DKVINE DIVINE: Examining Religion Among The Megabytes
Religion has always been a huge part of society; dominating our culture with images, ideas, and constant moral naggings. Whether it be polytheism, monotheism, or even atheism; we can't possibly ignore the fact that it will always be there. Due to the fact that it's a large part of our lives, it's only natural to see it seep into places that weren't originally designated for it. Sometimes it's done on purpose, other times it's not a conscious effort. Books, paintings, television, and movies have all been various forms of exposure for certain religious themes (like theatrical releases about angels working for the Department of Sanitation, or sitcoms about a family's pet Kimono Dragon going to heaven). It may not come as a surprise then that the relatively new form of media known as video games have also been overcome by the religious wave. However, most video games that do have religious undertones are usually called Hell Gore VI or Let's Shoot Moses and other assorted distasteful monstrosities. Video Games have not done an overall good job at showing religion in a positive light when the main focus of the game concerns it.
So here's something interesting: the Donkey Kong Universe series has many underlying otherworldly themes. While it's up to you whether they did it consciously and tastefully, it is interesting to try and decipher where religion stands in this fictional land. Let's begin.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest for the Super Nintendo is the first real game in the series that involved religion in any sense of the word. First off, it was the first game to feature the supernatural. Two varieties of Kaptain K. Rool's henchmen ("drones" in this case) were Kackle and Kloak. Both were the spirits of deceased Kremlings or ghosts. The defintion of a ghost is a disembodied spirt who appears to the living in "bodily likeness." Going further into what a ghost actually is, it's a spirit who hasn't found it's way to the afterlife, and is trapped in the physical realm. Plus, during the course of the game the giant Necky vulture known as Krow dies after a beating by Diddy and Dixie Kong, but later comes back as a ghost. All these things lead to evidence that there is an afterlife in the world of of the Donkey Kong Universe, filled with the spirits of those who had passed away.
DKC2 also introduced the source responsible for creating the Kremlings. A giant "force" (not to be confused with the Force from Star Wars) that flows from deep within the Earth. We know the Kremlings came from this, because it's located in the "Lost World" of the Kremlings which the DKC2 Instruction Manuel says the Kremlings originated from. This is very interesting, because the Kremlings give the impression of being a gigantic tribe, and many tribes living in the wilderness during the course of history have claimed to have come "from the Earth" or "from the soil." The force that created the Kremlings does indeed flow from the ground. We don't know how the force actually came to be, but we already know that the Kremlings have souls from the last paragraph. Could some divine source have come into play in the creation of the force? Perhaps just the opposite? Whatever the case be, this is a fascinating fictionial religion that Rareware created for the Kremlings.
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! featured the magical Banana Birds alongside their mother, the Queen Banana Bird. These creatures are more magical than anything, but the impression the Queen Banana Bird gave was quite deific. I'm not sure what Rare was trying to show with the Queen Banana Bird, but the way she loomed over Dixie and Kiddy Kong in the clouds above the Northern Kremisphere made her seem very godlike. Yet on the flip side of the coin, she was proven to be very vulnerable when K. Rool had her trapped behind a magical barrier. This doesn't relate to the Queen Banana Bird being a religion, but more of a similarity to the way God is depicted by the general public in the three main monotheistic religions.
Mario Kart 64 featured ghosts called "Boos." While we here at Donkey Kong's Jungle Vine are not huge followers of Mario outside of the Donkey Kong Universe, from what we can make out, Boos are the ghosts of dead Goomba creatures. This shows evidence that lets us go with the notion that in the Donkey Kong Universe's philosophy, all living things have a soul (even though Rareware did not make this game we can go ahead and say this; because later games by them would further this idea, and Rareware is not the sole designer of the series).
Diddy Kong Racing was the next game in the series, and it introduced Taj the genie. Genies are spirits who take physical form and grant the wishes of the person who calls forth for it. This is noteworthy because once again we have the spirit theme, but it's not tied to the ones we had before in the sense of lost souls longing to reach the hereafter. DKR also threw extraterrestrials in the fray, and some of you may know that some people in monotheistic religions do not agree with the proposal for life beyond the stars, because that would make God's plan for us here on Earth seem less signifigant (i.e. Jesus being crucified).
Banjo-Kazooie had Gruntilda the witch (plus her cohorts). Many people do not realize this, but the history of witchcraft has nothing to do with the worshiping of Satan. In fact, witchcraft was originally intended to be a good type of thing (even though outsiders did not percieve it this way). Basically, someone who practiced the "good" type of witchcraft was considered a witch, and someone who used the power to hurt people was known as a warlock (today the two terms are used to distinguish between males [warlocks] and females [witches]). Throw in some misconceptions, misunderstandings, and several witch trials, and several centuries later the idea of witches have changed. Hollywood percieved them to be women (since warlock were men according to them) who worshiped Satan and used his dark powers to wreck havoc upon the innocent or good natured. Since then, Satanic witchcraft has actually begun being practiced by people who were usually introduced to it through the media. Gruntilda seems to represent what a modern witch is (except for that cheesy Wizard of Oz look she has going, which we just contribute to the dark powers of Satan wearing her body down), which therefore shows that Satan does exist in the DKU. Where there's a Satan, there is also a God.
Also in B-K was the shaman/witch doctor named Mumbo Jumbo. A shaman is regarded as a priest or priestess who use their powers for curing the sick, controlling events, and basically doing good deeds. There is a religion called shamanism, but Mumbo appears to be unrelated to that, since the term shaman originated before shamanism came into play. Mumbo Jumbo practices voodoo, which would account for all of his wacky transformations (in voodoo, it's believed that there is the soul of another animal inside of us, and you have the ability to turn into that animal, and apparently Mumbo has found a way to even reach the pumpkin and washing machine down deep in your state of being). So here we have confirmation that voodoo does exist in the DKU, but we also have had previous proof that there was a God and Satan w/designated afterlife gathering places. Very interesting...
Jumping all the way to Donkey Kong 64, we discovered that Donkey Kong's mother Wrinkly had died. You were still able to talk to her though, through doors that would let you communicate with beings IN the afterlife (in this case, presumably Heaven or a variation of what Christians, Jews, and Muslims individually believe Heaven is). So thanks to Wrinkly dying, we know for sure there is a Heaven in the DKU, and therefore a Hell. There were zombies and ghosts in this game as well.
Other games in the DKU have also had small supernatural tie-ins. Then looking ahead (in case you're reading this far into the future, this Feature was typed on May 10th, 2000 AD), we have the Grim Reaper appearing in Conker's Bad Fur Day (under the name of Gregg), more extraterrestrials in Dinosaur Planet, and extra voodoo spells/Satanic worshipping in Banjo-Tooie. What's my conclusion? My conclusion is that the Donkey Kong Universe series has handled religion very well, by having different religions show up in the games. It shows everyone that people of all religious beliefs can get along in society, because no one religion is 100 percent correct. We have to take aspects from all of the beliefs of the world (and beyond) to create a true understanding of what God and the soul is. Tasteful? If you look past the innuendo and violence sitting right next to it, then sure, why not? Put in the games on purpose? It probably wasn't some carefully organized plot to deliver a holy message to the gamers of the world. It certainly makes you think though.
Amen to that, brother.
A SirSlush2 Duction