6 Ways Donkey Konga Out-Rocks Guitar Hero (and 2 Brown Bananas)

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 6:00 am

5. Diddy Up, Pardner

Donkey Konga's multiplayer mode is a memorable and classic experience. Whether you're in a band with a partner or going against them, you're put into an impressively accurate percussion ensemble simulation. When the pieces of music are mapped out across multiple performers, the magic pulse is conjured. This is the same pulse that musicians describe as 'serving the song' or being 'a piece of a bigger picture.' The movements are simple and straightforward, and when coupled with clever call and response patterns it makes for an immersive communication, the essence of a real drum circle or percussion ensemble. While Guitar Hero is home to some epic guitar duels, Donkey Konga takes the cake for interactive experience. If you have the luxury of learning with an already experienced partner, fear not. You'll be a silverback in no time.

Thanks again to World 8, and to Max, Mike and Jimmy for drumming with me. This shop is awesome, and you are treated like royalty whether you are a Bowser or a Peach. If you are in the Los Angeles area and have a need for anything video-game related, World 8 is your spot.

6. Beat It, Jungle Beat It

I'll admit, even as a fan of the DK Bongo controller, I was more than skeptical when Nintendo released Jungle Beat: a platforming game that uses the bongo's four sensors (right, left, together, and clap) to control DK. But it turned out to be a surprisingly cool experiment, and despite unimpressive sales was pretty well received; IGN praised it with an 8.8/10, and Metacritic gave it an 80%. The level design is as impressive as any of the Gamecube's other offerings, and the boss battles are engaging. The gameplay is actually pretty easy to get used to, and before long you're drumming up some impressive combos and aerial feats.

If Rock Band could have come up with a way to make one of their cinematic openings into a playable level, I would have played the hell out of that. But as it stands there wasn't any other use for Guitar Hero or Rock Band's controllers besides their specific gameplay. Unless you wanted to play 'Stage Crew Hero' and put them away as fast and efficiently as possible. But Donkey Konga found a way to put their bongos in an exciting new setting. Even the first Donkey Konga featured the 'Ape Arcade,' where the bongos were used for simple mini games like climbing on vines and juggling bananas.

Nowadays we have Rayman Legends giving us some wonderfully creative rhythm-based fun in the platform genre. Even though the controls in Jungle Beat are more free form (you're not tied to a rhythm), I wonder how many of Rayman Legend's creators played Jungle Beat for inspiration.

SHHH!! I just noticed Donkey Kong is asleep now that I have finished that list for him. Before he wakes up, let me pull some rotten bananas out of the bunch.

2 Brown Bananas

1. Where Does a 500 Pound Gorilla Keep His Bongos? Anywhere He Wants to Clear Space

Image by Jeff Fuller

Though we just noted how great it was that Nintendo found another use for their bongo controller, it still doesn't solve these problems: Where do you store it? Can your friend play too? How much did that thing cost? Truth be told, in my younger days I was never one to mind packing up my Gamecube to take over to a friend's house. But I knew it was a hassle, and didn't blame other enthusiasts who thought I was crazy. For a full band to play is four sets of bongos, which means quite a bit of space. And this snag isn't limited to portability. Even now, I have the bongos stored awkwardly on top of a bookshelf, because they don't exactly adorn the room when I'm not playing them.

The odds of other friends catching DK fever and owning their own sets of bongos wasn't impossible, but admittedtly slim. Sometimes if you really wanted to mamba, this meant buying multiple bongos. Right now on Amazon, a new Gamecube controller is less than 8 bucks. A new set of DK Bongos is upwards of 30 from a private seller, 45 from Amazon itself. They don't exactly last forever, either; buying used bongos is a little riskier than buying a used standard controller. Aspiring bongo players, especially young ones pretending to be a gorilla, aren't exactly known for their soft touch.


Excluding a few public domain tunes, this is the entirety of both Donkey Konga setlists

In 2005, Guitar Hero debuted with 47 songs. Two years later Guitar Hero 2 on the Xbox 360 boasted 74 songs, not to mention the inclusion of DLC which brought an additional 24 tracks. After that, the numbers kept climbing. Unfortunately, Donkey Konga only had 33 songs, as did Donkey Konga 2. In other words, totaling the first two entries' setlists, Guitar Hero outnumbers Donkey Konga 145 to 66. That's a drag.

The other drag is that America never got to see the final entry in the series, Donkey Konga 3. Not only was the setlist larger, but it heavily featured anime theme songs, including Dragonball Z! There was also an 8-bit mode that unlocked nearly a whole other game's worth of tracks, in retro glory. That sounds like such a blast, and a fresh yet fitting departure from the previous games.

But no matter how you peel it, Donkey Konga is a fun and engaging experience. If you have the time and money, the investment pays off tenfold. Oh look, DK is awake again. Go get the band back together, buddy. You guys just got a bonus stage.

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