I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel like a little boost in Christmas spirit couldn’t hurt; the last few years, I just haven’t been “feeling it” like before. Idyllic “All I want for Christmas is you” or “Home for the holidays” moments have been replaced with “I wish I could afford to see my family now,” or “I could really use one of these.” And while implying a video game is just the thing to overcome materialism of the holiday season may be inherently flawed logic, I wanted to give it a shot. So, in a Cracked-eqsue homage, I’d like to give you the reasons why Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble will be just the retro game to get you back in the Christmas spirit, or at least why it’s a game that celebrates the Christmas spirit.
And, with a little self control, I’ll pull this all off without the help of the obvious “It’s got Christmas bonus levels with the right cheat code” argument.
1. Your antagonist is a power-hungry, industrialized megalomaniac.
King K. Rool, known by the alias Baron K. Roolenstein in this game, has stepped up his game to say the least. Once just a cruel ruler (oh! I get it now), he is now the proud owner of a large castle on the top of Northern Kremisphere, as well as a factory, and a handful of robotic additions to his reptilian army – all presumably acquired through the booty he pillaged in his days as Kaptain K. Rool in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. Given this game was released just a few months after Super Mario RPG – a game that also had a protagonist fighting a factory driven money and power-hungry man – the people who played this when it first came out were already getting a slow-cooked undertone to their gameplay that “power and corruption are bad, family and simplicity good.”
And Baron K. Roolenstein doesn’t do himself any favors to make himself look like just a hard-working entrepreneur. Most notably, he kidnapped Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong to power his KAOS warrior like one of Robotnik’s cronies, which already shows a higher concern for his own personal gain over the valuable gift of life. Smaller offenses include destroying the land with factory pollution, and generally abusing the power and not treating underlings very well.
2. Most of your main objectives revolve around bringing loved ones back together.
When I look back at this game to try and come up with a plot, I think of two things right away: Dixie wants to save the kidnapped Kongs, Donkey and Diddy, and the reuniting of the Banana Birds. At first, you’re just bringing the Banana Birds together under one roof, but then you eventually learn that their mother was kidnapped as well, cursed behind a wall that won’t come down without all of her babies there. Presumably, just stopping K. Rool is not the main objective; otherwise, they would’ve killed him the last time he tried to take over the world. But in this game, much like the first two games, the Kongs save what they were after, defeating K. Rool just enough to prevent him from immediately retaliating, then let him go and resume monkey business. K. Rool’s entire empire of this game could’ve been prevented if they really cared, but they didn’t. Not until it became personal.
But the plot isn’t the only thing that implies the importance of personal circles. The main tasks listed above can’t be accomplished without the Brothers Bear family, as well as the Kong family. Wrinkly allows game saving (which, in their fourth wall breaking game, is something the Kongs see as a valued resource), Funky provides transportation, and Cranky and Swanky provide comic relief and games when the weight of the world becomes too much. The Brothers Bear, a very-literally-named family of bear brothers, provide essentials in the trading game – most of which results in Banana Birds – and occasionally provides entrance to new paths.
3. Money is largely spent on things intended to be given away, or used to help someone else.
Okay, so there’s the Bear Coins that are the basic currency for small items, but anyone playing for more than a few levels will start to value to currencies far more: Bonus Coins and DK Coins. These by their main acquisition alone are something the player values as rare and treasured, since they are much harder to come by and in limited supply, unlike automatically replenishing Bear Coins. And certain people, namely Funky Kong and Boomer Bear, only accept DK Coins and Bonus Coins respectively.
But the Bonus Coins are not spent on some wild shopping spree, or rations on their quest; rather, they’re spent to gain entrance to further parts of the Lost World, a volcanic post-game level – and in a true Good Guy Greg act of kindness, the Kongs effectively pay Boomer to blow up obstacles so they can explore the Lost World, find Boomer’s own cogs, and return them back to him. These cogs power a machine that activates the volcano, which forces K. Rool out of his hiding place deep below the liquid’s surface. Beating K. Rool here earns the final DK Coin, and rids one more land of his rule.
The DK Coins buy the Kongs a gyrocopter, which while flashy and cool ultimately serves no purpose other than reaching out to the Banana Bird Queen, and saving a few more Banana Birds; all other areas are reachable through the Turbo Ski, a free ride.
And even the Bear Coins, the main currency, largely only assist in side quests for Banana Birds. You can waste money on gossiping with the Bazaar Bear, but that’s optional after you’ve bought the main items.
Between villainizing a materialistic power hungry tyrant, encouraging the interaction of friends and family, and spending money on others, it’s hard to think too deeply about this game without seeing some Christmas-season undertones. But above all that, the thing that truly makes this game worthy of the Christmas season is that it’s much better when played with a loved one – much like any game.
Forgive the unprofessional break, but I’d like to mention I largely wrote this article because I’ve played DKC3 with a close friend of mine, loyal Retroware fan Joey La Bella, for years now – we had a tradition of playing this when I came home for the holidays. And since I couldn’t afford to go see him this year, I wanted to dedicate an article to him as a gift. Merry Chirstmas, Joey. I hope that, in writing this, a little more of the world will see this game as a Christmas game the way we do.