I've always wondered how two of the most popular characters in the world of video games, Mario and Donkey Kong, found themselves at odds, considering most of the DK games cast him as a hero and Mario is a good guy too. So how did the gorilla and the plumber end up bitter enemies?
It turns out the enmity started in the 1984 Game & Watch title Donkey Kong Circus, in which DK is imprisoned by Mario and forced to perform for his amusement:
This makes sense given the little-known narrative of Donkey Kong (1981) was confirmed by Shigeru Miyamoto himself in a 2016 interview: “Mario kept Donkey Kong locked up, so he escaped with his girlfriend.” Thus, the original Donkey Kong arcade game gets recontextualized. Instead of kidnapping Pauline (or “Lady”) for seemingly no reason, Donkey Kong is seeking vengeance against Mario for his wrongful imprisonment.
So Mario ain't such a good guy after all, which explains why he's one of the bad guys in Donkey Kong Jr., but when it comes to the Kong family the biggest mystery is this- what happened to Donkey Kong Jr.?
While DK Jr. is conspicuously absent from the Country games, early Nintendo Power coverage of Donkey Kong Land—the Game Boy adaptation of the DKC series—suggests he was not entirely forgotten. In a pre-release article from issue 69 (1995) of the magazine, several renders of characters appear who would not be included in the final game. One of these characters is a Kong sporting a fedora. We have no information on who this character is, but we can speculate based on his appearance.
Aside from being the sartorial equivalent of a condescending “m’lady”, the fedora can be used to denote a kind of classic American fatherhood—think Finn and Jake’s dad in Adventure Time. Is it possible, then, that this Kong was meant to be the lost Donkey Kong Jr.? Maybe, or maybe not. But regardless, what happened to Donkey Kong Jr.? If he isn’t the modern tie-wearing Donkey Kong, then where did he go?
Say it with me: Great. Ape. War.