Donkey Kong Country (Game Boy Color) Review – A Fantastic Port of a Great Classic!

I wrote the original version of this review in 2011.  Great game, I love it.  I added some bits to the review here and there, but most of it is the original text.

  • Title: Donkey Kong Country
  • Released: 2000 (worldwide)
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Rare
  • Review Written 2/14/2011; Expanded for posting on this site on 9/21/2014.


Donkey Kong Country, originally for the Super Nintendo, was ported to the Game Boy Color by Rare in 2000. The game is a port of the SNES original, with a few changes and level design alterations to fit the different aspect ratio, and with a new menu system and added minigames. It’s also an impressive port of one of the great classic platformers. The game is a GBC-only release (not backwards compatible with the original GB).  This is a great platformer, and somewhat under-rated I think, now, thanks to Rare’s misguided critics who go back and bash most of their games, and the fact that it can’t be equal to the SNES original.  I played this game expecting it to be not that great, because of how big of a downgrade from the SNES it is due to the limitd hardware, but GBC DKS is fantastic!  Of the SNES-to-GBC ports, this is probably the best one; it turned out much, much better than either Mega Man Xtreme game did.  Great work, Rare.

world map

The island

(As an aside, on the SNES, I actually like each DKC game more than the one before it. 3 is my favorite. Still though, the original is an incredible game, deserving of the the praise and great success it received.)

I managed to complete GBC DKC a day before writing the original version of this review in 2011, and whew, this was a tough game.  Sure, it didn’t take years and years like some games do, such as a replay of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons that I played for years on and off before finally finishing in 2011, but GBC DKC did take months to complete.  I started playing this game shortly after buying it, and it took quite a while to finish because DKC is a hard game, just like the SNES original is.  This is a fantastic port of a great, great game.

Graphically, the GBC version of DKC really is quite impressive.  Visually it looks a lot like the GB Donkey Kong Land games, except with color and perhaps some other visual improvements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is running on an upgraded version of the DKL engine.  The color adds a lot, so as good as the DKL games looked, this looks better.  Because they can make things different colors, the GBC version has none of the problems the DKL games had with having trouble telling sprites from backgrounds.  There is slowdown, sometimes in areas with more than a few enemies, but I don’t think it hurts the game much.  The game obviously doesn’t have the detail and graphics quality of the Super Nintendo, but considering the system it’s on they did an outstanding job.  They even used the static screen high color mode for the intro, ending, and game over screens, which makes them look nicer. Overall I think the game looks and plays very, very well.  It’s better than I would have expected DKC to look on the GBC, this game impressed me visually.  For the system, it looks about as good as it possibly could.  Few GBC games look this great.


The game has nice looking cinema scenes

The music is good. Obviously it’s not SNES quality, but the music is good GB remakes of the classic SNES songs, and sounds pretty great for the system. They did remove the voice sound effects, though, in favor of standard beeps and such. That’s too bad, the GBC is capable of speech., as Bionic Commando: Elite Forces shows.  I guess they wanted to save on cartridge size.  Oh well.  The music makes up for that, though! Rare always had good musicians, and they get a good amount out of the Game Boy Color here.

GBC DKC’s level designs are great.  Levels are all redone versions of the original Super Nintendo levels.  The first DKC is a simple game, as your goal is usually just to go right until you finish the level, but the controls are fantastic, there are secrets to find, and levels are large and varied.  Level designs in this version are mostly the same as before, but have been modified in places to fit the smaller screen, which is fantastic!  Handheld ports always had to deal with this problem, and DKC for the GBC doesn’t just leave in lots of blind jumps as some ports do, but fixes those jumps so that you can see where you need to land.  There aren’t any regular jumps where you can’t see where you are going, which there would be, considering the aspect ratio change, if they hadn’t adjusted the levels.  Even though though it’s got to be a little different, they did a great job of the tweaks and. it feels just like the original.  All of the levels from the original game are here with nothing removed, plus there’s one new level too, so there’s no cut content in this handheld port, thankfully!  Donkey Kong Country is an outstanding game, one of the great platformers of the ’90s, and this port does a good job of showing why that is.  Overall, Rare did a brilliant job making his GBC port still a very challenging and incredibly fun game, but not impossible thanks to constant blind jumps they could have left in.  Donkey Kong Country is classic, traditional platforming at its best.  While this cannot match the SNES version, it is impressive how close it gets.

The beginning

The new save system is also great!  I really appreciate the change.  In the original SNES game,  you  can only save at Save Huts, and cannot back out of a world once entered, so you can only save once you reach the Save Hut or Funky’s Flights in a world.  This means you usually have to beat three or four levels in a world before you’d be able to save in that world, depending on how far into the world the Funky’s Flights or Save Hut were, which sometimes was an annoying  challenge.  Game Over meant starting the whole world over, in those cases.  That is all gone now; GBC DKC drops that in favor of an auto-save that saves after you beat each level. This certainly makes the game easier, but difficulty thanks to cruel save systems isn’t something I like, so I think it was a fantastic change that makes the game a lot more fun. It’s still a quite challenging game, but it’s not as crazy hard as the SNES version was thanks to this saving change, and I think that’s a good thing. Having to repeatedly replay levels you’ve beaten before just because one of the later stages in a world is harder gets frustrating. I don’t mind them changing that.

DKC for the GBC also has some additional content to add even more to this fantastic port.  First, there’s one new level, Necky Nutmare in the mine area. It’s a challenging stage and a nice addition to the game.  Also, there are a bunch of fun little minigames to unlock, as you find stuff.  This means that finding the bonus rooms and getting a higher completion percentage means more in this version than in the original DKC, which is good; later DKC games upped the amount of stuff to find, and upped the rewards, compared to the first game on the SNES.  Even if they are just minigames, it’s nice to have something in this version to make me want to come back and play the game more.  There’s also a new Donkey Kong 64-style menu system with DK holding a rotating ring of barrels. I like it, just like I did in DK64.  The additions make this the most feature-rich version of Donkey Kong game ever released, and that’s great.  Even for people who have the SNES version, GBC Donkey Kong Country is well worth playing!


The mine cart levels are as infuriatingly hard as ever, awesome stuff… 🙂

Overall, GBC DKC is a great game.  When I got it I was worried that it’d be a waste of money because it’s a downgraded port of a classic, and because there’s also a GBA version of the game if I wanted to play a more accurate handheld port of DKC, but once I started playing, my concerns almost immediately vanished. GBC DKC is fantastic, and is well worth playing today, particularly for anyone who still appreciates the Game Boy and Game Boy Color.  It’s a great game, and easily is an A or A- title.  This is one of Rare’s better GBC games, and might even be their best one.  Perfect Dark GBC and the two Mickey racing games I find somewhat disappointing.  Conker’s Pocket Tales is alright, though, though probably not quite as good as this. I haven’t played the GBC version of Donkey Kong Land 3, but it’s probably good.  It’s just a colorized GB port, though.

The only real complaint I can think of about the game is that I kind of wish Rare had made a new game, instead of just a port, like how the GB’s three DKL games all were not just ports (DKL2 is the closest to being a port, but even it isn’t quite one; DKL1 and 3 are entirely different games based on similar concepts).  The GBC and GBA saw many more ports than the original Game Boy had, I would say, and it is too bad; I think that these systems are best when developers are making original titles for them, not just ports of major console titles.  Also, it’d have been awesome to see a new DKC/DKL style game.  Still though, it’s a great, impressive port, and I like it a lot.  Of course it is a downgraded port, so perhaps there’s not much reason to play it today (or maybe even since 2003 when the GBA version was released?  I haven’t played any of the GBA DKC games, so I can’t say myself how those turned out.), but still, I really enjoyed it and think it was well worth playing.  I do, however, like classic handheld games, people who don’t likely wouldn’t like this I’d guess. Anyway though, I at least think it’s pretty good.  It’s not as good as the SNES version, I will admit, but even so, it’s a very good game.  Great work!  Donkey Kong Country for the GBC easily deserves an A-.  Relative to only other GBC games, it probably even deserves an A, but it is true that compared to the SNES original it’s a definite downgrade.  Its only other major fault is being yet another port, and not an original title.

More Media





Video: Unfortunately, I can’t find any good videos of the game. This guy did videos of all the levels, but he’s playing them stretched, and I think GB games look awful with their graphics all stretched out to fill the 4:3 screen of the GBA/GB Player. I always play them with the bars on the sides. I’ll link one anyway because I can’t find anything better.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
This entry was posted in Book Reviews (Gaming), Classic Games, Game Boy Color, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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