I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely adore all of the Donkey Kong Country games and the original is no exception. Rare did later make a Game Boy Color version of it, but, sadly, it wasn’t that good. In fact, it’s by far my least favourite way to play the game. Thankfully, a few years later, they also made a version for the Game Boy Advance and this version was very good and even improved on the original in some ways. Here’s a bullet point list of all the changes and what I think of them:
- It is noticeable that there is a slight graphical downgrade after moving from the SNES to the GBA (although it looks leagues better than the GBC version). Colours are less vibrant and the world looks a little “washed out”. To me, this isn’t a huge problem, especially if you haven’t played the original in a while, but there are some people who consider this to be a really huge and unforgivable problem. I don’t think that’s fair.
- Similarly, the sound capabilities of the GBA are not as good as those on a SNES. As such, the soundtrack has been partially reworked. Rather than trying to making them sound exactly the same, and noticeably worse, they’ve been redone. They’re the same songs, but they just sound a bit different. Most of the time, I think they sound like perfectly appropriate alternatives, though one or two felt a bit weaker.
- All of the game’s sound effects are different too. I’m kind of indifferent on these changes. I think they sound just as good as the originals. A lot of sound effects from Donkey Kong 64 were reused, bringing the games closer together.
- You can now save the game at any time, rather than just at certain points, which I see as a huge improvement.
- There’s a nice little opening cutscene to give the game more of a story and the ending has been expanded. I was pleased with these additions.
- Funky’s Fishing returns from the GBC version, but it’s been fleshed out and refined, making it much better. This is a really fun mini-game. You also now have Candy’s Dance Studio which is a fun, if somewhat bizarre, mini-game based around dancing by pressing buttons in tune to unique pieces of music.
- There are lots of little details (like frogs and spiders) added to the levels, which make them feel more like living, breathing locations.
- There’s an optional side quest based around collecting photographs throughout the levels. These are collected by defeating certain enemies and by collecting hidden cameras. Each one earns you a piece of artwork and I enjoyed collecting these.
- They added a totals screen which you can use to keep track of all the bonus areas, KONG Letters and cameras you’ve collected. It makes getting 100% a lot easier.
- This one is a semi-spoiler, so stop reading if you’re worried, but after getting beating the final boss and collecting enough of the collectibles, you unlock “Hero Mode” which is a harder mode where Diddy goes through the game without Donkey, wearing a new yellow outfit. This can make the game a fair bit harder at times and is a fun new mode.
- The most disappointing thing is probably just that it didn’t take the few nice extra features from the GBC version and polish them all up. Other than Funky’s Fishing, they’ve all been forgotten, including the new level Necky’s Nutmare.
Overall, though it was held back partially by system limitations, the game has a lot of charm and adds lots of nice smaller details (I can’t get into all of them, but there are so many and I appreciated each and every one) in addition to several additions which significantly improve the overall game. Although the original version has since been released on handheld consoles, it did feel really wonderful to have Donkey Kong Country portable when it first came out. So my final thought is just that it is at least as good as the original, possibly even better.