Donkey Kong Country: Cold War 1989

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When I was thirteen years old, I had put my SNES in a box in my attic along with many of the fashionable items of the era. I had moved on to the Nintendo 64. It wasn't until a few years later that I came across a copy of Donkey Kong Country at a swap meet for only two dollars with a torn cover. I instantly remembered wanting to play through this game, having rented the sequel years back. I thought it would be an interesting flashback, and a good excuse to dust off the old SNES. I had forgotten about it because I was going out of town the following summer, so it sat on my shelf collecting dust for some months. Months turned to years, and the cart was forgotten about. It wasn't until 2011 that I opened up an old box containing my broken PS2, my PS1 without cables and a set of boxes containing various things that I had pawned or stolen throughout my youth. Among them was that Donkey Kong Country cart, now over twenty years old. I decided that maybe it was time I dusted off the SNES and gave the game a go.

I put the cart in, hoping to finally play the Donkey Kong Country that rested in the back of my subconscious for the better part of a decade. The cover was severely damaged, and one thing I noticed after looking at the cart online was that the ones that were released in stores were gray. This one was yellow and what I could only assume was a prototype of some sort. I do know that some of the Donkey Kong 64 carts are yellow, but this was an entirely different game. The front of the cover was completely ripped at the bottom, with that torn paper look that plastic carts get over time. Someone had scrawled the words "Cold War 1989" with what was presumably a sharpie. I put the game in and switched the SNES into the "on" position. The game started as I thought it would, but there was no "Rare" logo. Nor did the title screen make any mention of Nintendo. The beginning animation started with Cranky Kong turning the vinyl player as per usual atop some metal beams. I was playing on a flatscreen with the default SNES cable hook up, but the picture seemed a little grainier.

The music was completely different. It sounded muffled and drowned out, even thought it was the same song. In the normal game, based on YouTube videos, Donkey Kong would drop down and hit Cranky Kong while he enjoyed his record. Instead of a boom box, what looked like a hand melded with a red anvil fell on top of the player. Donkey Kong dropped down for the dance animation, but his graphic was off center by about fifteen pixels in each direction up and left. His hand was also elongated by about three inches. When Cranky throws the TNT barrel, the cart freezes. I had to reset a few times and press start to even get the game to play. I had to quickly run Donkey Kong off the main map and into Jungle Hijinks before the game froze again. Donkey Kong's graphic was sadder. I went into a room which read "Kong's Banana Hoard", and the game locked up for three seconds before putting me on a weird island that wasn't in any of the game footage I saw online.

There were fully rendered pirate skeletons and Donkey Kong couldn't interact at all. I eventually had to commit suicide by jumping into the ocean outlying the island before I was returned to the entrance of Jungle Hijinx. I started to play through the game, but I noticed each time I made Donkey Kong jump on a barrel the picture got grainer and more dark tinged. It seemed as though a programming bug was making the screen more sepia tinged. The music was also way off. Most of the time it was flipping between sound channels and other times it wouldn't play at all.

After Jungle Hijinx, I couldn't move onto the next stage: "Sawtooth Mines". Now this wasn't the stage that normally followed according to most guides I referenced online. I had to move Donkey Kong upwards to an unmarked area of the world map. It had a weird "X" on it marked by two trees, but it was barely visible. It was a swimming stage with no music and all the coral was red. The area looked more or less like a river of blood. I swam Donkey Kong downward with no collectable bananas. It wasn't until about three minutes of swimming downward and downward that I noticed something that looked like a human eye emerging from the depths of the rocks painted into the backdrop. It was getting more visible the lower I swam. I also had to double tap the buttons because the swimming had a delay. I noticed an air meter after about three minutes.

Finally the screen froze and some text appeared. "If you wish to enter Sawtooth Mines, first you have to pay the fine." A drowning animation on Donkey Kong was shown that was very disturbing. He clutched at his neck and pulled his tie off in a final display as the life was sucked out of him. The screen went black and glitched out. I restarted with a white Donkey Kong sprite on a stage called "In Limbo". It was just a typical rope swing that seemed to be cut and paste out of another stage, with a lot of glitches and missing parts of the floor that looked like pits but could be walked over. The various razor bees also couldn't damage me. I think it was impossible to die. I know that this wasn't in the original game, but what concerned me more was that there was a trapdoor near the exit. I felt compelled to finish the stage, but more compelled to break through the trapdoor. I remember from other DKC games that if you reach a high enough height you can break through them. I found a set of ledges at the start of the stage and wove around the top of the map until I reached the end, occasionally jumping higher than the screen would allow. This whole process took over an hour, and I wasn't sure how much juice my SNES had left in it. I finally jumped off the top and crashed through the trapdoor.

Inside was a long hallway with only one Chinese character on the floor. At the end was a snake sprite. It may have been a prototype for the spring snake that was never in this game. The song DK Island swing abruptly started. There was some very weird text.

"My name is Adam, I'm 13, they've abducted me, and are holding my family captive. If you can read this, I am about to be drowned to death. Please send help before it's too late."

I felt my spine begin to tingle as a 16 bit picture of a chimpanzee flashed for a quarter of a second. It was then that I realized Diddy Kong wasn't a playable character in this edition of the game. There was the abrupt sound of a monkey squealing! It sounded like it was in intense pain. The game finally launched Donkey Kong through a set of barrels I decided to try to finish the game, as I was put back on the map. I finally entered Sawtooth Mines. It was a minecart stage, but the track never moved. I heard what sounded like a grainy, tinny voice begin to whisper. It was illegible. I jumped on the tracks, trying to figure out if there was a trick to it. The whispering began to sound like thunder. It hissed, but it was illegible.

I kept jumping on the track, thinking maybe the jumping was triggered by some timing with the voice. I tried endlessly to finish the level, but I assumed it couldn't be finished. I left the game on for a full forty hours. I knew if I reset, I'd either have to start all over or the game might break completely. It was already extremely glitched. I left that little red SNES light on as I went to sleep. It was hard to sleep with the game running because Donkey Kong's animation in the speeding cart started to look sad after a while. The hissing was disturbing, but it seemed to be changing. Levelling or equalizing. As I slept on my bunk bed, I heard the voice whisper....

"Son." Finally, words. "Son...son..." It sounded like an animal trying to form human words. I immediately picked up the controller and tried to make Donkey Kong jump, but there was no feedback for the player anymore. The 16 bit voice kept pleading "Son" as the eye emerged from the blackness again. It zoomed out more and more until I saw that it was the grainy face of a disheveled ape with blood on its face. "WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO MY SON!?" the voice hissed and crackled from the dated technology, and then I paused the game. It had turned into a slideshow. A weird slideshow of 16 bit images showing a weird laboratory in Leicestshire, England. The visuals were very hard to see on the 16 bit console, but there were obviously pictures of cages with apes being drowned in some kind of cage experiment. Many were being tortured while people took notes. The faces of the people in the images were completely blacked out, but they looked to be middle aged scientists. One shot was of one of them holding a dismembered ape head. One showed the people in a very familiar pose, one that I recognized. Another was a real depiction of a destroyed human torso being eaten by an ape with shaven bloody fangs. The endtrails were leading out into the other room and the torso had been dehumanized right down to a piece of meat. The next shot was a face and date tag of a prison convict who I assume had donated his body to science. I tried to go back to compare the two images of the eaten person and the convict to see if the body type was similar, but I couldn't go back in the slideshow. The last shot was just the title screen with the words "You'll go bananas 1989" in the normal game text font. I pressed start and was returned to the end of the stage.

Nowhere left to go. I couldn't reaccess sawtooth mines, and Jungle Hijinx was the only possible option. I went back into the banana hoard room and ended up back on the abandoned island. The skeletons looked more familiar. In fact they were doing the same poses that the people in the slideshow were doing. After about fifteen minutes, I found that If you pressed down and held "A" for three seconds, names would appear. All of them were RARE employees that worked on the game. One was a larger, more ape like skeleton that was the anomaly of the bunch. It's name was simply "Adam aka Mr. Bojangles" with a sad emoticon afterward. This time when I made Donkey Kong commit suicide the game truly froze with no resets. I tried finding some information about the cart online, but it was to no avail.

I didn't want to upload footage of the game because the gore and disturbing imagery was obviously going to get me flagged or banned on YouTube.

I put the cart up on ebay before being hit with a six hundred thousand dollar lawsuit from the RARE company which was now a subsidiary of EA I believe. I got sent a very threatening message that told me my life as a professional contractor and plumber was basically over if I ever released that cart to the general public.

They insisted it was merely a prank regarding some of the Rare employees having fun, but I knew that the blood, gore and dead apes were no prank and Rare had done something terrible to get the final Donkey Kong Country product onto store shelves. I told them that I had destroyed the cart to cease the harassing phone calls and letters affectionately addressed to "Super Fuckface Mario" as evidently my plumbing profession had ruffled the feathers of some of the higher ups.

I still have the cart though. It's in with the old college stuff. It'll sit there for days. Days will become weeks, months and then years, and the cart will still be there. They'll have to pry it from my cold, dead fucking hand.

YouTube reading

Credited to Schizima 

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