Video Game Ending Rants: Donkey Kong Land
For me, the best Donkey Kong games were developed by Rare, who made masterpieces out of such games as Donkey Kong Country 1-3 and Donkey Kong 64. A lot of those games, and many Rare games in general, had endings that were memorable, with some dramatic and humorous moments that would make getting the maximum percentage truly worthwhile. Then we have Donkey Kong Land, which is mostly a solid game…but then we get to the ending, or rather, the lack of an ending. Yes, when you defeat K. Rool, you do not get any sort of real closure at all. For my latest in a series of articles ranting about how endings could have been better, I shall target the ending of an otherwise great hand held game.
After exploring over thirty stages in four worlds, Donkey and Diddy Kong manage to reach the hideout of their archenemy, King K. Rool. The first disappointment comes when you realize that the battle with him is little more than a dumbed down rehash of when you fought him in Donkey Kong Country. He would toss his crown at you, and then you could jump on his head to cause damage. You could also hit him while he was running to the other side of his chamber. After a few hits, he would change things up a little by jumping over you as you drew near, forcing you to run back and forth without jumping. The last part of the fight was identical to the first part, except that K. Rool would run faster. A few hits later, he would be defeated.
So what would happen after K. Rool had been taken down? Would Donkey celebrate the return of his bananas? Would there be a comedy routine? Would Cranky Kong inform him of whether or not he found every secret area? The answer to all of those questions, sadly, is no. Once the battle had ended, the word “congratulations” would appear on the screen, followed immediately by the credits. After the credit sequence, you would return to the title screen. That’s it…that is the entire ending to Donkey Kong Land. No real sense of closure, not even a hint that the Kongs had not seen the last of K. Rool, as would be proved a few months later with the release of Donkey Kong Country 2. This is about as bare bones as an ending can get, and makes beating the game seem like it is not worth the effort, though it is a solid game overall.
Believe it or not, there was a story involved here: Donkey and Diddy were trying to retrieve their stolen bananas once again, only this time, it was Cranky who arranged to have them Kremlings swipe them. He did this to see if the Kongs were capable of getting them back on the eight-bit Game Boy, with its limited capabilities, as opposed to the more powerful Super NES. In the actual game, there is little that happens that relates to the plot, such as it is, and thus, when you beat K. Rool, one might assume that he or she prevented him from carrying out whatever wicked scheme the Kremling leader had in mind. Perhaps a brief scene in which Cranky is rendered speechless as a result of the Kongs’ victory could have been added, or maybe bring back the character parade, as the other Donkey Kong Land games did. Alas, whether for time or space limitations, or lack of ideas, Rare did not give the game the epic ending it deserved.
The Game Boy was capable of delivering excellent endings to various games. The ending to Link’s Awakening springs to mind as being particularly touching and memorable. Thus, Rare had the opportunity to create an ending that would at least be decent and bring closure to the game’s story. Unfortunately, we have an ending that was better suited for an old school NES game than for a game released in the mid-1990s. Those who did not bother to read the game’s manual may have no idea why Donkey and Diddy were adventuring in the first place. Even a bare bones plot deserves a somewhat decent way to bring closure, but we end up with an equally bare bones ending, which is tragic.
Not every ending that Rare had created was weak, though even many of their weaker endings at least wrapped up various story lines somewhat nicely. Donkey Kong Land, on the other hand, features the worst ending that I have seen from Rare, primarily because it is pretty much nonexistent and is about as bare bones of an ending as can be achieved. It was not a sign of things to come, though, as Rare would create far better endings to their games for a good long while. Even so, they missed an opportunity to end this game nicely, even if the ending turned out to be a rehash of the Donkey Kong Country ending. If you are a fan of bare bones endings, this will be worth your while. Everyone else expecting something grand or decent will be very much disappointed.