With the recent re-release of the slightly unorthodox, but extremely fun, Donkey Kong 64 on the Wii U's Virtual Console service in all of its unaltered glory, it got me thinking about another unorthodox Donkey Kong game on the Nintendo Game Cube that I loved to no end. I'm of course talking about Donkey Kong Jungle Beat which was played with the DK Bongo Controller. While this may sound weird, let me tell you why this, of all things, worked well.
Released at the end of Winter in 2005, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a beat-em-up action platformer with HEAVY emphasis on combos and banana collecting. Your goal as Donkey Kong is to become King of the Jungle as you fight through sixteen kingdoms saving them from baddies from an unknown land. It doesn't exactly have the most complex of video game plots, but considering the gameplay being offered, it gets the job done. Besides, who said that a modern game HAD to have a complex story in order for it to be good? I think the story's simplicity really helps to further enjoy the action-oriented gameplay.
What is really unique about this game is that it is played with a special controller called the DK Bongos. Each respective drum moves DK left or right, rapidly drumming will make DK run and both drums at the same time make DK jump. Clapping your hands (or ANY loud click, snap or tapping noise) will make DK clap. This is how you engage in combat with larger and stronger enemies, grapple onto vines, and how you grab bananas. This control scheme works extremely well for how the game is laid out, especially when considering that the game was likely made with the DK Bongos in mind. The control scheme that would have been required for a normal controller would have been very unintuitive and extremely difficult to use.
Now, as you progress through each of the kingdoms, the difficulty starts to scale up quite considerably. This is where stringing together combos starts to come into play. When DK claps, the red ring that pulses off of him is his maximum reach. All of the bananas within the radius of that ring are collected, in order, tallying up each one starting at two, and adding the total numbers together (I.E. Grabbing 5 bananas will count 2+3+4+5+6 equaling 30 total bananas). Preforming acrobatics like backflips and ground pounds and attacking enemies in rapid succession without touching the ground will start up a combo counter above DK's head. This counter starts your banana collecting at that number instead of at one, making the tally for your total bananas count much higher MUCH more quickly. Not only is that the main way to collect the most amount of health for the boss that awaits on the third stage, but it also contributes to a score meter at the end of the kingdom.
As I said earlier, all of the bananas collected in the first two levels in a kingdom are used as your health in the boss fight on the third stage. The bosses come in four different varieties, Rocs, Tusks, Hogs, and Kongs, and each one of these fights all have their own unique battle mechanics accompanying them. Rocs are mostly airborne and their weak point is the large black orb they carry, Hogs jump around the arena and throw coconuts that need to be knocked back, Tusks fire cannonballs from a stationary location and can only be stunned from inhaling a pineapple bomb, and Kongs are fought in a style reminiscent
of Punch-Out!! where all attacks are telegraphed and must be dodged by clapping. After you win, DK is awarded a crest and you are scored on your total bananas collected, each four hundred you collect awards you with an additional crest with a maximum of four crests per kingdom. Collecting all the crests is needed to unlock the secret boss at the end of the game.
All in all, this game is probably one of the most fun and unique platforming games I've ever played. It has great visuals which rival even some current gen consoles, the music is fantastic and gets even better when you start to rack up a high combo, and the gameplay is well suited for the controller that was made before it. Definitely worth your time and money, assuming you can find a working pair of bongos. But until then, I'll be seeing you.