35 reviews liked by TheMasterDS
Dixie Kong is the lead in this game, and after her all-star showing in DKC2, I'm happy to see her in the spotlight! She's joined by controversial cousin, Kiddy Kong, who brings back the tag-team balance from DKC1 as a heavyweight. And together, they evolve the tag-team mechanic of buddying up from DKC2, but because of the lightweight/heavyweight dynamic of Dixie and Kiddy, their moves are different, which encourages switching Kongs more often as a result. Dixie can toss Kiddy like a bowling ball, an offensive attack that she can even ride on top of, or toss him in the air for him to then come crashing down, breaking cracks in the ground found numerously across the entire game, which reveal several goodies and secrets. But Kiddy tosses Dixie more like in how the mechanic works in DKC2, where it helps with accessing higher platforms and items out of reach. This switching around to do different tasks contributes to the general theme of more methodical puzzle-centric gameplay this game has over DKC 1 and 2. And gets you playing as each Kong more often for real gameplay reasons, instead of artificial ones. (also Kiddy has a fun secret move where he can skip across the water, only really useful in one area, but you can do it wherever water surface is found, and it's just fun to do, heh)
And that methodical, more slow paced, puzzle-centric gameplay, is especially exemplified with the new animal buddy, and my favorite animal buddy, Ellie the Elephant. An adorable baby elephant and a multipurpose animal friend, who among many things can suck up barrels from afar, use them as a shield or toss them herself, has the ability to suck up and squirt water out from her trunk, she can swim on the surface of water itself, and she has the surprising ability of being afraid of mice (it comes in handy later, I promise!). She replaces Rambi the rhinoceros in this game, and that's a bold move by the team, but it's another element that highlights the direction of this game, no longer about charging ahead, but more about stepping back, thinking, and then taking action. One of my favorite stages in the game involves Ellie, Bobbing Barrel Brawl, a river stage that has you tossing barrels into the water where they'll float, to then use them as platforms to jump on top of and across the river, as to not get bitten by the hungry feedfish Nibbla below. Some of these platforming challenges involve you to suck up water, shoot an enemy carrying a barrel, for it to drop to the river below to act as a platform, or sucking up a barrel from a distance to clear the path. There's several of these moments where you'll come to stop, and work out the puzzle to advance forward. This game is full of them, and I love them! In fact, the DK coin in this game, is attached to an enemy's shield in every stage, and in many of these stages, you have to figure out a way to kill this enemy from behind using a steel keg, to gain access to the coin. Methodical, more slower paced, puzzle-centric gameplay. That's DKC3!
And the stages keep throwing new ideas at you, or twists on familiar formulas. Some very fun and creative stages that I enjoyed were Ripsaw Rage, where a giant two-man saw is forcing you upwards a redwood tree as it's actively being sawed in half. Low-G Labyrinth, a pipe maze stage where your movement is slowed, but your jump gains extra height. Kong-fused Cliff, where you're climbing a single rope upwards, well, I should say wick, as the bottom is on fire burning the rope, forcing you to climb! I could go on and on, but you get the gist! Fun ideas that really put the fire underneath ya, and have you playing with the conventional mechanics you've come to learn through the series in twisted and new exciting ways!
The boss battles are also much more methodical, and it starts with the first boss, Belcha the giant sentient barrel. It's a "push you off the side of the stage" type of fight, and you have to figure out how to push this giant barrel dude off of the edge before they do it to you... and to do that, you gotta observe their attacks. They spit out normal sized barrels that roll across the ground, what do you do with that? Jump on the barrel, break it open, then comes out... a bug? What do you do with that now!? You figure out you can grab the bugs after you knock them onto their backs with a jump, and then you'll put the pieces together, to throw those bugs back into Belcha's mouth, causing them to munch it down and burp, which sends the giant barrel boss backwards! The whole boss can't even hurt you, it's just a big puzzle! And this, once again, exemplifies the more thoughtful approach to gameplay theme running through the game, and I love it!
Another boss I'll highlight, because it's such a fun surprise, is Bleak the snowman. Now, throughout the game there are Swanky Kong tents, which let you play a minigame of hit-the-target, which is a behind the back game, where you move left and right, and throw little ping pong balls onto targets that pop up in the background. Hit all the targets, win a bunch of coins and bananas. Okay, cool, seems like a distraction that's completely independent from the main platforming game, right?... WRONG! These minigames train you, unbeknownst to the player, for a boss fight coming ahead, where you whip snowballs at an evil Snowman for the entire battle, using the exact same Swanky Kong minigame engine. Tutorials in disguise! It's so cool and surprising! I love this design direction, it delights over and over again!
And the theme of mystery and surprise, getting you to think, running through the undercurrent of the game, is also part of the story. You see, in this game, K. Rool is not the big bad boss, no, it's a new guy, named KAOS... And when he showed up, DK and Diddy mysteriously disappear. I won't spoil things, but again, you come to find things aren't what they seem! A fresh take on the formula, and it stars the surprising duo of Dixie and Kiddy, a female led adventure, better than the rest!
Through the adventure, there's another major player in the game that kept me captivated, and that is the overworld. The worldmap in this game rivals the worldmap in Super Mario World, full of exploration, secrets, and yep, surprises! In fact, the water portions of the overworld are free roam, you aren't tied to a path, so it creates a greater sense of a world you're exploring, and thus, more immersive and alive than ever before. Even lets you, in moments, choose the order in which you enter different worlds of the game, for a more non-linear style of play. And littered throughout this overworld are secret caves, and villagers known as the Brothers Bear. A family of bears that run shops, give you tips, spread secrets, and help with puzzles to advance you through the game, as well as getting you to find all of the banana birds (they're the weird little doo-hickies hidden in all the secret caves throughout the world, awarded by winning a game of Simon, funnily enough). These bears are full of character, dialogue, and fun trading sequences. A delight for sure. Also on this overworld, is Funky Kong's new shop, a rental store where as you progress through the game, Funky builds you new vehicles to access more of the map. Boats, Hovercrafts, Jetskis, this alone is fun as a game, as you can move through the waters finding more secrets! Heck, the entire hidden final world of this game, is only accessed via a secret maneuver you have to perform with one of these boats, a secret you learn from one of the Brothers Bear. It all connects, and again, aligns with the theme of mystery, surprise, and methodical puzzle-centric gameplay of DKC3. I love it. And getting all of the DK coins in this game, gives you one of my favorite final rewards in any game, a new vehicle from Funky that allows you more freedom of movement that's extremely cathartic, and even grants you access to all of the Banana Birds, which results in the true ending of the game. It's a Eggs-cellent!
Cons: One major con, I do have to address, is the music isn't quite up to par with DKC1 or 2. It's not bad, but it doesn't come close to the awe of either of those games. No track in this game will have your jaw on the floor, like say, Aquatic Ambiance or Stickerbush Symphony did. But that isn't to say there are no hits, I loved the water track, the cliffside track, and I especially love the moody overworld and map music, which composed by Evelyne Novakovic, is really quite mesmerizing. David Wise took a backseat, and didn't compose any stage music for this game, so that's probably a reason why there's less iconic tunes, though if you'd like, he did compose the GBA version of this game with an entirely brand new soundtrack. In some ways it's better, in some ways not. But I like that two soundtracks exist for this game nowadays. Pick your favs! Another little nitpick is the art direction. There was a new team that worked on this game, and the new art style is really hard to pinpoint... Unlike DKC 2, there's no say "pirates" theme, or anything like that, it's more mysterious I spose, which works well enough.
Also... once again, you can't play as Donkey Kong. But hey, at least this time we got the lightweight/heavyweight balance back! Kiddy Kong is fine by me! Anyway, DK would've taken the spotlight away from Dixie, I think it's cool she got her moment to shine with this game!
What it means to me: When I first saw this game show up in Nintendo Power, I admit, I was confused! Kiddy Kong?? Who?? Why? Replacing DK again? And Diddy too?? Clearly I didn't get it yet. But then, I saw Ellie the elephant, and this may be a little bias, but elephants are my favorite animal, and an elephant animal buddy was the animal buddy I had wanted most ever since DKC1... And it turned out they were everything I wanted! So it gave me an open mind, and getting used to the changes did take some time, but once they worked their way in, oh man, this game became the most immersive DKC adventure yet, and it quickly moved up the ranks to my favorites! Nowadays, I do prefer the momentous forward movement quick-paced gameplay of DKC1, it's just more fun on replays, but DKC3 is still a game I come back to again and again, I love it so much, and it's underrated as hell. Yeah, I think this game is better than DKC2, I really do, and I hope this review touches upon why I feel that way!
And just as DKC 1's animal buddies had mechanics pushing its theme of momentous forward movement, a lot of the animal buddies in this game, push the theme of adventure and exploration moreso. Newcomer Squitter the spider lets you create platforms in mid-air, which begs the player to create plaforms upwards to the side and everywhere, helping you explore your surrounding. Squawks the Parrot returns, but this time, you play as them, as you can fly, well, anywhere you'd like! Even old animal buddies have new moves that encourage experimentation and exploration, like Enguarde or Rambi's charge move to break through walls, or newcomer Rattly (Winky replacement) who has a greater focus on vertical movement. They all play great, and have top notch design!
Speaking of new characters, newcomer Dixie Kong is a standout in this game! She has so much style and personality, wearing a pink beret, with a long banana-shaped blonde ponytail. She uses her ponytail to slowly float across the stage or for safe landings. A very helpful ability considering how tricky the platforming can sometimes be. And it makes her a great character for beginner players, and in general, I prefer her over Diddy, as she's hardly slower than him, and provides the same weight class abilities. She's excellent, and it's always a fun time beating a stage with her as she jams out on the electric guitar. Certainly one of my favorite Kongs in the series. And the tag-team system is back in this game, but with a new ability where you can put your partner on your back, and toss them as a projectile, or to gain access to higher ground. It's the perfect ability for the stronger theme of exploration this game has.
The new archetypes for each area you explore ooze atmosphere, most of which express danger, such as pirate ship wrecks, lava rivers, mineshafts, swamps, killer beehives, haunted forests, trap ridden jungles, broken up amusement parks, damp dungeons, icebergs, and most memorable of all, thorny bramble bushes that climb towards the sky. Each of which look beautiful, and carry a tinge of sadness to them, they're all on enemy territory, Crocodile Isle, after all. And the music accompanying them, by David Wise, is mesmerizing, haunting, beautiful, and once again, spiritual. With the most popular new song being Stickerbush Symphony, to accompany the bramble stages. It's unbelievably good, like, best song in any game ever type of good. All of this is to say, you'll be sucked into this world, and it's not a lighthearted hoppy boppy jont, it's somewhat introspective, moody, and serious... Strangely enough.
Cons: For me personally, I do prefer the more nature oriented vibes of DKC1 (and later games in the series as well) as this game's world and atmosphere does have a more fantastical element to it. Just a preference thing, but eh... Y'know, I'm not a fan of gloomy, or... and I always get flak for this, I'm not into pirates, just not a fan. It's not my aesthetic. And given that this game carries one major theme throughout the adventure, if I'm not in that particular mood to experience those vibes, I'm not gonna want to replay this game as much. Whereas DKC1, in my opinion, has more variety in terms of tone, lighthearted, bright, dark, dangerous, that has me coming back to it more and more, and picking whichever stage fits my mood more easily. I feel like the nature vs. industry theme in that game fits more what I like as a person in general too. But objectively, DKC2 hits the mark it's aiming for perfectly, and I understand why it's so beloved. And again, I do love it, just not as much as the others. But in trying to be objective, this game is mostly amazing, but... for what cons I can try and muster up, one that really bothered me upon finding out about this sequel was...
... you can't play as Donkey Kong...
Yeah yeah, that's no big issue for most, but to me, we FINALLY got DK in a playable role with the prior game, and immediately he's cast aside. I wanted more DK!! But no, he's captured, oh well. You can't even play as him after you save him again. This one really did bug me as a kid, and even now, I wish DK played more of a role in this game. As cool as Diddy is... But also, now that both partner Kongs are lightweights in this game, the tag-team mechanics aren't as balanced. And I feel that makes less incentive to switch characters, as either you'll be playing as Dixie, the easier mode, or Diddy, the slightly faster more difficult mode. The game has you switch characters for Kong specific barrels, but it just feels so artificial to get you to switch, when otherwise I'd have no reason to. They'd later fix this issue in the sequel though, so that's good. But here... Eh, it's an awkward middle stage.
What it means to me: This was the most hype I had ever been for a video game up to that point. Donkey Kong Country 1 changed my world, blew my mind, and when I found out they were making a sequel, I scrounged every magazine article I could get my hands on, speculated about what new there could be with friends, and drew fanart during class, haha! I was beyond hyped, and when it came out, I was again, blown away by just how epic this game was! Sure, I was disappointed by some things, but overall, I was in love with Donkey Kong Country 2, and I still play it yearly, and listen to its OST religiously. It may be my least favorite DKC game of the five in the series, but it's still an amazing game in my favorite series, that I love. Sorry I gotta mark half a star, because it doesn't click with me in every facet, but this one means a heck of a lot to me.