Monday, October 7, 2013

Fire Fighters

So, let's pick up right where we left off.

Defeating Maximillion Pegasus' favorite plaything opens the way to even more mine where you find the EVIL BELL. Now, since the beginning of the game, there's been a guy who has been hearing strange noises coming from his basement. Being the brave and noble swordsman that I am, I always agreed to check it out for him, but it just ended with me wasting my time.

With the Evil Bell in my possession, this was longer the case! The cacophonous call of the instrument riles up demons which have been seemingly twiddling their thumbs behind his basement walls this whole time and they come crashing through in an endless wave. Since enemies continue to spawn in the Ys series as long as their spawn-point is offscreen, the basement makes for a nice place to grind until you finally decide to muscle your way through the hole the goons have made and place the sixth and final book at its statue.

All sixth books finally being in place opens the way to Solomon Shrine, some sort of holy ground where the goons have set up shop. But, there's still quite a trek before we reach it.

The next area of our quest is a frost-covered mountain, and who doesn't love a good snow level? Slippery slopes litter the zone and are impassable until a special pair of boots are found and another puzzle involves forming a bridge out of crystallized water vapor in order to proceed. The whole "Find item X in zone Y in order to overcome obstacle Z" formula gives Book II the sort of action/adventure/RPG that I'm sure most of us are used to and makes playing through it more interesting than Book I was, especially early on.

After finding a mirror which lets you see the REAL boss door, the ice world ends with a fight against a strange, jumping braindemonguy. The boss continuously hops around the room shooting out brain-looking fireballs radially whenever he lands. He can only be damaged for the short period he stays grounded, so timing is key. Though he can be damaged by both sword and fire, fire magic is the way to go as it allows you to easily dodge the projectiles and attack him from a distance. 

Okay, maybe that's just some sort of shell and not his brain. Nevertheless, he's a weirdo.

I've started to get the feeling that fire magic dominates combat in the same way that the whip does in Super Castlevania IV does (something Egoraptor extensively talks about here). Ys's combat wasn't very deep to begin with, but I was hoping that things would get a little more interesting with the addition of magic. Unfortunately, this isn't the case as fire magic is always better against both trash and bosses alike since it's always safer, more accurate, and does just as much damage. On top of this, your mana pool may as well be limitless. I've never had mana issues or have had to use Rhoda Tree Nuts (the games equivalent to mana potions), not that you can use them while fighting a boss anyway.

One would think this changes in the next zone, the previous' exact opposite: a lava area, but this isn't the case and even fire elementals fall in seconds to the very thing they are made up of! Things even worsen when you get an item which makes your fireballs push and continuously damage enemies. Combat issues aside, this volcanic zone is similar to the ice one as you're once again faced with "find X to pass obstacle Y," yet varies from it due to the fact that there's a village to be found in this fiery wasteland. 

The boss of this area may just be the strangest of them all (so far). It's a gigantic, mobile head that can only be damaged as it vomits or swallows some sort of worm thing which chases you as well. It's a nifty boss which involves some fancy footwork as you dodge both head and worm while also positioning yourself for attacks, but fire proves, once again, to be too hot to handle and players will find that mashing the magic button as the worm retreats into his mouth proves to be the best tactic for getting him down. That being said, he does have quite a large pool of hp and the fight can become a battle of endurance, though, as mentioned before, conserving your mana is of no concern.

*insert violent vomiting noise here*
Behind the head and his parasitic pet lies another village up in the mountains just before the Shrine itself, where I currently am located. I think I'll stop here for now until next time, when I'll discuss some plot points I neglected in this post as well as my time in Solomon Shrine.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ys: Book II: Part One: The Game: The Blog Post

Three bosses and countless lesser goons have fallen by my sword since my last update, so there's a bit of catching up to do during today's post. Let's begin!

As I had assumed last time based on its crisper graphics alone, Book II has proven to be a much cleaner and, overall, smoother game than it's predecessor, thanks to various changes in gameplay and additions which help in the "What the hell should I be doing?" department.

The first area of the game is a demon infested mine within which the player must return the six Books of Ys collected in Book I to the statues of their corresponding priests. It's a surprisingly long introductory zone and there's a lot to be done before you even reach the first boss, including saving a villager's lost brother, helping said brother gather materials to save another villager dying of a disease she isn't even aware of, and discovering ancient fire magic. 

It was sort of annoying seeing this so many times, especially considering the text speed is so low.

Though conveyance is much better in Book 2 than it was in the first installation, it's far from perfect. As I mentioned before, I found the MAGIC OF FIRE within the abandoned mine, but was disappointed to find that I couldn't use it right away as I had no mana! Now, there was a man in the Ruins (an overworld area of sorts outside of the village and where the entrance the the mine is) named Regs who, according to some other villagers, was proficient in magic. When spoken too, Regs asked for an item from a nearby chest guarded by two demons (or "goons" as they are often called in game). The thing was, when walked into, the two goons would take minimal damage while they took away a hefty amount of my life and also pushed me away. I figured that my only way through the guards was to poke them down from afar with fire and that the treasure they protected led me to some sort of magic-related upgrade.

Unfortunately, I had it backwards. The two demons did protect some sort of treasure for Regs, but it was what I needed in order to get mana in the first place. Not knowing this at the time, I grew frustrated with the game for a bit as I reached to first boss only to find that he could only be damaged by the fire magic I was unable to use (or, so I had correctly assumed). After scouring the Mine, Ruin, and village for some clue to the secret of mana (teehee) I returned to the indomitable duo only to find out they weren't as invincible as they were annoying to defeat. I had to kill them one at a time by repeatedly running into one, getting bounced back, waiting for my health to regen (it does that in the Ruins and villages), and then repeating the process until, after a few grueling minutes, they finally fell.

Again, my confusion and time wasted backtracking may be my own fault, but I'd like to think that there's still no excuse for the duo to be so bothersome to get around. Nevertheless, this was really my only issue and progression has been pretty smooth since then thanks to the help of a Scroll of Guidance item and and the Magic of Transformation (a form of magic which allows you to transform into a goon, though you look more like some sort of demented kangaroo) and speak to other demons who will often unknowingly help you achieve their downfall. Both these items provide the player with enough information to stay on track without simplifying things to the point that one doesn't need to think at all.

As for the first boss himself, he isn't too interesting once you have the firepower (haha!) to beat him. Looking like an enemy who lost his way from a shoot 'em up (SHMUP) game from the same era, he fires a line of easily avoidable energy balls whenever he opens his eye which, unfortunately for him, leaves him vulnerable to some nice fire magic to the face. Behind him lies some more mine where Adol finds an EVIL BELL which opens the way to the sixth and final priest statue that's hidden in some guys basement. Go figure.

Before becoming a Yugi-Oh card, Thousand-Eyes Restrict worked part-time as a video game boss.

Forgive me for tantalizing you in the beginning of the post, but I think I'm going to stop here for now. These blog posts have been encroaching into "too long" territory. I'm going to try and remedy this by updating more frequently, which shouldn't be an issue as Book II has gripped me more than its precursor had and I already have material to write about.

I'd just like to end this post with an update on Stealth Bastard. I finished the game, though I don't plan on extensively talking about it at the moment. Like I said in my last post, it's definitely a game I can see myself attempting to 100% and I've already 100%'d a few of the early sectors. It's a fun platformer with some twists as gadgets are added into the mix in the DLC levels and unlocked in the standard levels as you beat them in order to lower your run times.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Books and Bastards

I defeated the evil and dreaded Dark Fact at the top of Dharm Tower this week and, with that, traveled to Ys, where Book I closes and the second of the series begins.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Only after my defeat of Spinnyrockdudeballthing that Ys started to actually feel like an RPG and not just a running-into-things simulator with the occasional boss fight. As I progressed I met with another mirror-teleporter puzzle followed by another bossfight: two demon head guys surrounded by fireballs menacingly floating around the room.

A few failed attempts where I had done no damage made me realize I obviously wasn't doing things right. Only after finding a magical flame sword and a level or two of grinding  both things which gave the game more of an RPG feel was I able to defeat the dastardly duo. The only way to damage the boss was by hitting the orange head and, when hurt, he'd instantly switch places with the purple. Overall a fun little boss fight which made me appreciate the movement in the game a little more as I weaved in and out of fireballs that changed their spinning direction as well.

Another boss down, I ascended a few more levels up the Tower of Dharm only to be faced with a strange door which took away half of my health every time I touched it and, true to Zeno's paradox, the door never killed me as I was unable to touch it an infinite number of times.

Conveyance became a slight issue here and I was left unsure of what to do. The Book of Gemma, the book of Ys received after defeating the rock boss, mentions a blue amulet used to ward off evil or something, but I was confused as I already had a necklace from an earlier portion of the game which had also been used to ward off "evil traps" and was blue. It was only after some mindless wandering and a deal of backtracking that I found out that there was a completely different item required to get through the aforementioned door which is given to the player by a man named Luta who, unsurprisingly, is from the Gemma family.

Now, maybe I'm just a little slow, but this problem probably could have been avoided if I actually had any sort of investment in characters and a reason to learn their names. Nevertheless, there's no excuse for the mindless and mundane backtracking involved in getting the amulet.

While on my adventure for the amulet, NPCs began to speak of a being known as "Dark Fact" and, BAM, out of no where I suddenly have an antagonist. There isn't too much of a buildup before you fight the guy and no relationship or rivalry is really established compared to other RPGs, but there's something ominous about Dark Fact and what little happens between you and him leaves you craving more and eager to continue onto Book II.

With eyes like that, they should call him DANK Fact. Dohohohoho.
For a final boss, he isn't too difficult. In fact, the hardest boss in the game for me was probably that damn splitting bat-demon. After a short monologue about how you're weak and pathetic and how he's really cool and powerful, he sort of just bounces around the screen as fireballs fly through the air, eventually splitting radially in a fairly easy-to-dodge manner. The floor does begin to break as you damage him, but, in all my attempts, it was never really an issue.

Following his defeat, you acquire the sixth and final book of Ys and are treated to a nice cutscene where Adol is transported from Esteria to Ys itself, where even more shit is going down. I haven't reached the first boss of Book II yet and am currently traversing some sort of mine where I have to return the books of Ys to these statues that tell me stuff. So far, the graphics have been nicer, the world feels more alive, and there's the addition of magic in the second part of the Ys Chronicles and I'm hoping for a much cleaner and less dated game overall.

On the topic of books, I finally finish George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons which means I'm finally up to date with the Song of Ice and Fire series and no longer need to worry about spoilers around every corner. I enjoyed the book series even more than the show as it makes for a much wider world, isn't as necessarily sexualized, and provides a lot of interesting character development. Though I eagerly await Martin's next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, I only began the series this summer when it was pushed to the front of an already long list of books I've been wanting to read.

Though the Ys series is currently the focal point of The Back-Blog, there are a number of other games I play on the side. These include multiplayer-based games/games I've beaten but continue to play their multiplayer modes (e.g. DotA 2, Awesomnauts, and Serious Samuel), games I've "beaten," but play from time to time in an attempt to 100% them (e.g. Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, etc.), games which pass the time (Duels of the Planeswalkers and Magic: The Gathering in general), and, lastly, games which I have taken a metaphorical "nibble" of, but end up getting fulling engrossed by them.

This last category is currently occupied by Stealth Bastard Deluxe; a game which advertises itself as a 2D, side-scrolling, stealth game, but plays more like a platformer with some stealth elements. The game is quite fun, easy to play on-and-off for short periods of time, and comes fully equipped with challenges ranging from collectables to achieving S-ranks on every level. I can definitely see it going in the "games I've 'beaten,' but play from time to time in an attempt to 100% them" category in the future and recommend it to die-hard platformer fans and players in need of a fun, yet challenging game alike.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bizarre Bosses and the Return of a Hero

I am sorry to say that my trek through Darm Tower has been quite slow, yet steady. To be honest, I haven't played very much as the game hasn't entirely gripped me and due to the fact I often move my Wii around and it can be a hassle to constantly set it up and take it down over and over again. Excuses aside, the Tower of Darm has proven interesting to say the least.

There have been a couple of simple puzzles in the Tower, yet puzzles nonetheless. They usually require an item received after beating a boss, some backtracking, talking to NPCs, or a mixture of the three. One involved destroying a column which was playing music so morbid that listening to it drained your health and blocked your progress. Another required a brooch which allowed you to teleport throughout a maze made up of mirrors. Neither proved too challenging.

The first boss of Darm Tower was a giant and fearsome mantis. I'm not sure what it is about mantis-based enemies in (mainly eastern) video games, but they always seem to throw sickle-like projectiles. That's not how mantises work, but I can see where such an idea would come from and it's clever game design. The fight begins with the insect throwing out two sickles which fly out a set distance, pause, and then fly back to their source, but that number quickly grows to three.
I'mma slice you!
Complications arose when its sickles would get "out of sync," so to speak, when, say, two sickles would be at their apex, but the third was returning our just being released. This made it difficult to get hits in at times and I honestly died a couple of more times than I would have liked. It was until I refound the Silver Armor (you lose all the "silver" items you have at a certain point in the Tower and are forced to find them again) that I finally beat the beast and was rewarded with a Book of Ys and a hammer to smash the morbid pillar.

The second boss of the Tower of Darm is a spinning rock dude who shoots out smaller rocks in a pinwheel-like fashion. He ended up being much easier and only took two attempts to down. The only troubling thing about his fight was that his projectiles spawned exactly under him, which is where he hit-box was as well. This meant that you could be hit by an unseen projectile if not careful about the timing and position of your approach. The prizes for defeating him were another Book of Ys and the aforementioned brooch.
What do you call rock poop?
There's no punchline. I really don't know.
Unlike myself, the video game industry has been quite busy! Especially in the realm of Kickstarter, a site where indie games, and a number of other things, can become funded by regular people all around the world. That is, if the idea is popular enough.

For Keiji Inafune, the mind behind Mega Man, popularity was no problem for his latest brainchild: NOT-MEGA MAN Mighty No. 9! Mere days after being announced on Kickstarter, the project already reached its $900,000 goal and is currently blasting through its stretch goals. Though there aren't any gameplay video yet, but the concept art and concept in general looks amazing. Plus, we can trust Inafune (right?).

As excited as I am, the fact that Comcept (Inafune's team) has had to resort to a Kickstarter irks me for a few reasons:

1. A number of people are essentially paying for a game that A. Isn't necessarily even started yet and B. Know little to nothing about. I'm going to safely assume this shouldn't be too much of an issue for a respected veteran of the industry like Inafune, but it's a problem with Kickstarter in general. That being said, if the game is funded, people can just wait and pay for the finish product after they see more, get to play a demo, and so on. Unfortunately, this leads to a second issue:

2. Funder restricted content. Many Kickstarter projects have tiers for funders based on how much money they put into it. This is fine when it's a t-shirt, a coffee mug, or a heartfelt "Thank You" letter (though it would be nice if such things were available after the funding period so those who can't drop a large amount of money at once have a chance to purchase them at a later date), but, at times, in-game content finds itself place in the rewards section of a Kickstarter page.

Mighty No. 9 currently has two in-game things on its reward list: a Golden Beck skin and an exclusive transformation. The former is purely cosmetic and I really have no qualms with it, but the latter affects gameplay! Now, it's yet to be seen how said transformation will work and it may be quite balanced or a joke transformation, yet it's still irksome that one has to pay so much more (in this case, about $60) to get the full game.

Call it foolish. Call it overreacting. Either way, it sets a precedent I'm not to fond of. Though, I do think my last complaint is the most worrisome:

3. Funder created content. Way down the rewards list for Mighty No. 9, you can see "HELP CREATE A CHALLENGE" and "DESIGN AN ENEMY." Granted, these rewards are limited to only a certain number of people, but can these individuals with a lot of disposable income be trusted with creating in-game content? Call me cynical, but I'm not sure. It's wonderful that you care so much for a game, but leave the technical stuff to the professionals.

This one comes with a qualification as well, though. As long as the professionals have a strong guiding hand and the balls to say "no" when necessary, such rewards shouldn't be too problematic and act as nice bait for those willing to take it and throw all that money in.

All things considered, I see Kickstarter as, ultimately, a force for good in gaming. Other Kickstarters I have been monitoring are: Shovel Knight, Shantae (Also started this week, and another series I apparently need to look into. I feel like my backlog has only extended since I've started this blog. What's a man to do?), and Kaiju Combat (This project is one I think has been hit a little harder by my three complaints above compared to something like Might No. 9).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The Ys series comprises a number of JRPGs with interesting combat and memorable boss fights. Ys: Origins and Ys: The Oath in Felghana have both found their way onto my backlog, but before I play either I've decided to play Ys: Books I & II on my Wii's VirtualWare.

Books I & II is a top-down JRPGs with an average story and very basic gameplay. You're the swordsman Adol who is gathering the Books of Ys which will prevent the destruction of Esteria, according to a fortuneteller who has seen the tragedy in her crystal ball. The fortuneteller turned doomsday prophet, Sara, doesn't let you begin your journey until you get yourself a shield, armor, and a sword. Unfortunately, you only have enough gold to afford two of the three items from the local shops and are forced to venture from the city to gather more.

Once in the field and after fumbling around with the controller a bit, it becomes apparent that there's no attack button in Books 1 & 2. The only way to fight the rogues and knaves outside the city walls is the run straight into them. Combat is not as simple as it sounds though, as enemies push back and will damage you if you are standing still or hit at certain angles.

As you kill enemies you level up, raising your Hit Points and damage, and receive gold, which you can use to buy items and upgrade your weapons. Even so, clearing enemies becomes dull bouts of poking, backing off, and poking again until you outlevel enemies by enough of a margin to one-shot them. Luckily, the game is paced pretty well and there isn't too much of this sort of fighting between boss fights.

So far, boss fights are what keep me playing this game, and they have always been my favorite part of video games.  They force the player to use their problem solving and technical skills in order to defeat an enemy of equal, or even greater, power. These strange combinations of logic puzzles and obstacle courses known as "bosses" come in wide variety of types. In Ys: Books I & II, bosses are more basic than most (yet, still more complex than the quick time events which pass as "bosses" in a number of modern day games), but they manage to have a lot of charm while providing straightforward examples of boss archetypes still used today.

The first boss is a Spooky Ghost Man who isn't as much of a danger as the erratic rows of fire which he disappears and reappears between. His is a boss fight which revolves entirely around "keeping out of the fire" while getting hits in whenever you can. It's simple enough, but it's important to time your hits right as his vulnerability time is quite short before he vanishes and you may very well end up singed without scratching him at all.

Boss two guards the first book of Ys an is a giant centipede. Like most worm-like bosses, the centipede's weakness is its hindquarters. Trying to face it head on will only result in damage, but keeping behind the beast is easy enough.

Book Ys is protected by the third and last boss I've faced so far: some weird bat demon thing. He spends most of the fight separated into a number of bats who are fast-moving, numerous, and damage you on hit. He's only vulnerable when the bats group back together, but positioning is important as it's easy to get damaged by him yourself while attacking him.

The strange combat system and poorly defined hitboxes made this boss more trouble than I'd like to have had with him, but I was able to defeat him in the end.

Next is the Tower of Darm, also known as "The Devil's Tower." Hopefully more fun and interesting boss fights await within. I'll leave you with Ys: Books I & II's boss music, which is pretty rockin, much like the music in many other TurboGrafx games (Lords of Thunder comes to mind).


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kongquistadors! Donkey Kong Country Rundown, Kongtinued.

No need for a lengthy introduction this time. Let's do this!

After finally plaything through it, I'm really embarrassed at how long it had taken me to finally play Donkey Kong Country 2. The overall formula of the game remains relatively the same, but, since Donkey Kong has been kidnapped by Kaptain K. Rool, you play as Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie. Along with Dixie and her ability to glide by whirling her ponytail comes the ability for the Kongs to climb up on one another's backs and be thrown as a weapon or to hard to reach places.

Animal buddies return and are more numerous than in the first game. Rambi and Enguarde make a comeback, but are basically unchanged except for the ability to do a "supercharge" by holding down the attack button (this supercharge allows Enguarde to break walls as well). Squawks makes a reappearance as well, now able to carry the Kongs through the air and shoot nuts/eggs/ballsofsomesort out of his mouth. Newcomers include Rattly the Rattlesnake who acts as a replacement for Winky with the added ability to do a "superjump," Squitter the Spider who can shoot webs offensively or to create platforms, and the less notable animals, Clapper the Seal and Glimmer the Anglerfish who essential act as level gimmicks the way Squawks did in the first game.

These changes are important as there are now barrels in certain levels which completely change you into the five major animal helpers. These barrels, along with a variety of other new barrels and platforming gimmicks including wind, horizontal ropes, invincibility barrels, and so on, provide for fun and interesting levels which can end up more engaging than the ones in DKC2's predecessor. Overall, the game is a little more streamlined as levels are made more linear in a certain sense and the addition of bonus barrels and specific barrels making finding secrets a little less all over the place. I know seeing the word "streamlining" sets off a lot of video game enthusiasts these days, akin to feared terms such as "casualization" and "garnering a larger audience," myself included, but it really works for DKC2 and makes for a better game and less anxiety for those going for secrets and collectibles.

On the topic of collectibles, bonus levels now reward players with Kremkoins which can be given to a Kremlin, Klubba, in order to gain access to The Lost World. Banana coins are also strewn about levels and act as currency. Players can give them to Wrinkly Kong in order to save and get some hints, Skwanky Kong in order to play some trivia for lives, Funky Kong to get around the world map, and Cranky Kong for hints about where DK Coins may be found. DK Coins serve as merely collectibles used to appease Cranky Kong and truly beat the game once all collected.

I know I didn't mention NPCs in my first post about DKC, but there was only three of them in that game (Cranky, Funky, and Candy) and they served pretty basic functions (vague advice, world map travel, and saving).

Bosses are a lot more unique and make for some really fun and memorable fights compared to Donkey Kong Country's bosses. The Kaptain K. Rool fight may even surpass King K. Rool. Shouts out to King Zing Sting too, as well as the beehive-based levels.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble isn't as radically different from DKC2 as DKC2 is from the original DKC. Both DK and Diddy are kidnapped this time, so it's Dixie and the newcomer Kiddy Kong's turn to save the day. Dixie's gameplay stays the same, while Kiddy plays a lot more like DK with the strange ability to skip on water using his roll. The duo can "team up" similar to the way Dixie and Diddy could in Kong Quest, but, due to their difference in size, Kiddy can throw Dixie quite far and Dixie can use Kiddy's heavy weight to break through cracks in ground.

Double Trouble features an expansive world map which Kiddy and Dixie can explore using Funky Kong's varied vehicles.Collectibles are taken to a new level as well, adding: Bear Coins, which act similarly to DKC2's Banana Coins and are named so because of the friendly bears which often accept them, Bonus Coins used to unlock levels on the Lost World of Krematoa, and Banana Birds which help the player reach that 103% completion. DK Coins return as well, but, instead of being hidden, are used as shields by Koin Kremlins who must be defeated with a steel keg to the back. Most Koins are defeated by simply throwing the keg against a wall behind them, but some take a little more thinking and skill to defeat.

Ellie the Elephant replaces Rambi the Rhino in Double Trouble and I believe is the first female animal buddy (down with the pachyderm patriarchy!) and can use her trunk to suck barrel towards her or shoot out water she collects. Parry the Parallel Bird is another new animal friend who flies above the Kongs in order to get out-of-reach collectibles and bonuses. Unfortunately, he is easily killed so players must be careful where they walk (and, thus, force him to fly) when he's around.

Bosses are taken up another notch in DKC3 and make for some interesting fights, but, to my dismay, I found the Baron K. Roolenstein to be the weakest of the K. Rool fights. Overall, I found progress collectible-wise to be the easiest in Double Trouble and my overall percent completion went 3 > 2 > 1 for the three games. I did not 100/102/103/whatever% any of the games as I'd like to move onto the next game asap, but these are definitely games I'd like to go back to and completely Kongquer when I have the chance.

I realize this wasn't very short at all, but I really enjoyed my time with this games and hopefully any readers will take the time to enjoy them to. I have yet to play Donkey Kong Country Returns even though I have a Wii, because I'm holding out until I get a 3DS and can play DKCR3D, though I am hyped to finally play it and hopefully Tropical Freeze as well in the future. I'll leave you off with one of the most relaxing tracks in the series:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Monkeyin' Around

As I mentioned in my last post, Donkey Kong Country may have been the first video game I have ever own myself and, now that I look back on it, was most likely the bud from which my love of platformers blossomed. Funnily enough, it was a game I really took for granted and didn't come to appreciate in the fullest until recently.

I beat the game once as a kid only to lazily replay it halfway through a couple of times in my college years and hadn't even touched its sequels until my recent run-through of the games over this past month. In fact, "platformer" was a genre I didn't really think about until the "retro indie platformer" boom of 2008-2010 which started with Braid (a game I have yet to finish and may appear on this blog in the long run) and was highlighted, for me at least, by Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV.

Sure, I'd play a Kirby game here and there, but most of my video game playing time was spent with World of Warcraft (and, before that, Warcraft III), Pokemon, Halo and other big-named console games. Granted, that's probably a huge generalization and I'm in no way trying to dis these series, but you get the picture. My video game taste started to mature into something more like it is today during my first few semesters at university, during which I modded my Wii, put together a gaming PC, and, alongside the aforementioned platformer boom, acquired the Mega Man Anniversary Collection.

Anyway, Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong Country is very much a game of its time: a platformer starring campy, yet iconic, characters trying to return their small world to a comfortable status quo by jumping on the heads of equally memorable villains. Donkey Kong just wanted his damn bananas back from King K. Rool, a big baddie who, unfortunately, hasn't garnered the sort of popularity or number of game appearances similar villains, such as Bowser, Dr. Wily, and King DeDeDe, have (K. Rool for Smash 4!).

Both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong are playable in the game and can be switched between on a whim. The duo must each die in order for the player to lose a life as well (that is, unless you end up sending both plummeting to their deaths at once). The heroes have their own distinct feels and playstyles with DK being heavier, but able to take out the games bulkier enemies while Diddy is lighter and faster than the game's namesake.

It's a game featuring your basic, platforming controls with "run" and "jump" buttons, but there are some cool technical things thrown into the mix for variety. Tapping the run button allows for a roll attack which, along with jumping on enemy heads, makes for a sort of strangely satisfying and bouncy "combat" that adds to the game's overall flow instead of hindering it the way combat does in some other platformers. Players can also roll off ledges and jump afterwards in order to give Diddy or DK a little more horizontal distance in the air.

There are a lot of things other than just controls which Donkey Kong Country did in order to make itself stand out among a myriad of platformers. Barrels, an iconic part of any Donkey Kong game, can be found throughout the game and come in a variety of types. Some can be picked up and used to demolish enemies or break walls to secret areas while others can be jumped into, blasting players to out of reach players or, more usually than not, other blast barrels. "Barrel segments" of various levels make for some real intense and unique platforming, especially when players are forced to time their shots into moving barrels while simultaneously dodging pesky flying enemies.

Our Kongs don't fight alone, though, and have five animal friends helping them take down K. Rool. Players can ride Rambi the Rhino in order to charge down enemies or break through walls to secret areas. Winky the Frog allows players to jump much higher and safely onto normal dangerous enemies' heads. Expresso the Ostrich's long legs let the Kongs evade low-to-the-ground enemies at high speeds and his small wings allow for gliding. Enguarde the Swordfish has tighter controls underwater than the Kongs do and also has the ability to stab aquatic foes, allowing the Kongs to attack underwater. Lastly is the Parrot, Squawks, who only appears as a baby in one level in order to carry a lantern in a dark cave. Squawks plays a larger role in the next few games.

Secrets and collectibles litter Donkey Kong Island, so much so that total completion of the game rewards the player with a 101% rather than a 100%. K-O-N-G letters in each level act as both a collectible and a way for players to earn a life if they find all four. Golden animal figurines can also be found, which open the way to bonus mini-games where players collect tinier golden figurines for extra lives as their animal friends when three of a kind are collected. As mentioned before, well placed barrels and animal companions will allow the player to find secret areas usually containing a short mini-game rewarding the players with a letter, extra lives, or animal figures.

These secrets and trinkets make up the "Collect-a-thon" aspect of Donkey Kong Country and really form the back-bone of the game, in my opinion. It's immensely satisfying to find one of these areas without a guide or any sort of help and they usually appear in order to reward the player for good gameplay and decision making (barrels and animals which let you find/reach many secret areas can be lost before the time is right due to poor platforming or collision with an enemy). There are also a number of boss battles in the game, but, aside from King K. Rool, they end up being pretty repetitive, uninteresting, and too short. Fortunately, this is fixed in later installments and they aren't without their charm (the boss theme, like most of the music in the game, is really good).

Well, this post already ended up much longer than expected, so I suppose I'll end here and make a shorter follow-up post on DKC2 and 3, which both largely keep the same formula, but build upon the already strong foundation in their own way. If you haven't give Dokney Kong Country a try, please do. The series could use some more love and it seems like DK may finally be making a bit of a comeback in a sea of Mario platformers.

I'd like to leave you with the theme to your encounter with King K. Rool, one of the more memorable parts of the game, if not the most memorable. The platforming in the game is solid throughout and each level provides unique challenge which slowly evolve as you progress through the game, but I'm always a sucker for a good boss fight.