Coming to terms with mediocrity.
When I got a SNES, it was a DKC bundle. My eyes popped out of my skull when I turned that game on—look at those fancy graphics! Rare took CG models and digitized them to run on SNES hardware, then married those sprites against pre-rendered backgrounds to create a very cool world that honestly still stands the test of time. I think DKC looks great considering what it is. The music is also some of the best on the console, with a healthy amount of ambient noise-based tracks as well as classic musical pieces (“Aquatic Ambience” is timeless).
But over the last twenty years, I can’t say the same of the gameplay. A few of DK’s animal friends (Winky, Espresso) have bizarre hitboxes and will occasionally take damage when you jump on an enemy’s head wrong. There are a surprising number of blind jumps and instances of cheap enemy placement. In animal friend bonus stages, Rambi’s timer ticks down twice as fast as the other animals. I’ve never been able to figure out if that’s on purpose or not. A few of the bosses appear more than once, unfortunately repeating their attacks . Having said that, I actually like the bosses in DKC1 more than DKC2; they have more personality, and the boss music is better. The biggest problem, though, lies with the bonus stages: there’s often no indication where they are, and never an indication of how many are in a given stage. In DKC2, there are two or three per stage. In DKC3, it’s two per stage. In DKC1, it’s between zero and five. DKC1 has bonus stages accessed through other bonus stages. It’s ridiculous and requires a FAQ to complete.
This is not to say DKC is a bad game, because it’s not. I enjoy it, but I recognize its faults and I’ve stopped trying to get 101% by finding all the bonus stages. And DKC is a more streamlined game than its sequels: you’re not constantly finding doo-dads or playing mini-games. This is a pure platformer, and I appreciate that. This game also has, arguably, the best mix of Kremlings, and one of the best final boss fights I’ve ever experienced in a video game.