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New screens honor the legacy of Donkey Kong Country - but WHY?

Lo and behold,almost half of today’s screenshots came with a wonderful little surprise: Classic pics from Donkey Kong’s greatest games! You see, GamesRadar wasn’tembettering up the internetyetwhen Donkey Kong was originally blowing minds back on pre-GameCube platforms, thus we don’t have a lot of shots archived from those games unless we capture them ourselves (or steal them, assuming someone on the internet has more time to make old-school screenshots than we do).

Above: Roots

You might find this hard to believe, but our daily schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for replaying the Donkey Kong Country series. Plus, it’s very, ahem… “Rare” for publishers to pass along big, new shots from old games. Obviously, GamesRadar knows full well that “what’s come before” is crucial to understanding why the new stuff matters. Old gamers get to relive fond memories and younger players endure a little history lesson disguised as an editorial feature(use dick jokes and Twilight references and they won’t know they’re learning!) So, thanks to whomever sent these to me today, we can take a bold look at Donkey Kong’s visual legacy!

Donkey Kong | 1981

Above:You know this. It's in your DNA

Donkey Kong burst onto arcade floors everywhere in 1981, and nothing’s been the same since. Designed specifically to appeal to American audiences, the success of, essentially, the first platformer ever eventually made household names out of both Nintendo and Mario.

Above: DK never gets credit for being quite the matchmaker

The smash hit was followed up by Donkey Kong Jr., which turned DK Sr. into the damsel in distress, and an NES release. And as much as we appreciate these screens: C’mon, Nintendo… no love forDonkey Kong 3?

Donkey Kong Country | 1994

Above: Rambi the Rhino will be rideable in Returns! This caption brought to you by the letter R!

After years of co-star status Nintendo put Donkey Kong into the incredibly capable hands of Rare. Using a Silicon Graphics workstation, the UK developer managed to pump “3D” into the SNES during a time when CD technology had declared the platform dead and Pixar’s Toy Story was melting the minds of the general public with what pixels could pull off.

DK’s transformation into sidescrolling star once again put him back in the spotlight after a decade without a starring role. Nintendo rewarded Rare by purchasing a giant stake in the company. Rare rewarded Nintendo by selling 8 million copies of Donkey Kong Country. Possibly not in that order…

Donkey Kong Country 2 | 1995

Following the success of the original, Diddy’s Kong Quest traveled from the jungle to the ocean. Although, strangely enough, without a playable Donkey Kong? Spiritually in tune with Donkey Kong Jr., young Diddy was charged with rescuing DK from captivity, and he received help from blonde bombshell, Dixie Kong.

Above: I wish I was in Dixie, hooray, hoor… Wait, don’t type that! BAD FINGERS

David Wise returned to compose the music, and with unforgettable tracks like “Stickerbrush Symphony,” it’s still widely regarded today as one of the greatest VGM soundtracks ever made. People didn’t seem to mind the missing monkey, and the payoff was similar to the previous game: Donkey Kong Country 2 became the second highest selling game of 1995, and the sixth best seller on the SNES altogether.

Above: Giant memorable bosses are a staple of the series

Donkey Kong Country 3 | 1996

Above: Because if you're not fighting a giant spider, are you sure you're playing a videogame?

And here’s where the luster wore off, as it tends to do with the third entry in annually released sequels. Even without the ability to play as Donkey or Diddy Kong, replaced this time by the universally beloved Kiddy Kong, DKC3: Dixie Kong’s Double Troublewas still largely indistinguishable from the two previoustitles. And it certainly didn’t helpthat the game now had to go up against a full swing competition involving both the Saturn and PlayStation.

Above: I was joking up there. Everybody hates Kiddy

To its credit, Donkey Kong Country 3 was far more open-ended in the way players could tackle levels, and also came with a couple of nifty additions like hidden coin puzzles and progress tracking, but it was pretty clear that the once mighty DKC star was entering a descent. That said, the game still received favorable reviews and moved millions of cartridges. Barring the GB ports and rereleases, the Country then went underground for almost fifteen years…

Above: BACK!

Which brings us to Donkey Kong Country Returns! It’s not just a clever name; it’s essentially the first true sequel to the original. DK’s got new moves, Diddy’s grown a jetpack in the meantime, and they’ve been tossed into brilliantly realized levels colored with more vibrancy than most games bother to attempt these days. The fact that a mere crop of pixilated screenshots could send an extremely busy adult into the diatribe you see above is a testament to the lasting legacy Donkey Kong and his Country has left on gamers of my generation.

Above: Can't wait

But what does it all mean?

Perhaps that's all these screens were meant to do… or do we have unlockable classic titles to look forward to when DKCR arrives on US shelves November 21st?! (Knowing Nintendo, probably not. But that’d be awesome). Whatever, they’re all on the Virtual Consolealready anyhow.Grab a fresh ‘nanner to remove the bad taste left in your mouth by Donkey Kong 64 and Barrel Blast… Donkey Kong Country Returns is the real deal. Get excited.

Oct 14, 2010