Wednesday, March 11, 2009

DFB - Donkey Kong ’94 – Primate Totem #2


After the first nostalgic batch of levels establishes it's relation to the previous game, this title truly begins to come into it's own. The first world Mario goes through is "Big City" and is concentrated on maneuvering the height and railings. Like I mentioned before (and will mention again), the animations in this game are really a lost treasure and it's apparent from even the earliest levels such as this. Once Mario falls past a certain extent, his sprite changes into a tumble--which in turn lets the player know they will be momentarily hindered once he hits the ground (Mario lays comically sprawled out with his leg twitching in the air for a few seconds).

This culminates in the first boss battle in Big City, as jumping around leaves Mario dodging falling debris. The second fight actually has Mario using barrels to strike D.K. himself (while dodging them being thrown down). Between the dodging and jumping, working one's way around Mario's animations is a godsend in itself. I constantly found myself making snap-judgments with relative ease, no matter how painted-into-a-corner I actually was. Nintendo has been the most obvious influence in the simple novelty of jumping in a game and it's why I still to this day immediately notice any game that I simply can't jump in (to an OCD-like extent). Another thing I found interesting is that the more function one can successfully pour into a simple interface, the more we as gamers appreciate it. Once we got into the Post-SNES world, it seemed almost a mandatory presence to have at least four-six face buttons for games (it was creeping up long before then too). That's to be understood as the times evolve, but it's a creative limitation few use anymore. In this game, Mario has a multitude of maneuvers he can use in his repertoire and for just two buttons and a D-pad...well you get it right?

The first standout in this world for me is how some music is intrinsically tied to parts of the game. Whether it's Sonic running around in the water too long, or Mario taking full advantage of his star-state, games have always used music to intuitively blend certain sequences of the game into one. Donkey Kong first uses this in a similar fashion with the first "power-up" that Mario is granted (the arrows). In the above pictures you'll notice arrow blocks that Mario can jump and interact with. These involve placing a ladder or bridge in the desired area while a swiftly accelerating tune announces the allotted time to cross or climb it. Something I heard in Rebel FM last week was how certain tunes from games meant more to them in times like this and before. I kind-of agree and strongly disagree with that at the same time. Passing off what those guys identified as "film-music" gave the medium (film) undeserved hold over some styles and arenas of music. I do think that games dovetailed their music more respectively in this time period because of the aforementioned tricks (simply resigning it to the limitations of the period is being stupidly romantic), I just don't think the big-wig orchestrals of some games now are devoid of that same charm. They're just as strong now and people won't notice now until twenty years from now. Music is far too powerful of an art to designate to any one medium in any state.

That's it for today. I don't intend to separate all these posts in parallel to the respective worlds. I want this DFB to come in well-under ten entries. I just wanted this one out of the way this week, as I'm actually working on a special blog to posted within the month.