The Second Banana

Throughout history we have come to meet many heroes, and many villians. Unfortunately, most people are quick to forget the principal dirving force of those characters. I am referring, of course, to the sidekick. There are many sidekicks, some well known, others not. Usually, while the main character is cold and stern, the sidekick is lovable, and often creates a comic relief. Often sidekicks are actually more dearly treasured that that person which makes them so. Examples of these are Milhouse VanHouten, Andy Richter, Chewbacca, and even perhaps Tonto, the Lone Ranger's trusty Native American friend. But the role of the sidekick soon broke free of the shackles of television, and became interactive.

Yes, videogames have features many sidekicks. Probably the most obvious (at least to the readers of this site) is Diddy Kong. He was even based on Short Round (from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), one of, if not the greatest non-DKU sidekick ever. In Donkey Kong Country we met this little monkey and learned of his aspirations to be a hero, most often overshadowed by the brute strength and public appeal of Donkey Kong. After two games, however, Rare must have realized that the public had fallen in love with the little guy (platonically, of course), and decided to give him two games of his own, immediately following Donkey Kong Land. This was one of the first times that any sidekick has actually become a main character, with no one to hinder their heroic traits. Diddy Kong was an overnight success as a hero, so his status of a sidekick has basically been diminished. Even further, he was given his own game on the Nintendo 64, lacking even a MENTION of Donkey Kong, the one who Diddy Kong originally played second fiddle to. The famous Animal Buddies could possibly be classified as sidekicks, but since there has always been a second character in the same Family, often Genus of the title character, they are more of side-characters than sidekicks.

In the aforementioned Donkey Kong Country 2, we met a new character taking on the roll of Diddy in Donkey Kong Country, but since there were romantic implications, Dixie Kong can hardly be considered a sidekick. Furthermore, in Donkey Kong Country 3, Kiddy Kong was introduced, but following the rules of the sidekick, you must be able to sit up under your own power before the classification may take place. Also, sidekicks are usually very good friends, and Dixie considered Kiddy Kong more of a chore than a buddy.

Very few things in the DKU could be classified as having the true elements of the sidekick for a few years, until a nice little 3-D game came along, titled Banjo-Kazooie. While both characters are in the title, Kazooie is frequently referred to as a sidekick, due to the fact that Banjo is the most prominantly seen of the two. Oddly enough, in Banjo-Tooie, a game in which Kazooie is not even in the title (but alluded to), it seems that since the two can detatch to form separate players, Kazooie will become a main character. If anyone, Banjo-Tooie's sidekick may be the skullheaded shaman, Mumbo Jumbo. After both title characters are taken out of the picture, Mumbo seems to be the only semi-main playable one.

Flashing forward even further, Dinosaur Planet is already displaying some forms of sidekickiness. Tricky is more than likely Sabre's sidekick, while Kyte goes with Krystal. The rules of DKC's animal buddies do not apply here, since the dinosaurs seem to be MUCH more playable, and in vastly more locations that the animal buddies. Also, Sabre and Krystal are both main characters, so the only ones second-in-command, the Earthwalker Prince and Cloudrunner Princess, are the sidekicks.

Sidekicks, while usually only slightly more important than sub-characters, are a vital necessity to all forms of media which they represent. I couldn't imagine playing Donkey Kong Country without that little baseball-capped monkey running behind. I just hope that all sidekicks eventually realize their deep-down dreams of becoming title characters, following in the footsteps of Diddy. After all, it made one hell of a game.

An observation by Chad McCanna.