One of the most enduring 2D platform series to this day is Donkey Kong Country; a charming platforming homage to one of gaming's biggest icons. Taking the role as the zanier and somewhat edgier counterpart to the safe, kid-friendly Super Mario Bros., the original DKC was a breakout hit for British developers Rareware. Nintendo fans went bananas for this fun and imaginative platforming romp — leading to one of the most successful games of the 16-bit era.
DKC provides an enriching experience featuring neat environments, slick sprites, and an epic soundtrack — though the facts and history surrounding the game are equally fascinating.
Let's take a barrel blast to the past as we look at 10 things you never knew about this ape-tastic SNES platformer.
10 Began As a Simple Boxing Demo
Nintendo's iconic ape packs a punch — in more ways than one.
As it turns out, the graphical/mechanical origins of Donkey Kong Country can be traced all the way back to the summer of 1993. During this time, a Nintendo executive had flown out to Rare's headquarters and was impressed by a brief demo shown by the Stamper Brothers, the founders of Rare. The clip showcased sleek wire-frame 3D models being utilized on 16-bit hardware and featured — of all things — a simple boxing animation.
Rare would provide a subtle nod to this by featuring Donkey Kong as a character in Wii's version of Punch-Out!! The epic final boxing match showdown in Donkey Kong 64 is also likely a subtle reference to this.
9 The Origins Of Funky's Theme Music
If you've ever wondered about the odd, somewhat out-of-place "HI-YA!" that cuts in during that banging Funky's Flights theme music, it makes sense when you discover its origins.
This jam was actually a recycled song written by an outside source — Robin Beanland in his sole contribution for the game. This is because the track was meant to feature in Killer Instinct, the hit SNES fighter by Rare. Those in charge of DKC's production were impressed enough by the track to pick it up and tweak it to match the style of their game. The piece does exude a high-intensity "coolness" that fits Funky's character.
8 A Crippling Game Mode That Was Scrapped
If you thought the original DKC may have been a tad easy, Rare was initially set to include a mode so hard and near unplayable that it was meant to be a joke.
Cranky's bragging of how much better he can achieve the feats you complete isn't just a nod to his "original DK" origins. In fact, this was meant to be complemented by this extra "Joke Mode" that would have you play as an incredibly slow and deficient Cranky. Basically, his play would be nowhere near as great as he boasts.
It's pretty ironic now, considering how beastly this old Kong is as a playable character in DKC: Tropical Freeze.
7 Developers Breaking A Sweat — Literally
It seems that developing high-end gaming products comes at a high cost — in more ways than one. Rare quite literally gave their blood, sweat and tears when grinding through the development of DKC; well, definitely sweat at least...
Apparently, the heavy-duty SGI computers consumed a ton of energy which forced Rare to install more raw power feeding into their building. Not only this, but the machines generated so much heat that their studio ended up feeling not unlike an oven after a while. Yes, the developers at Rare truly did have to sweat this one out — but the payoff was worth it!
6 Rare Studied Behaviors Of Gorillas At The Zoo
As if Rare needed more proof of their dedication — the company reportedly sent execs to study the behaviors and mannerisms of gorillas at the Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire.
As it happened, the gorillas there didn't end up doing a whole lot; their actions mostly included sitting around and making slow movements not too conducive to a platformer. Though it's likely the various idle moves Donkey and Diddy make when you stop controlling them for a while were based on their sporadic movements. For the running animations of our heroes, the developers modeled their movements mainly off of horse gallops.
5 The Krazy Origins Of K. Rool's Name
There exists some strange and interesting details surrounding the goofy, simplistic name of the DKC series' chief villain, King K. Rool. Really though, it's the lack of details surrounding this name that makes it so amusing...
Supposedly, the "K" middle initial wasn't meant to stand for anything in particular, but rather just meant to sound cool and important. Additionally, the creator of the character, Gregg Mayles, is on record for stating he wished he had spent "more than five minutes coming up with his slightly rubbish name," after it was revealed this character would be in Smash Bros. Ultimate.
It could have been worse though — apparently his original name was "Krudd," and simply "Kommander" after that (which was referenced during the game's fake end credits).
4 The Golden Banana That Never Was...
While it wasn't a huge divergence from the settled-upon plot of DKC, the original narrative was meant to involve Kremlings stealing a coveted golden banana, which Donkey and Diddy sought to retrieve. Rare decided to up the ante on this somewhat by changing this to an entire "banana horde" which is cleaned out.
However, the "golden banana" premise was used to a degree in Donkey Kong 64, as well as the obscure, short-lived cartoon series.
3 The Unique History Behind The Kremlings
The iconic reptilian foes known as Kremlings are prominently featured in DKC — much like the similarly iconic Goombas in Super Mario Bros. But while they seem like a staple to the lore and environments of the game, they were actually largely recycled assets from an older canceled game by Rare. The company felt these critters would fit right into a world crawling with animals — including our gorilla protagonists — so they became the go-to baddies.
The designs of these creatures also went through some changes. Initially, they were meant to look more similar to the heroes of Battletoads and were blue rather than green.
2 Cranky Is The True Donkey Kong
Yes, as it so happens, there's a reason for the grouchy old Kong's arrogance when it comes to bragging about his gaming accomplishments. He's actually meant to be the original Donkey Kong; you know — the ape who gave Mario so many headaches in the '81 arcade classic? Cranky was also originally meant to have a kinder demeanor. Rare likely figured that his grumpy nature would make more sense given his villainous roots and jaded outlook that can come with old age.
The Donkey Kong character who stars in DKC is actually the grandson of the original ape, while Donkey Kong Jr. would be his father.
1 Yoshi's Island Was Partly Inspired By The Game
Believe it or not, Nintendo's gaming godfather, Shigeru Miyamoto, actually crafted the style of Yoshi's Island largely as a response to DKC and its success; but not in the way you might imagine...
Miyamoto wasn't crazy about the direction of this new Rare take on one of his original creations. He also wasn't too keen on the Nintendo execs pointing to the art style in that game as the gold standard from which to model future SNES games. So as a means of providing a "counterpart" to the cooler, slicker and more realistic sensibilities of DKC, Miyamoto designed Yoshi's Island to sport a simple, childlike aesthetic. This is why it contains the colorful hand-drawn crayon look.