Monday, 20 January 2014

Homebrew Review - Classic Kong (Super NES) with full cartridge release!

Donkey Kong comes to SNES, with actual cartridge release

Unless you have been living under a rock for the majority of your life, or have never played a video game, you will be familiar with Donkey Kong. The classic Nintendo platform game appeared in arcades in 1981 and kick-started the entire platform game genre and the seemingly generic protagonist, Jumpman, would go on to become Mario - you may have heard of him. 

The game contained four different levels that would loop when completed, with faster and more numerous hazards to contend with. The first, and the most iconic, involves scaling a selection of steel girders whilst jumping over or avoiding barrels being hurled by the angry ape at the top. The next stage, known as the pie factory, requires you to reach a moving ladder at the top, while avoiding patrolling flames. Next comes the hardest stage, involving tricky jumping across moving platforms, with Donkey Kong hurling strange bouncing hazards at you. The final stage then requires you to jump over (or touch) the rivets holding up the structure Donkey Kong is residing on, causing it to collapse, and allowing you to rescue your kidnapped girlfriend.

Donkey Kong was an instant success and is regarded as an absolute classic and pioneering video game. It received home ports on pretty much every system around at the time - some official, some not so much - with the most faithful being Nintendo's own NES version, despite it missing the pie factory stage. By the 16-bit days, however, Donkey Kong was old hat, and the franchise received a fresh reboot in the form of Donkey Kong Country. However, thanks to homebrew developers Bubble Zap Games, you can now experience classic Donkey Kong action on your Super Nintendo. It sticks close to the coin-op original, featuring all four stages as you remember them. This version features all new 16-bit visuals that use the Super Nintendo's large colour palette to good effect, including some lovely backgrounds that feature a city landscape at night, perfectly suited to the games building site style play area. Unfortunately the animation, especially on Jumpman, is extremely poor and lets down the presentation considerably. The classic intro ditty and sound effects have been replaced with SNES-sounding counterparts but sound weak and 'plinky-plonkly'.

Gameplay is the same as ever, and Classic Kong is just as much fun as the aged original. Player movement is smooth and precise, and plays very much like the coin-op. It is just as challenging as it has always been, but feels rewarding as you gradually master each of the four stages and get used to their increasing difficulty as you progress. I enjoyed playing Classic Kong, and would certainly recommend downloading the free ROM. However, it is not polished enough to warrant a physical cartridge release. It's a shame, as with greatly improved character animation and far beefier and satisfying sound, this could have been quite special. 

Classic Kong is available on physical cartridge in limited numbers, and can be purchased here for $30, with box and manual options available at extra cost. The ROM can be downloaded free of charge, here.

Title : Classic Kong
Developer : Bubble Zap Games
Year : 2012
System : SNES
Price : Free / $30+ for physical edition