Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[REVIEW] Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble

 Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble
Played on: Wii U (Virtual Console)
Originally available on: SNES
Genre: 2D platformer
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo   

The third Donkey Kong Country game for the SNES is truly the end of an era. This is because it's not only the final entry in this beloved series up until Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii, but also the last major first-party release for the SNES, in an era when Nintendo's (and Rare's) attention was finally shifting to the N64. It follows in the footsteps of its predecessors when it comes to pleasant and challenging platforming, but also introduces neat new ideas to the formula.

But, but... I like her!

This time, the spotlight is turned on Dixie, who returns with her super-handy helicopter spin. Helping her out is her cousing Kiddy, a baby gorilla who is about as big as Donkey Kong, acting like the slow-but-strong character for this game. The animal buddies are also back, including newcomer Ellie the Elephant, a cute and super useful replacement for Rambi the Rhino.

Once again, the Kongs have a brand new setting to play around in: the Northern Kremisphere, a very Canadian-feeling bay surrounded by islands of various types and sizes. The overworld innovates by including free navigation in the water sections, which is a great substitute for the strict in-line movement of previous games. This also means that, for the first time, there are secrets to be found on the overworld itself.

Aside from various returning Kong family members, you'll also find a new sort of non-playable characters around: the Brothers Bear, who give out hints and quests to Dixie and Kiddy. This makes the game feel even more like an adventure, while helping to characterize the new setting in an endearing way.

Squawks, the tree-climbing parrot.
The in-stage gameplay doesn't innovate much, but frankly, it doesn't need to. It offers well-designed action that often requires quick reflexes and a keen eye. The level design is quite competent, even if it doesn't really reach the high bar set by its immediate predecessor.

When it comes to collectibles, the game introduces the banana birds, small creatures who have been frozen inside hidden caverns all over the Northern Kremisphere. They're important to get the best ending, but you probably won't bother with them until you get there. Bonus barrels return, offering bonus coins that are required to purchase levels in the secret world. DK coins are also back, but in a different form: this time, enemies use them as shields, requiring you to solve simple hit-him-in-the-back puzzles to collect them. I don't really like this idea, as it prioritizes bland puzzle-solving rather than fun exploration.

Hey, you let go of my precious DK coin right now!

Dixie Kong's Double Trouble is undoubtedly a very competent game, even if it doesn't really capture the "lightning in a bottle" feel of DKC2. It's probably the easiest game in the series, which should be good news for those who couldn't manage to get maximum completion in the previous titles. In my opinion, Donkey Kong Country is one of the franchises that represent the epitome of great platforming, and this title, with its smart mixture of the new and the tried-and-true, more than earns its place in it.

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