Video Game Review – Donkey Kong Land

Donkey Kong Land

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US Cover (the Japan & European covers all use this image, but with different text).

      Donkey Kong County was a huge hit on the Super Nintendo. It utilized impressive graphics that made it appear 3 dimensional in its 2D world. With the success of that game, not only did sequels follow, but also a Game Boy spinoff.

      The Game Boy game, Donkey Kong Land, is an entirely new game built for the system. However, there isn’t really anything new in it. Everything from the previous game is here; all the backgrounds and enemies are taken from the Super Nintendo game. But, you will be impressed at the graphics, as it looks like they somehow got the 3D look for the characters on the game boy (well, 3D white, black, & green, but still 3D!).

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Super Nintendo on the left, the Game Boy (Super Game Boy version) on the right.

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Game Boy Color version (released after Land), and the Game Boy again (No Super Game Boy).

      You can play as Donkey Kong or Diddy Kong. When you die, the other character comes out to replace you (as both characters can’t be on the screen at once). Both characters can jump on enemies, run by holding the A button, and spin when pushing the B button. Luckily, like the Super Nintendo game, you can still roll off the ledge and then magically jump in mid-air to reach places further away. Donkey Kong doesn’t have his slapping-the-ground move, but it wasn’t really helpful in the regular game anyway.

      Each level is a 2D sidescrolling and platforming level where you must get to the Exit on the other end of the screen. You will find a few Checkpoints along the way. All the enemies from the previous game are here, such as running, jumping, and stationary lizards, dangerous bees, and chomping lizards that you can’t roll into. New enemies for this game include flying pigs that travel in horizontal lines, and a sea creature that moves vertically very quickly. The enemies that are most annoying are the rolling barrels that turn into stationary snake generators, as they can never be destroyed and caused me lots of deaths when trying to jump over them or jump across a platform. Once you destroy an enemy, they are gone for good (unless you die, of course) and no amount of running 4-5 screens over and back will resurrect them; you will just have to forget bouncing off of them to travel along the trees for now.

      The enemies aren’t the only thing that returns; all the backgrounds from the previous game– pyramids, jungle, factory, ships, caves, and more–return also, as if they were ported to the Game Boy and just had the color removed. Even many of the songs appears in Game Boy form and are still fun to listen to. There are some original songs, but they aren’t as engaging.

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Seen here is familiar territory–snow levels and underwater chase levels.

      Other things that return are barrel blasting levels, swimming away from a sea creature that’s chasing you, and rope levels where you magically go up or down quickly while holding onto them. There is no mine cart level, but it wouldn’t work here: the screen is very small, and you are a little large, so sometimes it can be hard to see that an enemy just entered on screen until it is too late when you are running. If you are walking, you will be fine. The new level type is a moving platform that moves a different direction ever time you jump on it. This level is the most annoying, as anytime you try to land, the thing has already moved, and you’re trying to calibrate your landing on the small platform to compensate for it’s movement, you sometimes walk off into death pits instead. Plus, if you try to jump on enemies that block your path, you will propel yourself upward so quickly, the screen quickly jerks with you, meaning you just lost where the platform went, as well as the entire screen you were just on. And then you fall back down and hope you know where the platform is.

      You start out on a map screen, and select the level you want to play. Once you beat the level, you return to the map to select the next one. Every level must be completed expect for 2-3 of them. At certain places you will get an explosive barrel at the end of the stage, and you can use it on 1 of 2 rocks, each leading to a different level.

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You can use an explosive at the end of a certain level to chose a path. Also, here’s Rambi.

      You will want to collect the letters K, O, N, & G that are in each level. Whereas in the original game, they were only an extra life, here you need to collect them to save your game after each level.

      You can also collect bananas, with every 100 giving you an extra life. There are also 1-up balloons. The new addition is Donkey Kong coins. Every so often, you will enter a secret room with a barrel in the sky moving left to right, and a button on the ground. You have to jump in the air and land on the button, which makes the barrel shoot out a coin in one of 5 directions. You have to collect it quickly before it goes through he walls or floor, and if you do, you get an extra life. Rambi the rhino returns for you to ride to charge into enemies. Espresso the ostrich returns to help you glide, but he is only available in bonus stages.

      There are 1 to 2 secrets in each level (though none in underwater stages). You will know if you entered every secret area when an exclamation mark appears near the stage on the map screen. Secrets are found by looking for secret barrels to jump into and jumping on holes in the ground to summon magic ropes. Oddly, there is only one secret where you destroy a wall like in the Super Nintendo game (in the first level).

      As with any game, there are 4 bosses that must be beaten, and all of them are original. The first is a flying manna ray that moves faster with each hit. The second is a clam that shoots pearls at you underwater, and you have to make sure he hits you where the reflecting item is. The third is a mole that comes out of 1 of 3 holes who throws his hat; simply jump over it and land on his head. Finally, King K. Rool returns, and you have to hit him 12 times. He throws his hat just like in the first game, but after 6 hits, he will start randomly throwing, running faster, and start bell-flopping, with rolling under him being the only safe options.

      After you beat the game, you only get the credits. There was no story in the beginning, so I wasn’t expecting anything, but I also got 100% of the game completed, and there was no reward for that either.

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The Super Game Boy version looks great, unfortunately,
the rest of the game doesn’t look like this and is only monochrome.

      Story: 3 out of 10

The story exists only in the manual. The game itself has nothing, not even after you beat the game. The game happens because Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong bet Cranky Kong they could still have a fun adventure without amazing graphics and sound. The story in a little amusing in the book.

      Sound: 10 out of 10

The Game Boy is playing the Super Nintendo music through it’s speakers. The songs are still addicting here.

      Graphics: 10 out of 10
The graphics all match the Super Nintendo, only they are black and white. Even with a black-and-white pseudo 3D look, you can normally see where you are going (unless you run at full speed), and nothing blends into the background

      Controls: 10 out of 10
I mentioned every control above. The controls are simple to use and never interfere with you enjoying the game.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

The game is moderately challenging, but what makes it harder is having to collect the KONG letters in every level just so you can save. This forces you to try out areas that might be secrets (or death) and do more challenging things than you normally would. Luckily, every loaded game starts you out at 6 lives.

      Fun: 15 out of 20

This game was fun, as it was pretty much Donkey Kong Country on Game Boy; you can’t really go wrong here. I just had some problems with the quickly popping-up enemies and the annoying screen cut that happens when you jump off someone into the sky.

      Replay: 5 out of 10

The replay happens while you are playing the game. See, if you don’t collect all the KONG letters, you can’t save. And it’s usually easier to go into the level you know than to start an entirely new level where you don’t know what to expect. In addition, you will replay levels to find all the secret entrances. As such, you won’t want to replay it again, as you will already have done so.

      Extras: 2 out of 10

There are no extra features or special things in Donkey Kong. The only extra I count is the bonus game and the coins you collect for it to earn extra lives. The other is because it’s Super Game Boy compatible. The title screen is impressive, showing yellow, red, and brown all at once, but once you start playing, you can only play in monochrome. Annoying, every time you enter a special room, the color resets to the defaults, but luckily you can just hit X to turn it back to your preference.

      Bonus Points:


Total Points: 65 out of 90

This is definitely worth a play on your Game Boy. It’s a simple sidescroller where you just jump on people, jump over platforms, and occasionally do some more variety than just jump on enemies heads. That, combined with the fact you can save on every level (if you find the KONG letters) means you can pick it up and play anytime without having to defeat entire worlds before you can save.

Review Also At:
      VideoGameGeek / RetroWareTV / GameFAQS

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