I’ve gone into detail in the past here on Gaming Respawn for my love of the first two Donkey Kong Country games, with Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest still currently holding the mantle of being my favourite video game ever. However, despite my love for the first two games in the series, I never really took the time to play Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! back in the day. For whatever reason the game just never captured my imagination, and as this was back when I was still in school and didn’t have a job, I decided not to pester my parents for it and save that pestering power for other games I liked the look of.
However, Nintendo has recently been adding each of the DKC games to its Super Nintendo emulator on the Switch, so I made the decision that if Donkey Kong Country 3 was ever added that I’d sit down and take the time to give it a proper playthrough to see if Young Mike had been out to lunch all those years ago when he decided to give the game a miss. Well, Donkey Kong Country 3 got added to the SNES emulator just in time for Christmas, so I sat down over the holiday period and finally worked my way to the main boss for the first time ever. Did I enjoy myself? Read on, and you might find out!
Originally released the autumn/winter time of 1996 for the Super Nintendo console, Donkey Kong Country 3 is a direct successor to the previous two games in the series, although it takes a slightly different approach to those releases. Whereas the first two DKC games were generally standard platforming games where you moved from map to map in linear nature (excluding the special “Lost World” in DKC 2), Donkey Kong Country 3 has a slightly more open hub world and sometimes gives you a choice in what order you tackle each world.
Set in the Northern Kremisphere, the game sees the return of Dixie Kong, although this time she is the lead character rather than just playing backup to her boyfriend, Diddy Kong. The story centres around the evil King K. Rool kidnapping both Donkey and Diddy Kong, forcing Dixie to team up with her toddler cousin, Kiddy Kong, in order to rescue them and bring down K. Rool’s devious plans. K. Rool himself has had another makeover for this game, going from your standard evil monarch in the first game to a bloodthirsty pirate in the second, to what seems to be some sort of mad scientist and inventor in this one. As a result, a couple of the bosses you face will have a mechanised theme, and the game itself has a general feel of “Nature Vs Industry” to it also.
Like in DKC 2, part of Donkey Kong Country 3’s platforming is based around using the differing skills of each Kong in order to defeat baddies and find secret areas. For instance, Dixie’s ability to glide by spinning her hair remains, meaning that some areas of the game will only be accessible by her. However, some areas of the game can only be accessed by Kiddy using his strength to throw Dixie high into the air in order to find hidden platforms. This means that both characters bring their own unique positives and negatives to the table, which encourages the player to involve both of them if they want to see the entirety of the game.
The platforming itself is decent, for the most part, with anyone who has any experience with DKC 2 likely to be able to pick things up rather easily. I found the standard platforming on the regular levels was where I enjoyed the game the most, with the scrolling levels where you have to outrun some kind of threat being the ones I liked the least, mainly because on more than one occasion I was ahead of what was chasing me, but the screen didn’t scroll quickly enough, meaning I had to constantly stay in this halfway point where I wasn’t too far ahead but not too far behind, which made for a frustrating experience, especially as it could lead to unseen baddies killing me.
There is a definite difficulty spike in Donkey Kong Country 3 when compared to the previous two games, but it’s a very tedious difficulty spike that just makes the game less fun to play rather than giving the player an enjoyable challenge that they can get their teeth into. This is no clearer than in the boss battles, which have a near lethal combination of difficulty and tedium that almost removed my will to go on.
When you get down to it, the bosses themselves are rather easy to defeat, but the fights just feel like they’ve been stretched out most of the time as you’re forced to wait before you can pull off attacks a lot of the time, with it being very easy for you to accidentally destroy the barrel you need to use, thus elongating the fight. Each boss battle is more a battle of attrition as they just grind you down, with the actual method of defeating them usually being pretty dull, meaning that not only are the fights difficult, but they are also boring to boot. If you’re going to throw a difficult boss at the player, then at least have the decency to make the fight exciting.
The use of animal buddies returns from the first two games, with Enguarde the Swordfish, Squitter the Spider and Squawks the Parrot, along with newbie Ellie the Elephant. These continue to be a fun way to break up levels sometimes, with the animals themselves often being hidden away in the level itself, thus giving you an impetus to explore each stage so that you can find them. Each animal has their own special ability you can use, with certain tasks in the level only being possible if the animal buddy in question is in play.
Overall, Donkey Kong Country 3 is a decent platformer with a decent variety of level types, and the continued lack of a timer in each level is greatly appreciated as it allows you to really take your time in order to explore most of the levels. There are also some interesting level types, such as an underwater one where you are being followed by a hungry fish that will chomp away on your primate behind if you don’t find fish for it to eat. However, if the fish eats certain clams in the level, then that will make it angry and speed up the likelihood of it attacking you (maybe it’s allergic to shellfish?), thus causing you to have to speed up and find more fish for it to eat, all whilst navigating the level’s obstacles. It was a really fun little twist on the usual water level trope, and I enjoyed it, certainly more than another level later on where the controls are inverted, which drove me to frustration more than once.
Donkey Kong Country 3 uses the same pre-rendered graphics that the previous two games did, but for some reason, they just don’t look as good here, in my opinion. There are lots of bright colours on display in the early stages, but the latter ones tend to become collections of dark greens and browns. Graphically, the game just doesn’t look as sharp when put up against its elder siblings. I should stress that I don’t think the game is ugly, but it also just doesn’t have the same charm as the other two games do for me. I’m not even really sure I can fully explain why, but the game just had a “fuzzy” feel to it when it came to visuals that I didn’t notice in the previous two games. Maybe I’m out to lunch, I dunno, look at them one after the other and see if you agree with me or not.
David Wise returns to work on the score, along with Eveline Fischer, and it’s probably the weakest of the three DKC games from this era. Again, the music isn’t terrible, and a couple of the tracks stuck in my head after I’d finished playing, but Donkey Kong Country 3’s soundtrack is going up against two of the best fourth gen soundtracks ever, so it was likely always going to be a struggle to match up with them. It’s clear that Fischer and Wise have tried to create music that suits the Northern Kremisphere’s more floral nature, and it works to a certain degree, but ultimately, the Kremisphere is just a less interesting place to explore than the islands from the first two games, and that is reflected in the music too. Not a terrible soundtrack but not a homerun best of all time effort like the first two games were.
Like in DKC 2, Donkey Kong Country 3 is stuffed full of hidden areas and coins, with there being two additional special endings on top of the base normal ones, along with a trip to a special hidden world. I must confess that I was happy enough to call it a day after just finishing the base game as I wasn’t especially digging a lot of the levels, but if you’re into 100% completion, then Donkey Kong Country 3 will give you plenty to get your teeth into. The increased difficulty over the first two games will make 100%ing Donkey Kong Country 3 a meaty challenge, and it will likely make it right up your alley if you’re into that kind of thing and actually enjoy the base game enough to want to push it to its limits.
Would I Recommend It?
I think if you have a Switch and a Nintendo online membership, then it’s certainly worth giving Donkey Kong Country 3 a go, especially if you are like me and enjoyed the first two games but never got around to playing the third one. It’s certainly not a bad game, but I also have to concede that I personally found it to be a step down from the other two games, but that could just be that it holds no nostalgia for me whilst the other two games do.
If you want to play it on original hardware, then you’ll be looking at roughly £30 for just the cart alone, which is probably too much to pay, in my opinion. If it was knocking around for a tenner, then maybe I’d be more inclined to recommend it, but I personally think the game is overpriced at anything more than that. That being said, if you do have nostalgia for this game and just want it in your collection, then maybe it would be worth paying that just to have it. For me it personally wouldn’t be, but you might see it differenty.