The Art of the Box Art: Donkey Kong Country

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No Monkeying Around.

When Donkey Kong launched in 1994, it caused a cataclysmic shift in the gaming industry. Developed by RARE Limited, DKC was the first game to utilize rendered graphics instead of pixels which was the norm for the majority of games for the time period.

With an impressive cast that included Donkey Kong, his sidekick Diddy, Rambi the Rhinoceros, Slippa the Snake, and a host of other characters, Kong and Diddy set out on a great adventure.

The box art is equally impressive staying true to Nintendo’s marketing strategy to place all its characters in the middle of the artwork surrounded by bright neon jungle foliage. In the foreground, the main characters make their way across a dirt path with a few Zinger bees taking aim at stopping them. Even you have never played DKC, just looking at the box art will clue you into what the gameplay holds.

The look on Kong’s face as he gazes forward with utmost confidence is reflected nicely on his mischievous grin. On his right hand, he is clutching a handful of bananas which tells the player that these are something they need to collect and gather throughout the game. Kong’s determined facial expression is in direct contrast to Diddy’s wide-eyed look as he holds on for dear life on the back of Rambi the Rhino as it barrels ahead to catch up with Kong.

Gnawty the Gopher is standing in front of the charging rhino with palms up along with a confused look. He is placed conspicuously between Kong and Diddy and he will be one of the final bosses both will face at the end of the Kongo Jungle Level. At the tail-end of the pack, Donkey Kong’s nemesis stand idly by grimacing in defeat as if saying they are no match for the gorilla’s power and abilities.

Slippa the Snake is the only character placed prominently along the foreground implying that danger lurks along with every turn. Consider as well the color bands on Slippa: “If red touches yellow, it kills a fellow. If red touches black, it’s a friend of Jack”. This common rhyme allegedly helps to distinguish between the venomous coral snake and several of the snake’s harmless lookalikes. Slippa’s bands are black and white but black is never touching red which means he is neither friend nor foe to the group.

The catchphrase “An incredible 3-D Adventure in the Kingdom of Kong” was actually changed from the original tagline “An incredible 3D Adventure with Donkey Kong” as Nintendo’s marketing team wanted players to experience the gameplay within its beautifully pre-rendered world instead of focusing solely on Kong himself.

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