Category Archives: Review

Donkey Kong JungleBeat (Wii) Review (Donkey Kong-a-thon Part 4)

—This beginning paragraph is more of an update to future reviews rather than an addition to this review. Skip the first paragraph if you’re just coming here for the JungleBeat review—

Originally, I wanted this review to come out fairly soon after my review of Donkey Kong Country 3, but as you can see, that is not the case. Due to school starting back up and due to other commitments, I haven’t had a whole lot of time that I have felt like dedicating to this review blog, and I’ve thought a few times about stopping doing these written reviews. However, I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon, but don’t expect reviews to come out on an even remotely timely schedule (though, that’s never been the case on this review blog). Reviews from now on (or rather, after I re-review DKC Tropical Freeze) will focus on sometimes smaller games, rather than the deeper, lengthier titles that I’ve been reviewing in this marathon (I still will occasionally review larger games, however). Despite having had fun reviewing these DK games, I’m inclined to think that maybe I wasn’t ready to take on a marathon of reviews yet, and I apologize to those who aren’t interested in DK games. I’ll try to do a mini-review (most likely of a certain PC game) between this review and the review of Donkey Kong Country Returns. It’s safe to say I won’t be creating another marathon after the Donkey Kong-a-thon, but maybe if I become more efficient in creating reviews, I might reconsider. As for those Banjo Kazooie reviews I talked about a long while ago… I’m not sure if I can still promise that I’ll do those reviews, as it’s just been too long since I’ve played either Banjo Kazooie or Tooie.

—Review begins here—

Today, I have a 2D platforming Donkey Kong game, which isn’t a Donkey Kong Country game, as the word “Country” is not found anywhere in the title, and as we’ll see, it has little in common with the original DKC games. Donkey Kong JungleBeat was originally released on the GameCube back in 2004, but the version of the game that I’m reviewing here today is the updated Wii version of the game, released in 2008, to utilize the Wii’s motion controls. 

That’s really all I should need to say for this “pre-introduction”, to be honest, but I’ve been rethinking my whole “Let’s get started!” thing before I transition to the review’s intro just because it’s a bit lackluster I think. You know what? I’m gonna try to change it right now, yeah! It’ll be amazing! … Er—

Hmm… Maybe? It’s better than nothing, I guess, right? Uh…

Let’s begin this review?

(Dangit, I’m terrible with coming up with stuff like this.)

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Intro:

Back around Christmas-time in 2009, my nine year-old self was greeted with a pleasant surprise under his Christmas tree. This surprise, as you probably can guess, was this game: Donkey Kong JungleBeat (for the Wii). At this point in my life, I had never really gotten into the DKC series, aside from occasionally playing DKC2 or 3 on GBA, and this type of challenging platformer wasn’t really something I could quite appreciate yet, as I was quite horrible at video games (not saying I’ve gotten much better, however). Back then, it took me ages to try to beat this game, and after checking my old save file, apparently I managed to beat this game (with barely unlocking anything optional) back in 2012.

Nowadays, four years after first beating it, I’m returning to Donkey Kong JungleBeat, but I’m not doing this review just for the Donkey Kong-a-thon; I’m reviewing this game because it’s a fascinating game in general to me (and I honestly felt like playing this game, unlike DKC3). This game uses none of the original DKC characters, story, set pieces, or content in general, and the only returning character is DK himself. I feel as if that helps this game in feeling distant from the DKC series, and it’s partially why I’m reviewing this game instead of, say, DK64 (which takes a lot of things from the DKC games, and it’s good to have some variance every once in awhile).

This game was also developed by the same team that eventually went on to make Mario Galaxy, which is already a good track record, right? Let’s find out, but first: we need to talk about the “story”, if you can call it that.

Story:

Where do I start here? This game’s very complex storytelling and plot makes it difficult to pick a starting point…

Actually, I’m just joking. This game easily has one of the most non-existent plots of… any game in general actually. In fact, there’s so little plot in this game that most NES games have more interesting and unique plots than this. I’m not even exaggerating in saying that.

The minimal plot is that sixteen different fruit-themed kingdoms have been taken over by evil creatures, and Donkey Kong must save them to become the king of the jungle.

That is the entire plot, and as you might be able to see, it’s even less amazing than any of the stories from the original DKC trilogy. Anyway, the plot barely exists, and it’s almost better off that way. The game itself doesn’t even really give you that much story either. That tiny amount of story comes probably from the manual (or in this case MarioWiki). In response to questions regarding the simplicity of the story, the game’s director Yoshiaki Koizumi said: “The only thing Donkey Kong needs is to be the best, and to become the king of the jungle.” That sums it up pretty well.

Environment:

This game is going to be a bit tough to judge in this category, mainly because there’s little cohesion between levels in this game. Therefore, all I have to work with is the character designs and overall style. The game knows that it’s not trying to be realistic, and the new more cartoonish characters help bring that style to life. You’ll be encountering smaller helper monkeys who give you little tutorials, who give you support during a level by throwing you in a certain direction, and who exist solely for the purpose of decoration (usually this last one is accompanied by them playing various instruments), and these little monkeys really are a standout icon of the game by the end, since you see them all around during the game. There are even a few monkeys that are enemies in the game, usually during later levels, but I don’t want to only focus on these helper monkeys.

There are a whole bunch of neat little touches throughout this game. A lot of the enemies are quite expressive, actually, and they manage to fit along with each other quite nicely. The bosses in particular are a memorable part of the game, just because of their expressions and design (though mainly just the “Kong” bosses, who I’ll get to later in this review). I think that these characters give the game a bit of a “wacky” feel in a way, since nothing is taken too seriously, and things can get a bit crazy with them… But I won’t spoil any of this weirdness, since it’s best experienced first hand.

How about the actual environments in the levels themselves? Well, most of the time you’ll be going through completely unique level themes, but unlike the original DKC trilogy, level types are typically only used once or twice and feel a bit similar among the different themes. For this game in particular, however, since it’s a shorter game, this works out fairly well, as there are only 32 levels, and none of them seem to overstay their welcome. A lot of the themes are your standard fare for platformer level themes, such as a jungle, a cave full of lava, an ocean, space, and snow-covered hills. However, quite a few of the themes are actually pretty unique, especially for a Donkey Kong game, including themes like a Japanese-themed fort on a hill, a sky level filled with floating water (an odd one), and a swamp filled with ghostly enemies. None of the themes are really groundbreaking, but they still are a part of the game that I enjoy (although, lava-filled cave levels are a bit too common).

Overall, I think this game does very well in being different from previous DK games, especially in its almost wacky tone and somewhat unique level themes and characters.

Gameplay:

Like I’ve said before, this game manages to be very different from Donkey Kong Country, and its differences shine the most in the gameplay. However, a lot of things are similar, and I’d like to start with those first.

Like the DKC series, it’s a 2D sprint to the end of levels with enemies scattered throughout. Unlike the Donkey Kong Country games, there are no major collectibles or bonus rooms, but in this case, bananas (or beats in the original GameCube version apparently) are the main collectible now. There are also bosses in the game as well, much like the DKC series, but they are one of the not so interesting parts of the game, as boss types are reused quite a few times. Overall the game has many similarities with the original, but it does do certain things differently.

Now for the differences: first off, there is no longer a map layout for a level select; instead, you just have a normal level select menu, with pairs of two levels and a boss grouped together into one fruit-named “kingdom.” These kingdoms are grouped into four per barrel, but (in the Wii version) one of the kingdoms in each barrel is optional and made up of harder levels. The optional kingdoms are unlocked by collecting all of the “crests” in the other three kingdoms of their respective barrels, but I’ll get more into crests later in this review.

One major difference is the whole gameplay style. The gameplay style is actually something that almost sounds like the gameplay style of Mighty No. 9. I’ll give you hope, however, since this game uses its new style better than Mighty No. 9 does. One thing I can name right off the bat is that this game, much like Mighty No. 9, focuses on a combo system to earn more bananas, which add up to a total at a boss to become your health bar for that boss and give you crests (this game’s “collectible”) at the end of a boss, depending on how many bananas you got. Because of this gameplay style, most of the time spent in levels is finding out how to use the environment to increase your combo so that you can get enough bananas to beat a tough boss or to get crests. I’ll be honest in saying that levels in this game can last from five minutes to around thirty minutes, depending on how long the stage is, how hard it is, and how many poor level design choices were put into a stage (which certain levels in this game have a lot of).

How about the combos, though? Well, your combos have a multiplier which is increased by DK’s movement in the air, on the ground, on walls, in the water, on enemies, or on “animal buddies”. For example, wall-jumping, swinging off of a vine, or ground-pounding would give you a “combo point.” Touching the ground causes your combo points to reset to zero. It’s harder to explain the way the combo multiplier works with words; so, I’ll let this gameplay video perhaps explain it a bit better than I can:

(Video does contain minor later level spoilers, but it’s the best video of the Wii version’s gameplay I could find. Also, credit to MProductions Gaming on YouTube for the video.)

As you can see, movement is quite a bit more “flowy” in this game, and you have a lot of control over your movement on the ground and in the air. But for the basic gameplay style, I think that’s all I need to talk about.

The level designs in the game are rather hit-or-miss when talking about certain levels in the game. You’ll have a mostly enjoyable time with the majority of the levels, but around a fourth of the levels in the game decide to suddenly increase the difficulty level by means of bad, unfair, or annoying game design; however, I’m suspicious that this particular fault may be from the Wii version, as it rearranged the levels from the GameCube version. The optional, unlockable kingdoms in each barrel are the real culprit here, as they take levels from the original game’s fourth barrel. A few bad levels are ones like “Lava Cavern” with its out-of-nowhere traps and enemies, both “Asteroid Belt” and “Clock Tower” with their long and tedious level structure (Asteroid Belt also feels like it was just thrown together with not that much thought), and “Cloudy Heights” with its bottomless pits and tight spaces (touching walls in those tight spaces with a particular animal buddy can mean instant death by bottomless pit or can cause you to lose an important combo). These levels overall, while admittedly some are unique, just have very poor design choices compared to the rest of the game. Overall, however, you can just skip these levels to beat the game in the Wii version… But in order to face the true final boss, which isn’t even worth it, you need to beat these levels and collect all of the crests in them, which is when these bad game design moments begin to become aggravating. Most poor design choices include out-of-nowhere obstacles that can be very annoying in certain levels, levels that are plain tedious due to a culmination of small but still bad designs, and above all, any “racing” levels where you need to beat other characters to the finish, since these levels are completely trial and error and range from completely easy with no challenge at all to aggravating if you want to get first place to get important bananas for your score.

As for actually good levels and level designs, there’s a good fourth of the levels in the game that are quite worthwhile and unique and contain some great atmosphere and level design, such as “Battle for Storm Hill” with a very epic tone set by the music, weather, and dark lighting; “Aerie Fortress” housing some neat branching paths, while having an awesome tune to go along with it; “Pristine Sea” with its open level structure and optional secrets throughout; and “Monkey Fest” with the first occurrence of being able to keep a combo from the start of a level to the end (and for being a generally fun level). These levels and a few more are generally really a blast to play, and they all feel unique from each other. As for good design choices in these levels, they’re full of them, and nothing feels unfair or forced either (though, the beginning of Aerie Fortress can be a bit annoying to nail down for a higher banana score). A lot of the good design choices include being able to play certain stages very smoothly with the game’s combo system allowing for some very satisfying gameplay, generally containing new uses for old enemies, and having certain levels contain many well-rewarding secrets, encouraging exploration.

The rest of the levels in the game widely vary in quality from one side of the spectrum to the other, but nothing is close to being as bad as most of the levels in the optional barrels. I’d say these “middle ground” levels are mostly good all things considered, and they make up for the levels I don’t like. But, I will say that I definitely don’t remember every level clearly from my playthrough for this review; so, I may be missing one or two great or bad levels.

Next, we’ve come to the topic of animal buddies, one of the few mechanics that actually returns from the DKC games— but they’re entirely situational and you can only use them in specific spots in levels, or when a level is based around them. For recurring animal buddies, you have “Flurl the Squirrel,” who is able to basically give you a short parachute power-up that ends when you get hit or touch the ground (which acts as a little minigame); Helibirds, who allow you fly somewhat slowly and require a lot of button mashing to successfully use, especially on the occasion of a race (which is why some races can be completely aggravating); and “Hoofer the Wildebeest”, who has a level or two based entirely around his high-speed charges toward the finish and occasionally appears at the end of a level in a type of bonus game where you can time jumps right between platforms while getting faster each time that you land a jump in order to earn more bananas. Considering that these animal buddies are entirely set into only planned small sections of levels, it means that they’re really not that memorable or highly useful, except for the occasional Helibird or Hoofer level. Helibird levels are only memorable, however, because they are tedious beyond belief due to flight being powered by rapid A presses and because the Helibirds have a weird leaning movement where they go diagonally up and left or right, which makes them awkward to control; as a contrast in DKC2, Squawks had enough lift per button press that it didn’t become tiring on your hands (for the most part anyway). Overall, this is an aspect of the game that could have been much better, but I’m not too upset that animal buddies are very toned down and only have specific uses in this game, as this game was obviously trying to be different from the DKC games.

As for miscellaneous parts of the game that are worth mentioning, DK’s main attack, the sound wave, usually stuns enemies with the first hit and kills them on the second or third hits, but certain enemies require you to grab them and beat them to death by shaking the controller, which carries over to bosses as well. For the Wii version, using the motion controls to attack works fine for what it is, but it really could be mapped to a button if the game was on a different system (in fact, the original GameCube version, though advertised for use with the DK Bongo controller, could be played normally with a GameCube controller as well, meaning attacking using a button was fully possible to implement as a control option on the Wii version). I’d say that this game is not hurt as much by motion controls as Donkey Kong Country Returns is in my opinion, but we’ll get into that in that game’s review later.

At the end of every normal DK stage, you’ll come across a fruit on a tree. Waggling the WiiMote while next to the fruit will begin a bonus game where you need to waggle as much as you can to get a large amount of bananas added to your total count. Personally, I think these bonus stages are here mostly just to give the player the opportunity to maybe get some extra bananas if they feel up to shaking the controller until their hands fall off, but the placement of these bonus games at the end of both levels in a kingdom could also be placed here to give a big finish to the first level and then to get you physically pumped up for the upcoming boss fight. This is a nice little addition to the game, but I never really thought of the possible secondary purpose of “pumping you up” until writing this review… I’m most likely looking too deeply into a simple bonus game, but hey, speculation is fun every now and then.

I also should mention that this game seems to be where Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze gets its inspiration for the underwater controls, as you have free directional movement while underwater; although, there’s no an air meter in JungleBeat’s water segments (but Tropical Freeze’s actual underwater controls are superior I’d say). Generally, underwater sections are enjoyable to control and easy to play, which is a solid plus for levels that mostly take place underwater, like Pristine Sea.

A small gripe I have with the game is that, throughout the levels, there are those floating helper monkeys who will throw you in a direction when you shake the controller while you’re near them, but they often can get in the way while trying to kill enemies, since both grabbing the monkey and attacking are mapped to shaking the controller. There are only a few occasions where this is an issue, but it can be very annoying when it causes me to die or to lose an ongoing combo.

Now, we have arrived at the final sub-section for the gameplay section of this review: the bosses. At the end of a Kingdom, after you’ve beaten two levels, you come across a boss encounter, where your banana count from the stages is your health bar. In this game, there are four types of normal bosses: Roc bosses, which consist of a flying bird that attacks you with feathers and other projectiles, while carrying a strange orb, which is also the only place where it can be attacked; Hog bosses, which consist of a fast, deadly, bipedal hog that jumps around the arena while throwing watermelon projectiles and that can only be defeated by the power of hitting those projectiles that it throws back into it; Tusk bosses, which consist of one or two large stationary robotic elephants that fire cannonballs or a flamethrower through its trunk; and Kong bosses, which are the main bosses in the game and involve being in a 1v1 duel with the opposing Kong, while throwing punches and dodging occasionally (somewhat akin to Punch-Out, but not as good). While all the bosses are generally enjoyable and all the main types are completely different, the bosses definitely can’t be praised for overall uniqueness, as bosses within a main type are usually the same boss strategy but with only one added move or an altered arena. Only the Kong bosses really change things up between fights, but those bosses have other problems that I’ll get into in a bit. Out of the other three types of bosses, the Tusk bosses probably vary the most, but they also are the most tedious, especially Torch Tusk, which can go on for way too long than necessary, due to the frequency of his flamethrower attack, causing you to have to hide until it is finished. The least changing type is definitely the Hog bosses, but they are also potentially the most fun to play. Right in the middle are the Roc bosses, which don’t have much going for them; they’re fine but nothing special, and they’re my least favorite boss type in the game. In addition to normal bosses, certain mini-bosses are also in some stages, but like the normal bosses, they are often recycled and not the most engaging. Now, onto the Kong bosses: these fights can be either be stupidly simple (Dread Kong), too unpredictable often times for trying to get down a strategy (Ninja Kong), or a complete and utter “waggle fest” (Sumo Kong, and really the rest of them as well). The only Kong boss that I find completely fair and to be designed well-enough is Karate Kong, but he suffers from being a bit too predictable at times, depending on what his AI decides to do. The Kong bosses overall are interesting but can be a physical chore due to the motion controls present in the game. Just to highlight the absolute worst Kong boss, Sumo Kong consists of shaking the WiiMote intensely for five or so seconds, then dodging (when the game literally tells you to), then waggling, then repeat. What genius came up with that boss strategy? However, they’re still interesting and have their merits, but they just aren’t my favorite in the slightest.

Overall, the bosses are one of my least favorite parts about this game. If bosses weren’t completely recycled for a lot of the boss levels, I might be sharing a different sentiment. The Tusk bosses can be tedious and often boring, the Hog bosses are fast-paced but change much too little between fights, the Roc bosses are just average, and the Kong bosses are at least unique, but they suffer from other problems that hurt the fights a bit for me.

As for the gameplay as a whole, this game has its ups and downs. However, I think this gameplay manages to have more good going for it than bad. Even though a fourth of the levels in the game aren’t all that great and the bosses are nothing special, I still had a lot of fun playing this game, and this game has a small but fitting amount of content going for it, depending on how many of the optional, not so great levels you choose to play.

Graphics and Performance:


This game, for a 2004 GameCube game, looks quite fantastic, if I can be completely honest. As far as I know, the Wii version of the game has slight graphical improvements over the original, which is nice, and the game doesn’t look dated in many regards (a few things like the helper monkeys and certain enemies do look a bit wonky by today’s standards, however). When compared to the original DKC trilogy on SNES, I’d say this game isn’t quite as timeless in terms of graphics, but it still looks appealing nowadays to me at least.

Most levels have a very unique look to them, and stage environments are almost all well-detailed. In addition to detail, the color in this game is nicely done as well, as each different environment gives off a distinct feel due to a varied color pallete.

When talking about performance, I can’t speak on behalf of the GameCube original, but the Wii version seems to not have any issues that I can recall about frame rate dropping or slowdown, which is more than what I can say for the original DKC trilogy’s occasional slowdown.

Overall, Donkey Kong JungleBeat is a very good looking game for 2004 GameCube standards, and its performance is practically flawless from what I can recall.

Music and Sound:

Unlike the original DKC games, which were composed by David Wise (DKC 1-3), Eveline Novakovic (DKC 1 and 3), and Robin Beanland (DKC 1), JungleBeat is composed solely by Mahito Yokota, who is now well-known for his compositions in many Mario and Zelda games (especially for composing a majority of the music in the Mario Galaxy games). Since the GameCube didn’t necessarily have the extra space for fully orchestrated soundtracks like Mario Galaxy had (and because orchestrated soundtracks weren’t prevalent yet), Mahito Yokota’s style is quite a lot different here than what you may be used to be hearing from him.

Obviously, the best way to discuss the music in this game is just to let you listen to it already. Here are six of my favorites:

The upbeat and catchy Sky Garden’s theme

The great, energetic boss theme for the Hog bosses.

The catchy boss theme for the Tusk bosses (which slowly crawled its way into my top three favorite music tracks from this game).

The famous and militaristic-sounding theme for Battle for Storm Hill. Its relative popularity is largely due to its inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

The intense theme for Aerie Fortress, which is easily my favorite music piece from this game, due to how seamless it transitions from an upbeat begginning to a calm middle (which is actually a remix of the original Zelda’s dungeon theme) to a final amazing section that loops around perfectly to the beginning.

And the wonderful Staff Roll, which starts out with probably my favorite voice clip of DK. Just the expressions in how he says “D! K? … D-K! DONKEY KONG!” really makes this credits theme for me.

I will be honest in saying that I’m kind of surprised at how uncommon videos of this game’s soundtrack are. You may notice how the videos switch between extended versions and non-extended versions, which is because the extended versions are the few videos I could find of the soundtrack without obnoxious sound effects throughout, except for Battle for Storm Hill, strangely, and a few other music tracks have yet to be extended to fit in.

As for the music soundtrack as a whole, Mahio Yokota did a great job overall. There are a few music tracks that can be just average, but at the very least, even these tracks still fit with their respective levels’ themes. I’d say around half the soundtrack is really great, a fourth is pretty good, and the other fourth is just fine. However, this is not what I would consider Mahito Yokota’s best work in my opinion, and if I ever review Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, then you’ll be able to see my thoughts on his compositions in those games. Anyway, back to JungleBeat: I’d give the whole soundtrack a listen here (especially tracks like Magma Coliseum and Deep Sea Sprint, which I couldn’t fit in above here). I also think music tracks like Ice Warren, Sweet Paradise, and Cloudy Heights deserve a mention.

This soundtrack may not be that much like the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks, but it still stands in its own right as a great listening experience, while managing to fit in with every level as well. Most of the music tracks are catchy and memorable, and even the tracks that aren’t necessarily easy to recall have their own merits. I’d personally place this soundtrack in between Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2 in terms of my personal enjoyment of it.

Final Thoughts and Score:

This game was actually a lot different than what I originally remembered from my first playthrough of the game. I honestly remembered this game as being a dull and uninteresting take on the Donkey Kong Country series before this review (so much so that I was thinking of giving this game around a 6/10 beforehand), but I found a lot more positives with this game this time around. Truth be told, I’m not sure if I agree with the scores that I gave to DKC 1-3 (I would really put them around an 8/10 for DKC1, 9/10 for DKC2, and a 7.5/10 for DKC3), but I will say that this game actually gave me a bit more enjoyment than what I had with DKC3.

When it comes to the the score I’m giving this game… I’m giving Donkey Kong JungleBeat a solid 8/10: despite its flaws and low points, this game still manages to be very enjoyable and creative in so many aspects. The game looks and runs great, and the music is really a nice listen.

I had a bit of a tough time deciding what to rate this game, as it has enough problems for me to give it a 7 or 7.5/10, but it’s fun, creative, and addicting enough to make me want to give it an 8. I ended up going with the higher score when I began thinking about this game’s quality in regards to the other DKC games. I had more fun with this title than what I had with DKC3 and just a bit more than DKC1, which put it over the edge for me.

Now, I want to end off this review with how you’re able to pick this game up for yourself. If you’re sold on Donkey Kong JungleBeat from my review, the Wii version is available on the Wii U eShop for $20 in North America. I will say that $20 is a bit steep for me considering the length of the game, but you’d probably be able to find the game for cheaper online for the physical Wii or GameCube version. In fact, a quick look on Amazon brings up a slightly lower price for the used physical Wii version and an even lower price for the used GameCube version. However, the price is close enough that you may just prefer getting the game digitally on there eShop if you have the space for it.

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Wooh, I’ve finally gotten around to finishing this review! Honestly, I had the majority of this review done for the past two weeks now, but I just hadn’t gotten around to rewriting some parts and finalizing the review as a whole. Next time in the Donkey Kong-a-thon, I will be looking at Retro’s take on the DKC series with Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii (with brief mention to the 3DS enhanced version). I can’t say when that review will be done, obviously, because I tend to miss any deadline I set for myself on this blog. It will be done when it is done, and I won’t be giving any more updates between posts detailing why a review might be taking longer.

Also, I will admit here and now that I rushed my review of DKC3 to get it done before an imaginary deadline I had set for myself. As such, I can safely say that was not the case here, and I’ve polished this one twice over. I hope to do the same for future reviews and other posts as well, obviously.

Thanks for reading this review, and have a wonderful day!

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Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES/Wii U VC & GBA) Review (Donkey Kong-a-thon Part 3)

Welcome to the third part of the Donkey Kong-a-thon review series! With the first two games in this series out of the way, we’re now going to be delving into the third game in the original DKC series: Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble. Before I get started with the review, you may want to check out my review of the first and second DKC games if you haven’t already.

As I’ve stated in the previous reviews, this review series was an afterthought after I finished playing DKC 1 and 2. If it weren’t for this review, I most likely wouldn’t have played this game as soon as I have after playing the first and second games, but I hope that I’m not going to be burning myself out on this series anytime soon, since I still have three more games after this to review in the DK series. 

Also, I apologize for the delay for this review, but I was procrastinating a bit on playing this game. Donkey Kong JungleBeat’s review should be out sooner than this review (or even the DKC2 review) took to come out, since it’s a shorter game.

And, I also apologize for any possible jumps in subject matter that may have occurred in the review, as I had to rewrite quite a few sections in order to fit everything in.

With that intro out of the way, let’s get started!

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Introduction:

When it comes to the Donkey Kong Country games, I have a memory of the games that is paralleled only by Pokemon or Zelda. However, these memories all started with one game: Donkey Kong Country 3 for the GameBoy Advance. You may remember about what I said in the last review about the small amount of time that I spent with the GBA version of DKC2, and if you don’t remember, I lost DKC2 on GBA when I was fairly young. Because of that, DKC3 on GBA took its place as the only DKC game that I played back then when I was only five or six years old. It also happened to be the first DKC game that I ever beat, but I’ll try to not let any of these things influence my opinions on this game.

With some nostalgic feelings that I have toward the game and with time away from playing the game since I was younger, I’ve been excited to see my updated opinions on the game since I last played it, because I really remember loving this game, and I might have even said that this game was my favorite DKC game back then. With this introduction out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the review.

Story:


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This story, much like the original DKC1 and 2, has a less up-front story, and in order to figure out the extent of what’s going on, you must read the game’s manual (or look it up online, like I did). Not even the GBA version has a story cutscene at the beginning. This story is basically taken right out of the game’s manual.

Following sometime after Donkey Kong Country 2, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong go vacationing in the Northern Kremisphere (Hmm, what an unsuspicious name…), and Dixie Kong is not invited for whatever reason. A large amount of time passes with no word back from Donkey Kong or Diddy, and Dixie is worried that something may have happened to them. Dixie traverses to a point in the Northern Kremisphere, and she stops by Wrinkly’s home to see if she knows anything about where the two other Kongs went. After leaving Wrinkly’s home with no help, Dixie comes to Funky’s boat shop, where Funky “gives” Dixie her nephew: Kiddy Kong. Dixie and Kiddy then go on a quest across all of the Northern Kremisphere in search of Diddy and Donkey Kong. The story continues on from there in the game.

This story kind of reuses the basic premise from DKC2 of one of the Kongs getting captured, but I still find it to be quite charming at the least. The story, despite not being very up-front, actually has more in-game exposition in the middle of the game, unlike DKC 1 and 2. The plot is only slightly more complex once you get further in, but it’s overall a decent plot for a non-story-based game.

Environment:


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While I feel that DKC1 had a decent amount of somewhat generic themes and that DKC2 really went wild with creativity pertaining to the level types, DKC3 is a bit different from the other two. DKC3 manages to mix the appeal found in the more natural DKC1 themes and DKC2’s interesting and diverse themes, and it actually works out really well in my opinion. Some themes are a tad generic as DKC1 had, such as a plain, old cave theme, but they still feel more characteristic and creative than DKC1’s themes, in my opinion.

There’s quite a bit of variety in the themes of this game, which include: mills, stilt boardwalks, the insides of trees, coral reefs, waterfalls, and more. Not all of these themes are quite as unique as, say, DKC2’s themes, but they all still feel more fresh than DKC1’s themes. Underwater levels have returned in the form of coral reef levels (which are exactly like the water levels from DKC1), but they don’t quite have the same environmental variations that DKC1 had. Water levels in DKC1 had two true variations (the normal and “Poison Pond” version), but the coral reef levels in DKC3 have two slight graphical change variations (one regular and one slightly darker used for one level). Of course, there’s much more variations in other themes, though I wouldn’t want to spoil many things (since one of the bigger variations is one of my favorite levels in the game).

Overall, I prefer DKC2’s theme variation and color, but DKC3 has so much atmosphere in its level themes (and music, but I’ll get to that later). DKC3 manages to still be better than DKC1’s somewhat bland themes at times, and it still has unique feeling level themes in this point in the series.

Gameplay:


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The game runs off of the same basic formula that DKC1 and 2 go off of, which is basically “make it to the end” while trying to find Bonus Rooms and DK coins if you want to do so. Once again, Dixie returns from DKC2 with her same features as in that game (she has a slow rolling move, but she also has the ability to glide downward with her banana-shaped ponytail) and is still as useful as ever, and the new character this time is the cousin of Dixie Kong, the often-hated Kiddy Kong (and his mouth is very creepy-looking in his official 3D model). Kiddy has a similar weight and feel to Donkey Kong from the first DKC game, and he has almost the same exact moveset (though he trades the near-useless hand-slap move for a more useful move that allows Kiddy to bounce on the water a few times in order to reach two or three Bonus Rooms in the game). Overall, the game still plays very similar to the previous ones in terms of the characters.

This game is quite different, however, when it comes to normal DKC level design, and it really shows in most levels in the game. The feel of certain levels in DKC1 and 2 have been mixed together to form a blend of both wonderful… And absolutely terrible level designs. In my opinion, the good levels outweigh the amount of bad levels, and I do prefer most of the good levels in DKC3 than the best of DKC1; however, the problem comes when the game tries to be harder by introducing bad or annoying mechanics.

I wish to end the gameplay section for this game more positive, as there are many more negatives to talk about here than previous games. Therefore, I will be talking about the negatives in the game first, and there are quite a few more in DKC3 than the previous DKC games.

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Where do I start… Okay, I’ve never cared for the new toboggan levels, which are the “minecart” levels in this game. Everything about these leave a bad taste in my mouth, including the near split-second reflexes needed for even the earlier stages, the far too fast speed that the toboggan goes, and the often annoying level design that is designed to be trial-and-error. These levels aren’t unbearable or anything, but they are a huge step down from the unique roller coaster levels in DKC2 and a small step down from DKC1’s minecart levels. Granted, DKC2’s roller coaster levels had potential visibility issues by going too fast, but you are able to (I didn’t even know this before I played DKC2 again for my previous review of it) control your speed by pressing left or right, which means that any speed issues can be blamed on trying to play the levels too fast (which I definitely did). I’m getting off-topic now, however. The toboggan levels in DKC3 are my first problem with the game.

My second problem with the game is that some other levels in the game can have gimmicks that feel like they weren’t thought out very well. For example, want to play an underwater level where the main obstacle is dodging annoying enemies while having the screen be darker until you poke a glowing fish? How about playing a vertical autoscroll level with bad enemy placement and a very small margin of error (on two occasions, both in different level types)? And it doesn’t stop there, because why wouldn’t you want to play an underwater level with wind physics (in the GBA version anyway)? Perhaps a level where you go “Sonic” speeds toward enemies that you can’t see until they’re right on top of you? Okay, okay, maybe I’m getting a bit too extreme here, but there really are a lot of levels in the game that have very poor mechanics.

But, that’s actually all of the major negatives that I wanted to go over. Now, we get into the positives here, and the game does truly shine in many aspects (some more so than previous DKC games). For example, though a select portion of stages have mechanics that honestly want to make me pull my hair out, some stages that have interesting mechanics actually shine brighter than some of the better stages in DKC1 and 2 (although not many do). For example, one stage puts you into a factory stage while you must dodge fireballs from someone (or something, since you never see what’s shooting you) while ducking for cover occasionally. Another interesting mechanic used well is in one of the later levels in the game where progression is made by jumping on top of barrels flying upward from a central point in the stage, and you must occasionally turn these barrels into explosive TNT barrels in order to kill a tough enemy blocking the way. These very diverse level mechanics with so much creativity put into them are one of the best things about this game. However, I want to save the rest of my thoughts on the levels themselves for a little bit later. Why? Because we have to get into the other things that have changed substantially.


Possibly one of the biggest immediate changes is the world map, which now allows you to swim to the different areas on the map, and the world map now contains several secrets too. What this means for this game is that you now occasionally have options on what you want to do next, and on one occasion, you get to choose which world that you get to go to next (this happens twice in the GBA version with a newly-included world). You will also be able to get a water vehicle right after you get Kiddy Kong, which allows you to get to the first world. This water vehicle can be upgraded after a few worlds, and aside from the final “completionist” upgrade for the vehicle which allows you to reach the true ending of the game, they really only serve a purpose for basic progression. After entering into the first world, you will be greeted with a familiar sub-map style to the previous DKC games, but you’re also able to swim around when there happens to be water, which allows you to find secrets inside the worlds too.


Let me get a little off-track here for a minute, however. In DKC1, you really didn’t have collectibles in the main stages that went toward some ultimate goal, but rather, the old collectibles gave you lives. In DKC2, you got three brand new collectibles in the form of Banana Coins (which are now called Bear Coins in DKC3), Kremcoins, and DK Coins, which allowed you to buy advice/save, access new levels, and have bragging rights, respectively. In DKC3, however, there are two new types of collectibles: Banana Birds and items traded by the player to new NPCs in the game, called the Brothers Bears. Banana Birds and the items traded with the Brothers Bears serve no purpose outside of reaching the true ending for the game, which means that you can play practically all of the game without having to bother with these new NPCs, if that’s not something you want to do. The trading quests themselves that the Brothers Bears give you aren’t very interesting or worthwhile in my opinion, but they’re a decent distraction from the main game. From certain trades, however, you can obtain certain Banana Birds, which help to give these trades purpose. The other Banana Bords, however, are found encased in crystals inside “hidden” caves in the world map and sub-maps, and you’ll need to complete a very simple and repetitive game of Simon in order to free them from their crystallized prison. These new collectibles are decent distractions from the main game and add a bit of atmosphere to the in-game world, but the reward for getting absolutely everything in the game isn’t stellar, if you want a true reason to go out of your way to get these collectibles.

If I can be honest, I have no idea if I forgot to talk about this mostly minor feature in the DKC2 review, but Swanky Kong, the Kong who typically runs mini-games in DKC2 and 3, now returns with a third-person shooting mini-game, which makes you fight against Cranky Kong (also used in a unique boss battle near the middle of the game). This mini-game is rather short and doesn’t have a lot going for it, but you do get paid out in Bear Coins and extra lives somewhat generously, even if you lose.

Now that I’m practically done with talking about the major changes to the overall game mechanics, let’s hop back into the game’s design and level features. In terms of the levels themselves, there’s not a lot more to talk about, actually. Therefore, I mine as well talk about some design changes that help DKC3 to continue to stand out amongst the other two highly acclaimed original DKC games. This time around with animal buddies, we have one true new addition in the form of Ellie the Elephant (who replaces Rambi the Rhino), though a new, stage-limited animal buddy, Parry the Parakeet, makes a few appearances. There really are only a few stages in this game, compared to DKC2, that heavily use or require animal buddies, and, like I said, I think it works for the better in letting DKC3 stand out from its predecessors. The stages that use the animal buddies this time around are almost all great (aside from one majorly flawed level later in the game), and I think that they manage to stay relevant compared to DKC2’s wild usage of animal buddies.


The basic structure of how Bonus Rooms present themselves have also seen a slight improvement in my eyes, as there are now always only two Bonus Rooms per stage (until the final, optional world). This makes it easier for people like me, who want to collect everything, to know when they can finally just relax and breeze through the rest of the stage. The challenges in the Bonus Rooms themselves, however, have seen quite a bit of a downgrade from DKC2, in my opinion, since around half of all of the Bonus Rooms contain brand new “Green Banana” challenges, which are often luck-based sprints through a room filled with instant death hazards. I must say that Bonus Rooms were handled much better in DKC2, aside from DKC3 making it more convenient to know exactly how many Bonus Rooms there are in each stage. If I can be honest, I don’t think that the Bonus Rooms are quite as well-hidden or as thought out in many cases as DKC2’s Bonus Rooms felt. As a side note, I feel that the sub-maps’ indication of levels that have no more collectibles to find is much more “sophisticated” in a way than DKC1 or 2’s method, since levels are visibly marked on the map by two flags (one for beating the stage and one for showing that you’ve collected everything in that stage). 


And now, we enter one of the bigger improvements in DKC3: the boss battles. In DKC1, boss battles weren’t very exciting, and they often boiled down to being repetitive, easy distractions that often got reused. In DKC2, we got bosses of a much higher quality and creativity than the first, though I feel that they were all mostly a bit too easy, aside from the final boss. In DKC3, we have boss battles with unique mechanics on almost all occasions. None of the bosses in the SNES version feel like an afterthought at all, while maybe one or two bosses in DKC2 could be a bit boring. This, in my opinion, isn’t a major improvement for the game though, since a lot of them, though very creative, are often a bit too easy, aside from one or two bosses.

Overall in terms of gameplay, I feel as if a lot of the levels were given much more thought than some of the most creative levels of DKC2, and some of them truly are really great in execution. The world in the game feels a lot more alive this time because of the newly added NPCs and the slightly more direct approach to the story this time around, and many things see minor improvements all throughout the game, including bosses. However, I’m not too fond of a few of the mechanics used in certain levels, and some levels feel a bit bare or boring at times. The Bonus Rooms leave quite a bit to be desired in how they’re hidden, and they often have more luck-based challenges this time. In my opinion, I still prefer the levels on DKC2 over this game’s levels, since DKC2’s levels have a much higher overall quality, but I still think that this game has quite a few good or great levels (and some that are better than some of the levels in DKC2). I will say though that I still prefer this game’s levels to DKC1’s levels.

Oh yeah, the GBA version also adds a new world and changes the mini-games that Swanky has into an entirely different one that now nets you a Banana Bird for completing rather than just extra lives and Bear Coins. (it also gives Funky a new, though mostly bad, set of mini-games, and Cranky gets his own mini-game, which is all right). Some other things are also changed as well, but most changes are respected in my eyes, since certain things in Bonus Rooms are fixed and an improved camera now makes some possible camera issues better.

Graphics and Performance:

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This is how the original SNES version looks.

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As you can see, the GBA version doesn’t look very far-off in terms of graphical fidelity (though, the camera is slightly more zoomed-out in the GBA version, leaving certain sprites less clear on occasion).

In terms of graphics, the SNES version looks absolutely fantastic, though the overall graphical quality can vary from one level type to the other. Environments look very atmospheric and often have a surprising amount of detail put into them for the SNES. I’ve somewhat neglected to mention this until now, but quite a few of the original 3D models for certain characters or enemies look absolutely terrifying sometimes:



However, you can never see these horrid occurences in-game (aside from in pixelated form), which means that your nightmares won’t include these from playing the game. Unless you get nightmares from seeing them here… Oops, sorry.

Er- let me get back on track… The GBA version of DKC3 looks stunning for the GBA, and it manages to pull off almost all of the neat graphical effects present in the SNES version. If I can be honest, however, I don’t recommend playing DKC3 on GBA through the GBA Player for GameCube, since it causes many of the colors to appear washed-out compared to the original version. As much as I may hate to say it, the best way to replay this game while preserving its graphical fidelity is by emulating it (if only Nintendo would put the GBA DKC remakes on the Wii U eShop, but I doubt that would happen at this point). Playing the game on an actual GBA SP like intended will most likely be fine as well, if you don’t mind playing on a very tiny screen.

As for performance, lag tends to be completely minimal in most cases, and the SNES version definitely outperforms DKC2’s rare occurrence of lag. The GBA version appears to be just as stable, which impresses me due to the system’s limitations.

Music and Sound:

All right, here’s my main reason for this review having to cover both the SNES original version of DKC3 and the GBA version. Why? Because, they both have completely different soundtracks from each other, and I think that both are great… but in very different ways. 

I wish to tell a small story here… Back in 1996 with the development of this game underway, Eveline Fischer was chosen to compose all of the level, boss, and map screen themes throughout the game, and David Wise was brought aboard to help out with a few other themes. Fast forward to 2005, David Wise is chosen to do the porting of the SNES version of DKC3’s soundtrack to the GBA, and David Wise explains that the GBA’s sound capabilities would never be able to faithfully recreate the SNES version’s spundtrack, due to it containing a substantial amount of bass. Seeing as it would be mostly useless to try to recreate the original’s music poorly, David Wise decided to compose an all-new soundtrack, and I’m personally glad for this decision, as it now gives us two amazing soundtracks, both with unique styles.

Many other people, now including me, have already said that DKC3 on SNES features a very atmospheric soundtrack compared to the GBA version, and I can’t help but agree completely. The SNES soundtrack is most definitely very atmospheric in its execution, but despite what some may say, I think that these tracks are all very well-made and have a very high depth to them that take quite a few listens to appreciate. I must say that the soundtrack definitely fits the theme of this game with its more direct approach to story and the more detailed stages with background set-pieces, and this soundtrack overall is very soft and bass-y (though some tracks are very snappy). Here are a few tracks from the SNES version that I love:

Here’s Sub-Map Shuffle.

Here’s Enchanted Riverbank.

Here’s Hot Pursuit.

Here’s Nuts And Bolts (no, not that Nuts ‘N’ Bolts!).

And here’s Rockface Rumble.

The GBA soundtrack, on the other hand, is much more snappy and up-front with its music and rhythm.

Here are a few tracks from the GBA version that I absolutely love:

Here’s Treetop Tumble.

Here’s Water World.

Here’s Waterfall (a.k.a. Cascade Capers).

Here’s Jangle Bells (though it’s actually Hot Pursuit).

And here’s the GBA version of Nuts and Bolts.

Overall, I find myself preferring the GBA soundtrack, since it has some of my favorite DKC music tracks (especially Waterfall/Cascade Capers). While I do also like or love a lot of the SNES soundtrack, I find myself only preferring one or two tracks from the SNES version (Frostly Frolics is one of them, especially since it’s one of my favorite music tracks from the SNES version, and it became mostly ambience in the GBA version). If I can be honest, I love both, and I wouldn’t be happy without either one.

Final Thoughts and Score:

With all of my previous thoughts out of the way, I must say that, while I do like this game more than DKC1, there are quite a few things that end up placing it below DKC2 for me. Though this game has a lot of great level mechanics, some of them fall flat on their face, and a few other design choices don’t help the problems in some of the levels.While I did enjoy this game quite a bit, I must say that I overall didn’t end up feeling completely satisfied afterward. 

To expand on what I mean (after this has been uploaded for awhile), I feel that the overall game design and presentation are things that I prefer to DKC1, as level designs have more interesting structure and set pieces than DKC1, much like DKC2 had really nice looking and feeling levels. However, I feel that the level design can be much less appealing at times in DKC3 than DKC1, and the overall quality of the game is lowered because of it. DKC1’s levels were laid out in a way that makes speed-running and playing the game for the first time quick and easy, while DKC2 and 3’s are laid out so that there’s a lot more stuff to do to make much more enjoyable and detailed, as well as making repeat playthroughs much more fun. 

(If you don’t get what I mean, I prefer the way that the levels and structure of DKC2 and 3 work, therefore I prefer to play those games, even though I consider DKC3 to be the lowest actual quality of the original trilogy.)

So in case you’re wondering, DKC3 is my least favorite DKC game (the “Country” part is important for later…), and of the original trilogy, DKC2 is the one that stands out the most to me. So for the the score:

I’ll give this game a 8 out of 10: even though I prefer playing this game to DKC1, it still feels like it ends up being of a lower overall quality than DKC1, which is why I’ve rated it lower than my original 9 out of 10 for DKC1.

(Small Update: I changed the score from an 8.5 to an 8, since I felt that an 8.5 was a bit too generous after re-reading the review a few more times. To be honest, it would probably be closer to a 7.7, but I don’t like to get that specific in how I rate most games, since it’s really just a number.)

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This has truly ended up being one of my longest, most in-depth reviews I’ve ever written. Once again, I apologize for the wait for this review, and I hope to be back sooner this time for the Donkey Kong JungleBeat review.

Also, progress on the Minecraft map slowed down a bit, since I wasn’t able to work on the map for two weeks. A developer diary will be out sometime in the coming weeks, going over the Forest Temple, Windswept Caverns, and Sky Temple. The Water Temple will be covered along with a finished Path to the River Source and also an altered Dark Dimension dungeon (as always I won’t be going too in-depth with the dungeons, however).

(Edit on September 16: Well, school has begun again, and I’ve been completely swamped in every way with homework and writing projects. Mostly because of those writing projects, I haven’t felt much like writing recently, and as a result of that, the Minecraft map is going to take most likely until November or December to get the alpha version of 1.1 out. I’ve honestly hit a bit of “designer’s block” (like writer’s block except for design), and that’s hindered my ideas for the dungeons, which are all that’s left to finish up now until I can release the alpha version. I truly apologize, once again, for these broken release date promises, as I usually set them with the mindset of me working on it continually, but I almost never have. As for the JungleBeat review, it’s getting there, but I still haven’t had much time to work on the review.)

This was easily one of the hardest reviews that I’ve had the privilege of writing, and I’m glad to be able to get back to some simpler reviews starting with DK JungleBeat.

(And yes, I have updated this review quite a bit, and I may change it more in the future.)

Thank you so much for reading, seeya!

Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES/Wii U VC) Review (Donkey Kong-a-thon Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of the Donkey Kong-a-thon! I previously covered Donkey Kong Country 1 for the SNES/Wii U Virtual Console, and today I will be reviewing its sequel: Donkey Kong Country 2. If you missed my review of the first game and would like to read it, then here it is!

As with the last review, this review series was an afterthought after I played Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2 in a two week-long marathon. Also, like I noted in the last review, this review series is some of the most fun that I’ve had in months, and I’m really excited for this one!

Without further ado, let’s get started with this review.

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Introduction:

Unlike the last review, I won’t be telling an interesting story. Also unlike the last review, I actually played Donkey Kong Country 2 as a kid (although, I was fairly horrible at the game) even though it was first with the GBA version. My only real memories of playing the GBA port of this game was attempting many, many times to defeat the final boss on my brother’s already-beaten save file. I never actually finished the GBA port of this game from start-to-finish, but I did manage to pick up the Wii VC version back in 2010 or so (still didn’t have the chance to beat it, since the furthest that I got was the level Rattle Battle). Of course now, with me playing this game on the Wii U Virtual Console, I can have a much more enjoyable experience now with Restore Points, thankfully.

With my small personal recollections of the game, how does it hold up? Let’s see.

Story:

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Soon after the events of Donkey Kong Country 1, the DK family (DK, Diddy, Cranky, Funky, and Candy) and Dixie Kong (Diddy Kong’s girlfriend) are all relaxing on the beach when suddenly King K. Rool (who has now become “Kaptain K. Rool” to fit with his new pirate theme and crew) flies overhead in his Flying Krock airship. King K. Rool captures Donkey Kong and flies off to Crocodile Isle, the Kremlings’ home base. He leaves behind a note claiming that they will only see DK’s return if they pay the entire DK banana hoard as a ransom. Of course, Diddy and Dixie both deny this proposition, follow in pursuit after the Flying Krock, and find themselves on Crocodile Isle, adventuring towards the stronghold on the top of the isle, where DK is presumably being kept.

Obviously, this story isn’t fantastic or in-depth, but it’s still memorable. I prefer it to the first game’s story by a bit.

Environment:

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This game’s environment is mostly like the previous installment’s, but all of the Kremling enemies now have a pirate theme to them. As before, there’s a mostly realistic and cartoony blend that gives the game’s feel a neat appeal; however, the game is much less focused on realism than the first, and its more so cartoony approach allowed the developers to make much more types of level themes that would fit in this game’s style but not the previous game’s style.

Like the previous game, all levels do at least one thing unique per level in terms of their level design or certain obstacles that you’ll need to overcome, but this time around, the level variation per world is improved (some worlds may have unfitting levels just for the sake of variation, which surprisingly works well and has some great design choices that work for the game’s world to make it feel even more unique). No longer are there four different variations of cave/underground-type levels or any similar themes at all.

Whether it be pirate ships, bayous, castle strongholds, brambles, or glaciers, everything feels miles more unique and varied than the first game, and I love its presentation to death.

Gameplay:

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When compared to the first game, DKC2 feels almost completely different in terms of gameplay. For one, there are many vertical levels, rather than the primarily horizontal levels in DKC1, and they’re a big factor in letting both games stand apart. One thing that I can definitely say is a positive is the well-varied use of both horizontal and vertical levels (except for the last main world, which overuses vertical levels a bit too much).

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A major improvement is definitely the much more creative approach to the animal buddies from DKC1. In this game, they’ve removed both Expresso and Winky (both of which I disliked), and in their place is Squitter the Spider, Rattly the Rattlesnake, Clapper the Seal, and Glimmer the Anglerfish (the last two serve the same purpose as Squawks from DKC1, as they only appear both separately for one level). Also, now Squawks is fully playable with the parrot picking up both Diddy or Dixie… Or you can play as Squawks just by himself in certain levels (along with all of the other playable animal buddies), which is used evenly throughout the game. Squitter the Spider, in my opinion, is the better of the two new playable animal buddies, but I don’t care for Squitter or Rattly all that much, honestly. Squawks is definitely used to his fullest in the aforementioned vertical stages, especially with finding the Bonus Rooms… But, while we’re mentioning it, what’s changed with the Bonus Rooms?

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The Bonus Rooms have indeed been changed up, definitely for the better. In DKC1, they were really just there if you felt like you needed extra lives, but they still served very little toward the game. In DKC2, however, Bonus Rooms now award you with a “Kremcoin” that can be taken to the various locations of Klubba’s Kiosk, which will allow you to access a level in the “mysterious” Lost World. There are 75 Kremcoins in all, and they really serve to expand upon the replayability and fun to be had with DKC2.

Also new to DKC2 are DK Coins, which serve… Pretty much just to have more collectibles. DK Coins are usually hidden in very cryptic places and are fairly challenging to get, but collecting them all in DKC2 doesn’t do anything special (except for doing basically what getting all the Bonus Rooms in DKC1 did). They’re there if you really want to test yourself in finding them, and I do think that the reward may be still slightly better than DKC1, just because of the somewhat higher effort put into it than just a couple text changes.

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Like the previous game, all of the levels feel unique and memorable; however, while I do think that the level themes and creativity have gotten much better, I do think that some level designs can be a bit too frustrating for my tastes (mainly levels in the last two main worlds and the Lost World, although the Lost World is meant to be a challenge), but it doesn’t detract from the experience that much at all if you’re playing this game on the Wii U Virutal Console or emulator where you have freedom to use Restore Points and Save States, respectively. I do feel however that any beehive level bogs down this game for me a bit; it’s not a major deal, but they drag on, are difficult to control when hopping off and onto honey, are way too confusing compared to any other level type, and they are the one level type that I think look and feel way too samey.

Overall, I’d say that this sequel improves almost every gameplay aspect entirely by making everything just feel so unique and fun to play, but I do have some small complaints in terms of level design. Also, the new collectibles are really what set this game apart from the first in my opinion.

Graphics and Performance:

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In comparison to the first game, there’s really only a few graphical improvements here and there… That is, IF you’re only talking about the quality of the graphics. The color palate has been given a much higher diversity in style, and every level theme looks much different than any other theme. As I said a moment ago, I honestly think that the beehive levels look and feel very bland compared to the other levels in the game; however, I still do think that the beehive levels still hold a higher place in terms of looks than any of the levels in DKC1.

As for performance, however, I do feel as if a few moments were a bit slowed down due to some lag (mainly when too many enemies are on-screen), but, honestly, I only really noticed it once in one level of the game (during the second ship hold level).

Overall, the game is definitely an improvement in the looks department with its much improved color palate. The performance may not be completely perfect, but it’s arguably unnoticeable at all.

Music and Sound:

As with the last game, this game has a stellar soundtrack; however, this time, it was entirely composed by one person: David Wise (who also did about half of DKC1’s soundtrack). David Wise really put quite an effort into making some of the most iconic and wonderful music tracks in all of gaming, and (although I prefer his work in Tropical Freeze) I still think that this is easily the best soundtrack for a SNES game.

As for a few of my favorites, I’ve always loved pretty much all of the songs, and choosing between a few is difficult… I guess that a few of my favorite are Jib Jig, Lockjaw’s Saga, Primal Rave, Forest Interlude, and (of course I wouldn’t leave this out) Stickerbrush Symphony.

Here’s Jib Jig.

Here’s Lockjaw’s Saga

Here’s  Primal Rave

Here’s Forest Interlude

And, finally, here’s Stickerbrush Symphony.

This soundtrack, in my opinion, exceeds the first game in most aspects. Whereas DKC1 had a few tracks that I weren’t thrilled about, DKC2 only has fantastic music pieces.

Final Thoughts and Score:

I know that I spent quite a long time just comparing this game to the first, but that’s the point of reviewing a sequel: you have to compare both to see whether or not the sequel was better and did what a sequel should do. As for DKC2, I, in my opinion, believe that this game is the best as an SNES game can truly get, and it practically created the original collectathon style in terms of its Bonus Room rewards that actually mean something that many games used for quite a few years (especially during the N64 era) as their basis. For $7.99, this game is well-worth the price on the Wii U Virtual Console, and (from what I’ve heard) the GBA version is somewhat superior in terms of gameplay, as there’s even more things to collect.

However, there were a bit of things that were mainly annoying to me, such as the beehive levels in general, the very minor lag, and some frustrating level design, but these things don’t bother me that much, as they’re only a small blemish on a very great game.

Personally, I am giving DKC 2 a fantastic 9.3 out of 10: it’s one of the best games of its time, despite any gripes that I personally have with it, and it’s definitely worth your time and money!

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I hope that you may have enjoyed reading this review! Sorry for the delays surrounding this review, as I got into a bit of writer’s block (and laziness). As for the DKC3 review, it’s gonna be awhile longer, as I have to finish beating the game, and then I have to actually review it. As for other upcoming stuff, I’m currently playing Hyrule Warriors Legends on the New 3DS, and I may review it (or at least do a rant about it at the least), and I’ve also been somewhat marathon-ing the Banjo-Kazooie series (yes, I even am going to play Grunty’s Revenge and Nuts & Bolts). Other than that, I may decide to do some more top ten lists if I think of something that I really want to make a list for.

Thanks for reading, seeya!

Donkey Kong Country (SNES/Wii U VC) Review (Donkey Kong-a-thon Part 1)

Welcome to the Donkey Kong-a-thon! In this series I will be covering Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, 3 (DKC 3 specifically for both SNES and GBA), Returns (for both Wii and 3DS), and Tropical Freeze. I will consider going over Donkey Kong 64 at a later date if it is requested, but it will indeed be sooner than later if it is requested.

I’m going to preface this review by saying how much I really love the Donkey Kong Country series, and that this review was really more of an afterthought after playing through Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2 on the Wii U Virtual Console (and it gives me a chance to play DKC 3 for the first time in quite awhile). I can preemptively say that this is the most fun that I’ve had in months! Now that I’m done with singing my praises before the review, I shall now sing my praises inside of the review.

Without further ado, let’s get started with this review.

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Introduction:

First off, I want to tell a story: back in 1993, Nintendo’s SNES was in a technical specs war with Sega’s Genesis/Mega Drive console (although, Sega was the company that “started it”), and Nintendo needed an incredible game to showcase the power of their system. Around the same time, the company Rareware had just made a costly decision to purchase SGI units (advanced, for the time, 3D graphical units) which could allow for 3D models to be converted into a high-quality 2D sprite. Nintendo soon became aware of Rareware’s graphical capabilities, and Nintendo purchased almost half of Rareware (and Rareware became a second-party company). The Stamper brothers (the founders of Rareware) pleaded to Nintendo if they could make a brand new game centered around Donkey Kong (DK wasn’t as popular anymore at the time), and Nintendo accepted the idea. And in November 1994, Donkey Kong Country for the SNES was released and eventually managed to sell nine million copies, making it the second best-selling title on the system, and it was a huge factor in Nintendo “winning” the technical specs war between the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive.

It’s truly fascinating to look at how this game came to fruition primarily from the competition between Sega and Nintendo. However, I typically don’t fill the Introduction section of these reviews with how the game came to fruition, but I usually tell the story of how I came into buying this game and my impressions of the game before I purchased it. But this story was too fascinating to skip out on telling once more.

As for my normal Introduction, I honestly only first played/purchased this game recently while it was on sale on the Wii U eShop, whereas I had played both Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 when I was much younger (both on the GBA with their respective remakes). I really expected to possibly not enjoy this game as much as DKC 2 or 3, but I still had an open mind toward the quality of the game.

Story:

The game itself doesn’t greet you with an opening cutscene or text scroll explaining the story, but, like most non-RPG games at the time, you would need to look in the game’s manual to competently figure out the story of the game that you were playing. The story from the manual states that the menacing King K. Rool and his Kremlings have invaded Donkey Kong’s homeland (DK Island), have stolen all of the bananas from DK’s prized banana hoard, and have captured and stored Diddy (DK’s nephew) into a barrel to keep him from stopping them or alerting DK. Upon DK exiting his house and entering his banana hoard’s cave, he covers his face in shame at the absence of his hard-earned sum of bananas. DK comes across the barrel containing Diddy and bursts it open by throwing it. With Diddy by DK’s side, both DK and Diddy progress through DK Island to stop King K. Rool and get back DK’s banana hoard.

Of course, for its time, this is nothing groundbreaking or new, but it’s still a charming story (and I like it).

Environment:

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This game is obviously going for both a cartoony and realistic approach (levels sport realistic settings and looks, but enemies are artistically cartoony), but I honestly think that the more interesting well-designed cartoony characters give the game a lot of memorable moments and levels. As for the environments themselves, every level follows some theme such as jungles, caves, underwater, temples, and snowy mountains. Each level following a different theme makes the game much more enjoyable and pleasing to look at, and they often have theme-specific enemies and hazards. Snow levels usually start out with clear skies, but midway through the levels, the sky darkens and a blizzard appears.

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Each stage-type gives a different feeling based on the lighting, graphics, background effects, and music, and it does what it attempts to do extremely well.

This is honestly one of the best atmospheres in games that existed at the time, and it still entirely holds up today.

Gameplay:

Donkey Kong Country has a simple to learn and difficult to master feel, and I love it so much. Each level will have you playing as DK and/or Diddy going from point A to a checkpoint barrel to point B with enemies sprinkled around as you would expect. Early levels start out easy with many extra lives, and later levels can be much more challenging while still being fun.

DK and Diddy can both use their signature rolling move and can both jump on most enemies and kill them. DK can kill two of the beefier types of enemies and has a hand-slap move which can do… something? (From experience, I’m still not sure what DK’s hand-slap does in this game.) Diddy can maneuver much quicker and has a smaller hit box but can’t jump on certain enemies without being knocked back. Both DK and Diddy control satisfyingly and have a distinct feel, but I do end up preferring Diddy in most every situation.

As I stated before, each level follows a theme, but most levels also do something new and exciting that keeps you waiting for what’s to come in the next level. For example, most stages have theme-specific enemies and hazards that differentiate them from others, and the game progressively manages to mix these themes together to make a wonderful hodgepodge of interesting and memorable level design.

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As for the level design, it’s fun and well-designed as to give new players time to react but also to give experienced players looking for bonus rooms a much more satisfying experience. However, a few levels do have some camera problems, which don’t break the game by any means, but they’re still minor annoyances nonetheless (Poison Pond, the first minecart level, and Forest Frenzy as the main examples of what I’m talking about). There’s not one level which I hate by any means, but some levels are indeed of higher quality than others (take the final non-boss level for example, which is one of the most creative and difficult levels in the game).

Within many levels, you will be able to find animal buddies that you can hop on top of to help you to get through a level. The whole list of animals buddies are “Rambi the Rhino”, “Winky the Frog”, “Expresso the Ostrich”, “Enguarde the Swordfish”, and “Squawks the Parrot” (although Squawks only has one level). Most animal buddies are useful (with the exception of Expresso the Ostrich, who is unable to jump on enemies without sprinting away into a bottomless pit), and each one is typically used well inside of levels that include them. You are also able to find different animal buddy tokens hidden (or in plain sight) throughout levels that take you to a special bonus stage when three of a single animal’s tokens are collected. These stages will have you collecting hundreds of stars for extra lives, and they can be quite rewarding; however, it is quite annoying that these bonus stages always send you back to either the beginning of the stage or the checkpoint, which can ruin the pacing of my difficult level. I personally don’t care all too much for these animal buddies, but they do help to spruce up the gameplay.

DKC_Water--article_image

Also, bonus rooms with extra lives and animal tokens are located among every non-underwater/boss stage. Most bonus room in the game are located behind invisible holes in the sides of walls, and they can be broken open throwing a barrel into the spot or by walking into the hidden stage’s entrance while holding a barrel as Diddy (the main reason why I prefer Diddy for normal play). They aren’t required to enjoy the game, but bonus rooms have a decent amount of fun to them that can add some small replayability.

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Overall, Donkey Kong Country has fantastic structure and level design, and any flaws with the gameplay are miniscule in most cases.

Graphics and Performance:

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For the time and even now, this game looks great and is still appealing to look at. The SGI-made models look grand (and even better-looking) as 2D highly-detailed sprites, and everything has a true sense of depth. Backgrounds are detailed and atmospheric at times when they need to be, and the graphics overall were absolutely beautiful then and are still great to look at even now.

As for the performance, there’s a select few times in which the game itself will slowdown due to the amount of enemies on-screen, but nothing is noticeably bad at any given time.

It looks and performs fantastic overall.

Music and Sound:

I shouldn’t even need to speak as to why this is one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all-time, but I know that I must anyway. David Wise, Eveline Fischer/Novakovic, and Robin Beanland all composed a fantastic soundtrack for this game (Robin only composed one track), and you will never be able to forget tracks like Forest Frenzy, Treetop Rock, Life in the Mines, and most of all DK Island Swing. Although, my personal favorites are Ice Cave Chant, Fear Factory, and Forest Frenzy:

Here’s Ice Cave Chant

Here’s Fear Factory

And here’s Forest Frenzy

(I finally fixed the video issue :D)

The whole soundtrack (with the exception of maybe Misty Menace) is one of the most memorable of any game ever, and it deserves all of the praise that it gets.

Final Thoughts and Score:

Donkey Kong Country 1 for the SNES (even now: almost 22 years later) has proved that some games age extremely well and are nearly timeless with their appeal. There are only a handful of moments where I was just a bit annoyed at some camera issues, but I’d still say that Donkey Kong Country 1 on the SNES is worth its $7.99 eShop price tag (for quality alone). You may also find the GBA remake of the first Donkey Kong Country more viable if you don’t own a Wii U or SNES.

I personally feel that this game truly deserves a solid 9 out of 10, and it still holds up today, even after a whole 21 plus years, as still one of the best and one of the most creative platformers in existence. Buy it if you haven’t already done so.

I hope that you enjoyed this review of mine for Donkey Kong Country 1 for the SNES and Wii U Virtual Console. I will be releasing the review of Donkey Kong Country 2 in a week or two if you are curious. Also, I’m planning something special related to Donkey Kong Country within the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more info!

Thanks for reading this review! It means a lot to me that someone could have trudged this far down through this whole review.

Once again, thanks. Seeya!

 Hyrule Warriors (Wii U) Revisited Review

This has been a very long time coming, personally. I said quite a long time ago that I was heavily working on playing Hyrule Warrior’s DLC for this review, and I’ll be honest… the only reason it’s coming out now is that I’m burned out on Hyrule Warriors to the point that I just can’t play the game anymore (for at least a very long time). I was considering waiting for Hyrule Warriors Legends to roll around so that I could fuse together both this and a Hyrule Warriors Legend’s review into one big colossus of a review, but I think I’d rather vent out my good and bad experiences from the first game’s DLC now, rather than later. I guess that I should also go ahead and personally re-review the original game too along with the DLC, mainly because my old Hyrule Warriors review is… umm… not quite my “magnum opus” if you know what I’m saying.

Without further ado, let’s get started with this review.


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Introduction:

As it stands, I originally was about to never get this game back in September 2014 (wow, more than a year ago!), but I decided to take a plunge past the horrid low score reviews of the likes of Polygon and GamesRadar. The most common complaint I saw was that they were comparing Hyrule Warriors to Zelda games, and therefore basing their whole review off of the fact that it was unlike to Zelda and that it lacked the legendary series’s usual qualities. However, I decided to look past a couple bad reviews and try the game out for myself on launch day. As for the DLC for this game, I bought the whole DLC collection at once (mainly because I already knew I would want it all) and got the Dark Link skin from it.

Story:

In this game, Legend Mode is the story mode. Legend Mode’s story starts out with Zelda having a horrible nightmare, and Impa is nearby (because she’s the princess’s guard) and is told by Zelda of her nightmare. Zelda and Impa agree that they need to find the Hero (Link, duh) just in case. As cliche as it sounds, Zelda and Impa take literally less than ten seconds to come across Link training along with the other guards. After this, a horde of monsters start marching towards Zelda’s castle from Hyrule Field, and Zelda and Impa rush out to go and stop them. Link soon follows and helps defeat many enemies, until a dark wizard summons King Dodongo, and Zelda goes missing. Link and Impa go searching for Zelda and eventually stumble across Shiek (you know who this is) and, later on, a sorceress named Lana. Lana informs them that an evil witch named Cia is the one who is summoning all of these monsters, and they begin to march towards her fortress. As it turns out, Cia has the Triforce of Power, and Link and Shiek also both have Triforce pieces. She captures both of their pieces of the triforce and uses the power of the full Triforce to summon three eras of time (the Ocarina of Time era, the Twilight Princess era, and the Skyward Sword era) and three new commanders for her powerful army. The story continues onward from here in the game.

I personally find this (and the rest of the) story to be more so fan service for fans of the Zelda series, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It does its job good enough for me to remember it after all this time (no, seriously, I have only gone through Legends Mode with watching all of the cutscenes once, which was when I first played it one year ago), so good job on them making it memorable at the least.

However, there is another mode known as Adventure Mode, which features a simple story: “The ‘Dark Ruler’ has overtaken the land, and you must stop him!” Yeah, not much to criticize there, I guess.

Environment:

This game has  very… Semi-comedic and semi-serious undertones that comprise most of the dialogue. The writing in most parts of the various commanders’ common text speech is somewhat forgettable (albeit, I chucked at quite a few of them numerous times), but it all feels like a very well blended experience between the two (leaning more toward the semi-serious side).

The locations in the game are quite diverse and memorable (though, probably from having to play each of them all over again seventy-plus times at this point), but they obviously weren’t going for complete replicas of known Zelda areas. Even in levels taken right out of Zelda games, nothing is exactly the same as what it’s based off of except for very small nuances here and there in different levels.

There are many different characters from the various Zelda games (and original characters made specifically for Hyrule Warriors, as well), and they are all designed very similarly to their typical appearance. All the characters act like they should, and I think that they did a particularly good job with their different costumes and such (although most “costumes” are just recolonizations of a respective character’s typical appearance).

Gameplay:

The gameplay of Hyrule Warriors is the core idea of a hack n’ slash game, brought to fruition in the most glorious way possible. Like other Dynasty Warriors-based games, your ultimate goal is to destroy as many potato-brained enemies as possible in the most epic fashion as possible. You have yourself, different captains, and the same potato-AI grunts all on your team. You deal massive damage, your captain deal decent damage, and your grunts really don’t help at all except for capturing what the game calls “keeps” (keeps are basically small bases on a map that spawn enemies if owned by the enemies or allied if you happen to have captured it, and your base is a special keep that causes you to lose a whole battle if captured by an enemy).

If you are using the Zelda-style control option (what I used for the majority of my time spent with this game), B is for normal attacks (which deal good damage by themselves), Y is for strong attacks (which can deal more or less damage depending on character and weapon), A is dodge (which can negate any damage taken from an attack if pulled off at the right time), and X is a special attack (which allows you to perform a cinematic attack that deals hefty damage) that drains a special attack gauge, which is filled by hitting enemies. Using a series of normal attacks followed by a certain number of strong attacks allows you to perform a combo move. When stronger enemies perform certain moves, it will leave them open to attack and you will be able to take down their “Weak Point Gauge”, which, when depleted, allows you to perform a powerful move on them.

Each character has their own weapon(s) to use in battle, and each weapon has a level one, two, and three variant that looks different and deals more or less damage. Each weapon has an element (light, darkness, fire, water, and lighting), and these elements have no purpose outside of damage taken on certain stages and certain other non-important bonuses. Every weapon is equipped with a completely unique moveset that can make or break a weapon’s skills and its fun factor.

Also there are other smaller mechanics in the game that add to the experience such as outposts (“mini-keeps” that spawn enemies in small amounts when captured; they are common and scattered all around the map in each level) and a level’s map (which shows the position of everything and anything in the level, including keeps, outposts, and commanders), but I won’t be touching on these much, as they are but tiny factors in my experience with this game.

Throughout your adventure, you will find that many enemies drop materials (organized by rarity into bronze, silver, and gold materials). You can use these materials to craft badges, which help to improve any warrior in a specific way (such as reducing damage in fire element recommended stages, or giving you an extra special attack gauge).

I would be lying if I tried to deny that Hyrule Warriors gameplay was repetitive; it is most definitely one of the most repetitive games in existence, and I’ve always had a grudge against games that drone on and on for hours with no real satisfaction. Let me say that again: “satisfaction“. There is only one reason why I am completely fine with Hyrule Warriors’s gameplay, and that is the fact that it is satisfying to wipe out horde of hundreds of enemies with one swipe of a special move; it is satisfying to see the progress I’ve made after beating a level; and it is wholly satisfying to actually be able to achieve 100% completion. However, I’ve have not been able to achieve my goal of completing everything in the game, but I can say that it felt awesome when I finally completed the first Adventure Map and the Master Quest Map in Adventure Mode. The thing is, I couldn’t take the gameplay anymore after such a long time of playing the game non-stop because nothing can be fun after playing it for as long as I did (think of only playing one game repeatedly for four months at least once every day for two to five hours at a time).

Now that I’m done with that tirade, Hyrule Warriors has three or four different modes that are available within the game. These are Legend Mode (a story mode that takes you through all of the levels in the game once, twice or maybe thrice with specific characters in single player or co-op), Free Mode (the same as Legend Mode except for that you can replay any level with any character in single player or co-op), Adventure Mode (basically “Scenario Mode”, which takes you on a quest through a gridded variation of different Zelda maps, such as the original The Legend of Zelda map with many different items to use on the overworld to unlock pathways or collectibles/weapons, with single player or co-op), and Challenge Mode (more so a time waster with a time limit and with no real unlocks unless you have the Boss Pack DLC). On the mode selection screen, there is also a Gallery (allows you you to see illustrations, characters models, and listen to music from the safety of the main menu) and Settings (basic controller options and misc. minor options). Also there is the apothecary, which allows you to brew different one-use potions using materials that you find throughout your adventures (these potions range from extra rupees to more or better weapon drops). Lastly, there are medals (achievements) that are there for those, like me, who want a little extra to do, and there’s also the Training Dojo, which allows you to level up characters to anywhere up to your highest leveled warriors for a ton of rupees.

In Legend Mode, you play through different levels with storyboard objectives that progress the story and the level. You can collect different items through Legend Mode, including bombs, the bow and arrow, the boomerang, and the Hookshot. At the end of quite a few of the levels in Legend Mode, there are bosses that you are able to kill with the use of the aforementioned items (throw bombs in King Dodongo’s mouth, shoot Gohma in the eye with an arrow, etc.), and they will be stunned long enough for you to be able to whack away at their Weak Point Gauge down about halfway (but they take little to no damage outside of this downed Weak Point Gauge state).

Bosses are personally hit-and-miss in my opinion. Most bosses are pathetically easy on their own, but in groups they become extremely annoying, especially when your own captains (that cause you to lose if they die) attempt to slay these mighty beasts without the use of items, which is practically impossible. I won’t spoil it, but there is one boss in particular that deserves to die horridly in a fire, but he can be dealt with just the same as long as there’s only one of them…

In each Legend Mode stage, there are a couple Golden Skulltulas hidden around that appear whenever you fill a certain criteria (for each stage in Legend Mode, it’s 1000 kills for a singular skulltula) and then they will show up in a vague area on the map. These skulltulas each give you a piece of a illustration, and if you collect enough pieces, you receive expansions to the apothecary and eventually some new levels in Adventure Mode that give you some neat rewards for completing.

   Now, let’s get into Adventure Mode, which is where the majority of my time was spent with in this game. Adventure Mode is a “scenario mode”, which is different compared to Legend Mode in a way, and each level is spread out over a Zelda game themed map, such as the first Adventure Map being based off of the original The Legend of Zelda overworld:

Hyrule-Warriors-Adventure-Mode-Map

There’s plenty of different scenarios to play on, such as scenarios where you must defeat a certain choice between two of enemy in a “quiz”, where you must play out a typical Legend Mode scenario, or where you must defeat all enemies while their and your attacks do devastating damage. Depending on what criteria you can fill in each stage, you are rewarded with a rank (from a C-Rank to an A-Rank), based on kills, damage taken, and time taken. Not all criteria is required for every stage (considering some levels that limit you to three kills or stages that are more difficult that allow you to take more time and damage).

Completing some marked stages alone, regardless of rank, may net you a new weapon for certain characters or an actual character, but the majority of stages must be beaten with an A-Rank to get a reward (such as a Heart Piece, Heart Container, or weapon). Beating certain levels, always regardless of rank, you will obtain an item card, which can be used on the overworld screen to reveal treasures, enemies, or even create paths to another stage. All of the reveal-able treasures are uncovered with item cards that are based off of original The Legend of Zelda items (or some items based off of later games), and they will always have a reward in the same place as the original game (such as a bomb planted on a wall in the original might open up a cave, in the Adventure Map, the same bomb planted in the same spot would open up yet another cave and reveal a treasure).

All Adventure Mode maps have colored areas that unlock as you beat a surrounding level while having progressed far enough in Legend Mode. Depending on color, stages will be much harder, such as red stages. These harder stages are typically the last ones you can gain access to because of a high difficulty spike unless you’ve done some level grinding.

As you can tell, there’s a plethora of scenarios to tackle, characters to unlock, and treasures to collect in Adventure Mode. However, this is not a good thing in all cases. For one, I personally dislike at least 70% of the stages in the Adventure Mode map, and the main reason why is because of the majority of stages that are just way too annoying and long to have to keep playing over, and over, and over again. I personally like to play games to the fullest so that I can get the most out of them, but I never intended to do the same with Hyrule Warriors’s Adventure Mode maps… However, I did, and all I can say is that no one should ever have to do what I went through. If it weren’t for the Max Rupee Glitch, which is still in the game, I would have given up a long time ago… because of two characters in particular. Okay, this is a minor spoiler, but these two characters are Agitha and Zant. Agitha is beyond horrible in every way in terms of her moveset, and a particular top-left Adventure Map square is to blame for a major part of this problem. Zant’s attacks feel like they barely do any sort of damage, and his really good moves don’t even feel like they would inflict as much damage as they do, but somehow they overpower his other moves (such as his B + Y combo that is one of maybe two moves he has that can decimate large crowds, while other characters- besides Agitha- typically have many diverse moves that can destroy your enemies).

   As for the rest of the non-DLC content in Adventure Mode, I think that it has a problem of feeling the same, but that’s to be expected from a game like this, honestly. 

   As for DLC content, there are four DLC packs: the Master Quest Pack (which includes a few new levels in Legend Mode, a brand new Adventure Map, and new costume/re-colors), the Twilight Princess Pack (a new Adventure Map and costumes), the Majora’s Mask Pack (a new Adventure Map and costumes), and the Boss Pack (improved Challenge Mode to a playable state, and added new re-color costumes). Also, tapping a Link/Toon Link amiibo on the Gamepad’s NFC Reader while on the title screen will unlock a Spinner weapon, and there are multiple costume packs available for purchase on the eShop (but these costume packs only include costumes for Link, Zelda, and one pack dedicated to Ganondorf). As for the DLC content in Adventure Mode, you can currently get a “Master Quest” edition of the first Adventure Map, a Twilight Princess Map, and a Termina Map. All these maps have stylized overworld designs, likewise to their own games (except for the Master Quest Map, which is the exact same layout as the original Adventure Map, but with completely different challenges and rewards), and I think that the best pack to get is most definitely the Majora’s Mask Pack, because it has a very easy to pick up Adventure Map (with a unique mechanic) and it has two characters rather than the one included in the Twilight Princess Pack. I think that after that, the Master Quest Pack is the second best, then the Boss Pack, then the Twilight Princess Pack (nothing against the TP Pack, but it’s the one I spent the least time with, and it has my least favorite scenario types and a high level-necessity curve in Adventure Mode). The Termina Map is probably the least balanced Adventure Map in the DLC, but I find it to be completely enjoyable if your warriors are leveled up enough. Also the Master Quest Map is probably the best map for level grinding and training up for the Twilight Princess or Termina Map. Did I mention how important level grinding is?

Okay, I have one major problem with Adventure Mode, which is the one thing I just said: level grinding. There are quite a few levels in Adventure Mode that can be used adequately for level grinding in most situations, and the level grinding honestly ruins the pacing in Adventure Mode. Want to get that next weapon one tile away from you on the other side of an impassable wall? Well, too bad: those levels are ten times as hard than these levels! Not much more to say about level grinding. It’s just bad and has always been bad.

I could absolutely go on-and-on for literal hours talking about the gameplay alone, and why it works sometimes, but not others. However, I’d rather opt to save the absolutely finely detailed discussion for a later date, because otherwise this review would be twice as long as it already it.

Graphics and Performance:

The textures in the game are really bland and noticeably low-resolution… but, this is only a small complaint, considering that all of the player/enemy models are faithful to their original designs (although some enemy models are a little too faithful: an example is that the stalchild enemies looking like he was ripped out of the N64 Ocarina of Time game), and player models are the main thing that you will be seeing during your adventure, as you can run past any textured object or wall and not even notice the low quality.

The performance however is possibly the worst I’ve ever seen. The game runs at 60fps while standing still with nothing on screen, but as soon as more than five enemies are on screen, and you’re moving a bit, you will notice the extreme slowdown. Gladly, this is at the very least slowdown and not frame drops, meaning that the game just basically runs slower while more enemies are on-screen giving more of a “slow-motion” effect over a choppy effect, which is much more tolerable, but still not passable.

Music and Sound:

All of the music in this game is freaking amazing, and I can’t use and other words to describe it. Check out some videos of it on YouTube, and you’ll get what I mean (completely upbeat and wholly fitting to the whole product when it needs to be).

As for sounds, there’s not much to say. It’s satisfying to hit things with a nice slashing sound that makes it feels like you’re really damaging an enemy.

Final Thoughts and Score:

Hyrule Warriors is an insanely good product, but it has an incredible amount of problems that are un-ignorable. But it still works. The game is completely enjoyable to play overall, and I personally love to sit down and just relax while playing a good ol’ level in Adventure Mode to make a bit of progress. Is it repetitive? Yes, but it does so with flying colors. Does it have the same feel as any Zelda game? No, but it’s not trying to be Zelda because of the fact that it’s a Dynasty Warriors game with Zelda themes and skins. Am I now curious about the rest of the Dynasty Warriors games? You bet!

The DLC is definitely worth it, but only if you enjoy the base game already as it is, and I think that $20 for three times as much content in Adventure Mode alone is good enough.

   Overall, I give Hyrule Warriors a 8 out of 10, and it will definitely be enjoyed by fans of Dynasty Warriors, hack n’ slashes, or by people that don’t even know what they’re missing out on. 

Thanks for checking out my full review of Hyrule Warriors and its DLC! It’s been a great 1 and 1/4 year, and I like to think that I’ve finally improved to the point where I can really stretch my review skills to their (current) limit, which I did with this review. If I made any grammatical or reviewing mistakes, feel free to let me know (as I’m always trying to improve), and once again thanks for reading.

Also, I’d hate to “advertise” on my own posts about things I’m currently a part of, but I am currently hosting a giveaway on this blog, which is for anyone with a Wii U or Steam account. Make sure to check it out if you want to!

Have a wonderful end of 2015, seeya!

Super Mario Maker Review

Hello! Thanks in advance for checking out this review! I made a small announcement awhile back that the first reviews I would be doing to revive this blog would be a review on either Splatoon or Terraria… Well, that was back when I was practically addicted to both of those games, and, while I still plan on reviewing them, I think that a game that I’m playing much more right now is better to review.  If you’re familiar with my review system, them you should skip to the bold print line below. If you’re not familiar with my review system (which I seem to change quite a lot), then I’ll give a brief refresher: Introduction (a little backstory on how I came across the game, and any previous experiences I’ve had with it), Story (I sum up the story with as little spoilers as possible), Environment (I talk about the setting and feel of the game), Gameplay (I try to explain why the game is fun/not fun and what features it contains), Graphics/Performance (Does the game look appealing? Does it run well?), and Music/Sound (I decide whether or not a game’s soundtrack is worth listening to by itself, and if it fits its setting).

Without further ado, let’s get started!

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Introduction:

I heard about Mario Maker when it was announced at Nintendo’s E3 2014 Nintendo Direct, but I wasn’t interested in the game until multiple trailers came out this year that persuaded me to buy the game. What really set me over the edge– well, I’ll get to it later in the gameplay section, but it was huge to me when a certain feature was announced. Anyway, I’ve always wanted to make my own Mario, Zelda, DKC, Metroid, etc. levels, and this is the first time that we’ve (officially) been able to make Mario levels on a Nintendo console. I’ve always been a person who likes to both create and play games/levels in games, and this is a pretty unique game as far as I can see.

Story:

As usual, Mario is lying around (doing nothing), and Princess Peach is kidnapped by none other than Bowser!!! In all seriousness, this happens every time you start what the game calls: “The 10 Mario Challenge” or “The 100 Mario Challenge”, which I’ll get into later. Besides that, this game really doesn’t have a story, and therefore I don’t have much to put here.

Environment:

Moving on, since this isn’t the kind of game that has a set environment, I can’t really muster anything for the setting of the game, so I will talk about some of the special features or small touches that freshen up the experience that can be found in Super Mario Maker.

When you start up the game, you will be greeted with a title card with Mario in his Builder Mario uniform, and the game will give you a unique short opening sequence depending on the day you play; it’s nothing special, but it’s a nice touch. Like with Mario Paint for the SNES (which has heavily influenced this game), you are able to touch all of the letters of “Super Mario Maker” on the title screen, and it will perform a specific action, including: summoning a Yoshi egg or other object, having the “A” blast off into space via countdown, or giving a visual filter to the title screen (which also changes the music a tiny bit). There are many amiibo costumes found within the game, which can be unlocked by tapping their specific amiibo on the Wii U Gamepad’s NFC Reader or by playing certain challenges. Every. Single. Amiibo. Is compatible with this game. Every amiibo has a costume, and they all unlock a skin (some costumes of which have been included in this game before their corresponding amiibo have actually been announced/released). You can only use these costumes with the original Super Mario Bros. theme, but they all have their own specific sound effects (some for jumping, hitting the ground, or even dying). These are but a few of the awesome special touches in Super Mario Maker, and I can’t include every single one on this list. Trust me, however, there’s great features everywhere.

Gameplay:

This is going to be a long section, just warning you. As you start up the game for the first time, you are introduced first and foremost with a tutorial of how to place objects and create levels. It’s a nice tutorial, and it ends quickly, therefore I have no complaints here. Your two main parts to Super Mario Maker are creating levels and playing levels, and I feel that this game has almost perfected both of these aspects.

When you first start making levels and after you make something for around five minutes, you will be notified that you will be able to unlock more tools to use and more assets to be able to place by waiting until tomorrow, which allows for the creator of a level to get used to a certain limited amount of objects and tools he can use. Originally, you would have needed to wait a total of nine days to unlock all of the objects and tools to use in making levels, but Nintendo shortened this to as little as less than half of a day if you make levels for a long enough time. If you don’t make levels for long and only make a level for five minutes each day to cue the next shipment of tools/assets, you will still be waiting nine days, but most people won’t be waiting this long.

Once your accustomed on how to make levels, you can easily draw a line of blocks, place enemies, and create the Mario levels that you may have been wanting to make for a very long time in four different game styles (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U). Your creations are only limited by your imagination for the most part, unless you are trying to make a more ambitious level. In this case, the limit on how many blocks (which includes coins), decoration blocks, and enemies that you can place can really put a damper on your imagination, since most levels that I try to make are usually longer than most other levels, and have a small amount of progression. For instance, I wanted to make a large airship level with a sub-level “haunted ship” (ghost house); I decided on making two different “haunted ships” that were both large on scale, but the limits on placing certain assets and the length of the level destroyed that idea. Anyway… I don’t know, but it’s just strange to me that a game about “creating the most ambitious Mario levels ever” has limits like this.

Moving on to the other mode in this game, the “Play” mode, you can play levels that other people have made, including one hundred levels pre-made right on the disc, in case you live in an area that doesn’t receive internet often (or at all) but still want to make and play Mario levels. The pre-made levels are mostly short and sweet, and you can play and beat them all for a special surprise. To play these levels, you can participate in what’s called the “10 Mario Challenge”, where you must play through eight of these pre-made levels at a time with a limit of ten lives at a time. Of course, most of these levels are rather easy, and extra lives are quite common, despite the possibly daunting limit of ten lives. However, most of your time will most likely be spent on the “100 Mario Challenge”, which contains eight or sixteen random levels that community members have created. There are three difficulty modes for the 100 Mario Challenge, including: Easy (eight levels with a high clear rate), Normal (sixteen levels with a medium clear rate), and Expert (sixteen levels of pain and frustration). I will say this now: Expert Mode would be impossible under normal circumstances because of the insane challenge that some of the levels can obtain. However, you are able to skip any levels that may seem too challenging for you (or for anyone for that matter), but you do not skip a level but rather swap to another level, meaning that you still must beat eight or sixteen levels to clear the 100 Mario Challenge no matter what.

In order to unlock the aforementioned amiibo costumes without the owning of any amiibo, you must beat the 100 Mario Challenge a total of ninety-nine times. Yes, you heard that right. To make it more painful, after you beat the 100 Mario Challenge a certain number of times, you will no longer earn costumes from beating Easy Mode and Normal Mode, and you will be restricted to the absolute torture that Expert Mode can be. Of course, these costumes are all optional, and they have no effect on gameplay whatsoever and are only decorative for levels using the original Super Mario Bros. theme.

Of course, you can also play any online level normally by going to the respective menu on the “Course World” menu. I’ve even made four levels of my own, which you can access by searching their ID’s in-game: a level with a lot of trampolines: E1D9-0000-001C-319D; A “de-make” of the Water Temple from TLoZ:OoT: CDDF-0000-0040-16C4; (Shameless plugs… Also, more to come on my Mario Maker profile.)

Graphics/Performance:

In terms of faithfulness to its source material, Super Mario Maker gives faithful recreations of the visual styles of each game style it includes. Super Mario Bros, looks like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 looks like Super Mario Bros. 3, and so on. I never had the game slow-down on me (even with tons of enemies on screen at the same time), and it just runs well in general.

Music/Sound:

There are some amazing remixes in this game, and who else would compose them other than the incredible Koji Kondo? This is the first game since The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time for the N64 that Koji Kondo has composed ALL original tracks for any video game. Suffice to say… It’s amazing. Here’s 3 of my favorite tracks:


I think the music from the game speaks for itself enough.

Final Thoughts and Score:

Super Mario Maker is an incredible tool for making the Mario levels that you’ve always wanted to make… for the most part. There are many awesome levels in the online part of this game that truly show the extent that you can go to with your creativity, but I do feel that there are some tools missing and a annoying limit on how many of certain assets that you can place. However, I feel that this game has some incredible charm to it. There’s a ton of content in this game via online levels made by players, amiibo costumes, and even some pre-made levels on the disc already. The game runs fine, looks faithful to its source material, and has an amazing soundtrack, comprised of remixes of older Mario themes.

Overall, I give this game a great 9.0/10: It’s an amazing level creation tool with an amazing soundtrack and friendly interface, but I do think that it limits the player with level creation in certain aspects.

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Hello! I hope you enjoyed my review on Super Mario Maker for the Wii U! It took me quite awhile to finish this review, so I wasn’t able to post it two Fridays ago like I said I would. I will be continually working on reviews and other posts throughout the week, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading, seeya!

Sid Meier’s Civilization V Mini-Review

First off, I know that my past Mini-Review was specifically based around a PC game (whereas I usually review console games), but I’ve been playing a lot of PC games lately, since they’ve been more convenient for me to play at the moment. One of these games is Sid Meier’s Civilization V (or 5), in which I have quite a decent amount of time spent in the game. Also, if you don’t know about my Mini-Review series, it’s where I take the most important aspects of a game and focus on them. I specifically focus on a brief introduction to the game, the gameplay, the graphics/performance, and the ambiance (music/writing/environments/sometimes story, but not today) of the game. Without further stalling, let’s get started!

Continue reading Sid Meier’s Civilization V Mini-Review