Dying. It's been described by doctors, scientists, priests and mystics as "a whole lot of no fun". Or at least I assume so, it sounds like the sort of thing those wacky guys would say. And, as with all deep philosophical issues, the DKU isn't afraid to deal with it head-on! AND NEITHER ARE WE! Death comes in many forms, and I can think of no better reference guide to the afterlife than a bunch of loosely-connected video games, tenuously linked to Donkey Kong.
So, what does happen when we die? Is there another life waiting for us? Are we doomed to oblivion? Is there mind independent of body? Is this paragraph even going anywhere?
No. No, it's not. But read on because, as we shall see, death ain't so simple in the DKU. And who knows? Together, we might finally discover which religion got it right!
Become a ghost and/or angel and just, sort of, hang around indefinitely
(Donkey Kong 64, Banjo-Tooie)
Because '80s politicians still count as TOPICAL HUMOUR.
If Wrinkly Kong's plight tells us anything about the futility of existence it's this: absolutely nothing matters. As far as we know, Wrinkly died in 1999, only to reappear almost immediately in ghost form. Initially only contactable via mysterious Doors to the Spirit Realm scattered about DK Isles, it wouldn't be long before she apparently broke free from Limbo and essentially carried on living her life as if nothing had ever happened. By the mid-2000s, everyone was completely blasé about the ghostly specter hovering about the place, so presumably this sort of thing happens all the time. Yep, that's right, DK Isles is inundated with dead relatives lingering about like wank stains on an otherwise pristine carpet.
And, dontchyer know, similar thing happened to Banjo-Kazooie's move-tutoring mole-bloke Bottles when he was unexpectedly blown up by Gruntilda the witch. His charred corpse lay undisturbed (nobody could be bothered to bury the thing), with an angelic ghostly post-death Bottles spirit floating above. Still perfectly able to hold a conversation, Bottles' death proved to be little more than a mild inconvenience.
I should probably add that he was later brought back to life via a life-bringing energy beam. Which is good to know.
Utterly fail to die, become a walking skeleton
Charles Martinet, circa 2012.
Of course, you may find that death's just not your thing. Seemingly Gruntilda found this to be so; flattened my a massive boulder and left to rot in the ground for two years only to be exhumed by her sisters still, unaccountably, alive. In this version of death, the body rots away completely but the soul remains, apparently with nothing better to do with itself. In fact, during her convoluted attempts to escape the boulder with the aid of a robot body (YEAH? YOU REMEMBER THAT??), Gruntilda was able to entirely separate mind and body in a very literal manifestation of the phrase "ghost in the machine". Hahaha, I only just realised what they did there, OH YOU RAREWARE GUYS, YOU SLAY ME, MAN.
Utterly fail to die, linger on as a sentient pile of dust
Then there's Toots—everyone's favourite weird blobby pet thing to wacked-out monarch Jingaling and/or wacked-in snake charmer Rubee—was brutally murdered in Banjo-Tooie, only to find himself living on in the form of an immobile, googly-eyed pile of ash. A terrifying vision of immortality that underpins the cruel, heartless world in which we live. Poor bastard.
Reincarnation courtesy of a disillusioned psychopomp
(Conker's Bad Fur Day)
A match made in... well, Purgatory, I guess.
Conker's Bad Fur Day's Gregg established once and for all that being a grim reaper isn't all glamour, girls and novelty cocktails; Gregg's a disillusioned guy, stuck in a thankless dead-end (hoho) job with no prospects and no ambition. In any case, the weird rules governing who lives, who dies and, crucially, what happens afterwards seem as perplexing to Gregg as they are to any of his... clients?
The reasonable ease with which Conker was able to barter his way into instantaneous reincarnation is indicative of a grim reaper who's long since stopped giving a shit, but it's a curious insight into the fine line between the World of the Living and the World of the Probably-Dead-We're-Not-Quite-Sure-How-This-Works-To-Be-Honest.
Actual death courtesy of an overenthusiastic psychopomp
(Grabbed By The Ghoulies)
Grabbed by the Ghoulies' Reaper is more of the by-the-book sort of fellow. Not interested in all that mucking about with extra lives and reincarnation, he prefers a nice, quiet life of touching creatures and watching them die. He's a fast, efficient guy who gets the job done. Which is coincidentally my own personal policy on masturbation (though I generally waive the scythe).
Zombification courtesy of nobody in particular
(Banjo-Tooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day)
No photoshopping required.
Zombies are all over the place, if you can be bothered to find 'em. Seems that some deaths merely result in a wandering-about decomposing corpse that's slightly more inclined to bite your face than beforehand. We saw this in Banjo-Tooie, when King Jingalin's life force was sucked from him and left him a zombified husk. It was a bit of a rubbish morning for the ol' guy.
By Conker's Bad Fur Day, it became clear that there's some folks who just happen to die like that. Personally, I wouldn't mind a bit of zombification myself. I could have endless fun walking in circles, grunting and writing pointless video game articles.
Channel the energy of a dying planet in a desperate bid to continue your career as a giant space primate
(Star Fox Adventures)
Now THERE'S a deity I can get behind.
So here's the deal: you're a giant space primate who's recently been killed, but one of the advantages of being a giant space primate happens to be the ability to maintain just enough residual life energy to, oh I don't know, say, inconspicuously infiltrate the culture of an ancient planet, pretend to be a god for a bit, deceive an anthropomorphic Fox into providing the necessary power to recompile yourself and then float off into space, cackling insanely.
Yeah, sounds pretty plausible to me. That's what I'm hoping happens when I die.
The never-ending living hell
(Mario vs. Donkey Kong)
I'm a great believer in subtlety.
There are some experiences that can never be dealt with in terms of life and death. Some traumas so utterly horrifying, so perversely grotesque, so adverbially adjectivey, that no living creature should be made to endure them. The closest approximation to the Biblical Hell, and possibly the real truth about what happens to all impure and evil spirits once they meet their demise, is contained within this: Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. It's not life after death, but it's the closest thing we know to what dying feels like.
To be honest, it's a bit shit.
Metamorphose, inexplicably, into a bomb
(Mario Kart 64)
But finally, and most profoundly of all, we have this: the most daring foray into the philosophy of the post-mortem soul to date. Indeed, it struk many as odd that the first video game (IN HISTORY!!!) to truly address the mysteries of the afterlife was the otherwise fairly happy-go-lucky Mario Kart 64. But its ponderous philosophical standpoint—that all souls, upon finally meeting their end, will endure a brief period of continued existence as a sentient bomb, to remain this way until such time as it blasts the shit out of someone else—has been hailed by many thinkers as a revolution in the field.
As for the practical application of this theory; it's generally recommended that people stay away from graveyards at ALL COSTS. Because they're coming for you. They're coming for you and they've got nothing to lose.
So, there you have it! The complete lowdown on doom, as explained by the DKU. As for which religion got it right? Well, it's Islam, obviously.
Some words and occasional punctuation by Matt
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