torstai 15. syyskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Donkey Kong Land III (1997)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: October 1997
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

The classic Donkey Kong Country series had come to its indefinite conclusion with the release of Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! in 1996. As so totally expected, Rare announced Donkey Kong Land III was in development for the Game Boy in early 1997. The last 16-bit Donkey Kong game got mixed response mostly due to its awkward character and level design. The early screenshots of the new handheld game revealed those designs were carried over to what most people then believed to be a port of Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, just like Donkey Kong Land 2 was more or less a poor man's port of Diddy's Kong Quest. However, Donkey Kong Land III turned out a whole new game in the Donkey Kong franchise, heavily influenced by its SNES "counterpart", but certainly not even an attempt at a port. Guess what else? Although just as much of an artificially limited experience as its predecessors, and although I never could stand those God damn bears, as a gameplay experience Donkey Kong Land III is mostly quite all right thanks to better controls.

Dixie and Kiddy kick ass... again

A contest is held on the Northern Kremisphere for the discovery of the Lost World. Donkey and Diddy Kong have already been chosen to represent the Kong family, which upsets Dixie, since she and Kiddy were the ones to rescue them last time around. She partners up with Kiddy again and forces herself into the contest. Non-surprisingly, Baron K. Roolenstein and his Kremling Krew have also taken a great interest in the Lost World and its supposed wealth.

You are still here. What gives?
I get home from work at 10 P.M. My girlfriend's asleep, there's nothing on the tube except some absolute garbage like Big Brother, there are enough dirty dishes across the kitchen table to make it look like I have 37 kids, and the whole apartment smells like death. I'm not tired, I'm just bored, and depressed. There's nothing entertaining to do. Then I think to myself that hey, this might be a good time to pick up some old game and carry on with the blog. What was I covering right now? Oh yeah... Donkey Kong Land. How exciting. The first game was mediocre and repetitive, the second one was a lousy attempt to comfortably port a 16-bit masterpiece in gameplay to an 8-bit handheld form. Then we have a game released in the aftermath of the last game in the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy. I loved Donkey Kong Country 3. I wasn't crazy about its design values, but I loved the two main characters and the gameplay. My first thought going into Donkey Kong Land III was "let's get it over with". I didn't expect anything of it besides yet another half-assed port. That, it ain't. And it's also a decent game nearly worthy of the brand. Can I be serious? Yes, I can, and I am.

First off, the game looks exactly the same as its two predecessors. As a matter of fact, it tends to get even messier than either one of them. The level design's very faithful to the 16-bit counterpart, so there are those automatically side-scrolling vehicle levels with a quick tempo, for example. It's very hard to make out what's happening in those types of levels due to the high level of detail and all the sprites' tendency to disappear into the muddy background, and they are by far the hardest levels in the game just because of these kinds of issues. The following is no graphical concern, but since we got to the subject, underwater levels are also quite the chores due to Enguarde's total weakness as a playable character, from controls to the range of his charge. I actually get by better by using the Kongs whenever I have the choice. But, back to the graphics; technically the game looks good, but the much too detailed backgrounds can make the gameplay experience quite horrible from time to time.

Once again, there's no new music at all. All of the tracks are taken from Donkey Kong Country 3, composed by Eveline Fischer. It's greater work than I remembered - the average isn't close to Wise and Beanland's, but it's good, extremely fine. It's just that I can easily turn to the 16-bit and enjoy all this music in notably higher quality, as well as a better game...

Back to the trees.
...But then again, I had quite a lot of fun with Donkey Kong Land III. Why is that, you ask? Well, good general controls make moderate miracles happen, for one. Donkey Kong Land III is also devoid of many platform-specific quirks such as invisible walls, lack of traction, and the lack of decent collision detection. The slo-mo jumps and constant failures to simply grab ropes, two usual problems with the preceding Donkey Kong Land games are also eliminated from the fray. Donkey Kong Land III is just as fluid as an 8-bit Donkey Kong platformer can possibly be. Of course it's not any less limited than its predecessors when you start comparing it to the 16-bit game. There are no team moves since only one playable character is allowed on the screen at a time, and Kiddy's presence without that fabulous throw of his just makes no stinking difference whatsoever. Dixie's spin manouver is the one and only special ability that counts in the whole game. Other than that, both characters are identical in gameplay. They're extra health points rather than essential partners to each other.

Of course the game has more downsides than its relative limitations. First of all, it's easy to lose count of all the things wrong with the game's design... then again, some of those things were already wrong in the case of Donkey Kong Country 3, such as the inclusion of the bear brothers - only one of them's here to "represent", though, and at least those damn banana birds are gone. The level design in general is very random. There are no themes to the regions of the Kremisphere at all. It's just like in most of the first Donkey Kong Land game - it's a complete shuffle of all the different designs in Donkey Kong Country 3. Ski resorts, mountainsides, waterfalls, hollow trees and dusty old mills all serve as settings in a totally disorganized fashion. Lastly, Dixie, Kiddy and Wrinkly are seriously the only Kongs to make appearances in the game - even Donkey or Diddy are never seen. The Bazaar Bear is in charge of transport between regions and he gives crappy clues for ridiculous prices. Fortunately he's not nearly as important to your progress as his brothers in Donkey Kong Country 3.

I swear that Disney bee's
eyeballing me.
It's a bit more interesting to go for the DK Coins and bonus stages in this game than it was in the first two games, but it also takes up the least bit of effort out of all the games. Donkey Kong Land III is very easy to just run through, but being that the game's whole idea is to find the Lost World kind of puts weight on going for the collectables, which indeed is also quite easy in comparison to not just the other Donkey Kong Land games, but also the major titles. Well, at least it's entertaining. I can easily imagine that 14 years ago, this game would've been one of my favourite ways to suffer through bus trips - which I hate, if you haven't figured that out yet - even if I had already beaten it to the hilt a few times. It's all thanks to the relatively comfortable controls.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! was a good game. No, a great game - but the weakest title in the Donkey Kong Country series, pretty much due to its crappy design. Ironically, Donkey Kong Land III is the best title in the Donkey Kong Land series, even if it sports similar design. It's a more truly playable, tolerable and addictive game than its predecessors. I've said it before: it's amazing how much seemingly small tweaks to controls can make things better.

SOUND : 8.3


a.k.a. Donkey Kong Land III: The Race Against Time

GameRankings: 81.25%

The game was remade for the Game Boy Color in 2000 and retitled Donkey Kong GB: Dinky Kong & Dixie Kong, but it was released exclusively in Japan.

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