Donkey Konga

Review

posted 10/6/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: GC
The fifteen of you who actually bought a SEGA Dreamcast might remember a little rhythm-based game called Samba De Amigo. Using a set of Maracas, players shook their arms and body to the beat in order to score massive points. Personally it’s my favorite rhythm game of all-time because it was easy to play and the infectious gameplay always kept me coming back for more. Now Nintendo is looking to cater to the same type of people with a similar game called Donkey Konga. As the namesake implies, gamers use a set of bongos to rock to the beat. And while the design is pretty nice, the inconstancies in the gameplay make the game less enjoyable than it should have been.

Before we go over the game I feel that Nintendo should be commended for its efforts in this release. At the standard $49.99 retail price point you get a copy of the game and one set of Bongos. When companies release these kinds of games they like to charge an additional $10 for the peripheral. Personally I always thought it was inane to have to pay an extra $10 just to play the game the way it was meant to be played. By charging less, Nintendo effectively helped its cause because gamers will probably want to invest that extra $10 into an extra set of bongos.

That’s because the bongos are the key to enjoyment in this game. Oh, you can play with the standard GameCube controller but it takes most of the fun out of the game. It’s kind of like playing Dance Dance Revolution without the dance pad. In essence, you’re still going through the same motions but your body is physically out of the game. They’re simple to use too. Differentiating between your left and right hand is half the battle; knowing how to clap is the other half. As the song progresses notes will travel from the right side of the screen into a “sweet spot” on the left side. How well you time your actions in accordance with the beat will determine your score. It’s the basic groundwork of every single rhythm-based game out there, so if you’ve played one you should have no trouble getting into this one. Furthermore, the game is based off of Namco’s Taiko Drum Master so those familiar with it shouldn’t have a problem with DK.

Nintendo decided to lock a huge portion of the game from the start, but you’ll still have a lot of options available to you. There’s the Street Performance mode which serves as the game’s core single-player mode. In it you can play songs and earn coins which can be used to unlock other goodies. Initially only the Monkey and Chimp modes will be available to you. Monkey is a great place for newbies to start as it’s the easiest of the three modes. Anyone who has played this type of game before will want to start at Chimp and work their way towards Gorilla. For multiple players there’s a head-to-head Battle Mode and a Jam session which can accommodate up to four players. In Battle Mode two players take on a song and try to compete for the highest score. To spice it up a bit there’s a POW block (from the Mario games) which when hit will take away from your opponent’s score. A slot machine that’s activated by hitting three specific notes and a roll-off at the end of the song also add some spunk to the battle. The multiplayer Jam Session is a lot of fun, especially if you have three rhythmically-inclined friends on hand. The last is a Jam mode which is one of those lame hidden note modes. As the song plays you’ll only get a marker telling you that a note belongs there, but no mention of which note it is. It requires you to memorize the song in order to be successful. While it’s logical if you’re an actual musician, it’s just inane when you’re trying to sit around and have fun with a video game.
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