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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Torna The Golden Country Review Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Torna The Golden Country Review

Game Reviews

‘Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country’ Review – A Natural Evolution

What’s old is new once more as the new Xenoblade Chronicles 2 story expansion provides numerous compelling reasons to return to the world of Alrest.



Monolith Soft has been churning out new content as part of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Expansion Pass since its original release back in December of last year. The $20 add-on has since included new sidequests, new rare blades, and a new challenge mode to the main game but it wasn’t until the story DLC, Torna ~ The Golden Country, released that its true worth could be measured. While this DLC episode shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of the base game it still manages to distinguish itself in a way that makes the return to Alrest worth the investment.

A Tale of Two Aegises

Torna ~ The Golden Country is a prequel that takes place 500 years prior to the events of the main story. The adventure follows Tornan Driver, Lora, and her Blade partner, Jin, as they play their part in the crisis that was the Aegis War which threatened to destroy all of Alrest. This DLC fills in the gaps purposefully left by the original story and gives important context for the motivations of many characters.

Torna Lora and Jin

Lora is a good-natured woman with a heart of gold to help those in need but also a maturity to think things through before acting. This carries through to her connection with Jin, as they have been together for seventeen years and that shines through in their complete trust and candidness with each other. It’s certainly a different dynamic than the “boy-meets-girl” scenario of Rex and Pyra in the original game, and one that is a joy to watch grow over the course of the adventure.

Other new characters, such as the charismatic Addam, are equally engaging while returning characters, such as Brighid and Mythra, are shown in a different light that exposes new and endearing facets of their personalities.

Unfortunately, poor lip syncing of the English voice-overs make a return, detracting from an already grab bag of voice talent. While the original Japanese voice audio is available, this is still a regrettable drawback for those who prefer the dub.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Torna Addam

Nintendo is advertising Torna ~ The Golden Country as a standalone expansion that can be enjoyed without the context of the original. While this is technically true from a gameplay perspective it would not be recommended to do so from a story perspective.

Many of the most emotional scenes in the game stem from the tender moments between Jin, Lora, and others with the knowledge of the morbid reality fate has in store for them. The gravity of these moments is lost upon those who have not played the original game to some extent.

Watching Each Other’s Backs

Torna ~ The Golden Country takes place before the traditional Blade and Driver fighting styles of the original Xenoblade Chronicles 2 were established and, as such, combat plays out quite differently. Drivers and Blades still form pairs and fight together in real-time using a palette of three regular artes and a special, but the similarities end there.

Instead of the Blade swapping mechanic of the original, we have a Vanguard and Rear Guard system. The player directly controls the Vanguard character, moving around, auto-attacking, and using artes much like before, while the computer controls the Rear Guard and plays a support role by using various buffs, debuffs, and damage dealing skills.

Torna the Golden Country Combat

The current Vanguard and Rear Guard can be swapped with each other on a cooldown with a simple tap of the D-pad. This not only gives the player a brand new character to control with his or her own unique set of artes but will also recover a portion of your team’s health represented by a red section of the health bar. Since traditional healing skills aren’t as readily available in this expansion as the original, combat keeps the player on their toes by encouraging frequent swapping of Vanguard and Rear Guard in order to keep teams healthy. Performing a Vanguard swap to recover from the brink of death while simultaneously smashing a launched enemy to the ground provides a visceral satisfaction not present in the original game.

In addition to regular artes, specials, and swaps, team members now have access to character specific Talent Artes. These often bestow powerful effects, such as instantly recharging all regular artes or stopping enemy actions for a time, but come at a heavy cost or prerequisite, such as halving your current HP or drawing three times as much aggro with the next attack.

This adds some welcome individuality to each party member and knowing when and when not to use these versatile skills adds a risk vs. reward factor that can turn the tide of battle when used properly and vice versa.

Torna the Golden Country Talent Artes

Team compositions are fixed, which means that there is no randomness from the controversial Core Crystal system of the original game. While this does result in less flexibility in party setup, as only the element of a Driver’s weapon can be changed, this does allow for more focused combat encounters that have been designed specifically for the hand the player has been dealt. Defeat never feels like a foregone conclusion due to poor team composition but rather due to lapses in judgment that are easily identified and learned from for the next attempt.

This results in a fast-paced, rapidly evolving combat style that builds upon the skeleton of the original game in unique and engaging ways that make it feel new once again.

New and Old Frontiers

Exploration has always played an enormous role in Xenoblade games and Torna ~ The Golden Country doesn’t use its status as a DLC episode to shirk those responsibilities. The brand new Tornan titan that we had only heard mention and seen glimpses of before in flashbacks is on full display in all its glory.

Boasting environments such as woodlands and desert dunes, Torna provides sceneries and landscapes not present in the original game. While these new zones aren’t quite as large as other titans we’ve seen previously, they still properly stoke an explorer’s adventurous spirit with treasure to uncover and secrets to discover in every nook and cranny. A much needed auto-save feature, not present in the original, ensures that the many hours spent exploring won’t be lost due to an unfortunate accident or battery depletion.

Torna the Golden Country Alleta

The grasslands of Gormott also make a return, although they may look a little different compared to the ones players know from the original. While the overall topography remains unchanged, new landmarks are present while others simply don’t exist yet, passages that once led to one location now lead somewhere else, and so forth. Perhaps the biggest difference is how the sprawling city of Torigoth in the original game is simply referred to as a “small hamlet” in this prequel.

These little difference not only make an old area feel fresh but also lend credence to this story taking place 500 years before the original, that this is a time period different from the one we know. The immersion isn’t perfect, however, as most NPC’s still wear the exact same clothing from the original, the Mor Ardanian flagship has the exact same layout, and all of the regular monsters you fight are exactly the same. While this is a relatively minor gripe, it’s still a shame Monolith Soft wasn’t able to take that extra step to really expand upon this tumultuous time period for Alrest.

During exploration, your party will come across numerous campsites to rest at for the night. These serve a dual purpose of allocating bonus experience points gained from side quests as well as crafting pouch items. Each character has a crafting specialty, such as Lora’s charms and Mythra’s “creative” cuisine, and use items gathered in the world to create items that boost combat capabilities or provide some permanent benefit such as increased run speed.

Torna the Golden Country Campfire Crafting

Party members can also chat with each other at campfires but these are only simple reviews of the current objective and where to go next. Seeing as some of the most heartfelt conversations in video games, and storytelling media in general, come from campfire talks, it’s a bit disappointing they weren’t taken more advantage of here to flesh out the characters outside the main story.

Community Service

With Torna ~ The Golden Country comes a new side-quest mechanic called Community. It’s rather simple in that as you complete the request of NPC’s they’ll join in your community which represents the support Prince Addam of Torna has with the people. Sometimes people will join your community simply by talking to them, as well. As your community grows it will level up, unlocking new side quests to complete with better rewards in turn.

What the game doesn’t tell you up front, however, is that this is not an optional feature that can be ignored.

At certain points in the main story, the game will require you to be at a certain community level or higher in order to continue. If you’ve been diligent in completing side-quests as they arose then meeting these requirements may not be too much extra effort. If you had decided to forgo side-quests for a time in favor of progressing the main story or, even worse, ignored them altogether, though, then this grinds any momentum to a screeching halt.

Torna the Golden Country community Level

This results in having to potentially dedicate hours towards completing numerous requests, a problem that is exacerbated by the sheer tedium of many of them. Most requests simply require going to specific locations, slaying X number of Y monster, or gathering X amount of Y items, the last of which being particularly troublesome in that Torna doesn’t fix the original’s problem of being unclear where to exactly find specific collectibles.

The Community system as an optional mechanic makes sense to reward players who want to make the most out of their game time. As a mandatory requirement, however, it comes off as more of an excuse to force players to retread tracks through areas they’ve already been to. It’s counter-intuitive to the Xenoblade series’ “play how you want to, do what you want to” attitude games have had up until this point, and is a puzzling decision on Monolith Soft’s part to make.

Golden Opportunities

For Xenoblade’s first venture into story DLC, Torna ~ The Golden Country does an admirable job of providing meaningful content that complements the main game. It takes many aspects of the original and puts compelling spins on them that makes the entire 15-30 hour adventure comfortably familiar, yet stimulatingly different.

The artificial gating created by the Community system is a rather sizeable blemish on an otherwise rock-solid expansion. The instantly gratifying combat, engrossing story, rewarding exploration of eye-catching locales put in the legwork to make up for this drawback, however, and give players eager to return to Alrest more than enough reason to dive back in.

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world. You can follow more of his work at his blog and budding YouTube channel below.



  1. Logan Hollis

    September 26, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Just to clarify, while the monsters may not be different, their locations and environs are wholly changed overall. Aspers show up in Gormott along with Giant Stag Beetles that you would find in Tantal.

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Game Reviews

‘Bee Simulator’ Review: Pleasantly Droning On



Unless a typical bee’s day involves a lot of clunky wasp fights, high-speed chases, and dancing for directions, it’s doubtful many players will walk away from Bee Simulator feeling like they’ve really been given a glimpse into the apian way of life. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical pollen collecting and human annoying here, but odd tasks like hauling glowing mushrooms for ants, helping baby squirrels find their mom, and stinging some little brat who’s stomping all your flowers (hopefully he doesn’t have an allergy) are also on the agenda. That’s not exactly keepin’ it real, but regardless, the variety is actually more simple and less silly than it sounds; it turns out that even doing weird bee stuff quickly becomes repetitive. Still, this family-friendly look at a bug’s life is bolstered by a sincere love of nature, as well as some smooth flight mechanics and a surprisingly large open world for younger gamers to explore.

Bee Simulator beetle

Set in a Central Park-like expanse, Bee Simulator definitely takes on a more edutainment vibe right off the bat (Goat Simulator this ain’t) with a prologue that offers up some info on the ecological importance of bees to the planet. That protective attitude is a constant throughout the game’s short campaign and side quests, as the well-being of these hive heroes is constantly under threat by those goonish wasps, the bitter cold of winter, and of course, oblivious humans. Players take control of a newly hatched worker bee (sorry, drone lovers) who dreams of a role more important than being relegated to merely buzzing by flowers, and consequently sets out to save the day. However, these crises are portrayed in the thinnest terms possible, resolved quickly, and summarily forgotten, leaving little of narrative interest.

So then, it’s up to the gameplay to keep players engaged, and in this area Bee Simulator is a bit of a mixed bag. On the good side, flying works really well, and gives a nice sense of scale to being a little bee in the great, big world. Winging it close to the ground offers a zippy sense of speed, as flowers and blades of grass rush by in colorful streaks. A rise in elevation makes travel seem slower, but provides a fantastic view of the park, showcasing a lakeside boathouse,a zoo filled with exotic creatures, as well as various restaurants, playgrounds, picnics, pedestrians, and street vendors scattered about. Precision is rarely a must outside chases that require threading through glowing rings (a tired flying sim staple) or navigating nooks and crannies, but the multi-axis controls are pretty much up to the task, and make getting around a pleasure.

Bee Simulator zebras

However, that sense of flowing freedom doesn’t quite apply to the limited list of other activities. Though the world is large, the amount of different ways to interact with it is very small, revolving around a few basic concepts: fighting, racing, dancing, retrieving, and collecting. And with the exception of the latter, these actions can only be performed at specifically marked spots that initiate the challenge; most of Bee Simulator exists purely for the view. It’s somewhat understandable in its predictability — how many different things can a bee actually do, after all? — but the gameplay is still a bit disappointing in its shallowness. Fighting plays out like a turn-based rhythm mini-game, those aforementioned races follow uninspired routes, dancing is simply a short bout of Simon, and collecting pollen employs a ‘bee vision’ that does nothing more than verify that players know their colors.

It’s very basic stuff that can’t really sustain motivation for those used to more creativity. The roughly 3-hour campaign seems to support this idea; Bee Simulator knows it doesn’t have much going on for veteran gamers. However, as a visual playground for younger kids to fly around in, free from any real danger, there is something a bit magical about the world presented. There are loads of little vignettes to happen upon, such as a family BBQ, a small amusement park, and a bustling kitchen. What exactly are those lonely row-boaters thinking about out on the lake by themselves? Where is the flower lady going in such a hurry? Discovering new places — like a lush, sprawling terrarium — creates the impression of a massive world with plenty going on regardless of whether the player sees it or not, and can serve to spark the imagination.

Bee Simulator garden

In addition to racking up that pollen for the winter, info on various flora and fauna can also be be collected and stored in the hive’s library, where 3-D models can also be purchased with ‘knowledge’ points earned through completing quests. These texts detail some interesting facts about brave bees and their relation to the environment, and can definitely be a fun teaching tool for wee gamers.

Grizzled fans of the open-world genre may want to buzz clear, however, as well as those hoping for some zaniness. Though Bee Simulator offers some solid soaring in an attractive environment, it’s a sincere, straightforward attempt to promote bee kind that doesn’t offer much more than a relaxing atmosphere and repetitive actions.

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Game Reviews

‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’: The Force is Strong in this One

A new hope…



Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order Review

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the more propulsive and joyous games released this year. The latest from Respawn Entertainment (the creators of Titanfall and Apex Legends) is sure to satisfy fans who have impatiently waited almost a decade for a single-player action-adventure Star Wars game, and one that is actually good. In fact, Fallen Order is better than good— it’s great and worthy of standing side by side with the best Star Wars games ever made. Save for an incredibly bland protagonist, Fallen Order delivers what any fan could hope for.  

We’ve been waiting a long time for a good single-player Star Wars game and thankfully Respawn has come through with a narrative-driven adventure that calls to mind the best of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls and even God of War while also embedding itself in official universe canon. If that isn’t enough, Jedi: Fallen Order drops you into Metroidvania style environments and features incredibly tough boss battles and a skill tree that lets you unlock tons of new abilities by accumulating experience and skill points. Jedi: Fallen Order is an ambitious game, to say the least. It features the fast-paced action the developers have become famous for and while the result isn’t groundbreaking (nor original), it’s a solid space opera spectacle with enough nostalgia to overpower even the most jaded gamer.

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order Review

Order 66

The story takes place sometime between Star Wars: A New Hope and Episode III, when most of the Jedi Order are either dead or missing in action. You assume control of Cal Kestis, a promising young Padawan in the Republic who following the events of Order 66 (which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jedi) was forced to abandon his training and seek a solitary life on the planet Bracca. In order to survive Darth Sidious’s purge of the Jedi Order, Cal removed himself from the Force, concealed his identity, and took on a job working for the Empire. Unfortunately for him, a squad of professional Jedi hunters led by Second Sister have tracked him down, leaving him with little choice but to fight back.

The Story is Canon

Fallen Order kicks off with a powerful and emotional sequence as Cal decides to risk his own life and try to save his friend. In doing so, Cal reveals himself to the Empire, setting in motion a cat-and-mouse chase that sees him team up with former Jedi Master Cere Junda and a Latero pilot named Greez Dritus. Armed with Jedi powers, a lightsaber and the trusty aid of BD1 (a droid designed to assist with exploration in remote and dangerous locations), Cal blasts his way through hyperspace discovering ancient tombs, freeing Wookie slaves, hijacking an AT-AT and basically fighting the Imperial Army.

Jedi: Fallen Order is a step forward for the franchise – an exhilarating ride, filled with exciting battles, non-stop action, soaring emotions, and performances that can be described as legitimately good, rather than just good, for a video game. It’s also a rousing introduction to new characters who will likely carry this world forward (I expect a sequel or two). There’s seriously a solid story here and one that adheres to the spirit and tone of the Star Wars universe. The supporting players, for example, are all great. Cal’s droid, BD-1, is particularly captivating, and the game does an admirable job of building up Cal’s friendship with the droid in both the cinematic cutscenes and in the actual gameplay.

Story-wise, BD-1 is crucial to the plot since the droid is entrusted to guide Cal on a dangerous mission assigned by Master Cordova who left behind a list of the missing Jedi children who he believes will one day restore the Jedi Order and defeat the evil Empire. Without BD, there is no adventure. With the help of the droid, however, Cal is able to travel to various planets and discover and unlock important messages and clues left behind by Cordova. Aside from guiding Cal across various planets, BD-1 also serves several support functions in gameplay. He can function as a zipline, hack certain droid enemies, unlock doors, project holographic maps and even provide Cal with “stims” that allow him to heal himself during combat— something you definitely need since a number of gameplay mechanics are lifted from the Soulsborne genre; in other words, the game can be hard.

Truth be told, the first few hours of Fallen Order are a bit generic as players are slowly introduced to the world, but it doesn’t take long before the game starts to shine thanks to the relationships Cal forms with his colleagues who he meets along the way. Jedi: Fallen Order is a story of rebellion and finding hope, but it’s also a story of friendship and braving adversity and the game really excels by investing in the interpersonal dynamics of its entire cast, and not just the good guys but the villains as well. BD-1 is without a doubt the scene-stealer as he certainly adds some much-needed levity to the journey, but every character serves an important role (big or small) in moving the story forward. Of the entire cast, I have to make mention of Actress Debra Wilson who does a superb job in her motion-capture performance as Cere, a warrior who is wounded and haunted by her past. She is the moral center and becomes Cal’s mentor as they desperately try and survive in a world that seems entirely devoid of any hope. As the plot unfolds, Cere relives her darkest moments and confronts the mistakes of her past. In these scenes, Debra Wilson shines so brightly, you’d be forgiven for thinking she deserves an Oscar.

Jedi: Fallen Order is a fun, polished space odyssey that embraces the appeal of the Star Wars universe.

Given that Respawn Entertainment worked closely with Lucasfilm, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jedi: Fallen Order is officially part of the Star Wars lore. And despite operating in the shadow of the immensely popular series, it understands this and hardwires that understanding into its own DNA. And like the best Star Wars games, it borrows ideas from the films (and other reading material) while inserting flashbacks to flesh out the heroes and the conflict at hand. It certainly helps that the latest game in the canon explores new characters and new corners of the galaxy while remaining faithful to the core themes of the franchise and even if some of these storylines seem recycled from past stories, the new additions and the central mystery keeps the story engaging from start to finish. And while this story is much smaller in scale than the blockbuster movies, Jedi: Fallen Order raises the stakes in every chapter thanks to the omnipresent threat of the Inquisitors hunting Cal, who always seem like they’re one step away from closing in on the kill. And if you know anything about the future of the Star Wars universe, you know that Cal’s future isn’t looking too bright. All in all, the team at Respawn did an incredible job of exploring and expanding the universe of Star Wars, especially considering the dark time in which this story takes place.

Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order Cast

It’s clear when playing Fallen Order that the team was interested in creating a more nuanced, character-driven tale and in order to achieve that goal, they carefully crafted a story that weaves the player’s actions and interactions into Cal’s evolving journey. What we have here is a coming of age tale which sees Cal growing as a person while strengthening his relationship with the Force. Unfortunately, Cal Kestis is also somewhat of a dull protagonist. Sure, he has a tragic past (who doesn’t in this universe) but he’s also a blank slate, predictable and devoid of layers. Given that the story takes place after the Great Jedi Purge, you’d figure the writers could have used that trauma to create a far more complex character and inject Cal with a bit more life— a bit more personality— and/or a bit more fight; instead, he’s just a quiet, brooding loner. In the end, it feels like a missed opportunity, especially since actor Cameron Monaghan, who plays both the younger and older Cal, delivers the best performance he could with the writing he was given. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination but Cal is surprisingly the only disappointing factor of the game.


Jedi: Fallen Order’s best quality is exploration. What at first seems like a standard linear experience quickly reveals itself to be so much more. Levels are immense with plenty of shortcuts to unlock and puzzles to solve— and to help you navigate, Cal is given a handy 3D map that highlights which areas you can and cannot yet pass. Much of the game is spent exploring and it helps that each planet feels distinct and features various set pieces that liven up the proceedings. Although you do spend some time backtracking through these environments, it never becomes tedious as most areas are filled with tons of secrets such as new outfits for Cal to wear and additional stim canisters, which become valuable when facing off against a dangerous foe. As the level design quickly opens up, Cal gains new abilities that allow him to run along walls, jump higher and push and pull large objects that help him navigate through the treacherous ground.

Second Sister Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Jedi: Fallen Order Kicked My Ass

The combat in Fallen Order which has frequently been compared to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is easily the biggest surprise. Fighting relies heavily on blocking and carefully timed parries and the decision to make combat more focused on defensive strategy heightens the spectacle as well as the flow and pacing of the game. Jedi: Fallen Order requires patience and relies less on mindlessly button spamming and more on strategic mastery. You have to look at your surroundings, understand your enemies and identify their strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about timing, and exchanging lightsaber blows during riveting boss encounters is incredibly satisfying. And it’s not just with the boss battles either; even encounters with regular stormtroopers and alien creatures take precision and care, each battle becoming a ballet of blocks and dodges as you patiently wait for an opening to attack so you can inflict more damage. Playing in the Jedi Master mode is tough and I do mean tough. Jedi Grandmaster seems downright impossible, at least for me. You’ll die. And then you’ll die again; rinse and repeat. And did I mention that when you do die, you lose whatever XP you’ve gathered toward skill points and have to return to defeat whoever killed you in order to reclaim it. Fans of the Dark Souls series will love it; for the rest of us, you can always dial down the difficulty setting because unlike those From Software games, you do have a choice over which difficulty you want to play. Whether you’re an action game veteran or a casual Star Wars fan, the game has four difficulty modes that should accommodate everyone. That said, if you’re familiar with action games, I highly recommend Jedi Master for your first run; Story Mode and Jedi Knight are too easy and don’t provide enough of a challenge.

Jedi: Fallen Order may not receive points for originality, but Fallen Order is still one of the most entertaining games of the year.

Jedi: Fallen Order feels like a direct response by EA to its fans who’ve been very vocal about their disappointment with the company’s previous Star Wars games. Or maybe EA was just trying to please Disney who has made it clear they have no issue in parting ways with collaborators who don’t deliver quality products. Whatever the case, EA was wise to hand over the license to Respawn Entertainment who’ve proven they have a real talent for making spectacular single-player action/adventure games. In spite of some minor performance issues, Fallen Order does exactly what it set out to do. Not only does it feel like a genuine Star Wars game but it pumps new energy and life into the franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions. Fallen Order is great. Not groundbreaking. But one of the very best games of 2019 and one of the best Star Wars games ever made.

Jedi: Fallen Order re-awoke my love of Star Wars video games and turned my inner fanboy into my outer fanboy. Here’s hoping they make a sequel.

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Game Reviews

‘Donkey Kong Country’ – Still as Difficult, Demanding and Amazing to This Day



Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country: 25 Years Later

Back in 1994, Nintendo was struggling with their 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which wasn’t selling as well as they’d hoped it would. With the release of the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon, the Super Nintendo needed a visually impressive and original title to reinforce its market dominance. After three years of intense competition and heated rivalries, Nintendo desperately needed a hit that could prove the Super NES could output graphics on the same level as the forthcoming 32-bit consoles. They teamed up with Rare to produce Donkey Kong Country, a Mario-style platformer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard and with reason. Monumental! Monstrous! Magnificent! Use any term you want, there’s no denying how important this game was for Nintendo and Rare. The graphics for the time were above and beyond anything anyone would imagine possible for the 16-bit system. For a two-dimensional side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country conveys a three-dimensional sense of dept. The characters are fluidly animated and the rich tropical environments make use of every visual effect in the Super NES’s armory. Each stage has its own theme, forcing players to swim underwater, navigate through a misty swamp, swing from vines, or transport DK using a set of barrels (cannons) to advance. And let’s not forget the mine cart stages where you ride on rails and use your quick reflexes to successfully reach the end. Every level has little nooks and crannies too, hiding secret areas and passageways that lead to bonus games where you can earn bananas and balloons, which you can trade in for additional lives. And in Donkey Kong Country, you’re not alone; your simian sidekick Diddy tags along for the adventure. You control one character at a time, and each has his own unique strengths. Donkey Kong can dispatch larger enemies with his giant fists, while Diddy can jump a little higher than his bulky cousin. It isn’t the most original platforming feature, but it works. The two heroes can also rely on various animal friends to help guide them through their adventure. Predating Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island, Diddy and DK can also ride on the backs of Rambi the Rhino, Winky the Frog, Enguarde the Swordfish and more!

What’s really impressive about Donkey Kong Country is how it has withstood the passage of time. In 1994, Donkey Kong Country’s visuals were spectacular with its rendered 3D models, lively character animations, detailed backgrounds, and a lush jungle setting, and while some would argue the game is dated, in my eyes it still looks great to this day. Kong has heart, and he’s willing to show it in a game made with wit, excitement and moments of visionary beauty. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by David Wise is guaranteed to win listener’s over. Practically every piece on the soundtrack exudes a certain lyricism that has become a staple of Rare’s games – from its upbeat tropical introduction to the unforgettable climax which secures its place as one of the Super Nintendo’s most memorable boss fights. The result is an apt accompaniment to the colorful characters, tropical landscape, and tomfoolery that proceeds.

What really stands out the most about Donkey Kong Country after all of these years is just how challenging this game is.

But what really stands out the most after all of these years is just how challenging this game is. Donkey Kong Country is a platformer you can only finish through persistence and with a lot of patience. Right from the start, you’re in for one hell of a ride. In fact, some of the hardest levels come early on. There are constant pitfalls and Donkey Kong can only take a single hit before he loses a life. If your companion Diddy is following you he will take over but then if he takes a single hit you lose a life and it’s back to the start of a level. Needless to say, the game is unforgiving and requires quick reflexes and precise pattern memorization to continue. This game requires so much fine precision that it will definitely appeal to hardcore platforming veterans looking for a challenge and those that do are in for one hundred eighty minutes of mesmerization, astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills and ills. The only real downfall of Donkey Kong Country is the boss battles. Yes, Donkey Kong Country gave us some memorable villains such as Dumb Drum (a giant Oil Drum that spawns enemies after it hits the floor), and The Kremling King (who is responsible for stealing Donkey Kong’s Banana Hoard), but these enemies have very basic attack patterns and far too easy to defeat.

It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

Donkey Kong Country

Along with its two SNES sequels, Donkey Kong Country is one of the defining platformers for the SNES. The game looks great and sounds great and the platforming, while incredibly difficult, is still very fun. Rare did the unexpected by recasting a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero and it paid off in spades. It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

The beauty of the original is that there’s more to it than the oversized gorilla. Donkey Kong Country is truly amazing!

– Ricky D

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