Donkey Kong Country – Legacy

He wasn't always the cool dude now was he...
He wasn’t always the cool dude now was he…

Donkey Kong was once upon a time the big contender for Nintendo, famous for launching the company into the video game market at the start of the 1980s. The game was a nice spoof of the infamous King Kong in which a small carpenter needed to save his girlfriend from the cantankerous Gorilla atop a hazardous construction site. Success of course begets sequels and for a while the early 80s were very kind to old Donkey Kong. That is until his rival Mario stepped into the limelight in 1985; suddenly Donkey Kong was nowhere to be seen. His son Donkey Kong Jr. received numerous cameos in a handful of Mario spin-offs such as Super Mario Kart, but the big guy himself had seemingly put down his barrels forever. Well, that is until Rare came along…

The Nintendo 64 perhaps wouldn't be as fondly remembered if it wasn't for Rare.
The Nintendo 64 perhaps wouldn’t be as fondly remembered if it wasn’t for Rare.

Initially the British based game developer Rare (from my home county of Leicestershire in fact) had already made quite a name for themselves on the gaming scene, making several hits for the NES. However in 1994 their work on 3D graphics managed to impress Nintendo senior staff on a visit to their studio, which ultimately led to one of Nintendo’s most successful partnerships of all time. Now on board as a second-party developer, the founders of Rare showed interest in making a new Donkey Kong title and thus the development of Donkey Kong Country began. The game became a smash success, becoming the SNES’s second best-selling title of all time after Super Mario World. The game wowed players worldwide with its 3D-rendered graphics, a thing never before seen on the console gaming market. Not only was Donkey Kong as a franchise born anew, but we quite literally we had an entirely new Donkey Kong to play with.

He might not be as big as he used to be but... he's way, way scarier!
He might not be as big as he used to be but… he’s way, way scarier!

Indeed there was a bit of retconning in the works with the new game. The Donkey Kong we all recognise today (i.e. the one with the tie) is actually an original character created by Rare and Nintendo. This new Donkey Kong had a whole family to get to know; there’s his sidekick Diddy Kong who is also his nephew, his smoking hot girlfriend Candy Kong and his cool surfer brother Funky Kong. And let us not forget his grandfather, Cranky Kong who is actually the Donkey Kong of old, now in his senior years but still adamant he’s the best darn Kong who ever lived. Donkey Kong’s family would only expand in the years to come but one family member surprisingly seems to have fallen off the radar. Donkey Kong Jr. (who we would suppose is Cranky’s son and thus the new Donkey Kong’s father) has disappeared almost entirely. Regardless, the characters and scenario laid out in Donkey Kong Country is now standard in the Nintendo canon, including the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series which revisits the original arcade series formula.

One of my friends had this game. I wish we'd spent more time on it! It's like DDR but with your hands!
One of my friends had this game. I wish we’d spent more time on it! It’s like DDR but with your hands!

As for Donkey Kong Country, Rare enjoyed great success with it for several years to come, releasing two direct sequels to the original and eventually a full 3D successor in Donkey Kong 64. And while Rare also developed some of the greatest titles to grace the Nintendo 64 alongside them, this all came to a halt in 2002 when competitor Microsoft bought Rare off Nintendo platforms forever. The likes of Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie were now for the Xbox fans to cherish but of course one franchises fate wasn’t going anywhere. Despite some at Microsoft thinking they had also acquired Donkey Kong in the deal (no, really they did, see here), Nintendo of course still held the series, only the big guy was without a dedicated developer to take the helm. Things weren’t all bad for Donkey Kong though, as he received a rather entertaining spin-off series in Donkey Konga, a rhythm based series using a pair of Bongo Drums as controllers. This also lead to a platformer designed around the unique controller, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat alongside a separate handheld title, Donkey Kong Jungle Climber However while these games still enjoyed relative success, things wouldn’t boom again for Donkey Kong until Donkey Kong Country returned…

Coming into 2010, Retro Studios, the team behind the hugely successful Metroid Prime series, took the baton to continue the Donkey Kong Country series, effectively giving the Kong family the New Super Mario Bros. treatment. The result of this was a game that lovingly brought back a classic in a way that exceeded our expectations. IGN’s review even stated that “Rare should be proud that its design is in the right hands.” Thus at the moment Donkey Kong’s future is looking bright and with last year’s Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze meeting good reception it wouldn’t be a hard to see another trip to Donkey Kong Island in the next console cycle.

The revival may not have been as revolutionary graphically, but they are mighty pretty games.
The revival may not have been as revolutionary graphically, but they are mighty pretty games.

Thus while Donkey Kong has indeed strayed far from his villainous roots, his 1994 reboot has certainly helped the DK Crew remain relevant in gaming today despite the myriad of platformers fighting for attention. No matter what the future has in store for Donkey Kong however, at the very least we’ll also remember the DK rap…

Diddy KongAlongside Donkey Kong’s modern day image, Diddy Kong also appeared for the first time in Donkey Kong Country. Many Super Smash Bros. stages also originate from this title including Kongo Jungle (64) and Kongo Jungle and Jungle Japes from Super Smash Bros. Melee. The item Barrel Cannon also first appears here propelling fighters just like it propelled Donkey and Diddy across the jungle. The Klap Traps on the Jungle Japes stage and the Kritters in Smash Run also first appeared in Donkey Kong Country also.

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