Them There Obligatory Wishlist

When Christmas comes you can bet your shiny star on top of a Christmas tree that your favorite personal bloggers will feature wishlists, as if their arms were being wrung by an abusive essay teacher, write or else serve time in detention! It’s become routine: authors tell of not expecting these gifts and they’re merely sharing to pay homage to the spirit of Christmas and maybe get over their writing slump, but WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE. Wishlists also serve a side purpose of letting readers know what the authors are into, and what better way to lodge themselves into the cool kids club than to desire all sorts of quirky stuff that, in reality, they may never get around to using or even buying on their own?

Now that I wrote that condescending paragraph, it’s time I be MY OWN HYPOCRITE by coming up with my own wishlist. You can just treat me as letting you know what I’m interested in, sharing of hobbies and interests being the most important topic in the internet. I wouldn’t hold it against anyone to gift me any of these though, promise!

1. Vacuum cleaner –Because I want to suck even more.

2. Digital Painting Techniques volume 1 – 2010 saw my foray into digital painting, and though my first work turned out well for a first timer with no prior experiences in painting, I need to read and learn pro’s advices.


(That there is my painting)

3. Nintendo DS – I am barely holding myself back from buying the replacement of my old, broken one. I might explode if I don’t play Dragon Quest IX, Etrian Odyssey 3, 999, and Professor Layton. Save me!

4. Kotobukiya Rockman Plastic Model Kits – Which includes Rockman, Protoman and Roll. Did I tell you I’m nuts for Rockman, and that it’s my dream to GET EQUIPPED WITH VACUUM CLEANER err black hole?


5. Tons of books – Hunger Games Trilogy (so that I can shut up already about my indecision with purchasing them), Gateway (Frederick Pohl), Hyperion (Dan Simmons), The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)


6. Wacom Cintiq – I’m not even gonna bother going into details because this is absurdly wishful thinking.

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Getting to Know You

So here’s the deal: I have been talking nonstop about a certain videogame about gorillas for the past two weeks without even managing to ingratiate myself among my (probably still imaginary) readers. They, at least in my fictional scenario, are probably saying to themselves, loud, “Who is this loon, cramming every hyperboles down our throats so hard 10 years too late about an antiquated Silicon-Valley-looking* piece of antique? I am under no obligation to read the excessively florid musings of someone who got a simian fetish! Close this window!”

Or maybe something less stilted. Point is, I’m a big unknown, and if horror movies are anything to go by, THE UNKNOWN STRIKES THE GREATEST FEAR FOR ALL! WHICH IS WHY I’VE DRIVEN PEOPLE AWAY! BECAUSE IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU ALLCAPS! Nonsequiturs aside, I have to get me some “get to know me” post now so we can all familiarize ourselves, hold hands and sing in perfect harmony. Let me do this with 26 random things I can tell you about myself, done in the format of “25 things” posts that were so rampant in Facebook years ago.

1. Though I am a card-carrying Taiwan citizen, I was born, raised, and is a resident of the Philippines.

2. Being brought up surrounded by two different cultures (Taiwanese at home, Filipino elsewhere) has its perks. F’instance, I speak more languages than most people here. The drawback is that I have a hard time identifying if I’m at heart a Taiwanese or a Filipino, and I refuse call myself the amalgamation of both races (Tai-Fi) because no one really does and Tai Fi either sounds like a vegetarian’s meat substitute, or a fraternity.

3. And did I write vegetarian? Because I am one.

4. Might as well say I will probably be one of the most ascetic individuals you’ll meet in your lifetime — well, should you ever get to know me. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, I don’t smoke, and I don’t put psychedelic substances in my body. I love psychedelic arts though. I can’t deny that I draw a lot of inspiration from them. I sometimes even scribble pastels all over a piece of paper, and when the result is met with criticisms I defend myself by saying “YOU JUST DON’T GET MODERN ART!”.

5. I also draw inspirations from CD cover arts, and that’s one of my reasons for buying 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The other reason is that it makes a good improvised dumbbell.

6. All this talk of inspiration may lead you to wonder if what I do for a living have anything to do with layout design. Well, yes and no. I design web sites (occasionally posters) as sidelines. My full time job has nothing to do with it. I will say though that my sideline inspires me far more since it’s a job driven on finding inspirations from every places…

7. …problem is, I am currently drawing a blank on a site I’m supposed to design.

8. Back to 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, I’m trying to hear all the albums, though progress has been really slow (currently own upward to 300+ but have heard only 100 to completion — and that’s being generous). I still can’t believe there’s a Britney Spears and a Justin Timberlake album in it. Or Limp Bizkit. Or Linkin Park. God, these are some writers from The Rolling Stone. Is it a wonder that no one really buys these mags for the articles anymore?

9. Would my goal to get through 1001 albums make me an audiophile? Would audio be the least creepy phile?!

10. Jazz is my comfort music, and Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debby will always be my comfort album. I can cram this item with more. Saving that for another time.

11. I hardcore am a gaming geek. Moving on…

12. This list goes for 26 items because the number is a reference to an age I’m mere hours away from leaving behind and I feel the need to announce this in a roundabout way to a crowd that’s just barely getting to know me. What a mess I am.

13. I fear NOTHING and THAT MAKES ME MANLY. Okay, I lie. I am creeped by baby dolls, and you bet I needed to cope with more stress seeing that baby from Toy Story 3 than the average viewers. It’s those lifeless eyes, man, those lifeless eyes!

14. Follow me at twitter. I also go by “nightdreamer” there. I also really like making fun of people’s names, for some reason.

15. Nothing will ever convince me that autotoned vocals is a legitimate display of talent and I stand now and forever a staunch detractor of autotuning artists. Only Daft Punk is exempt from my ire.

16. Geek speak: I always dread using the pen tool, but submit that it’s a necessary evil. Yuck.

17. 2010 is the year I feel that a lot of media that received critical acclaims did not deserve it. Short list: Final Fantasy 13, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, The Social Network, and Iron Man 2.

18. I wish I could be better at photography, but I’m too broke to buy expensive lenses and flashes. I have a dSLR camera but I’m not yet past the phase of looking like an ass with a dSLR.

19. Gee I wish I could go this long and still be funny. But I can’t! So instead I’m going to use a lame insult for placeholder here. Nerdface!

20. I would write snail mails if I still had the time and if people from faraway places would grant me an audience FOR MY ILLEGIBLE SCRAWLS AND BARELY COHERENT ENGLISH!

21. Can someone please sell me on Spider-man? Because despite all the praises it garnered I find that it’s also the most prone to sabotages by writers offending the senses. Clone Saga? One More Day? Sins Past? Really?!

22. As of now I still am on the fence about reading Hunger Games trilogy, because since the people I am surrounded with regularly don’t read, my only means of reading a book is through buying. Will I regret the purchase? Will I read it with nagging thoughts of “shouldn’t I read those books you’ve started hoarding from Booksale since forever”? Will I be this indecisive when it comes to women too? WIll I stop with the asking questions no one can answer? And yes, I should tell you that the libraries in the Philippines are worthless, except those in universities, which you can’t borrow books from anyway if you’re not enrolled.

23. I wish I could write a novel.

24. It’s 3:30 AM. Wow, this is gonna be a long day.

25. I warn you now that if you liked any of the Michael Bay’s Transformers (or worse yet, both), you’ll never hear me stop complaining about them. I hate them so much the hatred is an obsession, and pretty much each day I find new ways to diss those pieces of overstimulated brain-farts. I big time don’t need American directors to cram their patriotic ideals down my throat and then portray minorities in ways that only fattens the privileged white males’ ego.

26. Let me counter the negativity from the previous item by stating something positive. How To Train Your Dragon is my pick for 2010’s most pleasing movie, because not since The Lost Vikings 2 have I seen Vikings and Dragons coexist. I’m not saying reminding me of that old school videogame is the sole reason for my liking How To Train Your Dragon, but it helped.

*I’ve actually been told by one hater of Donkey Kong Country that it looked like Silicon Valley stuff. Explain yourself, Brad Gallaway!

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Donkey Kong Country (It’s Been More Than A) Week: The Music

I was absent from my blog for about week because I was hit with a cold and needed rests (I have doctor’s advice written on a certificate to prove this!), so I couldn’t post my next entry for DKC week on time. I’m not sure this blog has any readers, especially since it’s new, but for the sake of me talking I’m gonna imagine I have. So dear imaginary readers, if you’re sick of reading me rave on and on about DKC, I apologize, BUT BEAR WITH ME ONE LAST TIME! I just have to get all my comments about DKC music out of my system. I promise, I’ll talk about something else next, and reserve any opinions I have for Donkey Kong Country Returns, which I have since played and beaten, for a very future time. We cool with this? (imaginary readers capitulate)

Top 5 best music of Donkey Kong Country

Though I got a SNES months after DKC came out, I was then already familiar with it since I spent one whole summer hijacking my cousin’s. I knew that in addition to the visuals, SNES also surpassed its predecessors’ audio, replacing NES 8-bit bleepy chiptunes with sounds that are closer to mimicking live instruments or sounds of real life. Less of “I’M BAAAAAD!!!” that startles you before you understood it; more of, well, sounds that can be discerned.

I noticed the progress in audio quality while playing Super Mario World and Street Fighter II, but I can’t say I really was actively stopping to listen to their tracks. Humming them (to the annoyance of my non-nerd friends) was the farthest I’ve gone since they inevitably stick to one’s head through repetition, as were pretty much all the NES games I played. But DKC was the revelation, for that was where I started to understand music’s potential in adding to a game’s experience. Just give the world map themes of SMW and DKC a listen and hear the difference. One was a brief, chipper track of 16-bit sound effects. The other was complex but not without hooks, with recognizable tunes of piano, and various percussive instruments. I’ll throw you a banana and let you figure out which is which.

It’s nearly two decades after DKC came out, but everytime I listen to its OST I’m still as awestruck as I was hearing it the first time. The sounds SNES can produce are of compressed, MIDI quality, but in DKC composers Robin Beanland, Eveline Fischer and David Wise cleverly masked those limitations by layering various sounds on top of another to create tunes that are nearly like WAVs from CD audio. That by itself is a feat, but what also made DKC’s music stand out from the pack is the diversity of its tunes. Wherever Donkey Kong traverse, the music would match the mood of the scenery, from a jungle teeming with wild life to a factory laid out with mechanical traps. A far cry from Super Mario anything-2d, which had the one sound fits all “main theme”, “obstacle course theme”, and “castle theme”; in DKC, it matters that you feel its backdrops through its music.

DKC is a game that I hold close to my heart, and it’s also a game I hold close to my ears. Here are my favorites tracks:

DK Island Swing

Duke Ellington said that a song don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, which is why I’m convinced that if Sir Duke were alive today, he’d compose for videogames (and wouldn’t that be cool?!). DK Island Swing swings quite hard, with its bongos and drums urging you to thump your feet just as big band jazz did. It’s largely considered to be the main theme of post-classic Donkey Kong, rearranged many times in DKC’s successors (as the bonus theme in Donkey Kong Country 2, and as a level music in Donkey Kong 64 and Donkey Kong King of Swing).

Mine Cart Madness

My brother and I were both acknowledging how fitting this music was for the rage we felt towards the obstacles laid out on the mine cart’s path. I DIED AGAIN CURSE YOU MINE CARTS WHY IS THIS MUSIC SO GOOD RAAARGHHH!!! It would fit Batman Animated Series whenever Batman is fighting crimes, although I can’t for the life of me remember Batman having encountered a railroad track so obnoxious in how broken it is.

Ice Cave Chant

The world’s greatest injustice is that every Christmas songs are overplayed, yet a videogame track that captures much the warmth I felt in hearing those Christmas songs the first time can only be heard in ONE LEVEL.

Fear Factory

For some reason this track reminded me too much of Terminator 2. Like Robert Patrick in that movie, I just refuse to keel over and give up in Fear Factory levels no matter how many pits I have to leap across.

Aquatic Ambiance

Forget about giving me a Yanni CD. Forget about getting me in touch with new age-y consciousness mumbo-jumbo through crystals and dream-interpretation manuals. Aquatic Ambiance is my zen music and no stress is too much that I can’t overcome it by playing this track in my head. Who says games are only art? They can be therapy too.

Top 5 best music of Donkey Kong Country 2

Let me get through this intro real quick. DKC2 OST is as unforgettable as DKC1, but while DKC1 relied more on ambience, DKC2 felt more like movie music. So off we go with my picks.

Hot Head Bop

The first real standout track of DKC2 for me. While the others preceeding it weren’t bad by any means, they sounded too “epic pirate movie with ship-hopping aplenty”. Upon entering a cave I was expecting something akin to part one’s quiet yet ominous ambience, so what a surprise that this sounded as though it’s straight out of disco clubs that were so hip in the 90s. Like those house music by Soul II Soul. Or, for an even better example, the danceable ballads with lyrics about love such as “I AM DYING INSIDE TO HOLD YOU!“.

C’mon, don’t be ashamed to admit that you secretly liked those.

Snakey Chanty

A delightful ragtime melody that wouldn’t sound out of place in a saloon. I can never understand why Rare decided not to make this the tune of the first few levels, because it would’ve made sense. Nerd trivia: Snakey Chanty has an identical accordion intro as the final boss music from DKC. DKC2 began in what remained of Gangplank Galleon, the ship in DKC where the heroes defeated K Rool. So given the connections, why not put this track first before anything else? Questions like this keep me awake at night.

(At least Donkey Kong Land 2 for the GameBoy got the idea right by using it at the music for the first level)

Flight of the Zinger

It sounded nowhere like Flight of the Bumblebee its title were playing on. Bumblebee conveys the frenzy from hordes of bees. If I didn’t see the scene where Zinger gets played, I would’ve mistook it for setting the mood of very passionate night of love, and the piano portion would be when lovemaking swells to climax. Instead, this reflects Zingers (bees basically) in their hives. Insect sex?

Stickerbrush Symphony

I actually sent Diddy and Dixie jumping into a barrel and staying there for minutes because I wanted to hear this track undisturbed. My apologies to the monkeys. Must’ve been dizzying being inside a rotating barrel. But wow, what a beautiful electronica piece.

Forest Interlude

As much as I loved Stickerbrush, this is my favorite DKC2 track. Don’t have anything clever to say here. I love the harmonica, and what I guess is ocarina. There’s so many different layers of sounds here and it sets the tone of an enchanted forest perfectly.

Top 5 Best Music of Donkey Kong Country 3

Going out on a limb here, I think the crews in OCRemix are already arranging a complete DKC3 OST.

That was me being sarcastic. Honest, DKC’s OST is one of the reasons many found the game underwhelming. Even if the developers were to recycle everything from DKC2 while swapping only the sprites of the playable characters, the game would’ve been remembered more fondly if it had a solid OST backing up its uninspired setting. DKC3’s music is not awful, but it lacked the spice and the oomph of DKC and DKC2’s. DKC and DKC2 certainly had their shares of audio compressions, but they weren’t obvious because of smothering them with various sounds. While the composers (some David Wise, but mostly Eveline Fischer) of DKC3 might think that the silences are breathing rooms, they really didn’t do much than to make the compressed audio more audible. One could hear the brass instruments held in volume, lacking the explosive energy from big band swings. But even minus the technological limitations, the compositions were just too laidback and muted, which did nothing to placate the players somnambulating through the game.

Most would blame Eveline Fischer for the poor compositions, but I would disagree, to speak nothing of David Wise’s complete overhaul in GBA’s edition of this game. Maybe DKC3 just were never meant to have the great tunes on par with DKC’s and DKC2’s.

Dixie Beat

It’s sad that I had to include the game’s title theme, only because this is the only tune that sounded remotely like it belonged to DKC’s golden age. It even had the melody of DKC’s infectiously happy bonus room theme, which, before Skullmonkeys, was the greatest bonus room theme yet.

Mill Fever

Yes, perfect. This tune encapsulates all my issues with the brass instruments. It would’ve made a great boogie-woogie track, if the trumpets were allowed to blare loudly.

Water World

I liked this one very much even for evoking a different feel from DKC’s Aquatic Ambiance. That was soothing, this is not. It depicts the waterworld as a chilly place, with hostile sea creatures lurking everywhere. It even reminded me of a Japan folk song.

Cavern Caprice

A decent techno track. I don’t really think much of this (other than it’s decent) but you bet those young hard-partying punks would fall into a trance with this until someone says aloud that this is videogame music. Then they’d be ironically enjoying it.

Rockface Rumble

A face rocking (sorry!) percussion heavy glory music. Play this for boxing. Congratulations, you just got something to replace the overused Eye of the Tiger whenever you’re sparring.

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Donkey Kong Country Week: the Animal Friends

Platformer heroes needn’t always be traveling solo. Sometimes, it’s good if they could meet up with friends who would help them in their quests, if not to dispel the feelings of loneliness then at least provide some welcome variety to the game. Just because Donkey and Diddy are reclaiming their stolen bananas (or being rescued by other Kongs) doesn’t mean that they have to spend their adventures in solitude (duotude?). Joining them often are a great assortment of animal friends.

Rather that go through the list chronologically (doing that gets rather tiring), I’m ordering the animal buddies from worst to best. I’ll only rank the 5 bests, and I only have one entry for worst because only one is ineffectual.

Worst:

Expresso the Ostrich (DKC1)

If the popularity of Final Fantasy’s Chocobo is any indication, gamers love being able to ride on overgrown birds. So why did Rare screw Expresso up so bad? As an ostrich, he runs fast, but that endangers him more than anything. He has no weapon against any enemies; he merely walks above them if they’re small, and only if they’re on a flat surface. Running to them at an incline or decline hurts him. His only other skill, gliding, was rendered obsolete by the time Dixie came into the sequel. The developers have long forgotten him and I’ve never heard of anyone demanding him back.

Unranked:

Winky the Frog (DKC1) and Rattly the Rattlesnake (DKC2)

Put both together for being samey. Even their colors are alike. Winky functions as you would expect from frogs (uh, they jump high. Why, you expected that they’d turn debonair princes upon kissing?). As in zoology, this frog is strong against insects, even the sharp ones (like the bees) that the Kongs can’t step on by themselves. Unlike in zoology, Winky doesn’t prey on insects, but he can step on them for “massive damage”. Like when you stab historically accurate giant crabs on a spot. Sorry, derailing.

Although Rattly the Rattlesnake works the same way as Winky, I give Rare plus points for him being a clever use of snakes. He coils his body like a spring. He has higher leap than Winky, but the drawback is that he needs to recoil to move forward, making it a slow process.

Clapper the Seal (DKC2)

You never get to play this seal. Instead, he cools hot water and freezes cold water. His seal-noises are super cute.

Glimmer the Anglerfish (DKC2)

Anglerfishes are freaky terrifying to look at. Glimmer, however, lost the sharp teeth, making him look less threatening. Instead of using his light to lure unsuspecting fishes in, he uses it to light Diddy and Dixie’s path. Good gimmick, but loses points because when you switch directions he looks at the screen and it flashes, bad for seizures-prone gamers.

Parry the Parallel Bird (DKC3)

Stupid name, and stupid use. He moves parallel to you. If that doesn’t make sense, imagine a halo on top of your head. If you jump up, so does the halo. That’s Parry, and he does nothing but grabs items you can’t reach. Much better suited for conceptual puzzle platformers like The Lost Vikings or Trine, but maybe not, seeing that neither has anything of his kind.

Top 5:

5. Ellie the Elephant (DKC3)

I have to remind you that should you ever see an elephant and feel the urge to touch it, go right ahead. But they’re very rough-skinned and stubbly, and you’ll be very disappointed if you expected them to be soft and cuddly as a horse is. I speak from experience.

I partly blame Ellie for this, because she’s the most adorable animal in DKC. She had huge shoes to fill as a replacement for Rambi the Rhino (who didn’t appear in part 3), and if you measure her against Rhino’s raw strength, she’s inferior. At first, she doesn’t seem to have many abilities, and even has an obvious weakness. As fictions commonly portray elephants, she recoils upon seeing rats.

But then DKC3 cleverly designed many levels to play on her skills (and some on her fear of rats). She can suck barrels from far away, and sometimes you don’t even need to get them to her trunks. Just by drawing barrels closer would remove obstacles and reveal bonus room locations. Later on she gains the ability to store water that she can shoot out of her trunk as deadly projectiles.

So yeah, she often goes unrecognized, so give her some love, guys! She’s still underground enough to be cool!

4. Rambi the Rhinoceros (DKC and DKC2)

I am willing to bet that DKC’s animal friend most number of gamers remember by name is Rambi. He appeared in both of the popular DKCs as early as the first level, and he returns in DKCR, to everyone’s delight.

Ride on Rambi and you’re mowing everyone who gets in your way, so long as you don’t let them hit you from above. Anyone he can destroy with his horn he can also destroy with his feet, so that includes those pesky bees (except the red ones, which are annoyingly immune to everything). So while I like a few animal friends more than him, I acknowledge him as the one who makes you feel the most powerful.

3. Squitter the Spider (DKC2 and DKC3)

Can someone tell me how Rare managed to take one of the most fearsome creatures on earth, that even men would squirm from, into something semi-cute? Sure, they didn’t make Squitter huggable (thank God, I don’t want young gamers to start getting the wrong idea), but he still earns cool points for his cool and useful abilities. And look at those sneakers, man! All four pairs of them! Perhaps spiders have to be high-maintenance to look remotely approachable. (On top of my head, the only other non-threatening, cute spider in fiction is Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web.)

My first geek-out moment in DKC2 is when I first got on Squitter and saw his abilities. I never saw coming that spiders, of all the animals they could think of, would be an animal friend, and so I was immediately filled with wonder upon first sight of him. And he does not disappoint. He shoots out deadly webs and can create his own platforms. Those are super cool, in my book. The only thing missing is a thread that you can swing on, but I guess not every games can be Bionic Commando.

2. Enguarde the Swordfish (DKC, DKC2 and DKC3)

Once they dive underwater, the Kongs are defenseless against all menacing sea creatures. Swimming, then, becomes an “avoid everyone” obstacle course, and if TMNT NES taught us anything it’s that avoiding obstacles in underwater levels are always annoying.

Thankfully, where water surfaces in DKC you can almost always guarantee that Enguarde is somewhere nearby, waiting to be freed from his box. Mounting this swordfish turns you a fencer wielding its nose as a sword, and while not every sea foes can be pierced to oblivion, Enguarde makes your journey under the sea less cumbersome. Instead of tapping buttons to swim, you can travel by merely pressing the directional button. Think Frog Suit from Super Mario Bros 3, but as a more destructive force.

(For those of you complaining about DKC’s controls being shabbier than Super Mario Bros, I invite you to play the water-based levels and see which of the two forces you to tap your controller more. Yeah, I win.)

(Oh, but I’m not finished. Why not load up your Super Mario Bros again? Now run, and then stop. Who skids? I win again.)

1. Squawks the Parrot (DKC, DKC2 and DKC3)

In DKC1, Squawks plays the same role as Glimmer, claws wrapped around a flashlight, illuminating your path. But in DKC2 and DKC3 he grows 3 times his size and can carry two primates for flights. I didn’t know that parrots could become this gigantic. Did he get irradiated from a nuclear explosion somewhere? And what could explain his ability to shoot nuts out at will?

In any case, Squawks will be the role model for my future children. I will let them play through every DKCs for reflex-training, and I will tell them inspiring stories about how one can grow up to become a useful member of society – whilst their dad hardly being one. Look at Squawks for inspiration. As a diminutive kid, he braved dark and dank caves to guide vulnerable primates out of trouble. Then he, hardcore, balloons in size and become a force to be reckoned with, whether in mines, vines or treetops. And no, I will not teach children to eat fast foods until they’re obese. Instead it’s the concept I will inculcate, with will and courage one can achieve big things as they come of age. Teach them well and let them fly the way! And I freaking suck at platitudes!

To sum up, Squawks rocks, flying makes platformers better, and brambles have the best music. Mmm, music. Sounds like another topic.

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Donkey Kong Country Week: The Kongs

Half the fun of talking about Donkey Kong Country series is its being indecisive about who you play each game. Although all of them are called Donkey freaking Kong Country (freaking, mine), only the first one stars the titular gorilla. Then the sidekick from the previous game takes the starring role in the next, and then the sidekick from the next game takes the starring role in the next next, and Donkey Kong’s appearances become fewer.

I don’t know how Rare got away with this. If this were any other gaming franchises, you bet people will be complaining all over message boards. BAWWW NERO! BAWWW RAIDEN! BAWWW APOLLO JUSTICE! BAWWW AXL! BAWWW SHADOW! The funny thing is that each of those games gave its lead sufficient time to develop before switching to another. DKC didn’t. Maybe no one heard much whining because Internet weren’t very accessible yet.

(Apollo Justice can die in a fire.)

Donkey Kong


Someone I follow on Twitter (@T3h_Kaiser) has been saying that Donkey Kong being a grown-up Donkey Kong Jr. is a lie cooked up by Rare. It’s like telling me that everything that I believed in was wrong! I’m now back from my shanty where I cried my hearts out, and is ready to debunk his claim. Because clearly it is he who was lying and wrong.

So. Donkey Kong Jr wore a tank top and a diaper. DKC’s Kong goes full-commando, and is naked if not for the tie. How could a conservatively dressed toddler grow up to be such an indecent gorilla? Really simple. He must have watched some Madonna after-midnight MTVs. Or maybe bought Prince’s Lovesexy. At least he does it with class. Hence, the tie.

And why did he go from round-headed to having this pointy hair? It must be the grunge rock, which were peaking in popularity during the early-90s.

See? Rare did not lie. Also, I just wasted time stupid-writing.

Donkey Kong from DKC gets cool points for being the first lead, and also for being the only Kong (besides Cranky) remotely tied to the Donkey Kong arcade classics. The powerhouse of DKC, he can effortlessly raise a barrel above his head, and his stomp devastates even foes who wear head protections. He can even dig up hidden bananas by clapping the ground. He’s hardcore, so don’t mess with him. And don’t go telling him he’s not legitimately Donkey Kong Jr or he’ll beat you up real bad.

Best moments: Everytime he defeats a muscular foe and the player inevitably thinks that Diddy couldn’t do this. In co-op mode, the first player (who plays Donkey) sneering at the second player (who plays Diddy) for getting the short end of the stick.

Worst moments: Getting kidnapped. Twice. So much for being the powerhouse, huh?

Diddy Kong


As I hinted while talking about Donkey Kong, Diddy gets major disadvantage for not being as powerful and useful as his partner. He’s supposed to be the Robin to Donkey Kong’s Batman, but when he becomes star in the second game he still gets outclassed by his sidekick Dixie Kong. To shoehorn another comics reference, imagine Dick Grayson becoming Batman and Damien Wayne as Robin still outdoing Batman at everything. I’m perplexed by why Rare never gave him unique abilities. He might be more mobile than Donkey Kong, but then again it might only be my imagination.

So what is Diddy’s handicap? His lack of strength. While most foes can’t resist Donkey Kong’s stomps, the bulked-up and the fat ones are immune to Diddy Kong’s. Which means that unless Diddy has a barrel or is riding a destructive animal friend, he has no way of defeating them.

For this, my brother and I would often use Diddy Kong as Donkey Kong’s shield. Whenever we find the duo in predicament, we would switch Donkey Kong out and offer Diddy to the gods. This we call “Sacrifice of Diddy”.

Best moments: Well, I guess after more than 15 years, Diddy Kong will finally make himself reliable. In DKCR, he wears a jetpack. Damn.

Worst moments: Every time he steps on a bulked-up crocodile, bounces back and falls into a bottomless pit.

Candy Kong


Question. Why would monkeys or gorillas have womanlike blond hair covering the “furs” on their head? And what’s with the Kong’s fascination with blondes anyway? Donkey Kong has this ultra-creepy and gigantic Candy for a squeeze. At least Dixie and Diddy look like a legitimately sweet couple, inasmuch as primate couples can look sweet.

Candy lets you save your game while saying cloying things such as “Honey Kong”, then blowing a kiss at you. Will creep out anyone but furry fanbases. Monkey-furries. Yikes, I hate myself for thinking those kind exist. Appears only in DKC1. Has a Dance Dance Revolution like minigame in DKC GBA remake.

Funky Kong


Yea he’s a sunglasses and bandana wearing surfer monkey dude. His barrel plane lets you go back to earlier levels. Useful for when your lives are depleted and you need to restock.

In DKC3 he becomes a mechanic and he will constantly upgrade your boat so that you can drive it to previously unreachable parts of the map.

He usually has a funky BGM. Because he’s funky. Clever, right?

Cranky Kong


The original Donkey Kong has grown old and became a curmudgeon who tells you how much better he and his games are in his prime. Dispenses obvious advices in DKC, will give you hints on every level in DKC2, is your sole competitor (and a sore loser) in a ball throwing minigame in DKC3.

Wrinkly Kong


Teaches school on DKC2, then retires in DKC3 and spends her days exercising, sleeping, and playing Ninty 64 (and you can hear the Mushroom Kingdom theme from Super Mario 64). She works as the in-game tutorial and the save spot. Dies off-screen after the end of DKC3, and becomes a ghost. Wow, this is depressing.

She is (was) Cranky’s wife. Has she always been named Wrinkly, even when she was 17? Hey, I like posing needless philosophical questions.

Dixie Kong


She’s Diddy’s beret-wearing ponytailed girlfriend. Sidekick in DKC2, lead in DKC3. She must have mastered the art of hair-fu because she uses it to raise barrels, when Diddy can’t even lift barrels above chest level (that wuss). She can also use her hair as a whip. Millia Rage from Guilty Gear must’ve learned a few tricks from Dixie.

But there’s more. She has this cool and very useful ability of making herself glide by spinning her hair like it’s chopper’s blades. So while her physical strength equals Diddy’s, she has better survival skills.

Best moment: Being the star of DKC3.

Worst moment: Cries when she loses. Because girls are tear-ducts! Gender equality!

Swanky Kong


He lets you play minigames so you could get yourself some swank and thus his name is oh dear this is so stupid why am I even writing

Has a game show where he asks DKC2 related trivia in DKC2, and a carnival game booth in DKC3. Also has a terrible Sonic rip-off 3d tunnel minigame in DKC3 Advance.

Kiddy Kong


Kiddy Kong almost makes up for Donkey Kong’s absence. For a toddler, he has a rather impressive strength, and is capable of destroying even the bulky looking foes. He doesn’t have the “pound the ground for bananas” ability, but those aren’t a necessity anyway. To make up for that, he can skip on water, and you can roll him and have Dixie stand on top of him like he’s a circus ball (excepting a few places, neither those are very useful).

Best moment: Skipping on water for the first time. Can you think of any other games that let you skip on water? Exactly.

Worst moment: Dixie cries, he WAILS. Because babies are wambulances! Age equality!

Brother Bears


Technically not Kongs, they treat you as a chore machine in DKC3. Kind of annoying and not as cute as expected from fictional bears.

Banana Bird Queen


Also not a Kong. She will help you defeat Baron K Roolenstein if you find every Banana Birds.

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Donkey Kong Country Week: The Games

Among the many retro-revivals that the Wii has enjoyed in 2010, Donkey Kong Country Returns (DKCR) is the title that I’m most hyped for, no small feat as NBA Jam Wii also came to tug my nostalgic and basketball-loving heartstrings. I planned all along to begin my Donkey Kong Country retrospective posts today and I seem to be sticking to the plan so far. My original intent was to write a week before DKCR hits stores, as a way of anticipating it, but I got a few details mixed because instead of getting released next week like I initially thought, it’s out today.

With the confession of my failures out, I’m gonna start talking about Donkey Kong Country (DKC).

DKC is one of the few videogame series that I hold close to my heart (or is it many? I have to evaluate this later). Back in 1994, my brother and I didn’t have a SNES, so when we had a videogame fix we would head to a store where we can pay to play a videogame of our choosing for a limited time. In one of these sessions, we were seated next to someone playing DKC. It was an attention grab, and what struck me as a surprise is that Donkey Kong, formerly Mario’s foil, now has his own platformer. All to my design, I got a SNES along with DKC months later, for I was determined to get that game upon first sight. It would become a game I would enjoy over and over again.

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country and I didn’t get off a good start. I don’t mean to say I hated this game initially; it felt more like the game hated me. I was a seasoned Super Mario Bros veteran by then, so I reckoned, its being platformer also published by Nintendo, that I would breeze through it, deftly avoiding any obstacles with my dexterous Mario-trained hands (I would since then learn that Nintendo only published the DKC series and had nothing to do with their creation, which is handled by Rare). Was I wrong. In as early as the 2nd world (of 7) the game would hand me my ass many times. I even saw the game over screen in that darned mine-cart level. And then in that snow barrel-blast level. And then in that factory level with flaming oil drums. This was a challenging game and it would take my brother and I 3 days of non-stop playing to beat what is essentially a 2-hour game.

This was also a game of marvelous beauty at the time of its release. Its use of pre-rendered 3d gave its detailed characters and lush backgrounds beauty then unparalleled. I remember my dad, a baby-boomer who usually doesn’t care about videogames, would usher house guests to our game room just so everyone can marvel at how far videogame presentation had gone. If its property enticed me to buy it, then so did its visuals. It was a stuff to brag about, to SNES what the original 1st-gen Optimus Prime was to toys. People may laugh about them now, DKC for how dated it looks and Prime for not being very posable, but they were legitimately cool back then.

Anyway, the Donkey Kong in DKC, as it turned out, isn’t the Donkey Kong who kidnapped Pauline for Mario to save. That Donkey Kong became DKC’s Cranky Kong, and the Donkey Kong here is the junior Donkey Kong from the time when Mario incarcerated his dad (It was a phase, he was in college! Mario has since then sworn off gorilla cruelty. Oh wait, there’s Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Forget I said anything to defend that jerk.) In DKC, the Kongs store a huge array of bananas, guarded by Diddy Kong who is so rad he wears a cap. Not rad enough to prevent K Rool’s army of crocodiles from stealing the bananas though. Pride hurt, he joined Donkey Kong, now sporting a tie, in a quest to reclaim their bananas, with nary a cutscene about vengeance because videogames, then, don’t overindulge in pretentious tales about light dark heart darky lightness.

Of all the 3 DKCs, the first one is the most straightforward platformer, to the extent that you can say that it’s a jazzed-up Super Mario Bros. They share the sole objective of reaching the end of the level, along with other gameplay similarities. You hurt enemies by stomping on them (in DKC you can also hurt them by using a roll attack). You collect 100 bananas for 1up. You can access bonus rooms. There are some differences, notably the barrels, which the Kongs can pick up and throw (and occasionally ride on), and some of which act as cannons that can blast the Kongs across different places. Another element unique to DKC is the tag team. Tag team, though, isn’t adroitly executed in this game because having a partner only means you have additional “health” before losing a life. You can play two player co-op, but since only one Kong can be active any given time, the player assigned to the inactive Kong can only be spectator. Each Kong has his quirk, and I will discuss this in an upcoming post. Like Super Mario World, there are animal friends assisting Kong. Think Yoshi, but five of them with individual traits. The animal friends prove to be the game’s strengths because they give a refreshing way of playing platformers, and it didn’t hurt that they made you feel powerful. I will also discuss the animal friends in another upcoming post.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Donkey Kong Country 2 (DKC2) is considered by many as the highest point of the series, and it’s easy to see why: most of DKC’s kinks has been ironed out. Tag team matters now as either Kongs can boost the other to unreachable places, which is vital for finding many bonus areas. The bonus areas have been repurposed as farming grounds not for 1ups as they were in DKC, but for tokens required to unlock a secret bonus world.

Playing DKC2, it’s immediately clear what motif the game is going for. While DKC had a jungle feel, DKC2 opts for a more pirate theme, and is blatant with it. The game encourages treasure collections, which would start an (unfortunate) trend for collect-a-thons. The enemies wear pirate hats, wields cutlasses, and have hooks for a hand. Even the story, what little it has, is pirate-like. Donkey Kong is kidnapped, and it’s up to Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie to get him back along with, yet again, their stolen bananas. Just how bad is Diddy at standing watch over Kong’s bananas anyway? Why is he still the hero despite his repeated follies?

DKC2 is leaps and bounds better than DKC in everything: the visuals more inspired, the animal friends less nerfed (compared to a few from DKC), and the music more dramatic. With its collection aspect it also offers more incentive for replays. Fan of the game will be turning every areas inside out looking for bonus areas, or grabbing DK coins as bragging rights. Hey, you can even try to beat Mario in no. 1 spot. (Could this be a precedent for Xbox 360’s achievement points?)

My only beef with DKC2 is that I wish I had a way of playing Donkey Kong instead. Of all the Kongs in DKC, I found him most memorable. Alas, DKC would be the last time in the trilogy he’s playable. He would sit out again in DKC3.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble

Diddy Kong also sits out in DKC3, because his folly has now cost him an absence. King K Rool has abandoned his Captain Hook stint to become a… scientist named Dr Baron K Roolenstein? Wow how does that work? I don’t mean to discriminate, but aren’t pirates too roughnecked to be inventors, even if only to devise pillaging robots!

The enemies have again been redesigned, some of them now fitted with mechanical parts. Also, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong have yet again been kidnapped. Why can’t they look after themselves for once? You think after getting past DKC they would learn a few skills on looking out for themselves. In any case, the duo you use now compose of Dixie Kong and Kiddy Kong, Dixie Kong’s gentle giant of a cousin.

Perhaps it’s becoming clear that I am not putting much effort into writing about DKC3, and for that I’ll give you a good reason. DKC3 is the most forgettable game of the trilogy. When examined as a standalone product, it’s above most platformers of its time, but against DKC and DKC2 it felt uninspiring. DKC is challenging, and while I had less difficulty with DKC2 because of my experience with DKC, I still died a few times there. DKC3 is cakewalk even amongst other platformers, and you have to cheat your way to make it hard, otherwise only the bonus room locations prove to be tough.

What worked against it is how much the feel has changed. Both DKC and DKC2 relied heavily on twitchy reflexes, and DKC3 didn’t, so players were less thrilled in beating DKC3. The laid back tone and the care bear families may have turned people off because no one cared for them. Part of the blame also falls on player fatigue. Approach DKC3 as a platformer and you’ll get a game that’s fundamentally the same as its predecessors, but not as exciting.

I get what the developers tried to do in this game. They added greater focus on exploration and puzzles. They remade the world map to be more dynamic by fitting in fetch quests that would unlock different areas. The player had to analyze in-game clues to find the Lost World and even free banana-birds from every crystal caves to get the true ending. So when it comes to longevity, DKC3 would surpass both games because of its heavy exploration. The player should analyze every region of the maps to get the most out of it.

DKC3 sold the worst among the trilogy and underperformed under stiff competition (including Nintendo 64 titles), leading Rare to abandon their 2d platformer endeavors. SNES would soon be retired, and DKC fans would wait until 2010 to get DKC’s next offering, developed by Retro Studios in hopes to recapture the delight from Kong’s finest hours.

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Nightdreamer Reincarnates

I dread intros. The skill that I most need to develop is to know how to make a good impression, or even just leaving an impression at all. I don’t possess the confidence to speak in front of a crowd with aplomb, and I’m too reserved to intentionally embarrass myself, becoming the jester no one forgets. So, yeah, intros and me don’t get along well.

Are you fine with reading stuff written by an awkward clumsy guy with a loose grasp of English? Oh, you are? Then hey, nice ta meet cha!

Anyway this is the fourth blog I’ve set up. My previous one, http://www.nightdreamer.i.ph, is fine and has tons of cool features. But ever since I’ve started designing wordpress themes last year, it has become increasingly imperative for me to grasp the inner workings of wordpress, so I had to set up shop here.

Wait,” you ask, “if you’ve been designing wordpress themes then how come your blog uses default ones?”

Because I don’t want to design, yet. A fully-customizable wordpress blog requires pay, and I don’t want to spend money on something I wouldn’t be able to give full attention to, so I have to ensure that I can be consistent here before I commit myself into paying then creating something fancy. I’ll link you to a couple of my designs though: www.ukaymanila.com and www.iambourgeois.com, done in ascending chronological order.

This is my personal space, and I will constantly be talking about the stuff I like, including videogames, movies, books, and music.

There. Got that lackluster intro over with.

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