11 March 2010
There are very few people, if any, who will argue that Donkey Kong is one of the single most important franchises in video game history. Not only has “DK” been successful in both arcades and on home consoles through a variety of generations and titles, the character of Donkey Kong is one of the most iconic ever, right up there with Link and Mario.
They even made a documentary about two guys basing their lives on holding the Donkey Kong arcade record.
When I was a kid, with my Nintendo, I was never a big fan of the classic Donkey Kong-style of game. You know, the ones where you play as Mario, leap over barrels and climb up ladders to save Princess Peach. They were repetitive and graphically unimpressive and horrifically difficult. But then 1994 came and courtesy of developer Rare and publisher Nintendo, I was able to become the ape. It would end up selling more than eight million copies. It would also become one of the most famous side-scrolling game evers. There were rhinos and crocodiles and a whole assortment of other beasts.
It was called Donkey Kong Country (DKC).
The first time I played DKC, I was in a department store about a week before Christmas. My mother, she was off looking at curtains or something but me, I was watching some kid take Donkey Kong and his buddy Diddy riding around some snowy wilderness, blasting out of buckets. The kid eventually got called away and I took over. I jumped on an ostrich and instantly, I was hooked.
Within minutes I was pulling my mother away from her curtain browsing. It was the week of Christmas and I was going to be damned if DKC wasn’t one of the first presents I opened. She didn’t buy it for me, not that day. Meanwhile, this kid who lived across the street from me (spoiled rotten by a wealthy grandmother) he had DKC. He was the first one in the neighborhood to have it so in the days before Santa came me and the other two boys from the neighborhood crowded round his TV, waiting to see what levels came next.
Then Christmas came and we all got a copy and we didn’t see each other for a few weeks. I ended beating the game over and over again for as long as I played Super Nintendo. My sister also got in on the action, beating it a couple times herself.
Hoping to cash in the success of DKC, Nintendo released DKC2 a couple years later. It wasn’t bad, but like most sequels, it failed to capture the magic of its predecessor. The same thing can be said for Donkey Kong 64. Not a bad game but not a great one either.
Even with these lackluster subsequent releases and the clunker that was Donkey Konga, however, DKC is a title that will always live on as one-of-a-kind.
By George Morse