I don’t particularly care for bananas. They taste strange and feel all smooshy (which, I assure you, is totally a word) in your mouth. All things considered, I barely consider bananas to be fit for human consumption. However, as a MacGuffin that compels two monkeys to embark on an epic journey through beautiful, bee-and-lizard-infested levels? When framed like that, bananas are actually pretty awesome. This is the story of my earliest memory of Donkey Kong Country.
When I was in 8th grade, I didn’t talk. Like, at all. I hated everyone in my school with a fiery passion, and as a result, I spent most of the school day daydreaming in class about a future me bursting through the doors to allow me to escape. “If I ever build a time machine, I’m going to remember to come back here and save myself from these idiots.” When I wasn’t daydreaming about that, I was trying to focus hard enough to develop some kind of superpower that would allow me to destroy the building and people around me. Fire, explosions, electricity—the details of my powers never much mattered since the whole point was to make myself smile by imagining the indiscriminate destruction I’d inevitably let loose on everyone and everything. I was never really the goody two-shoes superhero type.
That’s not to say that the people in my class didn’t deserve being evaporated with my hypothetical superpowers, though; they were rude and crude and classless, and worst of all, they were all morning people. I’m not a morning person. Hell, I’m barely an afternoon person. Long story short, they’d be bursting with endless energy while I was still waking up, and being subjected to their stupid jokes and general classlessness so early in the morning was a crime for which the only punishment was total evaporation. Or perhaps some kind of slow liquefaction, depending on my mood.
Sadly, my superpowers never came. I knew the reason why, too. When I was even younger, I had been a huge fan of the X-men animated series (the one from the early 90s—X-men shows since then have all failed to live up to that one). “I’d love to have complicated romantic entanglements like Wolverine,” I prayed, “and I’d also like those awesome claws!” In retrospect, I probably should have started with the claws, because I haven’t had a single uncomplicated romantic relationship in my entire life. Not really as glamorous as it seemed at the time, admittedly, especially without the ability to disembowel people to take my mind off of things.
Anyway, I eventually found myself in need of an escape. School was awful, and I hated it, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. My irritating classmates were like nails in the back of my head, and even when they stopped pounding deeper in there with their headache-inducing energy that seemed to have no end, the nails remained, getting caught on all my sweaters. It was a serious problem because I owned many sweaters.
Back then, I had an awesome TV. It was wooden and boxy, complete with dials, and I had my Super Nintendo hooked up to it. I sincerely believe that no one’s Super Nintendo looked as good as mine did on that old television set; there was just something about the brown wood finish that combined with the sprites to create a magical experience, and that was most evident when playing Donkey Kong Country. Instead of just playing it like other people did, I was transported into the jungle, as though the wood finish of my television became an extension of the graphics that allowed the game to overflow past the borders of the screen and fill up the room with SNES goodness.
Every day after school, DKC became my go-to game for decompressing. Where my classmates’ abounding energy and overwhelming lack of class made me crazy, grabbing tons of bananas and beating up on freakishly large birds became my sanity. It soon became a bit of a ritual; while others went home and started on homework or went to hang out with friends, I played Donkey Kong Country on my wooden television and pretended that reality didn’t exist. It was just me and my search for the missing banana stash, and I must have beaten the game at least ten times by the end of the school year. I knew every stage, every enemy, and the timing of every jump. I knew every song on the soundtrack, and even ended up picking the soundtrack up on CD.
The school year eventually ended, and summer came and went. Before I knew it, I was in high school, and all things considered, high school was way easier. Being annoying and full of energy suddenly became a bad thing, so all had become right in the world. A few years passed, and several of the more elitist members of my old class had become fat. Like, “walking blimp” fat. They stopped being loud and social and mostly kept to themselves from then on, which I suppose was some kind of karmic reaction. As for me, making it through 8th grade without ruffling feathers or evaporating anyone paid off, and I ended up dating some very cute girls in high school.
Of course, they ended up being complicated relationships (because of my stupid X-men wish), but that doesn’t change the fact that they were cute. Shut up. Anyway, that’s the story of how a giant monkey named Donkey got me through a horrible year. I suppose it could be argued that a giant monkey named Donkey also eventually led to some intimate romantic experiences, but I’d prefer to avoid thinking about that aspect of things. La-la-la-not-thinking-about-it.