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14 Years of DKC the ups, the downs, and the future...

An article by Jomingo

25 November '08

Today is the anniversary of one of the most influential platformers in gaming history; the game that successfully breathed life back into a series that hadn't had a real sequel in over ten years; the game that single-handedly pumped 2 years of life back into the Super NES. The game I'm speaking of is of course Donkey Kong Country, Rare's most successful game. In honor of the anniversary, here is a feature detailing the games influence in the gaming industry.

. . .

When Rare showed Nintendo some of the advanced modeling techniques they were experimenting with it started the chain of events that would bring Nintendo's first gaming franchise back to the forefront of the gaming world and give Rare the resources to create some of the top games in history. After they dazzled Nintendo with their ACM technology, Rare asked if they could make a Donkey Kong game, thus starting the series that we have all come to know and love.

Donkey Kong Country was released on November 25th, 1994. It was acclaimed by critics and fans alike for its addictive gameplay, groundbreaking graphics, and fantastic music. It was the best looking game around, even when compared to the power of the "32 bit" Playstation and Sega Saturn. It has sold 8.5 million games worldwide. It spawned 2 sequels, both of which are in the top 11 selling SNES games, and helped to prolong the life of the aging Super NES.

It's been 14 years since this pinnacle of gaming hit the store shelves, so it wouldn't be right if we didn't take a look at what's become of the series in the past 14 years:

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Rare released Diddy Kong Racing in November of 1997, a racing game starring DK's little buddy Diddy Kong. Following Rare tradition it pushed the kart racing genre to new depths, with several innovative features including the ability to drive a car, plane, or hovercraft, and also including an in depth adventure mode. It introduced the world to the Rare franchises of tomorrow, including Banjo-Kazooie, a critically acclaimed platformer called by some the DKC of the N64, and Conker's Bad Fur Day, a cult classic but overall financial flop. It also introduced a music technique in which the music would change mood midway through a track or in a different part of the over world without any troublesome load times. This technique would later be used in Rare's Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. The game sold almost 4.5 million copies.

In 1999, it was time for Rare to make another Donkey Kong platformer, and everyone was waiting to see what they could do with the DK series in 3 dimensions. Thus Donkey Kong 64 was released in November of 1999, to generally positive reviews. It was a great attempt at a 3D platformer, but it lacked the amount of groundbreaking innovation that Donkey Kong Country boasted. It did use advanced lighting techniques which made it the first N64 game to require an expansion pack. Many thought that it had too many items to collect, and that it was tedious. Nonetheless, it sold 3.7 million copies, making it the 8th best selling N64 game.

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After doing a few other projects, Rare had 3 more DK games planned in May of 2003, and that's when tragedy struck. Nintendo decided not to renew Rare's contract and sold them off to Microsoft, preventing them from developing DK titles. The 3 DK games in production at the time were either cancelled or reworked to star other Rare characters. One of them, Donkey Kong Racing was shaping up to be another genre bending hit, using animal buddies as the vehicles. Sadly, it never came to be.

Since the buyout Nintendo has let other developers make DK games. The world wondered whether this might be a good idea. Perhaps a developer would come around and take the DK series back to it's roots. In 2005, we had our answer. Donkey Konga and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat were released, both games using a new bongo peripheral, and both games completely ignoring what made the series great, Jungle Beat even going as far as to try and reinvent the series with new characters! Thankfully, there was a silver lining on the horizon, and it's name was King of Swing.

DK: King of Swing was released for the Game Boy Advance by Japanese developer Paon, who actually seemed to care about the series they were handling. Two years later (2007) Paon produced a sequel to King of Swing, and also released a racing game for the Wii called Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.

Recently, the trilogy of Donkey Kong Country games have been re-released on Nintendo's Virtual Console and are some of the best selling titles on the service.

. . .

The future of the franchise seems hazy at this point. Sure, with Paon's recent games staying true to the series and the recent surge of DK representation in Mario sport games it may be looking up, but then again the only announced DK title at this point is a remake of Jungle Beat. Nevertheless, no matter where the series goes or how far it strays from what made it great, we can always go back to Donkey Kong Country, because they can't take away its greatness.

- by Jomingo -

This article was written by a DKC Atlas Forum staff member. All opinions expressed within this article are those of the writer, and are not necessarily shared by DKC Atlas, or the DKC gaming community.
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