Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo is truly the game that put Donkey Kong on the map in the hearts and minds of gamers across the board, especially those who were too young at the time to have played the arcade games before that. Also, this title made the distinction of finally putting the big ape in the forefront of the game and establishing him as not only a legit character in the Nintendo universe, but as a mascot for the company as well.
This still remains true today, as he has become iconic and one of the most recognizable faces of any franchise in gaming. And all because he just wanted to get his banana hoard back.
DKC is the first game in the series that is a true platformer, side-scrolling and all. Compared to the previous games in the series before hand, this is the biggest jump in change of direction the series will ever face. If I had to quantify it, I would compare it a lot to the innovative style of Mario 64 compared to the previous Mario games. It was that groundbreaking.
Before I owned my own SNES, I had to play it over at my cousin's house. When he got DKC, we sank countless of hours into it, especially on the nights when I would sleep over at his house. We beat the game backwards and forwards, learning where each and every secret was and how to collect everything possible. We knew that game.
Several months after its release, our local Blockbuster store had a promotion they were doing for Donkey Kong Country, where they hosted local tournaments for the game. It was touted as a "competitive, tournament" version of the game, where there was just the first level to play, but slightly redesigned. The goal was simple, or so I thought: to score as many points as possible on one single run, with the highest scores being posted for all to see. I signed up, of course, but I used my cousin's name. Why, you ask? Well, there is a good reason for it, I assure you that.
You see, they didn't tell you ahead of time what was so different about this special version of the game, or how you went about scoring points. So I signed up as my cousin so I could do a play-through without any pressure or worry of failing, just to see what it was all about. It's a good thing I did, too, because I was totally caught off guard by the game. The level was filled with bananas, and you scored points by collecting bananas, hard to reach balloons and getting as far as possible into the level in the given time, which I think was a minute. The level itself was practically unchanged, except for the fact that all the secret routes and hideouts were closed off, which meant if you were like me and thought it was a good idea to go after those, you simply wasted precious seconds. Oh, and the one special barrel you have to fall into a pit to find? Yeah, that was gone. And guess what happened when you died? Your run was over.
So with that, I came back the following weekend, signed up as myself, and rocked that game like I knew what I was doing. Because I did. I ended up getting second place for the whole store, which ultimately meant nothing, but it was cool seeing my name up on the big leader board.
As weird as it sounds, Donkey Kong Country was my first official attempt at competitive gaming. And I kind of, sort of, cheated. I don't feel great about it, but I don't feel horrible at all, considering I didn't get rewarded anyway.
Tonight, playing Donkey Kong Country reminded me of all those nights spent perfecting the game, and while I couldn't sit down and write down all the secrets, once I start playing it it's like I have been playing nonstop for years. That's a fun feeling, too. If only I could get some sort of award for still being awesome. Oh well, this blog will have to do.
Unfortunately, this blog post tonight was inspired by unfortunate events. This week, it was announced that LucasArts has closed its doors, effectively shutting down the long-standing game development studio and laying off over 150 employees. Also, all projects currently being developed are canceled as well, specifically referring to the highly anticipated Star Wars 1313 game that was in development.
Everyone is blaming Disney, who technically is to blame for the business decision, but from their end, it's hard to justify keeping a struggling studio open that has become more about producing games as a fan service than they are actually making money. It's a hard pill to swallow for fans, especially considering the list of fantastic games they have put out over the last thirty years. But over the last few years of existence, their games have suffered from critical media reviews and lackluster consumer sales - except for the Angry Birds Star Wars game I'm sure, since anything with "Angry Birds" on it basically prints its own money. With Disney probably going the route of licensing out the studios' franchises for other developers to make games, it will essentially emphasize the fact that this was a business decision through and through.
Disney hasn't become what they are today because of bad business decisions. I'm just saying.
I trust them that all in all, this will end up to be the best decision for everyone involved, except for the employees that lost their job. That, of course, is the worst part of it, as the hard working employees of every business that shuts down are always the ones to be impacted the most. I'm sure most, if not all, will land on their feet in this wonderful yet sometimes brutal industry. Hopefully, that is.
Anyway, when I was trying to decide what game to play tonight, i was flipping through my older games and came across Super Star Wars. To be honest, I didn't even remember I had this game until I found it. I instantly knew what I needed to play, of course, in lieu of the terrible news from the studio who created this Super Nintendo gem.
This was probably the first game from LucasArts I remember playing, and while they have made LOTS of Star Wars games, the Super Star Wars franchise on the SNES were some of my favorites, including the non-Star Wars games Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Herc's Adventures. Playing it tonight was like a memorable blast to the past for me.
I didn't quite remember how hard this game was though in my nostalgic trip down memory lane. Seriously, the difficulty of this game is very unexpected, especially for the straight-forward simplistic nature of the game. Most of it is a 2D shooting platformer game, but occasionally it mixes in vehicle driving levels (which are stubbornly hard to control). While the actual game play is pretty easy, the re-spawning and annoyingly feisty enemies takes a toll on the overall experience, especially when jumping becomes a crucial game mechanic and one missed platform means replaying an entire section of torturous battles.
This game also made me remember just how precise platforming used to be in games back in the day, where the slightest miss would send you hurtling to your death. Games now days feel a lot more lenient when it comes to that aspect.
While I enjoyed playing this game tonight, for the most part, it mostly made me realize an underlying reason for the closure of the studio. If we are all being honest here, I feel like the studio hung on to the past for far too long and was afraid to advance into the present day. They never pushed the boundaries or thought outside the box, but instead kept going back to the hand that fed them for so long. Like I said before, they enjoyed making games for the fanboys, not the mass consumer base. And while fanboys appreciated the ideas for the most part, they didn't speak with their wallets.
Again, this is all just opinion and speculation. Maybe I am seeing this whole situation in a different light. I never claimed to be an expert, just a crazy dude playing lots of games and writing about them.
I can't sugar coat the fact that I hate racing games. I mean, I want to like racing games, and I always have, but they bore me to tears. Maybe it's because I'm not a car guy, or maybe because I have such a short attention span that driving in circles or over a hilly countryside just doesn't do anything for me, as a gamer.
Of course, that also might be why I can't stand watching NASCAR for more than five minutes as well.
Like I said, I want to like racing games, and give them a shot whenever I get a chance. I'll try one at any arcade I'm at, just because I think I might like it. I will give most new racing games a shot, just to see if my tastes have changed. Yet over and over again, I am underwhelmed, bored and disappointed. This has gone on for years, and in the wake of tossed-aside racers, I have only found a two that I can say I truly love and would play anytime, anywhere. The first is Mario Kart - all of them, actually, but we'll count it as one for the sake of a longer explanation. The second, of course, is the Super Nintendo classic, F-ZERO.
F-FREAKIN-ZERO might just be the best racer ever. Ok, that might be a little bit of a bold statement to make, but seriously, have you ever met anyone who has played this game and hasn't liked it? I sure haven't. So tonight, after a long string of current-gen games and systems, I went back to a retro classic. Because I can. And because it was released on the Wii U Virtual Console under the new promotion they are experimenting with of selling one game a month for six months, at a mere 30 cents cost. Basically, they are just giving away classics, because well, Nintendo loves us.
Playing this game on the big screen is awesome, but being able to switch over to GamePad play is just as amazing. Finally, F-Zero on a handheld! Well, almost. Just as good, though. For a game that was released in 1990 (over 22 years ago!), it still is as fun as it used to be. Sure, it's not the prettiest graphically, or the deepest in terms of campaign, but the frantic pace, challenging courses and awesome 90's video game music is not only nostalgic, but still captivating.
Oh, and what color do you guys picked? I've always wondered what the popular color choice is. Mine is blue, because well, is there any other correct color choice? I don't think so.
People have clamored for Nintendo to revisit this series. I'm worried that this is a franchise that might not adapt to current-gen technology as well as others, and might be suited best to remain near and dear in the hearts of retro gamers everywhere. I would hate for a remake or a reboot to tarnish the good name of this series. Would I be surprised if it happened, however? Not in the least.
Just don't expect me to enjoy it much. But I'm sure I will give it a shot, just like all the other stupid racing games to succumb to my warpath of ADD gaming habits.
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Games played for project : 365