DONKEY KONG 3
Donkey Kong 3 is such a disappointment for me. This game should have been the final chapter in the Donkey Kong Trilogy by finally allowing us to play as the giant Donkey Kong. Miyamoto wanted to do this in DK Jr. but said that the technology wasn't there. I'm not saying that the tech was ready by DK3, but they totally should have waited until it was. Instead, DK3 wound up being something so different and off base in design that I really don't think about this game alongside the first two. It feels more like a seperate game that was having development issues and thus they decided to include Donkey Kong to salvage it. I explain better in the episode why I think this game is a mess, but I think any fan of DK and DK Jr. know that this just doesn't hold a candle to those two.
And so the perplexing decline of the Donkey Kong franchise brings us to the messy Donkey Kong 3. This game shares so little with its forebears that it may as well be a Gaiden game, or of a different series entirely. The only connecting thread is the appearance of the titular Donkey Kong, who doesn't seem to be himself. The once menacing antagonist, former kidnapper, and proud father has descended into a pit of psychosis as he seems to have unwittingly trapped himself in a greenhouse as it's getting fumigated by a kid named Stanley. He never seems to be aware of whats going on, shrieking and thrashing about with confusion as he's sprayed by the noxious fumes, saved only at times by the aggressive insects that also inhabit the space. His life is constant anguish.
Mario, with his newfound rock star status, was smart to avoid an appearance in this game, possibly sensing that something was amiss when his rival began to behave so erratically. Our fitting replacement, Stanley, has no heroic traits. He is simply the confused little man whose sad life was interrupted by an equally bewildered giant gorilla. We are watching tragedy unfold.
The gameplay is a pedestrian knockoff of Space Invaders without any particularly new ideas. It feels okay at first, but quickly devolves into a frantic mess, without any moments of feeling accomplished.
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine. And the machine is bleeding to death."
The trend of DK games changing up the gameplay continues. This time it is almost a complete departure from any gameplay elements of it’s predecessors. Despite how different they made it they still managed to nail the same idea of making the game painfully short. I think where I take issue with these games is that they were made as arcade experiences but I am viewing them as something you would buy to play in your home. As an NES game, like the other DK games, it feels disappointingly short. If you don’t already have a special place in your heart for this game from your days in the arcade, I think you’ll feel the same. And if you are looking to recapture the experience you had with one of the earlier games, look elsewhere.
Donkey Kong 3 comes out of left field. You don’t play as Mario. You don’t play as Donkey Kong Jr. You’re not even rescuing anyone. You don’t have anyone in your life that you care about that Donkey Kong can steal away or Mario can lock up. But you do have plants. And you will die for your plants.
In Donkey Kong 3, you are thrust into the shoes of Stanley, an avid gardener and owner of an enormous 4 story greenhouse where he keeps his five flowers. After breaking out of prison with the help of his son, Donkey Kong raids Stanley’s greenhouse to wreak havoc. He hits beehives to get them to attack the poor gardener, and even tosses coconuts at him. As Stanley, you must use your trusty pump-action pesticide to fend off the bees trying to steal your flowers, while also forcing Donkey Kong to move higher and higher to breathable air until he gets his head stuck in a beehive. This is not what I was expecting Donkey Kong 3 to be like.
Like the previous games, there are four levels to play through before they repeat, increasing in difficulty each cycle. However, I felt like the difficulty doesn’t scale well in this game. I was able to breeze through the first three levels, got a little tripped up on the fourth, the first level of the second cycle wasn’t bad, but the second level of the second cycle was brutal. I felt like there were so many enemies on the screen at once that I couldn’t move into a position where I could attack them without hitting one. And it’s not so much that this is frustrating, but this difficulty spike seemed to come out of nowhere. I wasn’t thrilled at the level variation either. Not a lot changes from level to level, but the small changes do affect your mobility, and your ability to hit Donkey Kong. I think it could have benefited from more dramatic level changes to vary the gameplay. Maybe you’re firing sideways in one level?
I will say I like the mechanics of this game much more than Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. Firing the pesticide at Donkey Kong and the bees is weird and fun and so different than anything I imagined would be in a Donkey Kong sequel. That said, this game doesn’t feel like a Donkey Kong sequel at all, and I’m not exactly sure why it isn’t just it’s own thing. It feels like a platform-based Space Invaders that always has a boss on the screen, and that’s cool!