Donkey Kong and Kid Icarus. Other than being two Nintendo owned franchises, they don’t have all that much in common, do they? One tells the story of a race of intelligent apes who have to defend their secluded tropical island home from a race of reptilian humanoids and various other threats.
The other tells the story of a young angel named Pit who lives in a world not dissimilar to that of the Ancient Greek myths, fighting evil monsters and so on. But you’d be surprised to find that, when you really think about it, the two have quite a lot in common.
In the early days of the Donkey Kong series there were just a few basic 8-bit games which featured Donkey Kong as the villain and Mario as the hero. Levels were never more than one screen big and they were nearly always just a case of making your way from the bottom to the top. The characters themselves didn’t really receive any development and the appeal of the basic playstyle was just aiming for high scores. Despite its popularity, after his first three games, Donkey Kong only had a few cameos in things like F1 Race, Tetris and a remake here and there.
In the early days of Kid Icarus, there were only two 8-bit games (one for the NES, one for the Game Boy) where you played as Pit. You had to make your way through several upward scrolling stages. The characters themselves didn’t really receive any development and the appeal was that these games were quite hard and you kept practicing until you could finally beat them. Despite its popularly, Pit only really went on to cameo in things like F1 Race and Tetris.
Eleven years after its last major unique instalment, the Donkey Kong series was renewed. Donkey Kong Country was the next Donkey Kong game and this one was made by a new set of developers: the extremely talented people at Rare Ltd. (then Rareware). Visually, the game had been improved greatly (with old characters getting new designs) and the gameplay had been completely overhauled. The series was now a side scrolling platformer, similar in certain ways to Super Mario World but undeniably its own thing. Numerous new characters were introduced and the series developed its own brand of fourth wall breaking humour. Despite the reinvention of Donkey Kong, some games represent it as only its earlier titles, which is frustrating to some fans who view them as inferior.
Twenty-one years after its last major instalment, the Kid Icarus series was renewed. Kid Icarus Uprising was the next Kid Icarus game and this one was made by a new set of developers: the extremely talented people down at Sora Ltd. (then Project Sora). Visually, the game had been improved greatly (with old characters getting new designs) and the gameplay had been completely overhauled. The series was now an on-rails shooter with occasional third-person shooter elements, similar in certain ways to Star Fox but undeniably its own thing. Numerous new characters were introduced and the series developed its own brand of fourth wall breaking humour. Despite the reinvention of Kid Icarus, some games represent it only as its earlier titles, which is likely to frustrate some fans who might view them as inferior.
Let’s hope that that the future of the Kid Icarus series won’t quite follow the exact path of Donkey Kong, however. I’d hate to see Sora Ltd. bought out by Microsoft and the Kid Icarus series left mostly unused for another eleven years save for a few throw-backs to the originals and a rhythm game series where Pit plays the violin to covers of various pop songs.
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