As with all great games, reviewing DKC is a huge challenge. One does not simply write a DKC review into Mordor. People! It’s not that easy! But stick with me. Ride it out. I’ll do my best to convey to you the essence of what DKC did for the SNES gaming era.
DKC came out in 1994, in an era when the Super Nintendo was approaching the peak of its potential, in terms of graphics, sound, and innovation. Super Mario World had redefined the platform game genre a few years earlier, and showed that platform games didn’t have to be single-sitting games – that you could play them in multiple sittings and save your progress and build on your skill over time.
DKC did it again, only it did it combining the majesty of the SNES’ graphics engine, interesting music, lushly coloured stages that were both challenging and fun, and, most importantly, a crack-addled reward system that invited competitive play.
What’s more, the game inspired creative works that lead to an animated series, and some amazing fan fiction and artwork.
The thing that makes DKC great above all else is the way they tuned the operand conditioning system. The primary goal of the game is to complete all the stages. Then there are a buttload of secondary goals, which include finding all of the secret passages, most of which are very non-obvious; and, gathering a quasi-infinite amount of bananas, and other tokens. They might as well have wired a shot of serotonin into your brain, and given you mini injections each time you do one of the desired things, like pick up a banana, or a letter to spell the word KONG, or, an animal token to get to the special stage, or a red balloon, or green balloon or… ghaaaaaa! Just give me the crack cocaine! It’s easier! And less addictive!
When you look at some of the best games in history, it has always been the ability to properly manipulate the reward system, to make it compelling to the player, that has kept them playing, and ultimately, increased their enjoyment. DKC lets you do all of this, and then play with a friend, in challenge mode, or co-op mode. It lets you save your progress so that you can continue another day, and you will.
Verdict: DKC distills what is most important in a platform game: fun, challenging, well thought-out reward structure, replay potential, and engaging and atmospheric environments, both audio and visual. DKC is a classic that lead to two excellent sequels. It is one of the many gems that emerged from the Rare-Nintendo partnership.