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16 Years of DKC: and 1 week of DKCR! Part 1

An article by Jomingo

28 November '10

November 24th of this year marked the 16th anniversary of Donkey Kong Country, and just three days prior to that marked the release of Donkey Kong Country Returns. I'm a week late to posting this, but in honor of this momentous occasion I'm again going to continue my yearly Kong-mmemoration. This time, however, things are different, so because so many things have changed between this year and last, I decided to do something outside the barrel with my annual look back at the series. If you can't tell by the title, this year's feature is a 3-parter. What you can't tell by the title is that it's a visual retrospective on all the elements of DKCR and how they've changed on their path to their return.
Jomingo's Unnecessarily Long Titled
Donkey Kong Country 16th Anniversary/
Donkey Kong Country Returns 1 Week Anniversary
Visual Retrospective Part One: The Items!

Thus begins the first part, which, as the unnecessarily long title suggests, features the items of DKCR. The first item of the list is the Balloon! Balloons have played an important role in the Donkey Kong Country series ever since their introduction in DKC. In the very first Donkey Kong Country, DK and Diddy's extra lives are represented by balloons.
A red balloon was worth one extra life, a green balloon was worth two, and a blue balloon was worth three. All the balloons had a depiction of Donkey Kong's face on them. The extra life balloons returned again in Diddy's Kong Quest, only this time in the shape of Diddy's head to symbolize him being the hero of the game. In Dixie Kong's Double Trouble, the balloons again returned in the same function, this time with Dixie Kong's face.
These balloons were all also featured in the handheld counterparts to the DKCs, the Donkey Kong Land Trilogy, however, oddly DKL3 contained Diddy balloons rather than Dixie balloons.
The Balloons made a return shortly after in Donkey Kong 64, albeit for a slightly different purpose. DK64 featured Banana Balloons rather than Extra life balloons. The Banana Balloons were now generically shaped, and had a single banana on them. Each one contained 10 bananas, and generally needed to be shot out of the sky with one of the game's various weapons. As with all other items in DK64, the balloons came in 5 colors: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple, one for each of the playable characters.
The Balloons disappeared for a short time until they finally reappeared in Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, again with both a different look and purpose. This time around they had a question mark insignia, and contained the game's numerous items. They came in two colors: Red and Blue.
Finally, the latest appearance of the balloon is in Donkey Kong Country Returns. In the new game, balloons act just like they did in the original trilogy, with some new changes of course. First of all, they are now generic balloons with no pictures on them. Second, they only come in values of 1; there are no green or blue ones. Lastly, they can now be purchased for banana coins from Cranky Kong's Shop in increments of 3, 5, and 7. As far as their implementation goes, the balloons are given a realistic interpretation for the first time. When your character dies, they have to use a balloon to float back on to the stage. Finally we have a reason for why we've been collecting balloons all these years!

Banana Coins
While none of the Kongs from the original Donkey Kong Country required payment for any of their services, by Donkey Kong Country 2 every Kong required currency if you wanted their help. Perhaps the real estate on Crocodile Isle was more expensive, I don't know. Either way, you now needed to give them some coinage; luckily, every level was littered with golden Banana Coins. It added just a bit more challenge because now you had to spend money to save your game. It seems odd that the Kongs would charge you on your way to saving DK, but they've got bills to pay I guess.
While the Kongs explored the Northern Kremisphere, they had no need for banana coins, as bear coins are the leading currency in that region. Thus, the banana coins took a short hiatus until Donkey Kong 64. In the
Kongs first 3D outing, the Kong family again required some payment in the form of Banana Coins. They came in 5 colors just like the Banana Balloons. Also, there was a special rainbow colored coin that was worth five normal coins and could be collected by any Kong.
In Paon's DK: Jungle Climber, five banana coins were hidden in every level of the game. After you beat the game the coins could be used to purchase extra hidden levels.

Finally, the Banana Coin's most recent use is in Donkey Kong Country Returns, of course. In the new game, coins can be collected and spent at Cranky Kong's Shop. Extra Life Balloons, Potions, and even Squawks the Parrot can be purchased. The Banana Coin has been an important element since it's introduction in DKC2, and as new games become more complex it's clear that we'll never drop the need for them.

Mine Carts
Mine Carts have been an essential part of every DKC adventure, and DKCR is no exception. Mine Carts originated in the first Donkey Kong Country, and were one of it's many unique game play elements. The high speed on rails segments were relatively new to platformers, and it's no wonder why it became so popular. Years later the Mine Cart levels are still a recognizable symbol of DKC's creativity.
In Diddy's Kong Quest, the Mine Carts took on a new form in the shape of Skull Carts. These were made to fit the theme of the broken down amusement park, but operated just like the original Mine Carts. Again, they turned out to be some of the most unique levels in the game.
By Dixie Kong's Double Trouble, good Mine Cart substitutes were running thin, and Rare still wasn't ready to return to plain Carts yet. Instead, they introduced the Toboggan, a snow sled counterpart to the previous carts. The Toboggan didn't run on a track, rather it just sped down a bumpy hill at the same uncontrollable speed associated with the other Mine Cart levels. Rare might have run out of ideas by that point, but the Toboggan was still a fun addition to the gameplay.
For Donkey Kong 64 though, Rare finally returned to the basic Mine Cart formula and brought it into glorious 3D. It was one of the few things they did right with that game, but boy did they do right. The Mine Cart segments were probably the best parts in all of DK64.
Like the Balloons, the Mine Carts didn't reappear until Donkey Kong Barrel Blast. In Paon's racing title, Mine Carts appeared, along with Toboggans, as secret speedy shortcuts that could earn you a lot of bananas. They each only appeared in one level of the game, but were a nice addition.
And now, Mine Carts have made their platforming return in DKCR. Retro Studios must've really taken a liking to the Mine Cart segments, because they went bananas with their inclusion in DKCR. Their are at least a dozen Mine Cart levels, each one more creative than the last. They threw out all the stops in order to meet Rare's creativity in their initial invention of the Carts, and they surely succeeded in that department. Retro's made it clear that Mine Carts will continue to be a theme for the series for years to come.

So that's it for part one of this three-part feature. These are just the three of many returning items from Donkey Kong Country Returns that I chose to highlight. Stay tuned for more!

- by Jomingo -

This article was written by a DKC Atlas Forum staff member. All opinions expressed within this article are those of the writer, and are not necessarily shared by DKC Atlas, or the DKC gaming community.
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