The Donkey Kong Country trilogy, produced by Rare for the Super Nintendo is often considered as one of the best examples of 2D platforming’s peak during the 16-bit era. And its easy to see why, all three games in the series have an incredible graphic style, fantastic soundtrack and some of the smoothest controls you’ll ever experience. In all respects each of these games is a masterpiece and worthy of a spot in the halls of gaming’s greats… So why is it so many people seem to dislike the final game in the original trilogy? Nearly everywhere I’ve looked I see someone badmouthing DKC 3 while the original and 2 are heaped with praise and to me, that just makes no sense. So I ask, why do people hate DKC 3?
The biggest reason that is often cited is that despite being called Donkey Kong Country 3, the main ape himself is nowhere to be found until the very (very) end of the adventure after also serving as the one in need of rescue in Donkey Kong Country 2. This meant that the leading roles fell to Diddy Kong’s girlfriend Dixie (also introduced in DKC 2) and series newcomer, the heavyweight baby Kiddy Kong. Unlike in DKC 2 (where it was Diddy and Dixie on the adventure) Kiddy and Dixie offer dramatically different play styles from each-other and the level design is more varied than before to accommodate the heavier and slower Kiddy and quicker floater Dixie, so why does Kiddy elicit Jar-Jar levels of vitriol from fans?
Well for one – he’s a pointless character. The Donkey Kong series already has a slower, heavier character. Maybe you heard of him? His name is one every one of these games! Donkey Kong could have easily slotted into Kiddy’s spot and no one would have batted an eye. Actually it would have had a nice bit of poetic duality to have Donkey repay the favor and head off to save Diddy from the Kremlings. But Kiddy’s who we got and while he’s not a terrible character he’s also, well a toddler and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s aren’t a lot of games out there that star cranky babies, so this casting may have hurt the game’s initial reception.
The next reason why I think people were uninterested in Donkey Kong Country 3 is that, in addition to being the third release in the series in less than three years the game was also released at an extremely odd time – a few months after the launch of the Nintendo 64. When the game was released most players hadn’t even gotten a chance to finish Super Mario 64, billed as the future of platformers and a much more interesting game than the third game in a series on hardware that was 48-bits behind. So even if DKC 3 had been the best game in the series (and honestly – it might be) most folks had moved on from the Super Nintendo by the time it hit store shelves.
The last thing I want to point out as to why some folks might not find DKC 3 all that interesting is the setting. Taking place in the Northern Kremisphere (great name) Donkey Kong Country 3 moves away from the tropical island and pirate fortress setting of its predecessors for a Nordic feel, jam-packed with white water rapids, snow-capped mountains and more log cabins than you can shake a fist at. While not necessarily a poor setting it felt a lot less imaginative than the previous games in the series and nothing in the game even comes close to matching the wild and creative settings of the first two games. Seriously, how can you compare a redwood forest to a freaking haunted amusement park?!
I like Donkey Kong Country 3, I really do. In fact every time I replay the series (and I do that a lot) I can’t wait to get to this game and I have blast most of the way through (those waterfall levels on the other hand). But while I really love this game I also totally get the criticism it gets. Its formula people were tired of, on a dead system and made some really odd artistic decisions that alienated long time fans. So even though the underlying game was (and still is great) it’s definitely the odd one out of the trio.
But what do you think? Do you love or hate Donkey Kong Country 3? Let us know in the comment section below!