DKU Thanksgiving Special 2008
Last year provided many a reason to be thankful for another year paying attention to what was going on in the world of Donkey Kong and friends. We (almost) had a brand new game series to fawn over, the classics were coming back in style, and the number of Cameo games was at an all time low. Things were looking up for 2008! Except that somewhere along the line, it became a bit obvious that this year has a very low amount of things to actually be thankful for.
So, in addition to having the top 5 things to be thankful for, it's (probably) also the best time to reflect on what actually went wrong. Sure, today's meant to be a day full of thanks for what (and who, for those of us lucky to have our obsessions and have someone love us despite them) we have, and what we have (or didn't have) could've been much worse, but sometimes you just have to ask "what in the ever-loving hell?" when looking back at certain parts of this year. But because today's supposed to be Thanksgiving, let's get the negatives out of the way first before digging into the turkey/tofurkey.
4. Jungle Beat's Wii Re-release
Nintendo has been throwing those ever-loving (and hating) curveballs for many years, and both their press conferences this year were no exceptions. E3 2008 showed us that their game for the core players was a game that we played twice to death with very little changes. The second conference tried to prove otherwise with a few games to satisfy the gamers, as well as another DS despite the system still selling like crack for the fourth year in a row. It wasn't until later in the conference that they revealed their genius plan to charge more money on retooled Gamecube games, even though the Wii is backwards compatible with the Gamecube to begin with.
This obviously includes Jungle Beat. Recent reports have said that Jungle Beat plans to have new stages as well as a new (supposedly tolerable) control scheme. That may be fine and all, but Jungle Beat's initial failure pretty much put down the chances of a sequel by those developers that clearly don't give a shit about what went into the franchise before them. That is, until the Wii became so popular that Nintendo saw the perfect opportunity to decide to release this. With nearly every Wii game selling its weight in profits (except for a select few. Suck it, Wii Music), there's no denying the possibility of this game selling so well that it'll prompt a Jungle Beat 2. A few reports have seen the possibility of a Banana Coin, but it'll take far more than that to make up for what Jungle Beat stood for. With nearly everything in life, only time will tell whether the changes to the re-release will actually be worth it for the DKC fans. However, let's face it. It won't.
3. Falling for Mario Kart Wii's Belief That It'll Change
Mario Kart Double Dash!! was the beginning of a more lax style of the series. It took the great graphics (of its time) from Mario Kart 64, and turned it into a pastel-looking world. The tunes that pumped you up like Wario Stadium and the Astro Incredible Rainbow Road were replaced by whistling tunes to the courses of Baby Park. The Blue Shell from said previous game was a rarity, and barely interrupted your performance. From the jump to Gamecube, it drank some Red Bull, and as a consequence became more deadly, more common, and more explosive. Mario Kart DS went even further by not only giving DK the creepiest grin ever seen and taking away Diddy Kong, but having the online mode be a pain in the ass thanks to the snaking ability.
Mario Kart Wii looked to change that. It had Diddy Kong back, Nintendo said snaking would be more difficult, if not impossible, to execute, and classic tracks such as DK's Jungle Parkway would return. Even with the pastel look, it looked as if Nintendo realized their mistakes and aimed to fix them.
Clearly this was not the case. At first, it was fun in the easier modes. A bit of obnoxious voices here and there, with the occasional Blue Shell, but damn it, it was fun. Somewhere along the line and higher up on the difficulty scale, I realized that having about a dozen computer-controlled characters was more of a blessing than a curse. This meant more Blue Shells coming for whoever dared to be in first place. Imagine being in first place after being bombarded with Blue Shells throughout the entire race, only to have another Blue Shell hit you before the finish line. Mario Kart Wii is truly a masochist's game, and those that can see through that, I salute you. I really wish I could see past that level of annoyance.
2. Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Online Play
This was so close to being number one, but no one can deny the impact number one had on the fanbase. Anyway. The opinions of Cameo games are almost split in two. Some can tolerate their faults, and others want nothing to do with them. Of all the Cameo games, the Super Smash Bros. series was the series that had everyone almost unanimously agree with each other on in terms of quality. I guess it just goes to show how much Nintendo fans love to beat the shit of their favorite characters with their favorite characters. It wasn't only the series that could almost do no wrong, it was the series that improved with each game without being whored out year after year.
With the advent of online gaming, one of the thoughts that gave Nintendo fans wet dreams was online play for the next Smash Bros. game. And rightfully so. The chance to beat someone from the other side of the ocean was a great prospect. The Wii came along, and it was obviously going to have a Super Smash Bros. game from the start. Even with the lack of what makes online games fun, like, oh, voice chat, Brawl online was still something to look forward to. If there was any game that would benefit from online functionality, it was Brawl.
For the first... month or so, Nintendo fans were living this dream. Online play was not just smooth, it was fun, despite its lackings. With careful timing and Friend Codes, playing with a foreign friend was finally a reality. Just like that, however, it just stopped. For seconds at a time, even. The game that everyone wanted to have online just had its flaws shown for the world to see. Even after the game prompted, the game would just freeze for seconds at a time, have your character move ever so slightly, and then freeze again. What's worse is that Nintendo to date has done absolutely nothing to fix what I can only assume to be an overload of the game's servers. The dream was there and left just as quickly as it came, and that's a fucking shame.
1. Nuts & Bolts
This is definitely number one, because even though I supported the change and hoped it would still be fun, I still get mixed feelings even after beating the game. Still, as a fan of the game since Banjo-Kazooie's release ten years ago, there are times when you just can't help but be disappointed with the change that seems like it was done for the sake of it.
We all know the story: Rare thinks the Banjo games of old are outdated, so they decided to not let the duo use their old moves at all and have the player decide how to advance by way of vehicle. In their defense, the vehicles aren't even that bad, really; building them to fit your needs as well as the needs of the challenge is fun and even dangerously addictive. No, the real issue comes with the gameplay barely feeling like a Banjo game. The only part in the game that's come close to the first two games are Showdown Town, where you have to run, jump, wire-walk, and swim to get Notes and vehicle parts.
Playing BK on Xbox Live Arcade only makes me realize that while Rare feels platformers are outdated, there wasn't any real reason to break what didn't need to be fixed. Does this mean that Nuts & Bolts is a bad game? No. Let's just hope that if Rare decides to do a sequel to this, that they'll take their fans into account even more as well as what they want.
Well, that was therapeutic. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without actually giving thanks, so let's give thanks for what happened this year regardless of the bad that may have come along with it with the more memorable events of this past year.
5. (Most of) The Kong and Kremling Family in Mario Super Sluggers
The site's stance on Cameo games makes this choice completely out of left field, I bet. Mario Super Sluggers may be better than Tennis in Wii Sports, and while it may not be as significant compared to what Wii Sports meant for the Wii console, it's still pretty significant. Mario Super Sluggers played host to the most playable amount of DK characters in a Cameo game, including Tiny Kong, Funky Kong, and K. Rool. Not only that, but K. Rool was in a completely different guise, just like he was in the original DKC trilogy.
No matter how you feel about the game, more DK characters equals more recognition, and more recognition equals the (really minute) possibility of having them back in non-Cameo games. Mind you, this means that a developer (PAON Spy, I hope you're reading this) actually has to make a Donkey Kong game first, but the future always holds untold surprises. For both Brawl and this game making DK characters more noticeable, yea, we are thankful.
4. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Not Becoming DKU
Speaking of left field, this one came out of nowhere as well. Originally, it was revealed very early on that DK was going to be a playable character in the game, which didn't go so well. It's one thing having Snake, Sonic, and some random Final Fantasy characters as DKU characters, but almost every major Sonic character as DKU characters? If you told that to someone during the Genesis/SNES console war, where DKC proved to be a threat for Sega, their head would fucking explode. It wasn't a natural fit, and as competitors back then, it doesn't feel right.
Fortunately, someone felt that it was out of place just as we did, and cut DK out of the game. Earlier this year it was discovered that DK was still in the game through code, but since the code can only be accessed through a cheat device, it doesn't make Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games DKU. For a lack of Sonic characters besides Sonic, yea, we are thankful.
3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
I know, I know. I put Brawl as something where you're left asking what the hell happened, but let's put the shit online away for a bit. You're still left with a really good and replayable game that's just as replayable as Melee was, if not more. You've got the Photo mode. You've got the custom stages, alongside a fair and diverse selection of Brawl stages. You've got so much music, both remixed and normal, that there's bound to be something you're going to love kicking ass to. You've got the Subspace Emissary, that, while a little boring alone, is absolute fun with a friend.
Most importantly, though? You got Diddy. We got Diddy. Having Diddy signified the end of an era of having DK being the primary representative of the Super Smash Bros. series. Having Diddy meant having something from Rare being a legacy from now on. Having Diddy means that, no matter how many Jungle Beatings we may or may not get, he'll always be a staple of one of the more stable Cameo games in existence.
For Super Smash Bros. Brawl not being entirely disappointing, yea, we are thankful.
2. Viva Pinata Becoming DKU Again
A year ago today, the first Thanksgiving Special was posted, and one of the first things you probably (didn't) read on the list was Viva Pinata's temporary DKU status. There were certainly plenty of arguments between site owners and DKU "experts" alike, claiming why the game should or shouldn't be DKU. For a while, it was, which at the time, was something to be thankful for. Viva Pinata was one of Rare's greatest games in years, and there was not only plenty of charm, but plenty of references that proved that Viva Pinata was in the "universe" of the Donkey Kong Universe.
A month after said Feature was posted, Loveday admitted that the game was DKU, and guess who (or what) was responsible? Roysten. That lovable and survivable goldfish once again cemented a series that deserves to be in the DKU now and forevermore. What's more, is that the latest DKU series is the only one to actually expand beyond one game; since last year, Trouble in Paradise, Pocket Paradise, and that shitty spin-off game we'd rather soon forget made (although regrettably very few) waves in the DKU. With the way Rare is going with both old and new franchises, it's nice to see that a form of the DKU can survive with or without the older series having new games.
For having every Viva Pinata game (even Party Animals, unfortunately) DKU now and forever, yea, we are thankful.
1. Banjo-Kazooie XBLA and The Future Ahead
It goes without saying (even if I am going to mention it again) that this year has been one about things that we least expected. Of all of them, I feel having BK on the Xbox Live Arcade as the thing to be thankful for this year. The game still stands well ten years after it was released; the music is still great, the characters are still great, and even better, the game got some replayability points due to having all the Notes in the game being collected once and only once, like Banjo-Tooie. Despite what Rare may think, the platformer according to 1998 might be outdated, but it's still fun.
As great as BK is, it's more of what the game means by having it on Xbox Live Arcade. We know Banjo-Tooie's coming out later next year, but beyond that? A port of Conker's Bad Fur Day may be unlikely due to Conker Live & Reloaded being released 3 years ago, but you never know what can happen. Having games like Banjo-Kazooie re-release not only means a new audience, but a possible way to let Rare know that we'd love to see more classics and sequels to said classics both on the 360 and the service. I can't be the only one who'd love to see an XBLA re-release of It's Mr. Pants.
For having someone in Microsoft and/or Rare coming up with the great idea to re-release the classics that we thought we'd never see again, yea, we are thankful.
It's been a hectic year in the DKU. Both good and bad happened, but in the end, what's done is done, and it could've been a hell of a lot worse. Until next year, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and try to enjoy your time with the relatives you barely see anyway throughout the year (with good reason).
Mark wishes there was a horror movie based on this holiday.