If pressed, I'd say the DKC series is a tad underrated. No one can forget the crazy hype machine of DKC back in the SNES days, but nowadays, I think DK could get a little more appreciation. So let's give props to the big ape, even if he doesn't star in like half of these. What's your favorite Donkey Kong Country game?
Ooo, that's tough! I was expecting it to just be between the first three, which is an easy choice: the first one! It's the most iconic to me and is the only one I've played through. It's the only one with Donkey Kong in it, for crying out loud! 2 and 3 are a little too crazy to me.
But man, Tropical Freeze is good. I mean, I don't think it's too controversial to say it's the better game, but... yeah, huh, I guess Tropical Freeze is the best one all around. But the original is just so weird and cool! Those pre-rendered sprites are so strange! And playing it feels like more of a shared experience since everyone has played it.
I find that DKC1 still holds up pretty well; I'm playing it on the SNES Classic right now and it's as enjoyable as it's always been. I don't agree with people that say its visuals look bad now. They're atypical from most SNES titles and stand out in a good way. The momentum-based platforming feels great and the soundtrack still holds up. I do think that--moreso than in the sequels--the environments feel a tad rote and "pasted together," if that makes sense. There's something just slightly artificial to the chunks of environments placed together that's hard to describe. Like, I'll sometimes recognize a platform or piece of scenery show up in a few different levels.
DKC2's reputation is earned; while it doesn't look wholly different on the surface, everything has been polished to make for a tighter, greater game. The division of stage themes is much smarter this time around, keeping the variety going while giving each world its own unique theme (by the last world in DKC1, there were no new stage types). The distribution of bonus stages and DK Coins is challenging without crossing the line into unfair, the levels are more dynamic and varied in their "gimmicks," with extra verticality to boot, the Diddy/Dixie split is far more balanced than Diddy/DK, making for a lot of fun player choice throughout the game, and the soundtrack is even better than before. This is a very fun game to just jump in and play through every few years.
I found that DKC3 took it a little too far, attempting to add more onto DKC2's already refined balance. As a result, a lot of its challenges are from quirky adventure game-style puzzles and running around. The first time through, it adds to the adventurous feel, but it comes across as mindless busywork on replays. The North American look to the environments is pretty refreshing, but I find that the game really lacks the atmosphere of its predecessors (partly due to the so-so soundtrack). And Dixie/Kiddy is the least-balanced duo yet, with one being quicker AND floatier. Kiddy in general is a bridge too far for Rare's kalvacade of Kongs--it should've just been Dixie/DK on a quest to rescue Diddy, with DK having a new ability or two to make up the balance. The stages are generally fun and well-designed with a good variety, so it's still a solid title.
I've already reviewed DKC:R here, but in short, I loved it. Retro's attention to detail and super-dynamic environmental design was the shot in the arm the series needed after its long hibernation. The speed-running aspect of the game was so addictive and well-done that I actually got every Shiny Gold medal in the game--one of my proudest gaming accomplishments. Returns was thoroughly exciting from start to finish, particularly in its manic mine cart and rocketbarrel stages. After being a bit underwhelmed with Mario's 2D outings around this time, DKC:R really felt like the platformer genre brought into the new generation. The only downsides were an underwhelming soundtrack, forgettable boss fights and a rather dumb blowing mechanic that slowed things down. Oh, and the waggling controls were tiresome, although they were surprisingly accurate.
DKC:TF took what worked about DKC:R and amped it up to the next level. The stages were even longer, more varied, more dynamic, and told little stories as you progressed through them. One memorable world has you progressing through a tropical fruit juicer, starting with the harvesting process in one stage, moving onto the fruits getting cut up in the next, then juiced in a factory, then solidified into bouncy gelatin cubes, and finally frozen into popsicles at the end. DK can now pick from three different power-ups in the forms of beloved Kong characters, including Cranky. And even better, the few issues that Returns had get smoothed out here; traditional controls, stronger boss fights, blowing mechanic replaced with a much more natural grab move, and a particularly great soundtrack with a huge amount of variety. Mix in top-notch stage design from a micro and macro perspective, and you've got my favorite non-BotW game on the Wii U.
I only ever played the first one to completion, so I voted that. The others just didn't grab me in the same way that the original did. I wanted to play and love Tropical Freeze, but I apparently wasn't in a 2D side-scroller mood when I rented it, so I didn't find it fun. It seemed solid, and the animation was AMAZING, but I was just in the wrong mood.
Fuck me. I was almost done writing my post and then I accidentally clicked the arrow at the bottom and loaded a new page, erasing everything. I'm super bummed, because that was some of the best writing I've ever done about video games :(. I talked about each game and broke down why they worked and how they excelled in their own ways, while effectively describing what makes the platforming rewarding and engaging across the series (a longtime struggle for me in this genre). For many (myself included) it can be challenging to effectively explain what makes something good, but I thought I genuinely succeed in doing that with this post. It did some of my favorite games justice and offered some insightful new points I hadn't seen elsewhere. I was really proud of what I had. And now it's all up in smoke. :(
How you feel about 3 and Lightning Lookout is about how I feel about Tropical Freeze's polar bear boss. Just one of the things that brings the game as a whole down for me because of the unnecessary difficulty.