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Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble is often regarded as the black sheep of the original DKC trilogy Being released during the formative years of the 5th generation console war, few seem to have much nostalgia for this 1996 installment of the series However, to my surprise, DKC3 was actually successful, selling 3.5 million units worldwide In fact it was a top 10 selling game for the system, not bad for a late release Even more surprising is how well the game was received critically You see, like many, I’ve always been under the impression DKC3 marked a dramatic dip in quality But it turns out, Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble was reviewed highly by the critics In the February ‘97 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, the four reviewers collectively scored the game 32.5 out of 40 giving it their Editor’s Choice Silver award, while incorrectly labeling it a PlayStation game and noted, “Clean graphics, solid gameplay and hip sounds make DK[C]3 an all-around great title for all ages.” The January ‘97 issue of GamePro was even more positive, scoring the game a 4.75 out of 5 stating, “If this is the SNES’s swan song, then at least the great old system is going out in style.” Early internet reviews were equally positive The AllGameGuide scored the game 4.5 stars out of 5 proclaiming, “Even though it is similar to the previous games in the series, video games just don’t get much better than this.” So, is Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble still as good as the critical reviews of the day, or as bad as the cynics have since declared? Let’s dive in Like it’s predecessors, DKC3 is light on story The game just sort of begins in an all new overworld, and the player is forced to visit Wrinkly Kong As I’m playing the Japanese version, I have no idea what is going on Next, the player visits Funky, who constructs a boat, opening up the next area of the map DKC3 then slowly reveals new levels for the player, with the hovercraft allowing travel over rocks, and the turbo ski allowing travel over a waterfall While mostly linear, it does give the slight illusion of being an adventure title while still nudging the player along a predetermined path Despite this wrinkle, Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble is still a 16-bit platformer at its core Players make their way through 5 levels in a given world, battle a boss, and then move onto the next world Standard stuff Also standard is the introduction of a new character The first game had Diddy, the second had Dixie, and the now we have Kiddy Kong, a giant baby ape This marks the return of the power character giving DKC3 its own flavor Of course this does mean the speed character is missing But the tag-team gameplay is as engaging as ever Dixie’s helicopter hair is useful allowing slower descents and longer jump distances Kiddy Kong has a traditional jump Thankfully, the jump height is nice and there is maneuverability while in the air allowing for confident leaps and precision when bashing enemies The only downside of having two slower characters is I rarely used the rolling attacks Jumping was simply faster Kiddy Kong can use the roll in conjunction with the jump to skip over water though, which is needed to access a couple of bonus barrels Also tweaked are the team-up attacks Kiddy Kong can throw Dixie and it works just like the previous title, allowing for a projectile attack or being used to reach higher platforms On the other hand, Dixie is severely handicapped when carrying Kiddy She moves painfully slow for example, but Kiddy can be used to smash through a couple of designated platforms On the surface this may seem like a negative, but it actually gives each character distinct, rather than subtle, differences Players are more incentivised than ever to keep both Kong’s alive Kiddy needs to stick around for smashing larger enemies and for his superior throwing Dixie needs to be kept around for her floating More subtle are the hitboxes Kiddy is quite the beast, and I actually found for bonus rooms where the goal was to collect stars, his increased girth made nabbing stars easier Some may be offended by the baby’s design, but I find his overall aesthetic to be about on par with Bonk or Chuck Jr Also new are additional animal buddies like Ellie the Elephant She can jump on enemies, but will run away from sneeks She can also use her trunk to snag nearby barrels and toss them Finally, if there is water in area, she can suck some up with her trunk and then shoot it out as an attack This adds some puzzle elements to the gameplay and makes her levels feel like a nice evolution to the buddies, without straying too far from the established formula of running, jumping, and tossing barrels Sticking with this puzzle theme is Quawks He is similar to Squawks, but cannot shoot an endless barrage of eggs Instead, he can pick up barrels and then release them at enemies or use them like a shield

Finally, there is Parry the Parallel Bird This guy hovers just above the player, and levels are designed around him snagging items out of the players reach There are often separate obstacles in his path too, giving more for the player to contend with Returning are Enguarde, Squawks, and Squitter And all control exactly like they did in previous titles, so I won’t elaborate There are also new barrels to interact with Booster barrels launch the Kongs high up into the air to traverse waterfalls Switch Barrels have a large S on them and switch other barrels from TNT or Wooden to Steel kegs and then back Ghost Barrels will fade in and out, sometimes being a detriment to the player, and other times a benefit There is also a Rocket Barrel which is featured in the final level of Kremetoa, this game’s version of Lost World Overall, I have to say Donkey Kong Country 3 meets my expectations for what Donkey Kong Country 3 should be A previous character is replaced Some animal buddies stick around for another go, and outgoing buddies are swapped with new ones And of course, there are new barrels for the player to interact with, keeping the adventure feeling fresh for those who have played the previous installments What is different is a slight change in focus Now don’t get me wrong, DKC3 is a platformer true and true The game challenges the player to run and jump through dozens of levels and reach flag poll at the end of each stage However, the main campaign feels slightly less hardcore While precision platforming is still the name of the game, there are many moments where a little more thought and reason is asked of the player Door Stop Dash has the player pulling on levers to open up doors, and then race through them before they close In Squeals on Wheels, the player needs to knock mice out of wheels to lower a gauge eventually allowing progress The aforementioned Quawks is needed to strategically drop barrels to take down Buzzes That isn’t to say there isn’t some more hardcore platforming The chase levels are some of the toughest in the game Ripsaw Rage has the player running up hollowed out trees trying to escape a saw racing up the screen Kong Fused Cliffs forces the player up ropes which have been ignited And there are familiar challenges like the classic barrels falling down a waterfall trope However Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble definitely represents an evolution of the difficulty formula While there are moments of navigating rotating barrels, it’s not as frequent Same goes for bottomless pits They are sprinkled here and there, but are no longer the primary hazard In their place are some tough enemy patterns When done correctly, avoiding fireball hazards, skillfully bouncing off of penguins, and navigating around helicopter enemies, is fun and engaging Failure won’t always result in an instant death though, with the tag-team partner being retained for a second attempt or free pass Also evolved are the bosses Each of the 7 main worlds ends with a boss fight against a creature fitting the theme The result is a vast array of strange creatures to fight, though the difficulty is tame throughout Belcha tosses out barrels containing bugs, which can be hopped on once to incapacitate them, and then thrown inside the enemy’s mouth After digesting the insect, Belcha belches, sending it backwards It does a decent job using both the jumping and throwing mechanics while not resorting to tossing barrels The barrels do return during the Arich fight The player is tasked with dodging the boss’ projectiles, and then tossing a barrel into its face This boss is made significantly easier with Dixie As she holds barrels above her head, one can allow the boss to simply smash into it, rewarding players who play to the strengths of each Kong Squirts Showdown utilizes Ellie, challenging the player to maneuver around the stage avoiding a water attack, and then unleashing Ellie’s water attack during the cool down period The fourth boss gives the player the first taste of Kaos, a barrel like robot While the bosses up to this point have been easy, this one ups the difficulty The player must dodge a fire attack, then skillfully traverse up some temporary platforms to bonk the boss on the head The worst boss fight is against Bleak the snowman Everything about this boss feels sloppy The player needs to throw snowballs at the snowman, which seems counterproductive, while also avoiding incoming attacks In between these is some dodging where the Snowman cannot be hit The fight itself isn’t awful, but there is a dip in quality The boss has minimal animation frames making it look choppy, and his laugh is cringey The gameplay mechanic and the art style just clash with the rest of the game making this feel gimmicky rather than innovative Thankfully Barbos is much better Here it is Enguarde’s time to shine, utilizing his unique ability actually dish damage underwater The enemies in the first phase require timing to hit as they aren’t always vulnerable The second phase requires precision swimming and avoidance maneuvers to cause shells to charge the boss The last phase requires the player to dodge an increasing number of spike attack

The patterns are complex and it’s nice to see Enguarde used to full effect for this third adventure Rare saved the best for last with King K Rool The battle against Kaos is fine, but the King K. Rool fight is awesome There is a constant threat of electricity on the bottom of the screen, but it can be utilized to harm the nemesis as well The goal becomes figuring out how to launch barrels into the helicopter blades of King K. Rool’s contraption, dropping him into the electricity Like the previous final bosses there are patterns to learn, tough attacks to perform, and a decent skill level necessary for success So, DKC3 features a nice evolution of the Donkey Kong Country formula with all new barrels, new animal buddies and a new hero The level design continues to be massaged to incorporate more puzzles and timing elements The bosses have retained a decent quality level and are a vast improvement over DKC1 And finally, the tag-team formula is as good as ever with an agile character and a power character, complete with new moves and a more defined throwing difference On paper, DKC3 should be a satisfying conclusion to the Donkey Kong Country Trilogy But at some point in history, a vocal minority started turning their back on this entry Most angst was aimed squarely at Kiddy himself His inclusion meant fan favorite Donkey Kong was not playable, and some seemed bothered by the concept of a giant ape baby From his little tantrum animation to his footie pajamas Next, many find the soundtrack to be lackluster, missing both the ambiance and emotion from the first two games The final complaint lobbed at DKC3 is it being too gimmicky, using gimmicks to spice up the gameplay rather than solid game design Starting with Kiddy, I have to admit a giant baby the size of Donkey Kong is, well, odd But the character certainly has some charm, and this comes from those expressive eyes He looks absolutely adorable on the game over screen, and I love the little wink when grabbing bonus coins He also looks like my fat cat when he sits down, which is disturbing, yet comforting And of course, if one doesn’t want to hear Kiddy Kong cry, well, Git Gud If someone was going to make an objective argument against his inclusion, one should look at the series as a whole Assuming one were to play these games in order, be it back in 1994 or today, the player would be getting older as they make their way through the trilogy However, with each DKC installment, the cast is getting younger The first game has an adult, the last game has a baby The character design is not growing with the audience Next is the soundtrack Let me start by saying the opening track in Lakeside Limbo, is not pleasing Maybe it’s the drab instrument selection, but it lacks that hook needed to draw players in Oddly enough, the next level features terrific music While roaming around an old barn, the player is treated to some wonderful lounge vibes featuring awesome instrument selections and some genuinely catchy melodies The music in Krevice Kreepers feels like Rare back to their old form with heavy drums and haunting guitar strums offering a real sense of tension as the player navigates the mountainside cliffs In fact, once one arrives at the later worlds of the game, the moody and dark tones the series has been known for are featured more frequently In some ways the arc of the entire adventure shifts DKC3 starts off light and bouncy but the tone changes as the player gets closer to their goal, getting more bleak as the danger level increases While nothing comes close to the best tracks found in the previous games, the soundtrack is still way above average and doesn’t receive the acclaim it rightfully deserves Finally, let’s talk about the gimmicks The level of variety in Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble is quite high This includes the aforementioned rats running in wheels, but also levels like Fish Food Frenzy Here the player is being followed by a hungry fish The goal is to have him eat the clownfish, and avoid the undesirables, like critters with spikes Fail to feed him, or feed him too many spikes, and he’ll turn red and attack the player Lightning Look-Out features lightning It will telegraph it’s striking point and the player is tasked with getting out of the way, hiding beneath an enemy, or grabbing a barrel The player will also need to avoid the water, which conducts electricity Koindozer Klamber features a bunch of Koindozers These guys will charge the Kongs and push them off ledges with their shield

The only way to get past them is to land directly above them, using their shields as platforms The classic minecart mechanic also returns, in the form of the sleds Like before, the player is tasked with dodging obstacles, bouncing off enemies, and following banana clues while racing along an auto-scrolling level Generally speaking, the level gimmicks don’t feel gimmicky, rather their thoughtfulness and implementation feels like an integral part of the experience, rather than something tacked on for the sake of variety To better explain what a bad gimmick is, let’s take a look at the proverbial punching bag that is Sonic ‘06 Shadow has a number of vehicle stages, but the vehicles control poorly and the stages don’t seem designed with the vehicles in mind, making for an unsatisfying experience Same goes for this area on a giant floating sphere It’s a mind-numbingly slow experience, and would never work as a stand alone game Super Monkey Ball, this is not Therefore I would say most of the so-called gimmicks found in Donkey Kong Country 3 are not really gimmicks at all The controls are never a problem, implementation is terrific, and removing them would take away from the overall experience, rather than enhance it But I’d be a fool to say the designers nailed them all The reversed controls in Poisonous Pipeline are tedious Now in the final boss fight in DKC2, reversed controls were used as a punishment for failing to dodge one of K. Rool’s attacks In DKC3, reversed controls are not a punishment for poor play, but rather forced upon the player The controls revert to normal when jumping out of the water too, adding unnecessary complexity Moving on, let’s talk about the one thing I feel Donkey Kong Country 3 truly excels at The graphics are stunning While the opening stage has a weak music track to kick off the adventure, the graphic fidelity is amazing First, I love the way the mountains reflect off the lake, complete with a little ripple But even cooler is how the player is also able to see to the lake floor The artistic vision with the transparencies and line scrolling effects to make it all work is outstanding and this ranks up there with the beehive and swamp as one of my favorite level themes found in the trilogy The hollowed out trees are also fantastic The depth and detail of the bark, branches, and the convincing shadows look amazing and are a massive improvement over similar themes in other games of the time In fact, I’d say the artists had a firm grasp on not only the 3D modeling process but also sprite digitization Underwater areas look realistic and vivid giving a convincing sense of an ocean reef Not everything is outdoors though The sewers look grimy and gritty and the factory stages have a distinct lived in aesthetic to them Donkey Kong Country 3 also feels like a much brighter game While snow is again used to liven things up, mountain areas are equally bright, like years of weathering have warn rocks down to a shine allowing the sun to reflecting off them Overall the level themes are easily up there with the best of the series with a wide array of different light levels, a huge amount of color, and a good variety of organic themes and man-made Transparencies are also expertly utilized Not only for sewer goo and water, but these amazing waterfalls They looks great and I love how platforms will go behind them, along with the characters, and the waterfall reacts accordingly Even the saw is brighter when outside of the tree The only downside to all of this graphical wizardry is the framerate Of course I can’t know if the programmers and artists were pushing the Super Nintendo to its limit or if the game engine wasn’t as optimized as it could have been, but the level design isn’t always mindful of the limitations, causing the game to slow down when the action gets heavy So, the soundtrack is good, the graphics are awesome, and the level variety vast Donkey Kong Country 3 nails the presentation Combined with the gameplay tweaks noted earlier and it would seem DKC3 is a competent game But I’d take it a step further and say this game is… great I went into depth about the amazing controls in the first video of this series so I won’t belabour the point, but like it’s predecessors, Donkey Kong Country 3 has brilliant controls Starting, stopping, changing directions, jumping, and landing all feel perfect with excellent momentum and little slip I also find the level design to be great First, the game does a nice job communicating things to the player I am playing the Japanese version for economic reasons, and I had no problems figuring out the controls and concepts of the new animal buddies for example When the player is introduced to Ellie the Elephant, she can bounce off sneeks without issue However, later in the level she freaks out and runs away, because the sneek is now illuminated by light The player will need to take them out from a distance And how does a player know they can manipulate barrels? Well, if one doesn’t figure it out organically by holding Y to run, there are bananas in the shape of a Y to hammer the point home There is a bonus barrel underneath a cracked wooden plank, with a large A, again altering

the player to a new move In fact, the game is littered with Banana hints Ellie’s ability to store water and then use it as a weapon is hinted at with a large L and R. Now I’m not saying placing items in the shapes of letters is brilliant game design in itself, but it does show the designers put thought into the placement of even the most basic things DKC3 is also void of anything I would call cheap There are no sporadic enemy patterns meant to trick the player Instead patterns can be learned and overcome without trial and error deaths Same goes for those bosses Having never played this game before, I had no idea how most of these worked But because the game allowed ample time to experiment, I was able to overcome each and every one of them without cheap deaths or use of a guide In fact, about the only time I felt level gimmicks and enemy placement didn’t quite jive with the moveset available, was on Konveyor Rope Flash These conveyor ropes move ridiculously fast and it can be difficult to discern their direction while simultaneously avoiding enemies Granted this level is near the end when the difficulty is at its highest, but it is one of the few times I felt the game was a little unfair Saving and checkpoints are also improved First, the player can finally save their game whenever they please One doesn’t need to play 3 or four levels prior to reaching a save point nor is there any cost to said feature The player is free to leave a world at anytime and visit Wrinkly Kong to save, even if one hasn’t reached they save cave on the current world This is a massive improvement over the previous games and made my first playthrough far less tedious I was allowed to focus on each level individually, and save upon victory Of the original trilogy, I would say this is the most friendly The most frustrating aspects like rotating barrels and bottomless pits are far more sparse, the save system is no longer restricted, and levels never wear out their welcome, meaning a return to a checkpoint is never a deflating feeling The lack of deflating feeling made adventuring through the Northern Kremosphere to take on Kaos a real treat And while the game generally fails to tell a story from a visual sense, the reveal of King K. Rool as the mastermind is cool, and a nice nod to Oz For many, this will be the end of the journey But I ended up completing DKC3 twice And, I think 1996 is around the time where the collectathon sub-grene really started This game is packed with collectables First are the bonus coins These are obtained by locating the two bonus barrels in every level, and then beating the bonus level For those looking for a challenge, these bonus stages should scratch that itch Goals like getting through an obstacle course or defeating all enemies return and make for satisfying breaks in the action But the star bonus areas return with a vengeance, really forcing the player to master the various mechanics to be successful New is a 15 banana grab, where a banana will appear in a random spot on the screen, and the player is tasked with grabbing it before it disappears These are easily the toughest in the game and I found myself repeating them a few times during my non-recorded runs Four of the bosses will also reward a bonus coin, for a total of 74 These bonus coins are used to unlock stages in Krematoa, a hidden bonus world The player can use the bonus coins to blast open rocks to unlock 5 new levels Each of these new levels also feature bonus barrels, and when the dust settles, the player will have collected 85 coins The Krematoa levels are hard, but none approach the maddening difficulty found in the lost world of DKC2 Beating each of these levels rewards a cog, and all five will reveal the true final boss fight, against King K. Rool for the second time This won’t be enough to complete the game though, but it does unlock a final vehicle for the Kongs, which can fly all across the overworld Next, there are bear coins These are used to buy a mirror and shell from the bear shop Just 55 are needed to complete the game and this is all but guaranteed to happen just by playing the game So, no big deal This does kick off a strange side-quest where the player needs to visit the various Bear cabins of the worlds and the overworld, trading items and earning a few of the 15 banana birds The rest of the banana birds are hidden in caves Each cave contains a progressively more difficult game of simon with each discovery, and rewards the remaining banana birds After gathering all of them, Wrinkly Kong will take the Kongs to the Banana Bird Queen With all of her children present, she is freed from captivity, and she takes down King K Rool for the final time The final cutscene isn’t amazing, but charming in its own way But this won’t complete the game either There are 41 DK coins to collect as well All 40 stages have an enemy called a Koin, which the player must defeat by strategically

throwing a steel barrel and having it ricochet into their back This is sometimes really easy, and sometimes requires an elaborate set-up to achieve Acquiring a steel barrel isn’t always a gimme either, with the player sometimes getting a single barrel as a bonus for maintaining an animal through the end point If one fails to perform the throw correctly, they’ll have to repeat the stage to get another attempt Some bonus barrels work in the same way Worse yet, a few levels have no meaningful way to backtrack, forcing the player to restart the level from the beginning to try again Honestly, as this is only required to complete the game, it’s hard for me to be too annoyed These are optional after all Still, grabbing all of the bonus coins, DK coins, the 5 cogs, and the banana birds will reward the player with a 103% on their save file, a fitting conclusion for the third adventure For those seeking the ultimate experience, there is also a hard mode which eliminates most DK barrels and all checkpoints for maximum difficulty Completing the game on hard mode will reward 105% for those inclined So, with all of that out of the way, I have to conclude Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble is as good as those old reviews claim, and not worthy of its black sheep reputation DKC3 is a great game The controls are sublime The level variety is terrific, with a good mix of horizontal and vertical movement, loads of tricky jumping, and plenty of alternate paths when utilizing the throwing mechanics of the Kongs The tag-team mechanic is as polished as ever, with each character having distincts strengths and weaknesses Did I miss the quickness of Diddy Kong and his super fast rolling jump? Sure, but that wasn’t the sole reason the first two games were so great, so it’s omission isn’t a dealbreaker DKC3 borrows heavily from its predecessors in terms gameplay, but the shift in focus from avoiding pits to light puzzles is a welcome change and really helps this game stand on its own without feeling like old hat Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble might also mark the high point of the 90’s pre-rendered graphics fad Environments are bright, vivid, varied and detailed with just the right mix of realism and fantasy, creating appealing worlds to platform through The difficulty curve is also excellent, with the opening stages being breezy, allowing one to learn the ropes, and the final stages being the gauntlet the series is known for This might even have the best difficulty curve of the bunch, with few difficulty spikes in the middle of the game Camera jank and collision issues are also absent While the bosses remain mediocre, they were never the highlight of Donkey Kong Country, so it’s hard to get upset about it Mix in an underrated soundtrack, and a ton of replayability with the completion goals and a hard mode, and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble is a wonderful send off for the Super Nintendo While some may be disappointed with Kiddy Kong or some other elements not meeting their expectations, I’m struggling to find many faults with the game It’s a wonderful platformer and easily stands toe to toe with best platformers of the era

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