We’ve finally hit our last day of celebration for Donkey Kong’s 30th birthday. There was never any chance that I was going to spend an entire day on these games, so I just bundled them together (No I’m not being lazy. Do you want to read another five days of Donkey Kong? Then shut up). Gaming hasn’t been kind to Donkey Kong since the 64 and he seems to have been relegated to the background for the most part. However, in traditional Mario factory standards, that does put him in an absurd amount of games.
|Above: Donkey Kong and a beer keg go a long way|
Yes, Donkey Kong is a regular participant in Mario’s freakishly huge array of spinoff games. He hasn’t put aside his rage for the plumber. Remember that the original Donkey Kong was Cranky, not the current incarnation of the ape. So, the way I like to see it is that Donkey Kong is passive aggressively attacking Cranky Kong, by engaging in friendly competition with his arch-enemy. Or maybe Nintendo just needed another warm body, who knows? Interestingly enough, when Mario Kart (SNES) came out, Nintendo must not have thought the old monkey was popular enough and didn’t feature him. In his place, they put Donkey Kong Jr. I bet they feel pretty stupid about that decision now.
|Why hey there folks! I’m going to become culturally irrelevant after this game!|
Aside from the Kart games, Donkey Kong was one of the original combatants in Super Smash Bros, and, at the time, the biggest thing on that roster in terms of size…no, not that kind of size, you pervert, but yes, a giant Gorilla is probably packing more than an obese plumber, a pokemon, or a fairy boy. He has remained a prominent character in the series, but still an underdeveloped one. While Mario was joined by Luigi, Bowser, Peach, and Link was joined by Ganondorf, and Zelda, and even Kirby was joined by Meta Knight and King Dedede (cutest and most awesome homicidal penguin), Donkey Kong has only had Diddy join his roster. I’m sure Donkey Kong doesn’t mind some alone time with his…partner, but there isn’t any reason to prevent an expanded roster for the poor boy (possible that Rare owns the rights for the kremlins, but not likely).
|Diddy: Oh, what big hands you have there. So why do they call you Donkey?|
The Gamecube came and went with only one Donkey Kong title of note and it was…unique to say the least. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat came with a pair of Bongos that you hit in order to control Donkey Kong. This is probably some meta reference to Donkey Kong being a puppet of Nintendo since being delegated to party games and losing his soul. Oh, but apparently it was quite fun to control him that way. Fun or not, the game didn’t revolutionize Donkey Kong or bring him any more popularity as he continued to sit on the back burner until the same game was remade for the Wii (so I don’t count it)
|Dance, Donkey boy, dance!|
Finally, in 2011, Nintendo release Donkey Kong Country Returns, a full fifteen years since the last Donkey Kong Country game (my god am I old). This game was not made by Rare, who had since left Nintendo to fail miserably at everything they did, but by Retro Studios. This makes sense, as the game was built while retro gaming was becoming chic (you did this Mega Man 9, its your fault). The game stars Donkey Kong and, you guessed it internet, Diddy Kong. The game doesn’t take any inspiration from the other Donkey Kong Country games, but instead goes back to the simple formula of the first one. No other Kong family member makes an appearance, with one exception.
|No, no, no, no, why are you still alive!? Is it my suffering that keeps you going, you old bastard!?|
The problem with not being developed by Rare is in the game’s charm. The levels are good and the gameplay is mostly good, but it lacks a certain level of total insanity that we had come to expect from Rare. There aren’t anymore kremlins (possibly owned by Rare), instead the new enemy are a clan of floating tikis. The tiki thing is Retro’s attempt to channel the left over craziness of Rare, I would bet. Despite the general lack of charm, there are multiple exceptions to this rule.
|Above: The cutest widdle giant, killer bats you ever saw.|
The gameplay has one major flaw: in order to role you have to shake the Wiimote. This is irritating, imprecise and almost ruined the game for me. There are plenty of buttons that could have been used for a role. I don’t need pointless motion controls shoved down my throat. On top of this the new mechanics for discovering secrets: blowing and ground pounding, also require you to use the motion controls and totally ruin the flow of the levels. Without this flow breaking, the levels are actually quite excellently made. All of them were made for speed running (another problem with the rolling mechanic), and in fact the game recognizes this by setting a speed run goal.
|This is excellent level design if you want a reference point|
Retro games are usually hard. This was because the original games were usually mind-crushingly hard to make up for the fact that they were actually quite short. The Donkey Kong Country games were not really all that hard, which is why its baffling that this game is so difficult. For some reason, Retro decided that they should make gamers pay for supporting the franchise.
|A night of rough play comes to an end|
Well there we go, internet. Thirty years of Donkey Kong, cheaply summed up and made fun of in six days. If I didn’t mention a game you wanted to hear about, well to bad. I’m not stretching this out any more days. Yes, Donkey Kong has grown in the last 30 years since a drug addled Miyamoto invented him under the impression that donkey meant stupid and kong meant monkey. Since then he’s tackled crocodiles, raced, fought, played a variety of sports, and has still remained one of Nintendo’s most enduring franchises. I just feel I’m forgetting something, something really embarrassing that Nintendo should be ashamed of licensing. Oh yeah! Here it is.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer