torstai 25. elokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Donkey Kong Land (1995)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: June 1995
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

Donkey Kong Country was a huge success that Nintendo immediately wanted to capitalize on by carrying the rejuvenated Donkey Kong franchise over to their handheld, but there was no way the Game Boy could've run half of a port of the 16-bit mammoth of a game. Instead, they assigned Rare on a mission to create a whole new game, a handheld sequel to Donkey Kong Country, that would naturally be stripped down of many core elements and advanced gameplay, but still appeal to the previous title's fans by its look alone. Donkey Kong Land is decent handheld entertainment, but it feels like it was primarily meant to ask consumers a question: "think it's time to buy a SNES already?"

And so I became one with the tree

Cranky Kong grows tired of hearing about Donkey Kong Country, and makes a bold statement: the game was a big hit only because of its impressive graphics and sound, and Donkey and Diddy would never make it in an 8-bit game. To prove this, he persuades King K. Rool to steal the Kongs' banana hoard once more, and challenges Donkey and Diddy to another quest, this time on the 8-bit Game Boy.

Please, let go of the rope at
the right time this time.
In the last year, a total of three people have asked me if I've got something personal against the Game Boy. Absolutely not, on the contrary. I totally acknowledge the original Game Boy as the father and mother of all handhelds. But, I also totally get where you're coming from; I am usually harsh on games ported to the Game Boy. I think that back in the day, game developers really didn't care if they fucked up or not. They took a game that really didn't belong on the Game Boy, but made a port anyway. It was all about the money, the game's playability on a very basic handheld was totally secondary to the amounts of cash the name on the box was to make alone. Of course a handheld game is stripped and limited in comparison to another version on a major system, but that raises an important question: was there any good reason (from a consumer and player's point of view) to make it? Donkey Kong Country was a simple platformer with complex, yet easily learned controls. I can't deny that taking a trip in Donkey Kong Land makes me shiver in fear. Fear for the franchise's wellbeing, and fear for my sanity. Let's be as diplomatic as we can here: is Donkey Kong Land a decent handheld platformer? Sure. Does it meet the standards set by Donkey Kong Country as well as it could with half the bits and none the colour? No.

There's no denying that being able to recreate the ACM sprites and uphold the framerate of the original SNES game on the Game Boy are accomplishments. However, I guess that at some point of development, Rare tried to overdo it, they tried to best themselves and forgot that the product was to end up in the hands of players. There are levels which have no background art at all, while others are so detailed that they're almost unplayable - due to the playable characters' sudden disappearance into the background. They become one with it. In the Monkey Mountain region, you might have to resort to the camera itself to figure out where Junior or Diddy is. Even if that isn't so hard, you sometimes really have to work to see all the dangers ahead. As a neutral note, some of the level designs are taken from Donkey Kong Country 2, which was in development and bound for a release about five months after this game.

Surprisingly, movement in
water is smoother than the
movement on land.
The music's an even score between David Wise and Graeme Norgate, and that should be enough said. It's really a shame Wise's been on such a hiatus for the last 15 years along with every other Rare key composer, only emerging with a measly, periodical couple of games to inform people he's still alive, since he really is such an amazing composer, right up there with Nobuo Uematsu and Akira Yamaoka on my list of top dogs in the business. Some resampled Donkey Kong Country songs, some wholly rewritten ones, and some brand new, excellent tracks. The Game Boy did not become famous for great music, but Donkey Kong Land has got a lot of it in store - music is the game's finest trait. The sound effects are resampled straight off Donkey Kong Country.

The gameplay strikes the untrained as decent, to people like me who have played Donkey Kong Country on the SNES for well over a half of their lives, it's more or less one's worst nightmare. What we know even before we try it, is that one very important button is gone, the Y button. In this case, it only means that one of the least essential abilities, Junior's ground slam is ousted. You can still run, roll and do a cartwheel... these abilities are all assigned to one single button just as before, but here it may and will become a problem due to the unstable traction. There are really no huge gameplay differences between Junior and Diddy, they are both just as agile. I think the sole purpose of squeezing two playable characters into this particular game was to grant you two health points.

Climbing these nets is a
nightmare come true.
When it came to platformers, especially those with a tempo like Donkey Kong's, the original Game Boy had one huge problem: invisible walls. They aren't present per se in Donkey Kong Land; what we've got is invisible MUD. The jumps work, but there's a huge lag that makes you fear edges. Very often you will find yourself jumping back to where you jumped from, and thinking twice before trying the jump again. Time itself seems to slow whenever you're trying to cross a gap that's wider than usual. The enemies are randomly placed, regardless of what kind of level you are in, and there never seems to be a consistent array of enemies in one level. It's a total mash-up, like Rare tried to include as many different enemies as they could. Otherwise, the levels in the game are extremely repetitive, and there's no rock solid theme to any of the regions. The first one is once again Gangplank Galleon - which features a level on the deck of a pirate ship one instance, and a level that resembles one on Gorilla Glacier the second. The same levels rotate, constantly. Specific stipulations (such as ice) and backgrounds may change, but practically it's the same rotation, throughout the game and its four regions. It's a boring game, with less than sufficing controls, which become most evident when you're jumping over gaps or between ropes. The gameplay in a very easy-to-understand type of nutshell.

There are no "extra" Kongs in this game, and the plot of the game is only referenced in the manual. Rambi the rhino and Expresso the ostrich return as animal buddies; Winky and Enguarde's methods of movement alone would've killed the capacity, I guess. Rambi and Expresso usually appear in bonus levels only. The bonus levels are quite few in numbers. I don't know for certain, since I didn't go for the 100% completion (first time in this franchise) - but in this game, it seems to be more important to find all Kong letters, and these coins that have Junior and Diddy's faces on them. Some special bonus levels give you a chance to easily gain a huge amount of bonus lives, and these coins are used as currency in them.

Welcome to the land of the
snow and ICE.
Since gaining extra lives is relatively easy, and at least to me, the thrill of going to great lengths to find all bonus levels just isn't there, Donkey Kong Land is a quite easy game when it comes to the gameplay; the only true challenge lies in being able to see what's going on. As for the lifespan... well, once you've hit 100%, you're probably done with the game, regardless whether you're an avid Donkey Kong fan or not. That was not quite the case with the game's 16-bit predecessor, which still works as a great warm-up and a great game in itself, whenever you feel like taking on the SNES trilogy. Highly repetitive levels are something which did not happen in any of the 16-bit games, here they're standard.

Donkey Kong Land is certainly not bad, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who has instant access to the big games in the franchise. It just doesn't feel good to play it. I think Rare should've consciously downgraded the graphics by a lot, to a more classic standard and go for an entertaining game - instead of an initially good looking game, that turns out a graphical mess and not a very fun or smooth gameplay experience. In spite of my disappointment, I'm heading into the sequels with moderate hope.

SOUND : 9.2


GameRankings: 71.80%

The game cartridge is coloured banana yellow.

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti