Awhile ago, I reviewed Donkey Kong Country. It established a perfect formula for a new franchise that would be expanded on in the future. Then I played Donkey Kong Country 2 and declared it to be a perfect sequel akin to The Empire Strikes Back. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble is another story entirely. That is not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable romp, but it is far below the expectations set by the series’ past.
This time around Donkey AND Diddy Kong have been captured by a super computer known as KAOS. Naturally it’s up to Dixie Kong and her cousin Kiddy to travel to the Northern Kremisphere to save the day. This setup is the game’s biggest problem. With the first game, Rare took us to Kong Isle with its interesting set pieces such as a factory and an ancient ruin. DK 2 takes it further and establishes a world by taking us to Krem-Croc Island and showing us where it is in relation to DK Isle. The areas were just as creative as the first, giving us a cool pirate theme and levels like an amusement park.
So in comparison to those adventures, Donkey Kong Country 3’s vistas seem flat and sterile. Where is the Northern Kremishpere in relation to the islands? Don’t know. Where is the amazing level design from the past games? Gone, replaced with forests, caves, and snowy peaks. I understand that it makes sense in relation to the climate that they chose, but it just felt like they were uninspired.
And apologies to Rare but WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WITH KIDDY KONG?!? Everything about this creepy little man-baby just seemed wrong. Here’s an idea. If you’re going to include a character that operates identical to Donkey Kong, WHY NOT JUST INCLUDE DONKEY KONG!! It’s not like the plot couldn’t happen if JUST Diddy was kidnapped. Instead we are given an extremely annoying character that I frankly despised. Do not even get me started on that god-awful bawl that he utters when he is the last Kong to be hit! Kiddy Kong is repulsive and no one liked him.
That being said, if the game had to have problems, it picked the right place to have them. Aside from aesthetic complaints, the game is solid. The return of a heavier Kong allowed Rare to revisit concepts from the first game that had to be abandoned during the second. So we see the return of the light/heavy mechanic for taking out enemies, breaking through floors and trap doors using Kiddy Kong, and steel barrels also make a comeback. All of these are welcome returns. Kiddy even comes with a nifty trick that lets him skim the surface of water.
The world map is a pure joy to explore. You rent vehicles from Funky (remember him?) that will gradually open the world to you as you progress through the game, and a centrally located cave acts as Grandma Wrinkly’s new base of operations. She doesn’t even charge you to save this time around! Often there is more than one area open to you at a time, so if you are stuck in one level, you can try your luck in the other open area. All these things combine to make Donkey Kong Country 3 the least restricting in the series.
Also rounding out the game is a difficulty curve that starts off insultingly easy but progresses as you plow through the game. I’ll never forget laughing at a Kremling that was doing nothing but slipping back and forth on the ice! But as levels progress they become more difficult and interesting. Before long you’re racing up a tree to outrun a saw, sledding down an icy mountain while dodging potholes, and avoiding bursts of lightning in a rainstorm. And when you finally get to the endgame and start experiencing zero-gravity levels and stages where your controls are reversed, you will know you’re close to your goal. An interesting note is the way many levels in this game take advantage of the SNES transparency effects. Many levels revolve around this, and it makes for interesting gameplay.
Bosses follow the same incline as the levels do, yet remain interesting throughout. The early bosses are pushovers like a belching barrel, but later fights including a snowball fight with a deranged snowman and an underwater duel with a giant sea anemone are some of the best in the series.
And once you think you’re done it’s time to really dig deep into the world of Donkey Kong Country 3. That’s because there is more hidden content than you can shake a stick at. Hidden vehicle upgrades to get. A clan of bears to help. Banana birds to rescue. And a lost world that awaits for discovery. There’s also Easter Eggs! There are so many of them, some even pertaining to the new N64! SO keep a good eye out!
Bells and whistles are a mixed bag. I’m not a fan of the bulkier graphic style for the Kremlings, yet at the same time I really enjoy the mad science theme prevalent in these baddies. Many of them have a Frankenstein or mechanized look that really gives the game some personality. The music is also a mixed bag as well, especially in regards to the other entries in the series. Put it this way: When I find myself thinking of DKC music, I NEVER think of any songs from 3! It just doesn’t stack up to the pedigree.
Ultimately, I see this game as a disappointment. Not because it is so bad, but because the second game was so good! Not to mention the fact that this game came out in 1997, and we all know where Nintendo’s efforts were during this time period! Still, everyone who enjoyed the previous two games owes it to themselves to give this third iteration a spin. While it may be limited by some of Rare’s design choices and a bit of bipolar level design, that doesn’t stop it from being top echelon among platformers. It’s still a swingin’ good time!
Four Out of Five Stars.
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