Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Classic Kong (SNES)

It's a Friday night as I type this, with a bank holiday weekend on the cards, and I'm obsessively playing Bubble Zap's Classic Kong, a Donkey Kong port for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System because I'm bloody minded and stubborn, and also because it's a top notch, classy port done slickly and smartly.

I've not played much in the way of SNES homebrews apart from one that I picked up last year as possible RGCD review fodder and it was so terrible I just walked away from it. I forget its name and this is probably for the best. Coded by retro-developer Shiru (who recently gave us the excellent Zooming Secretary), Classic Kong blew away any prejudices I had about SNES homebrew games with its polished and completely professional appearance, and it backed this up with great gameplay.

It had been an age since I had last taken command of a plumber and faced off against a girl-stealing damn dirty ape and I found myself having to re-learn how to play Donkey Kong, getting my head around its peculiar quirks and its clinical requirement for precision jumps and Not Fucking Up Ever. After a honeymoon period of me swearing a lot as Jumpman/Mario stepped off a ledge and fell to his death AGAIN (and AGAIN and AGAIN) the game began to show just how special it is, and with frankly gorgeous SNES graphics to reinforce the addictive, challenging gameplay.

The graphics are brilliant. Charming, characterful and making great use of the SNES' palette, the game looks like a top-drawer commercial release with the Nintendo Seal of Quality, believable either as a SNES game or perhaps an easter egg concealed in one of the Nintendo 64 Kong games. My SNES, I must confess, has lately been in mothballs under the spare bed because my house is tiny but this little gem has goaded me into bringing it back into regular living room service, because the graphics more than anything opened up a can of nostalgia and spilled Nintendo everywhere.

The "how high can you get?" catchphrase that precedes each game tickles my prurient stoner humour funnybone as I imagine people the world over reading it and saying "challenge accepted" as they pack a bong and commit to a night of getting baked and playing Donkey Kong, but that's just an aside and a probably unnecessary look into my juvenile sense of humour, so let me talk about the soundtrack and try and look professional.

It's another tick in the box, and another mark on the target. The soundtrack is well executed and perfectly fitting accompaniment to the graphics and the gameplay, bouncing along in a time honoured Nintendo fashion and underlining the almost perfect illusion of a game that came with a golden mark on the box saying that damn right this is a Nintendo game, none of your shite here.

I had a good go at finding problems with this game and couldn't really put my finger on anything. There are a few places where it could improve its performance but they're nothing to get mad over. Classic Kong is a great game, a fine piece of work and a joy to play either as a five minute time waster or a strenous late night battle against both the ape and the player's own personal best.

Download the game here (from the SuperGNES site).
Run it with ZSNES (freeware).

4 out of 5