Between 1999's Donkey Kong 64 and 2010's Donkey Kong Country Returns, Nintendo's great ape served a cool-off period of sorts when it came to straight-up platforming adventures. He had no huge releases to his name, but that didn't mean he was on the backburner entirely. The 2000s were a time to utilise Donkey Kong as a showpiece for some new concepts — there were some bongo-based titles on the consoles, but also a couple of fresh ideas on the GBA. One was Mario vs. Donkey Kong, which has since spawned a small army of sequels and instalments. The other is DK: King of Swing, which has just one successor on the DS. The king has returned on the Wii U Virtual Console, though, and its unique control scheme finds a reasonably good home on the system.
King of Swing has no desire for your precious D-pad, instead employing shoulder buttons for the vast majority of work. Stages are comprised mostly of pegboards and other objects DK can latch onto, and the L and R buttons grab with his left and right hands, respectively. When holding onto a peg with one hand, DK will rotate around it with his other hand stretched out. You can either grab onto another object within range to climb along, or let go entirely to fling the ape in whatever direction he was facing at the time. Baddies will also be occupying the stages and its pegs, but they can often be dispatched by latching onto two objects and holding down both shoulder buttons to charge up a leap attack.
The fundamental gameplay concept is simple and becomes intuitive after just a bit of practice; Cranky Kong is on hand to offer a useful game-opening tutorial to help you settle in, as well. There are naturally items to collect such including medals and bananas — the latter serve an interesting role, being currency to exchange for a hit point recovery or engaging a temporary powered-up mode.
King of Swing's main adventure offers some very good level design, with stages that reach vertically or horizontally. Certain mechanisms or quirks are also introduced to help keep things new, such as levers that need to be pumped to open pathways or rotating pegs that need to be ridden like Ferris wheels. Even so, a feeling of repetition can still sink in at times. Some stages can also prove either highly challenging or highly frustrating, depending on your tolerance for setbacks and starting over. Falling in some areas can mean a long climb to recovery.
The visual style really stands out with this game as well, giving the Donkey Kong universe a more cartoon-ish approach than seen in many other titles. It can be found colourful and appealing in its own right (we certainly thought it was), but its deviation from the expected look of DK might unfortunately put some players off. Then again, this isn't much like anything else in the jungle repertoire, so who really loses out here? Either way, the music does a pretty good job fitting in with the standard Donkey Kong feel, keeping a nice beat without really standing out in any way.
Although King of Swing had a competitive multi-player mode using linked GBAs, this is sadly unavailable on the Wii U. Its single player functionality is suited very well to the GamePad, however, and the its smaller screen will likely be the preferred viewing portal of choice.
Although it probably borrows a few lines of inspiration from Clu Clu Land, DK: King of Swing maintains a refreshingly unique feel even today. Its areas of repetition and difficult spikes might not keep everyone's attention to the end, but it's worth checking out for those looking for something new who missed it the first time around. Just keep your fingers on the shoulders and don't go in expecting your everyday Donkey Kong.
Fun game! Still have my GBA SP with this still in it! I agree 7/10!
Played the DS sequel which i struggled to getinto but may give this a try actually. Thanks for the revw.
I loved this game backnin the GBA days.
It's on my maybe list.
I somehow missed it the first time it was released, and just now going back to it on the Wii U VC recently. It's interesting, and pretty fun, but I just get kind of frustrated with it pretty quick. Like right now, I'm on a tornado level where you can easily get carried off and dropped back down to the same part of the level over and over and over again. I think I just haven't quit gotten a hang of it yet or something.
Nice to see old DK games getting some VC love. Now if only us here in NA could get that SNES trilogy.
As a huge Donkey Kong Country fan, I was extremely disappointed in the DS sequel to this game. So yeah, not getting this one.
@Whopper744 Stay strong. That level is hellacious.
I played this game when I was a wee lad. It was extremely boring.
Too bad those beautifully crafted sprites weren't used in a Donkey Kong Country 4 GBA...
I found this game surprisingly good. I was initially upset because I wanted the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, but I know that will come in due time, so I've come to a point where I appreciate this title for what it is, rather than holding a grudge against it because it wasn't the game I wanted.
Always was intrigued by this game, but like then, I had other stuff to play. Maybe one day.....
Right at the beginning of the fourth paragraph... "Kink of swing?" I'll normally ignore typos, but this one is a bit too kinky to let go unnoticed.
Heehee, Kink of Swing... DK, is there something you're not telling us?
At any rate, this is one of the most gorgeous GBA titles I've ever seen and I can't believe I missed it back in the day. I'm not sure I'm that interested in the gameplay but if the price drops in a sale or it becomes a Club Nintendo reward I will most definitely pick this up.
The sequel is way better IMO, but that doesn't mean that this game is bad.
Always thought this game looked pretty interesting so maybe I will pick it up when I am craving some Donkey Kong!
I'll download it someday. Back in the day I didn't buy it, because I didn't like the look. I bought the sequel though, cause that one had the traditional look. It was a fun game, but very hard. I gave up at the swamp area (underwater, where you just go in circles). But I want to continue it someday.
@allav866 That typo's almost too good to correct... but journalistic obligation and all that. Thanks for catching it!
Loved the DS sequel, neat side take on DK, and I'm a huge fan for the DKC series. Might have to pick this one up.
I had this game for my GBA... too bad my L button was broken.
Just FYI, even though you can play on the gamepad, it's far more comfortable with a Pro controller. Great little title. I picked it up the other day as GBA cart.
Oh man, I found this one new and sealed 3 years ago in a store in Sofia for 7$!
The game's so great, I love it!
This is nothing like Donkey Kong country .
This is a GBA game.
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