Warning: Possible Plot and Geographical Spoilers ahead. If you don't want to know this stuff, stop reading or something!
Continuity has always been a source of obsession for Vine staffers; myself included. One year ago, Donkey Kong Country Returns was released, and our heroes trekked the same ground they'd tread time and again in the Rare games of old: Donkey Kong Island. However, the island we remember has changed drastically, not only geographically, but politically and environmentally too. In honor of the 17th anniversary of Donkey Kong Country, and of the island's introduction itself, let's examine the changes that Returns makes to the landscape and exactly how the island became the way Retro Studios imagined it.
First of all, consider the physical appearance of the island. At first glance, it doesn't even look like the same place. The island's peak is now a violent volcano, and the DK Head monument has up and vanished, as has Gorilla Glacier. Calm down, this is still our island!
Believe it or not, we've seen that volcano before. Why, that's Mt. Dynamite of course, of Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast fame! As evidenced by the red luminescence of Chimp Caverns' GBA remake, the innards of DK Island have been magma ridden for years. The calm crater beneath Gorilla Glacier must have been provoked by some tectonic disturbance, and as the fiery liquid surfaced, it took the entire icy region with it!
Not to mention, all this recent earth movement must be what destroyed the DK Island face. Fortunately, the monument's ruins get to be explored in depth in the game's "Cliff" region, also known as Prehistoric Path. This entire world is simply the collapsing rubble of the face carving; revealing the plethora of prehistoric remains hidden in the rock.
Follwing their departure from the island, the Kremling Krew left a lot behind. Perhaps most notably are the complex system of mines that circumnavigate the island. Of course, you didn't think these abandoned caves would go abandoned forever, did you? That's where the moles step in! Based on their similarities to Hardhat, an old member of the Kremling Krew, it's possible that these moles are former Krew members themselves. Whatever the case, they sure are opportunistic. They've retrofitted the mines for their own needs, and they appear sentient, as they've got their own language and complex city structure, not to mention their irrigation system. I'd wager that these moles are a formidable upcoming faction on the island; perhaps their mining operation even trades with others in the Rare Island chain!
There's another new clan in town as well, this one being the Scurvy Crew. Unlike their mole counterparts, these crabby individuals appear to be a bit more malevolent to the Kongs by nature. These pirates have taken over dozens of galleons, many of which could be former Kremling vessels. Throughout the Kongo Jungle coastline, there appears to be a complicated infrastructure of sand transporting pullies, along with castles and sand huts. It's unclear if these are operated by the Scurvy Crew, or by Kongs or some other species. It's also unclear as to whether the crabs are operating fully under Tiki control, or if they're a full faction in their own right, though their operation appears too complex to have arisen solely in wake of the tiki invasion. With the number of Kremlings on the high seas dwindling, these crustaceans have filled the roles of shipping and looting quite well.
Finally, there are the Kremling factories. These have been out of service for quite some time, but luckily, the Kremlings crafted a computerized control system in the form of this eyeball guy. I like to call him KAL 9000; KAL standing for Kremling ALgorithms of course. He's the brain behind the whole plant, keeping it in semi-operating order all these years.
Aside from the aforementioned Mole and Crab civilisations, the lack of Kremling conquest over these years has paved the way for a major diversification of the island's species. Donkey Kong 64 established that the island had begun to grow large fungal specimens. By 2010, the fungi had grown out of control. Nearly every location on the island is home to isolated growths of large mushrooms, most notably within Monkey Mines and Vine Valley. That's not to mention the rapid establishment of carnivorous plant life. DK64 also featured Kremling Krew members called Flip-Flaps. It is my belief that these small purple bats mated with the native bat species of DK island, leading to the creation of monsters known only as Squeeklies. These beasts have completely overrun Monkey Mines, and in their isolation they've been known to grow to as much as 10 times the size of Donkey Kong.
Other species that have been able to flourish in the Kremlings' absence include a severe outbreak of spiders, as well as many undersea creatures, including sharks, squids, a gigantic octopus and a blue whale, though it's possible that the sea life has been this diverse all along, as we never really spent much time on the DK Island coastline before. Since our last visit to the isles, there has also been an introduction of numerous unnatural and possibly invasive species. Several large African mammals now make their home on the island, including elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, and zebras, though these species all seem right at home in the tropical landscape. Most interestingly however, is the thriving population of farm animals.
First, there's Checkpoink the Pig. I believe this dorky looking fellow to be a fan of Diddy Kong's and former resident of Timber's Island, who followed Diddy back to DK Island in 2007 after the second defeat of the evil Wizpig. Perhaps his former home took on a hostile anti-pig sentiment after the villain's 2nd attack, and he fled in search of more tolerant pastures. Whatever the case, he's an annoying little bitch. Next, there are the chickens. Oh, the chickens. The poultry population, perhaps also brought over from Timber's Island or some place similar, has a strong foothold in the current ecosystem of DK Island. There are Stilts, chickens with bamboo lifts that strut around like they own the place, and there's Colonel Pluck. The Colonel (though I suspect he doesn't have a real military rank) resides in the former Kremling factory. Under his direction began the assembly of scores of robotic chicken minions.
The final major change on Donkey Kong Island is the lives of the Kongs themselves. Since Donkey Kong 64, it appeared Cranky Kong had given up his laboratory days, though it was unclear as to what he was doing alternatively. As DKCR shows us, Cranky has opened up a new chain of shops across the island. Though don't be fooled; he hasn't completely abandoned his chemical tampering, as evidenced by his new purchasable potion. DK has some new digs as well. His original treehouse was abandoned years ago, and he's now constructed a brand new beach front hut with matching banana hoard cave. The other Kongs must have been vacationing on Sun Sun Island during the events of Returns, but rest assured they've all probably taken on wacky new professions at the cost of your hard earned banana coins.
So there you have it! The changes weren't that hard to explain, now were they? After years of Kremling absence, a series of tectonic convulsions, and increased inter-island interaction, it's no surprise that the landscape has changed as much as it has! Thankfully, through all the alterations, the Donkey Kong Island we all know and love still shines through. And hey, if we're really lucky, maybe Retro will give me a chance to do this same feature for Crocodile Isle! *fingers crossed*
An unnecessary essay, AKA unnecessay, by Jeff