We all want to ring in our New Years right, but most people are lost. They believe in New Years resolutions that get broken really quickly, a fool’s errand! There’s only one thing that can properly start 2017 off and it is the Donkey Kong bongos.
At first glance, these look like plastic bongos. And they are. But! These bongos are the tools to playing the fine arts. That’s right, I’m talking about Donkey Kong Jungle Beat and Donkey Konga 2, the greatest games to ever use bongos as controllers. (I do not have the first Donkey Konga because that was not up for borrowing.) Why, oh why did we stop using the bongos? This shit could have been the future. Forget VR – you may see things, but you can’t truly touch them. The bongos, however, can be seen and touched. Therefore, the philosophical argument follows:
- The best things in life can be seen and touched.
- VR can be seen but not truly touched.
- The Donkey Kong bongos can be seen and touched.
- Therefore, the Donkey Kong bongos are a superior form of video game media over VR.
This is philosophy. A scientific argument. Those who argue against it are fucking dipshits, I am the law now.
The bongos are easily one of the most unusual controllers, even for Nintendo, the factory of add-ons and extensions and the Wii U controller. It kinda makes me think that the line of Donkey Kong bongo games were meant to be arcade games, because the bongos really give off that vibe. However, despite my expectations, the bongos actually work pretty well? My only problem while I was using them is that it’s kinda spotty about detecting claps you make above the bongos. The higher your hands are, the less likely it’d end up being read, your hands getting farther from God. Otherwise, the bongos – or at least the set I have – works pretty okay!
I can go on and on about the bongos and how it might be an eldritch instrument sucking my life force, but we gotta like, talk about the games.
DONKEY KONG JUNGLE BEAT
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat sounds like the title of a rhythm game, but in reality, it’s a platformer. Rather than using inferior sticks or buttons, your main way of controlling is by bongo. You can be a coward and press your hand down on the right bongo to walk right – or you can become the fucking strong and bang that shit to get good ol’ Donkey Kong running. Hitting both bongos makes him jump while doing a clap makes him clap, which has a variety of uses such as bringing bananas close to him or stunning enemies. The game’s director, Yoshiaki Koizumi, decided on bongo controls for the game because he wanted to try a different control scheme that was simple. Despite how odd it is, the bongos really are a simple control scheme to grasp. Hey you know what other Nintendo platformer spin-off got super simplified controls? Super Mario Run. Therefore I contend that Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the original Super Mario Run and therefore better. My logic further follows:
Donkey Kong bongos > iPhone game controls
Make bongos, Apple. The future is here and it was already made.
The game’s divided into barrels, which are divided into kingdoms which consist of two levels and a boss. Besides the final boss, the bosses come in four varieties that get slightly changed with each barrel: a simple punch-off against a Kong with the controls retooled to solely punch and dodge, a tank boss that needs to be stunned by its own bombs while you dodge its other attacks, a hog that needs to be fought through counter attacks and bird. Honestly, it’s fine though. My only complaint with the bosses is that Dread Kong is such a dumb awesome name for something that shows up in the first kingdom. That’s like, end-game shit. If bosses were super complex, I don’t think the bongo play style would catch up with their movements, as glorious as the bongos are.
Actually, somebody go make a Donkey Kong barrel controlled shmup or something, I want to see if it’s possible. Show me the complexity.
In the first two levels you gotta get bananas, which also acts as your health for the boss. Any bananas that weren’t lost in the boss battle is used as the final score. The scoring system unlocks crests (of the usual bronze, silver and gold varieties), which unlocks more levels. So to move on, you’re going to have to get real good at collecting bananas and doing the boss battles. There’s a simple combo system that builds up as you perform moves like swings and wall-jumps without touching the ground, so you’re going to have to have a pretty good reaction time if you want the best number of bananas possible.
My major gripe with the game is the underwater levels. Didn’t like the original Donkey Kong Country underwater levels? Welcome to hell. Swimming around is real slow and it ended up being tiring on my hands as I banged the bongos to get Donkey Kong inching through the water. It’s not very fun.
There are other levels that also break out of the mold. Some levels have the gimmick of hanging onto a bird and directing it left and right and others have you blazing through with a Rambi the Rhino expy. These levels however are actually fun and I welcome the changes of pace unless that change is in the form of a water level.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is sort of a short game, with game time being kinda dependent on replaying levels for better banana scores for crests. However, that’s something I’m okay with. Playing on the bongos gets tiring after a while – as amazing as they are – and the game ended up being something I played in short bursts. I feel that a longer game would have made the bongos overstay their welcome, so a short length is perfectly fine.
So okay, what about an actual rhythm game?
DONKEY KONGA 2
However, despite its artful use of the mysterious bongos, the song selection’s weird in that I know almost none of the songs. Of course, I say that as somebody that was muted out to music that wasn’t Christian radio songs growing up, so I know nothing, the enby idiot. The songs aren’t like, stuff you’d get from Guitar Hero or Rock Band, nor anything poppy. Most of it’s kinda R & B stuff. Well, I feel that most music wouldn’t go along with the bongos anyway.
But it all redeemed itself with the presence of Smash Mouth’s All Star on the tracklist, the song of the generation. This absolutely doesn’t fit with the bongos at all and I’m pretty sure Nintendo reached out to license songs on the cheap. But cheap as it is, this is art. Imagine, playing these plastic instruments to All Star. Imagine. It is a great image, is it not?
I looked this game up and Donkey Konga 2 has different song lists depending on the region. Like the Japanese version, there are a lot of fucking anime songs on there and songs that I don’t know because my lack of knowledge of music transcends all places in the world. What did weird me out though is that songs by Nintendo were different across versions?? The only Nintendo song for North America was the Donkey Konga 2 theme while Japan was getting some Zelda and Pikmin while Europe gets Mute City and Green Greens. Why are there region locked songs? Like I could understand licensing problems with the other songs but these are your own songs?? This is an outrage and I would say to burn the treehouse like some idiot that thinks they know what they’re talking about, but I don’t think the Nintendo Treehouse existed at the time.
So, the game’s just okay. My problem is that most of the unlocks for the game are cosmetic or getting to play the songs at higher difficulties. All of the songs are already there when you start a fresh file. And honestly I think most of them suck. But this is kinda subjective, isn’t it? Maybe I just have underdeveloped taste. You might get more enjoyment out of it than I did.
The Donkey Kong bongos are a-okay! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat’s fun! Donkey Konga 2 is eh. Playing by bongos get tiring though. Maybe that’s why we’re not seeing this shit anymore, it makes the players too dang tired. Still though, it’s pretty good. I was graced with this experience because my sister’s friend had the bongos and games and let us borrow it. Getting it new though seems kinda pricey? Maybe buy the bongos by themselves and try to see and figure out how to get them working with Dolphin? Regardless, the bongos are a must have. Buy the bongos. Appreciate the bongos.