April 7, 2009
In my post on Rock Band, I neglected to mention that I'm the proud owner of 4 sets of another plastic instrument, the DK Bongos.
To make the most of the Bongos, I picked up almost every GameCube game there is that makes use of them. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is an amazing experience, but deserves a post of its own. The only one I'm missing is the third Donkey Konga entry, as the game would be in Japanese. Being unable to read any of the text would probably take away from the simplistic nature of the game, and no doubt confuse everyone if I brought it out for a get-together. So what I'll be talking about is the two Donkey Konga games that came to the United States.
The bongos are a pretty nice piece of hardware, and I really wish they were used more often. They consist of two bongo pads for each drum and a microphone to clap into. Donkey Konga 1 and 2's main games both consist of throwing specific notes at you to hit in turn, with the second one offering more options, more multiplayer modes, more sounds when you hit the bongos and more minigames, though the first does have all those things, just less of them.
The biggest problem I have with the Donkey Konga series is that the song selection is very limited. The first game contains maybe three "regular" songs that I enjoy playing, but have terrible covers like all Nintendo rhythm games(I'm looking at you, Elite Beat Agents!). The entire rest of the setlist consists of whatever could be scrounged up from the Public Domain, and as you'd expect, first party Nintendo songs. You've got your standard Mario and Zelda theme songs, and even the HORRIBLE theme song for the short lived Kirby cartoon, Right Back At Ya. The shining moment of the soundtrack has to be the Pokemon Theme Song though, being one of the few songs that actually sounds good with the addition of bongos, and is universally known. Donkey Konga 2, again, improves on the gameplay features, but winds up throwing out all but one of the Nintendo tracks in favor of more modern songs. Almost modern at least, some genius decided it would be a great idea to take songs that were about 3 years out of style when the game was launched. The soundtrack hasn't aged very gracefully since the game came out, especially considering every one of the "real" songs is another bad cover. With a better song selection, I would be dragging out those bongos for myself, not just for the multiplayer.
I'd have to say that Donkey Konga makes for an even better game than Rock Band for parties, as its simplicity goes a long way, eliminating the confusion of managing profiles and characters. The bongos themselves are limited by the extremely short length of their cords, but this has the side effect of transforming any group of people playing the game into a line of bongo'ers. The ease of playing this game does ALOT for it, I've convinced people I was sure would never play a rhythm game with me to pick up a bongo. Even my parents!
If you're just going to be playing solo, the game is still fun, but you REALLY need a group to play it the right way. The best part is, you don't even need bongos to play the game, standard GameCube controllers work fine.