5 Things That are Wrong with Donkey Kong Country 3 (GBA)
Hello, and welcome to my yearly episode of Disappointing Remakes! One of my favorite game series from Nintendo would have to be Donkey Kong Country. Originally created by English game developer RareWare, all three games on the SNES were platformers of the very highest caliber. Huge levels, tons of collectibles, catchy music, fun bosses, these games just had it all. I also enjoyed the Wii game Donkey Kong Country Returns, which is amazing because the developer of that game, Retro Studios, was able to capture the old RareWare formula perfectly. It is a series that will live on forever as a big part of my childhood.
Of course like most good SNES games, they had ports on the Game Boy Advance with new features added. The ports themselves were pretty damn good. The graphics still looked good, the new mini-games were very fun, and the music was still awesome, pushing the GBA's speakers to it's absolute limits. The ports of the first two games are, in my opinion, perfect remakes. The third one, however, isn't. It's still a good game, but there are some things that just bug me about it. To show my point, we're going to do something different this year. Rather than a full review, I'm going to do a countdown about the things that I think are wrong with the Game Boy Advance port of Donkey Kong Country 3. Without any more filler, let's do this!
5. Wrinkly Kong is Completely Useless
When you start the game, just like in the original you pay a visit to Wrinkly Kong (who in this version is now living in a temple instead of a cave apartment with TV and N64. Weird...), who tells you to go see Funky Kong. In the original you had to visit her in order to save your game, but now you can save your game anywhere, so what does she do now? JACK SQUAT. Yes, after your first visit with her, you never need to see her again until you've found all the Banana Birds! RareWare, why couldn't you think of something else for her to do? In the GBA port of the first game you gave Candy Kong a new mini-game because she didn't need to save your game anymore, and in the port of the second game Wrinkly could give you advice as well as check on your scrapbook (we'll talk more about that later), so why not give her the same attention you gave her before? Were Cranky Kong and Swanky Kong really the only ones that deserved new mini-games? (we'll get to them later too) Not to mention if you do visit her, she still makes jokes about saving your game despite that not being her purpose anymore. This was her last game before her off-screen death, she deserves better than this!
4. The New Soundtrack
Something people always remember about a good video game is its soundtrack. The main themes of Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda are some of the most enduring electronic ear-candy in history. Naturally, the Donkey Kong Country games had their own share of catchy music to play the game to, and when the first two games were brought to the GBA, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they sounded despite the GBA's small speakers. The third game was pretty jarring for me though, and why is that? Because RareWare had the idea to change the whole game's soundtrack! It's not that the new music is bad, as I did find myself humming some of the songs to myself later. (and I did notice a couple remixed tracks from the first Donkey Kong Country) However, I still call this a misstep by RareWare because they're changing something that did not need to be changed just to give the game a new coat of paint. I love your music David Wise, but just stick to the original soundtrack for a game next time.
3. Poor Integration of the Mini-Games
One of the things I enjoy about a remake of a game is when they add in fun new mini-games. For instance, the DS game Ultimate Mortal Kombat, in addition to the original arcade game of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, also included a small side-game called Puzzle Kombat where the goal is to damage the opponent by clearing colored blocks. The Super Mario Advance games for the GBA all did this too, throwing in the entirety of the arcade game Mario Bros in addition to whatever the main Mario game was. It is something most people have come to expect when a game is ported to a new console.
Naturally the GBA ports of the Donkey Kong Country games did this too, but there they actually integrated them into the game's completion percentage. The first two games required you to play every mini-game the Kong family offered, as they all offered rewards that add up to each game's 100%. Such is not true for the third game though, as Funky Kong's games are the only ones you need to finish completely. For Cranky and Swanky, you only need to play their games once in order to get their prize. ONCE. Now, one could argue that Swanky's games in the original weren't required to beat the game 100%, but if you integrated the mini-games into that percentage so well in the first two games, why not do it for the third? Extra lives and coins really aren't that hard to come by in either version of the game!
2. No Opening Cutscene
Another thing I like when remakes do is when they add brand new cutscenes to the game, as they allow the creators to expand upon the original game's story. The game Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3 for the GBA actually added in an opening cutscene where one of the Koopa Kids invades a castle and steals that King's magic wand, turning him into an animal. Kirby Super Star Ultra for the DS also did this, replacing the sprite-based cutscenes of the original with CGI cutscenes, including some new ones made for the new games in this version. Its a practice that I think more game companies should look into when porting a game.
The first two GBA Donkey Kong Countrys did this as well, actually showing Diddy's failure to stop the Banana hoard's theft, as well as Donkey Kong's capture in the second game. I was excited to see how the third game would open up, as this one actually had more story in it than any other Donkey Kong Country game. Unfortunately, it just starts you off right when Dixie Kong is meeting up with Wrinkly Kong. What the hell!? The first two had great opening cutscenes! I would have loved to see Baron K. Roolenstein capture Donkey and Diddy, put them into KAOS, and then launch it upon the country! I'm aware that the original game didn't have an opening cutscene, but this is not the original game, this is a remake. I expected an expansion upon the original's story, but instead I get a meeting with a useless Wrinkly Kong who lets birds come to her while she becomes one with the force or something. What a rip-off.
1. No Scrapbook
And now we come to my biggest problem with this remake, the lack of a picture book. In the first two remakes, there was an extra feature where you had to collect pictures of various things for your scrapbook. It was basically an Achievment system for the first two games, where you had to get pictures by defeating an enemy a certain way, having Rambi break down a certain wall, slapping the giant bee's stinger, and many other things. The pictures themselves looked great, showing off the original artwork for every character and enemy, as well as several pieces of artwork featured in game magazines, boxes, and manuals. I always enjoy when a game has a museum option, from Super Smash Bros. Melee's Trophy Gallery, to Sonic Generations' art museum. (actually, its become quite common in Sonic's games...)
When I heard that the third game was coming to the GBA, I was very excited to see what this game's scrapbook would be like, as the last two had been so great. But when I found out there wasn't one, I was royally ticked off. Why wouldn't you include this feature in this game, when you did for the last two? There was absolutely no reason to leave it out! Heck, I would have been okay if it wasn't part of the game's 100%, but no. They had to just completely take out what was probably my favorite thing about these remakes. It was a very big misstep by Rareware, and it shouldn't have been done.
So there are my reasons why I consider the GBA version of Donkey Kong Country 3 to be a Disappointing Remake. But let's give credit where it's due. I did like how they added in several new levels, creating a whole new world for them. The mini-games, while not integrated well, are still pretty fun, and in Funky's case pretty challenging. The graphics are still as impressive and fun to look at as they were on the SNES, and the gameplay still kicks butt. In closing, it's a good remake, I just think it could have been much better. If the flaws I mentioned don't bother you, I say check it out. Otherwise, just buy the original on the Wii's Virtual Console. Going off to play some more Donkey Kong, this is mariomaster88, signing out!