The lights are on
Donkey Kong Country was not the first game I played. I had a Game Boy and played plenty of video games at the houses of friends, but it was the first console game I owned.
As most video game players do, I have a vivid memory of receiving my first home video game console. It was a Super Nintendo, and it came packaged with Donkey Kong Country. I remember the box had green leaves all over it, a big picture of Donkey Kong smiling in the corner, and Diddy flying in from the side holding a gigantic SNES controller.
My brother and I played the game for months making progress at a snail’s pace. We received the game for Christmas, and my brother was gifted the strategy guide a few months later for his birthday. At that point, we were only about half-way through the game. It was our first strategy guide, and I remember being blown away by seeing all the levels laid out across the pages. Even the opening levels, of which we had become experts, were exciting to look at from this new angle.
My brother and I would make our way through the levels saving only when we reached a new Candy save station. As far as we knew, you could only visit Candy’s shop when you were able to reach it. It wasn’t until months later a friend revealed to us after beating a level, you could go back and save at a previous Candy shop in order to retain your progress at any time. You didn’t have to wait until you made it to the next shop to save. It was a revelation.
My brother recorded the music off the television onto a tape deck so we could listen to the game’s fantastic music even when we weren’t allowed to play. We once played a prank (I’m using the term “prank” liberally) on our mother where we played the music, and she asked us to turn off the game. The joke was on her though, because we weren’t even playing. You had to be there, but trust me – it was hilarious.
The sequels similarly entranced me, even though I played the third game before making my way backwards to play the second many years later. Moments before Donkey Kong Country Returns was revealed at E3 in 2010, I immediately became excited when I heard the music begin to play before the trailer even started. At the time, I was streaming the conference during work at my former job with a local newspaper in South Carolina. I’m sure my cubicle neighbors thought I was insane.
Donkey Kong Country is the reason I love 2D platformers. For most, Mario is the game that made them fall in love with jumping on platforms from the side, but exploring Donkey Kong’s island jungle – which I would argue is much more diverse than any of Mario’s offerings – is the reason I love the genre to this day.
Something about that gorilla and his family of apes (who are all different species of primate for some reason. How are they related?) just appeals to me a little more than Mario’s adventures. I openly recognize nostalgia and timing play a huge part in my appreciation for the series. I might be writing something different here if I received an alterante console bundle on that Christmas, but my appreciation has not soured over the years. The original Donkey Kong Countries haven’t aged as well as other Super Nintendo games, but I still love them and I can’t wait to play more Tropical Freeze.
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