You can find Part 2 of our Random Access Memory Lane series here
So far we’ve talked beat em-ups, adventures, and puzzlers what we have sorely missed so far is a war game. There were two games in the running for me Desert Strike and Cannon Fodder I decided to roll with the latter.
Cannon Fodder ’93
Virgin are now known more for their high-speed internet and TV services but in the early days they had fingers in all kinds of pies and they published this RTS gem from Sensible Software. Where other games can tend to glamorize war Cannon Fodder took a different approach and hidden behind this comical war sim was a pretty strong anti-war message. The thing that sticks in my mind most about this game was not the excellent gameplay and humorous little digs at the futility of many of our planets great conflicts, but the intro song. Those who played this game on a 16 bit console probably wont have heard this before but it was a killer track and I still remember the lyrics completely today.
War .. Never been so much fun.
They were right war probably had never been so much fun. Taking control of a small squad of teeny soldiers the player was tasked with taking on much larger armies of little shooty men. The game starts out pretty easily but the difficulty soon gets ramped up as you are forced to take on more crafty enemies in more difficult terrains. A mouse based game, your infantry follow your clicks around the screen and can be split into groups in order to more effectively take out your opponents or cover ground more quickly.
Getting your troupe to the objective alive was important. Loose a soldier and you would have to bring in a new recruit, one whose lesser experience made him/her a less efficient killing machine, luckily you could arm them with more than just machine guns. The standard tiny dot firing guns were effective against infantry and explosive barrels but for the more difficult jeeps and for those craftily placed troop houses you needed something with a little more punch. Grenades and rocket launchers were available but ammunition was sparse so making good use of your power weapons then was as important than as it is in modern shooters.
The game found itself in a spot of bother after the media claimed the opening imagery was mimicking the remembrance day poppy and that this, combined with the games comical take on war was in someway undermining the importance of the symbol. The media had a point I guess but it was blown all out of proportion and I doubt it was ever the intention of the developers to make light of the sacrifices made in the past, I feel it was intended more to make people think twice about the necessity of future conflicts. More importantly the game was great fun to play and another tick in the box of a fab developer from the 16-bit era.
Ok you dirty bitches, time to seamlessly segue into my pick, no more fucking about lets bring out the big guns. Yeah that was an awful segue but you wont care when you see the bad boy I have on the cards here. Donkey Kong Muthafuckin Country! (the swearing is not part of the actual title.)
I will always remember the day our parents got my brother and I got us a SNES as a joint Christmas present, our first console. It was amazing, playing classics like Super Mario world, Super Mario kart, Super Mario all-stars… hell anything with that mustachioed fearless plumber in was some of the most fun I have ever had and I will always hold Mario on a pedestal. However it was not the flagship brotherly combo of Nintendo that wins the 16 bit gold medal for me. It was DK all the way. In fact, game wise, it was my first true love. Eventually I would move on and meet Halo, who I knew was the one I wanted to grow old with, you know get a villa in Spain with a pool, some dogs and a garden and have the grand kids John and Cortana over in the summer to float around lazily in their rubber ring….*blinks*…Wow, that got weird, lets move on.
So why was Donkey Kong Country so fapping good?
Rare made it, the legendary developer behind so many Nintendo classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and of course the seminal Goldeneye 007. This company made some amazing games for various Nintendo systems, but it was DKC that announced their arrival as a heavy hitter.
The level design and variety was impeccable, the difficulty increased at exactly the right gradient. Some of the outstanding levels that spring to mind still are Barrel Canon Canyon and Vulture Culture. Oh and of course Mine Cart Carnage! Those mine cart levels were the exception to that well honed difficulty gradient. When one of these cropped up on you then the fun and games were over and you had to lean forward and put every mental faculty you had in to each jump and when you finished that level the sense of achievement was worth more than a thousand wham bars. Oh and looking back there was a level called Necky’s Nuts!? oo err.
Rambi the Rhino, what a legend. In fact all the animals that you got to ride were perfectly useful for the level they were found on, but everyone loved Rambi, most for the fact that you could get to bonus games with him very easily when you accidentally crashed through a wall. Personally I loved him for the noise he used to make when he hit enemies.
Two player co-op was the most fun. This was mainly because being the oldest I was always Donkey Kong, but my brother didn’t mind because he loved being Diddy Kong!
The replay value of each level, always striving to get those letters to spell K O N G for the extra life, if you missed one, you went back and played until to got it.
Visiting Cranky Kong was always a laugh even though his tips were never really that handy.
The music spot on for each level as well, sounding fun on easier lighter levels and descending into something entirely more creepy the harder or darker the level got.
And finally the graphics, oh the graphics. For their time they were mind-blowing, that little cartridge squeezed every drop of capability out of the SNES, and this isn’t just me being ultra nostalgic, this game genuinely broke through the graphical barrier the console had, I remember reading in Nintendo magazine that they had never seen the like of it and when I got my paws on it I honestly thought graphics in games could never beat this.
On this point alone I am glad I was wrong. Although I think I could still get down with 16 bit Halo…
Did you spot the anti-war message in Cannon Fodder? or did you just like blasting sprites to bits? Let us know.
Do you have as fond a memory of DK or have a different favourite game on the SNES, please leave us a comment, subscribe, like, tweet or +1 us. Thanks.