Gamecube Review: Donkey Konga 3 (JP)

The hit parade keeps on rollin' for Nintendo's mascot gorilla, with the Gamecube's second bongo-slamming iteration hitting the shelves in the U.S. last year. But the schedule is a little more high-paced in the Japanese market with the country already having three editions of the game in tow. I was able to secure a copy of the import instrumental and have logged several hours into the game and am quite interested in the cultural differences seen between the two versions.

While the gameplay in the U.S. and Japanese versions are pound for pound identical, and the U.S. DK2 borrows the interface from DK3, that's about where the similarities end between the countries' freshest installments. So, for those who are eyeing the possibility of expanding their bongo game collection, here's what you can expect from a Japanese mix such as Donkey Konga 3.

The full title of the game (thanks to a translation from Paul Acevedo's excellent FAQ on the game on gamefaqs.com) is Donkey Konga 3: Tabe-houdai! Haru Mogitate 50 Kyoku, or Donkey Konga 3: All You Can Eat! Spring 50 Mix. As you may or may have not pulled from the title, DK3 offers up healthy buffet of J-culture goodness. Dozens of songs run the gammit of variety and gives everyone something they can enjoy no matter their taste in music.

Unlike the U.S. version, DK3's song selection list features colored tags which distinguish between a number of different music genres. Genres in the game include J-Pop, children's songs, Latin, classical, jazz, game, anime, television commercials and various. The sections will appeal to those who keep in touch with anime and Japanese artists with names such T.M. Revolution and Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi lending their talent and themes from shows such as Gundam Seed, Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist included in the package. The game section will perk gamers' ears and is a welcome addition which is strangely absent from the U.S. versions. Themes from Super Smash Bros., Starfox and Jungle Beat are present and by playing the game extensively, your coins be used to purchase pleasant new songs in the "Famicom Mode."

The Famicom, of course, is the Japanese equivalent of the Nintendo Entertainment System (the term is short for the system's full name - the Family Computer) and recognizable themes from games which appeared on the system, both from the Nintendo and Namco brands, litter the mode with more than 10 classic songs. Themes from Super Mario Bros., Zelda, Kirby, Xevious, Mappyland, Sky Kid and more will take you back to the heyday of gaming as you jam along to the beat. If you ask me, Nintendo of America can cut out the pop-rock crap from the U.S. versions and throw this in its place. I still can't fathom a reason for which even the standard games songs aren't in our domestic versions.

But aside from the cosmetics of different songs and a few added modes, Donkey Konga 3 is the same as the first verse. The graphics do their job and the play control is phenomenal thanks to Nintendo’s superb bongo controllers. Music and sound is the name of the game when it comes to the music/rhythm genre and Donkey Konga 3 pleases on both fronts. Pulse-pounding (or slow-grooving if that’s your style) songs pumping out in stereo and bongo (or other unlockable sounds) beats sounding in time have never been so pleasing to the ears.

To sum everything up, DK3 rocks. The songs have excellent variety and some are even recognizable to American audiences (a song which samples The Locomotion, classics such as The Entertainer and children's songs such as Bingo) and unlocking all of the Famicom songs will take some dedication. While almost all of the text is in kanji, once you navigate the menus a couple of times, you'll become quite familair with the setup, especially if you've played the U.S. version of DK2. If you enjoy Donkey Konga and have some interest in the overseas culture, don't delay in picking up an import version of the game.

Donkey Konga 3 is NOT rated by the ESRB since it is not a U.S. release. The game is comparable to the U.S. releases of Donkey Konga and Donkey Konga 2, both rated E by the ESRB.

(***** out of *****)

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