Retronauts Episode 504: Donkey Kong Country

Considering his status as Nintendo's first legitimately popular character, Donkey Kong hasn't smoothly sailed his way towards stardom. Players may have controlled Mario but the game was called Donkey Kong: The giant ape is far more memorable than the tiny human in overalls.

Yet for the sequel, Donkey Kong became a hostage and his son became the hero. Then Donkey Kong 3 put the big ape back in the spotlight but that game failed to have an impact on par with either of the previous titles. By that point, Nintendo had pushed Mario forward as the face of a company and Donkey Kong had to settle for, dare I say it, second-banana.

That all changed in 1994 when Donkey Kong returned to reclaim his rightful place as video game mascot extraordinaire with the release of Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo. With nary a plumber to be seen, Rare's action platformer focused entirely on a pair of primates as they faced off against a malicious mixed-species gang called the Kremlings. Donkey Kong Country made use of then-cutting edge technology to deliver graphics the likes of which no one expected on a 16-bit console; decades later, the visuals are dated but the game still holds up.

Or does it? Join host Bob Mackey and guests Henry Gilbert, Stuart Gipp, and Diamond Feit as they remember Donkey Kong's fall from grace and why this one quest through the jungle mattered so much to both Rare and Nintendo.

Description: As the console wars heated up, Nintendo needed something big that wouldn't necessarily involve investing in new hardware that could potentially wreck the company. And that "something" arrived in the form of Donkey Kong Country, a fairly simple platformer by the technical wizards at Rare that nonetheless impressed millions with its newfangled pre-rendered graphics. This week on Retronauts, join Bob Mackey, Stuart Gipp, Diamond Feit, and Henry Gilbert as the crew works up a mighty hunger for bananas and discusses the finer points of those damn, dirty apes.

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As with all of the episodes Bob produces, this week’s cover art is by Nick Daniel. Check out his Twitter, or patronize his Patreon!