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What’s the Deal With ‘Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble’?

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Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard and with good reason. It pushed the boundaries of what the Super Nintendo was capable of and the follow-up Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest delivered in exceeding the standard set by its predecessor. Needless to say, Rare had some big shoes to fill when making the third and final entry of the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy. When Donkey Kong Country 3 first hit store shelves in November of 1996, it was just over two months after the hardware debut of the Nintendo 64 and by that time, most players including loyal Nintendo fans had already moved on to Super Mario 64, a title acclaimed by many critics and fans as one of the greatest and most revolutionary video games of all time. And with the N64, most of those players never looked back. I was one of those fans, and it wasn’t until DK3 was later released on the Wii that I finally had a chance to play Rare’s 16-bit swan song for the first time. Unfortunately, while I liked the game enough to recommend it, I just couldn’t wrap my head around why I didn’t like it as much as the original two. Now years later I’ve decided to give it one more shot, this time around playing it on the Wii U and hoping to walk away loving it as much as I love every other game in the DKC series. The problem is, I’m still not sure how I feel about the game.

Donkey Kong himself is once again absent, and this time Diddy’s also nowhere to be found. Both the titular gorilla and his nephew go missing after a trip to the Northern Kremisphere and it’s up to Diddy’s girlfriend, Dixie Kong, and her younger cousin Kiddy Kong, to traverse the kremling-infested lands in search of them. Along the way they must battle against King K. Rool and his Kremling army which includes Arich, a large, red spider found at the end of Kremwood Forest, Belcha, a mischevious barrel who resides inside an old barn at the end of Lake Orangatanga and Squirt, a large, rocky slug who lives on a waterfall. The story (what little we get) isn’t anything to write home about but when it comes to Donkey Kong Country games, it’s what we come to expect.

DK3

There is an Easter egg players can discover which shows Wrinkly playing the Nintendo 64 over the Super Mario 64 theme song.

While both Donkey Kong and Diddy are sorely missed, Dixie and Kiddy function, for the most part, just like Diddy and Dixie did in the last game. Dixie stays true to form retaining her ability to descend slowly after jumping up and down by using her ponytail helicopter-spin in midair, and players can still alternate between the two playable characters on the fly. By and large, the general gameplay sticks to the old tag-team formula allowing the pair to perform team maneuvers. The game even encourages you to use both Kiddy and Dixie since certain situations will be better handled using one Kong more than the other. Kiddy can pick up Dixie and toss her onto ledges. Dixie, meanwhile, can pick up Kiddy and launch him high into the air. Both characters can also pounce on enemies, and throw barrels to smash enemies, switches, doors and other objects. And like every DKC game, when one character is hurt the other must progress through the level alone until you recover the missing partner by finding and smashing a DK barrel. So far so good. The game follows the winning formula laid out by the previous two. And while Kiddy Kong is perhaps the most unpopular of the Kong family amongst fans, there’s no denying that the pairing of Dixie and Kiddy evenly represents two opposite ends of the Kong spectrum since Kiddy’s physique makes him a good match for Dixie’s speed.

The game also features another series staple: Animal Friends. This time around, players can directly control animals instead of riding them. If you want, you can stampede over kremlings with Ellie the elephant (a precursor to Tembo the Badass Elephant) and when using Ellie, players can also hose down enemies with water using her trunk. In addition, players can also easily navigate underwater with Enguarde the swordfish and fly through the air as Squawks the parrot. A new bird friend named Perry also shows up and allows you to grab objects that Dixie and Kiddy can’t reach. The animal friends aren’t the only new characters found here. Scattered around the Northern Kremisphere overworld are the Brothers Bear, a family of bears who provide the players with hints, key items, and other services needed to 100% complete the game. You can find bear coins throughout the levels (which replace DKC2’s banana coins) and bonus coins (replacing Kremkoins) which are needed to access the secret levels in the Lost World. This time, instead of simply being hidden within the levels, the coins are guarded by Kremling each named Koin who use the coins as shields, leaving the player to find creative ways to take them down with a steel barrel. Meanwhile, other members of the Kong family, such as Cranky, Wrinkly and Swanky are also present along with Funky Kong who is no longer a pastiche of an 80’s surfer stereotype but now works as a mechanic.

For a 16-bit game, DK3 looks beautiful and utilizes the same Silicon Graphics from its predecessors, which includes the use of pre-rendered 3D imagery. As mentioned above, the setting takes a shift to the north, away from the jungle and pirate-themed environments of the first two titles. It’s a refreshing change and I would say, the lush environments, bright lighting, and detailed animation has more in common with Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze than any other game in the franchise. The game seriously looks great and includes scrolling background layers, moving foreground objects, and various animated weather effects. There are eight worlds altogether (nine in the GBA version) and the levels in the game include a mixture of platforming, swimming, and on-rails levels action. Truth be told, the level design is more diverse compared to its predecessors and includes more complex puzzles and obstacles to overcome. The main quest spans eight large worlds and 48 levels and employs the standard mix of jumping platforms, climbing vines, riding moving objects and stomping enemies. Only now there are also switches to pull, walls and floors to smash, lakes to swim through, and rocket barrels to ride on. There are even a few stages involving mine carts and snow sleds. The graphics, environments and character animations are all top-notch. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the music. One of the most impressive features of the first two games is the amazing soundtrack scored by legendary composer David Wise. Here, the soundtrack composed almost entirely by Eveline Fischer is by no means terrible, but largely forgettable.

DK3 also introduced the beginning of an open world concept to its world map. The game overworld is far more complex, allowing players to explore each area instead of forcing them along a linear path. The new overhead map does simplify traveling between the world allowing the player to pretty much go wherever they want whenever they want. One of the new additions is the use of vehicles on the world map screen. These vehicles range from a motorboat to a helicopter and help Dixie and Kiddy Kong get to different stages. There are secrets and collectibles to look for in between each stage and there are even characters who you can do various fetch quests for. By today’s’ standards it isn’t’ very impressive and there are only a handful items to collect in each region but by and large, it does a great job of adding a new dimension of gameplay to the series. The problem is, the sheer amount of collectibles in the game is overwhelming, to say the least. This being a Rare-developed game, there are enough collect-a-thon conditions to drive someone crazy. And to achieve full completion of the game, you’ll have to complete every bonus stage, find every DK Coin, find every Banana Bird, complete every task assigned by the bears, and beat all the secret levels.

As for the difficulty, DK3 is often the easiest of the bunch but at times, it is also the most infuriating. Lives are plentiful and the boss battles aren’t very hard but the game is also plagued with two of the most frustrating stages in the entire series, the first being the lightning level which causes your character to continuously be zapped by lightning, and the second, an underwater level which forces the controls to work in reverse (thankfully, the mid-level checkpoint saves your sanity while playing these stages). Unfortunately, these levels comprise the final run before the fight with K Rool and are the two worst levels in the entire series. Speaking of the Devil, King K Rool makes his least uninspiring appearance in this game. Under the alias Baron K. Roolenstein, the now mad scientist simply floats across the screen endlessly throughout the final battle. At least most of the other bosses at the end of each of the game’s eight worlds reflect a little more creativity (my personal favorite being KOAS) but it’s still a letdown for fans of the Kremling King.

After playing this game three times over a span of twenty years, reviewing it on our Nintendo podcast and now writing this 1000-plus word article, I still can’t pinpoint exactly why I don’t love this game as much as I feel I should. Putting aside the disappointing battle with the malevolent ruler King K Rool, and my frustration with having to collect too many items, Donkey Kong Country 3 isn’t all that different than it’s predecessors. It’s another great looking, great sounding platformer from Rare – and one that stands the test of time. The game has some of the most creative level designs and gimmicks for the era and it takes risks, introducing you to a brand new concept in nearly every level you encounter. Perhaps the problem is that while it is a Rare game, it wasn’t made by the same team who made the first two games. Rare’s veteran team had already moved on to work on the N64 leaving their B-team instead to finish the trilogy. And that may be why it just doesn’t feel the same.

Donkey Kong Country 3 took the series in a bold new direction and tried new things but there’s nothing about this game that feels groundbreaking. And that’s ok if only they got one thing right. You see, the original Donkey Country Country is sharp and laser-focussed. Its stages were built with an amazing sense of rhythm and pacing. Donkey Kong Country 3 however, doesn’t feel as energetic and kinetic. The game sacrifices the original quick pace for level variety and other distractions that slow it down, making it at times feel like a chore. The series has always used gimmicks but in this game, the gimmicks are sometimes tedious and for every great concept there is a half a dozen that just wears you down. It’s a classic case of creators trying to shove too many ideas into one project and in the end, it’s not only overwhelming for its audience but exhausting. And that is how I describe this game: a long-drawn-out adventure that is ultimately taxing on a player.

  • Ricky

On a side note, it did have one Hell of a strange advertising push including s a television advert featuring human actors dressed up as apes and another commercial which references child masturbation. WTF?

Arich

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John

    May 12, 2017 at 9:30 am

    I think it should be noted that the soundtrack for the original DKC was written by both Fischer and Wise, not just Wise.

    Anyways, I think you’re selling the soundtrack a bit short. It’s definitely not as good as DKC2’s, but it’s still one of my favorites and easily tops the original DKC’s. Very reminiscent of industrial and jazz.

    • Ricky D

      May 12, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      You are perhaps right. I might have been too harsh on the soundtrack. I do like this game very much but it is my least favorite in the series, which isn’t saying much I guess since I think all the other games are amazing.

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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Game Reviews

‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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