The Super Mario Odyssey trailer has doubtlessly made a lot of people very excited – including Donkey Kong fans. The game looks like it’s going to be fantastic, but what a lot of you may not have realised is that the realistic city which Mario was running around in was called New Donk City and was full of Donkey Kong references.
It’s thrilling to see things like K. Rool Street, Squawks Park, Expresso Street and Diddy’s Mart in a time when there seems to be very few new Donkey Kong games on the horizon. Might the Kongs be making a prominent appearance in the latest big Mario game? Might K. Rool be making his return after a decade long absence? Even if none of that happens and there’s just a handful of delightful references, I’ll be happy. It’d be nice to get a “Funky Town” somewhere in there. Or even better “Chunky Town.”
While a city might seem quite removed from the lush jungles with which the Donkey Kong series is so strongly associated, there have actually been quite a few cities in the history of the franchise. Now seems like an appropriate time to look back over them.
Brooklyn (Donkey Kong (Game & Watch), 1982)
We don’t know the backstory of Mario for sure (as the games themselves have never spelled it out) but one of the most commonly accepted stories is that he was just a regular plumber from Brooklyn who later found himself in the Mushroom Kingdom where he became the hero we know and love. If this is true, then presumably the events of Donkey Kong take place somewhere on Earth and, indeed, the Game & Watch version of the original game is very clearly set in the heart of a big city – maybe Brookyln!
Big City (Donkey Kong (Game Boy), 1994)
The Game Boy game Donkey Kong features a recreation of the of all of the levels from the arcade classic, but then once they were beaten it expanded out across several new worlds. The first of these new worlds was Big City. Does this mean that the “Brooklyn” I mentioned above was Big City all along? Maybe. But maybe Big City was a description rather than a name? Who knows? Either way, Mario chased Donkey Kong Sr. through this city in an attempt to rescue the kidnapped Pauline.
Big Ape City (Donkey Kong Land, 1995)
A lot of people may look at Donkey Kong Land as an inferior version of Donkey Kong Country, but actually it had several kinds of levels and enemies which weren’t seen in the SNES counterpart. My personal favourite was Big Ape City. Donkey and Diddy Kong faught the Kremlings (and ultimately even battled K. Rool) throughout Big Ape City, which appeared to be completely abandoned and devoid of human life. Interestingly, the instruction manual implied that this was where the original Donkey Kong game took place. So does that mean this is Big City or Brooklyn? Well, the game also weirdly suggests that this city is on or near Donkey Kong Island. Was Donkey Kong Island once a human-populated island where a Planet of the Apes-style uprising occured? But then how do the Kremling ruins fit in? The DK Isles have a fascinating and confusing history.
Star City (Diddy Kong Racing, 1997)
A bit of a change of pace here. The next city in the Donkey Kong franchise was Diddy Kong Racing‘s Star City. Star City is on the home plant of the evil space genie Wizpig. Wizpig liked to force people to compete in races with the fate of their planets at stake and as Diddy and his friends (including Banjo and Conker, who later went on to make a real name for themselves) tried to stop this intergalactic terrorist, they ended up racing through this futuristic city. It’d be nice to see this reimagined in a hypothetical Diddy Kong Racing Switch! And while they’re at it they should add the original to the Virtual Console.
Twilight City (Mario vs. Donkey Kong, 2004)
Mario vs. Donkey Kong featured Mario coming up against the current Donkey Kong for the first time (rather than Donkey Kong Sr.) In it, DK steals a bunch of Mini-Mario robot toys from Mario’s toy factory and Mario chases him through several worlds in order to get them back. Twilight City is where the game’s finale takes place and there are several red girders in the background, seemingly in homage to the original game. Were they trying to suggest that Twilight City might have been the location of the original game too? I hope not. This one is in the Mushroom World, so that would make things even more confusing.
Being icons of gaming, the Kongs have of course visited a plethora of cities outside of their own games. In Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Donkey and Diddy got the chance to visit Mushroom City. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, Donkey Kong got a chance to explore the rooftops of EarthBound‘s Fourside and in Super Smash Bros. Brawl he and Diddy went to Mother 3′s New Pork City. They even visited the Pokémon World’s beautiful Lumoise City in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, not to mention Midgar and Mute City. As you can see, the Kongs are quite comfortable in the concrete jungle.
What will New Donk City hold? What will it add to our understading of the Kongs, their relationship to Mario and how it all ties back to the original game? Perhaps it will make things a whole lot more confusing. Perhaps everything will be explained once and for all. Either way, I am very much looking forward to exploring New Donk City and all of the rest of Super Mario Odyssey too!
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