and it still works. What's more, even though a smaller share of the game's hidden secrets are genuinely, you know, hidden than in the earlier two games, I still find the use of coin collectibles that unlock things like Lost World levels and ultimately different endings provide me with more reason to venture off the beaten path than the first Donkey Kong Country game does. In the original game, the bonus areas offer only either extra life balloons or other things that lead to extra lives (bananas, K-O-N-G letters, animal tokens), which you'll simply lose anyway as soon as you turn off or reset your system. On top of this, discovering the bonus areas in the original DKC gets progressively more challenging, as do the stages, as you progress through the game, which means that you'll likely reach a point whereafter finding them costs you more lives than you realistically stand to gain therein anyway, thus defeating the purpose. To these ends, I rarely bother with many bonus areas when I play through the original DKC. Although Dixie Kong's game often doesn't hide them, or the Hero Coins, as well as Diddy Kong's, it's still more effective at motivating me to explore all of the game's content. (Now a more sophisticated game might offer say narrative reasons or something more compelling than arbitrary objects as incentive to explore its landscape, but this is 2D platforming from the mid-90s we're talking about here.)

Also, as in Diddy's Kong Quest, the objects are crisper and the animation smoother than in the original game and the controls also just seem more precise. And despite its overall straightforward level designs it eventually gets qualitatively more challenging than DKC 1 by the end. Seriously, there's nothing comparable to dodging lightning or swimming with reversed controls or Tyrant Twin Tussle or the rocket fueling stage anywhere in the first game. The challenge level does ramp up in Dixie Kong's Double Trouble.

Then there is the soundtrack. Dixie Kong's game is often accused of featuring a blander soundtrack than the first two games did, and while there are a few forgettable duds here and there, especially after my latest playthrough, I'm more convinced than ever that the aforementioned persuasion can only be the result of comparing the third game's soundtrack to that of its immediate predecessor because I'm sorry but the music in Dixie Kong's Double Trouble is absolutely every bit as good as that in the original DKC. Don't believe me? Well how about these?

Treetop Tumble
Rockface Rumble
Nuts N' Bolts
Cascade Capers
Water World (not to be confused with the terrible Kevin Reynolds film of the same era)
Frosty Frolics
Hot Pursuit

Indeed, some stages with similar themes to areas in the original DKC have what I'd consider better music than in the original DKC. For example, I'd favorably compare Nuts N' Bolts (above) to the analogous factory theme in the first Donkey Kong Country game, though maybe it's because I'm biased in favor of the guitar and how it just feels more...factory worker than the dance beat used in Fear Factory. (Both are catchy, don't get me wrong!) Likewise, I'd favorably compare Cavern Caprice (DKC 3) to Cave Dweller Concert (DKC 1), which, though atmospheric, is also kinda boring. And Treetop Tumble (above) is definitely preferable to the analogous treetop theme in DKC 1 for similar reasons, in my book. The water stage themes are about equally enjoyable to listen to for me, just depends on whether I feel like total relaxation or a sense of menace in the air (...water?...). Though there are other examples (e.g. jungle themed stages, snow themed stages) where I'd christen the first game the winner soundtrack-wise in a two-way contest.

Anyway, I loved Eveline Fischer's soundtrack for DKC 3 overall! A few duds were included that leaned too heavily into the, ugh, toddler "aesthetic" for my taste (like the jungle stage theme and Stilt Village, for example), but overall the soundtrack provides an eerie, menacing vibe that I only wish was truly matched aesthetically by the color palette more often.

As to the Kongs, I like Wrinkly's Save Cave a bit better than her Kong Kollege in Diddy's Kong Quest, personally, and not just because it's always free and available at any point, but because it also wins on dork points for giving Wrinkly more silly stuff to do, so it's an upgrade for her. Funky Kong's Rentals adds more utility to Funky's role...but the first thing he does in the game is put me on babysitting duty with my "excellent" cousin Kiddy (whom I've already said my peace about) and that definitely costs him some major cool points in my book, so he winds up about even with his role in previous games here to me on balance. 😁 Swanky Kong's stupid tent with the target game is definitely a downgrade from the dorky memorization-oriented quiz show he hosted in Diddy Kong's game and worst of all he's roped Cranky Kong into his shit, rendering Cranky nothing more than a target game rival, which is very lame. Cranky's previous role of ceaselessly griping about how video games were so much better back in his day when players had one screen to play on and one action command at most to use to enjoyably pitiful effect (seriously, he's a parody of the attitudes of a LOT of gamers!) is subsumed, to inferior effect, by certain Brothers Bear who just aren't as funny. But Dixie gets some snappy one-liners that made me smile, as did K. Rool's whole exchange about how his wife is going to kill him 'cause he used her best pots and pans to build Kaos so...there's some of that humor value here in spite of Cranky's dimished role that is sorely missed.

Okay, those are my thoughts. Why supply so many, you ask? Not much better to do at the moment is the answer. 15-paragraph essay originally envisioned as three or four paragraphs accomplished!

Edited by Jaicee
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...