Game 6: Donkey Kong Country
no but really
I'm pretty sure I've beaten this once before on the GBA version, but this is my first time going through the entire SNES version (though I did sample pretty much all the levels on the SNES when I was pretty young; we had a preowned copy where one of the files had beaten the game). I played it on an emulator on my phone (mostly during breaks at work) but I didn't use savestates (other than suspending and resuming; no reloading).
So I started playing this run when I was about a world or two into Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, and have been playing though them simultaneously. DKC1's controls are a lot floatier than DKC4's, which threw me off for a while as I hadn't played it in a while, but I got back into it pretty quickly. Takes some getting used to. I'm also realizing now that they did design the game intending you to use your ability to jump in midair by rolling off edges. There's nowhere that requires it, but there are a lot of places that seem perfectly matched for it and reward you for it.
I don't know that I ever realized before that the animal bonus levels (the ones where you play as the animal and collect tokens to get extra lives) can be annoying. The levels themselves are fun, but the fact that it takes you out of the level you're playing and then drops you back at either the start of the level or the halfway barrel can be frustrating on later levels. Poison Pond took me a while (largely because of fish movement patterns that you kinda have to just memorize), and then one time when I finally got through the hard part, I got a third Enguarde token and had to do that whole section again.
You do tend to replay a lot of the same segments in DKC1 (if you, like me, are not great at it). DKC4's having multiple checkpoints per level is a really welcome addition. However, I do kind of like how DKC1 has save points instead of saving after every level, especially since, unlike Super Mario World, you can't always just go back to an earlier save point. When you get to a new world, you're gonna have to get through about three or four levels before you get to Candy or Funky, and if you're up against a level that you know is gonna take a lot of lives, you have to find somewhere in a level you've beaten where you can farm some lives and start-select out. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I think there is something about that aspect that I like. It feels more like you're fighting for survival in a new hostile world, and then when you finally see the path to Funky after all those levels, it feels really good.
Every level has something unique to it, which I consider a sign of a great platformer. Boss fights do leave a bit to be desired, though -- every one except the final boss is just a giant version of normal enemies. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but then even with only six of those, there's still ones that are just faster palette swaps of earlier ones. And Boss Dumb Drum, the third-to-last one, is just dodging generic enemies for a while until the boss kills itself. DKC2 improved on that, from what I remember (I've never really played DKC3, though I'm planning on getting to it later).
Should also mention that DKC1's music is pretty great and the graphics actually do still hold up in my onion.